Kinetic Sculpture Race 2006

Over Memorial Day weekend, I again competed on unicycle (“Cyclops”) in the great Arcata to Ferndale Kinetic Sculpture Race. There were two major changes to my entry this year; one was that I set up a new Rick Hunter frame with a Surly Large Marge/Endomorph combination to hopefully be able to handle the sand dunes, and the other was that I brought up a sizable collection of other unicyclists (“The Other Wheels”) to act as my pit crew. The other unicyclists included Nick Brazzi (who was filming for a future episode of Uniplex), Mike Scalisi, and Chris Labonte.

The Endomorph, pumped to 30psi, is actually a decent road tire; it is only slightly slower than the Big Apple on straight, flat roads. The big negative of the tire on road is that it is awful when dealing with cambered or crowned roads; on extreme camber, riding becomes one pedal revolution at a time. But for the bulk of the road, the setup worked just fine.

And, most importantly, I was able to ride all of the sand. Riding the uphills in the sand is still a major challenge, even with the Endomorph; in a few places I was only getting one pedal revolution, or half a pedal revolution before I came off. But last year, with the Gazz 26x3", that’s the way the entire race was until I gave up on trying to ride sand. I did what took me two hours last year in about 15 minutes this time.

The pit crew sacrificed their bodies on the steep sand downhills, rolling down the hill ahead of me to smooth out the sand. With that help, I was able to ride Little Dead Man’s Drop, and made it about two-thirds of the way down Dead Man’s Drop (which is quite impressively steep and soft) before face-planting in the sand.

I also experimented for the first time with carrying my kayak into the water on my head. Getting it poised up there is something of a challenge, but once I had the balance correct, I was able to ride with a surprising amount of stability, dismount normally once I was in the water, and dump the kayak sideways.

As usual, the water segments were quite easy for me and my kayak, but I still have to figure out how to develop integrated flotation to be truly Kinetic. I have some ideas for next year.

Besides gathering much glory, I wound up first overall in speed for non-Ace sculptures (probably third overall), and The Other Wheels won Best Pit Crew!

The sculpture was a true team effort; Jim Roberts machined the quick-release bearing holders, Rick Hunter built the frame, and Ashley Foster did the sewing for the eyelid and the pit crew costumes. It was very helpful having Mike and Chris with their partners (both named Heather), along with me on the road, especially on that 20-mile road segment on day 2. I hope Nick got some great footage to document this fun and crazy event. And of course Nancy held it all together as pit crew chief.

Pictures (mostly by Nancy) are in my gallery. A few choice items are below.

Great write-up and pics, Tom. Thanks for posting them. You know you’ve been thorough in your planning when you and your pit crew both take first place honors.

I love the looks of the Hunter and Large Marge setup. Unis8er, one of our local Seattle riders, has the same setup (but with Gazz) that I got to try out. I was surprised to find it noticably lighter than my Hunter with a sun doublewide.


…So, how on earth are you going to make that float!?

where’s your top hat?

Well, the tire is so huge that I’m sure it would float, even with me sitting on top of it. The problem would be propelling it.

But my current idea involves replacing the seat with something that includes flotation fore and aft, with the unicycle detaching or pivoting from underneath to become a paddlewheel.

way coool! i totally forgot bout this…otherwise i might have been able to go. this darn climbing habit has been cutting into my unicycling…