Mauna Kea climb


WoW! Thank you!

Haven’t checked the forum in a while. Congrats on this ride! I more than a little jealous. Amazing feat!

Hawaii Tribune-Herald September 28th, 2011

Unicyclist scales Mauna Kea
Wednesday, September 28 1:09 am

Click the image to view gallery
On Sept. 12, Mike Tierney, 51, of Aspen, Colo., became the first unicyclist to attempt and succeed in climbing Mauna Kea on a unicycle.

Peddling his 29-inch unicycle, Tierney made his way safely from Hilo Bay to the Saddle Road with help from a retired Hilo police detective.

From the Mauna Kea access road turnoff to the summit, the climb becomes very steep, with 7,700 feet of evalation gained in those particular 14 miles, he said.

Tierney was the first unicyclist to ride up Haleakala, a feat he accomplished in 2008.

That ride was 36 miles and took Tierney six hours.

“I knew Mauna Kea, from Hilo Bay to the summit, would be much tougher than Haleakala,” he said.

Tierney’s wife, Annie, and his nephew, Ian, who flew over from Oahu to help support him, met up with Tierney just before the Mauna Kea Visitor Center. They met again on the summit, and enjoyed the spectacular sunset.

Tierney said he wound up having to walk a couple of the dirt switchbacks.

“It was just too steep and loose, I could not maintain traction,” he said.

But 44 miles and 11 hours after he started, Tierney reached the summit, becoming “the first unicyclist to ride from sea to summit on the world’s hardest hillclimb,” he said.

Wow, truly amazing and inspiring!

I’m curious, did you change pedal position/crank length much during the day?

Congratulations aspenmike! My intermediate goal is to do 22 miles on a basically flat bike trail… No excuses now…
Can you give us any more info on the unicycle you used on the ride?

It’s an old custom 29er with 170mm cranks, right Mike?

Looks like one of the old handmade KH frames, square taper axle and (long) Kooka cranks. Definitely not the optimum setup for a flat ride of any distance… :slight_smile:

If you’re using a 29", I’d recommend 102mm cranks for a flat ride.


Yeah, Kooka, if those are the triple hole cranks he runs on his 36er. He was running 175 Shimano cranks when we rode with him, that would be square taper :o

Seriously, Mike is a beast, he can do it all and he does it on 29er!

I can’t even imgine how hard that ride was, but looking at his tired face, it must have been an awesome effort cuz riding in Colorado with him last summer, he didn’t even break a sweat, meanwhile my son and I were dead :astonished:

I didn’t realize that he was the first unicyclist to ever ride to the top of what is probably the hardest climbable road.

Imagine coming down, you’d either know how to coast or learn by doing :roll_eyes:

The first 6,000’ vertical I had the cranks at 145, there were some ramps of 10%-12% but not sustained, then when I turned up the Mauna Kea access road the grade tripled, so I switched to 170. That was for the last 7,800’ vertical, to the summit of 13,780’.

Good luck on your goal, take breaks, I find it helps alot. I had that 29er fabricated in 2005’ by George Barnes IV for the Mt. Washington Hillclimb, which btw, I still hold the record on for a 29er uni.

Not sure if I’ve ridden any flat rides…:slight_smile:

I wasnt tired, I’m just old:D, yeah the first miles are always the hardest for me, and in that tropical air I was struggling. Man it was early to, like 6 a.m. I felt better as the day went on, I think in part due to less humidity.

Here is the FIETS index that has climbs from all over the world ranked in order of difficulty. Pick your favorite climb and see where it ranks. Climb on!!! I truly believe the Dutch rating system, and that Mauna Kea is the worlds hardest hillclimb.


Quantitative Stats on the Climbs.pdf (116 KB)


really well done!

Hey, same as my 29"! Same crown shape as the early KHs.

Ha ha. Maybe not flat like Sacramento, but the 10k race at NAUCC 2004 was relatively flat, though I remember being smoked on those little rises by you and the young Mr. Hansen. :slight_smile:


Awesomeness and congrats!!! You always having me add rides to my bucket list…just riding downit would be epic.

You know that Eric Scheer, from Rhode Island, has the uni record on MW since 2010 (1:40:42). You still have the 29er record there, however, because he rode a 26er.

I’m trying to track the uphill records here.

That is correct Steveyo, and his 29er time from 2009 was 27 minutes slower than my 29er time in 2005. That was his second attempt, 2010, and he had a picture perfect day on the 26er.

Mike, thanks for posting that Fiets spreadsheet link, some of those climbs are near me, your epic climb might just be the bug in my behind that I need so I start doing some of my own climbs. Clingmans would be a nice start, though I may wait until it’s closed for auto travel. Anyone want to join me?

Hmmm. Wouldn’t it be cool to have so many uni entrants that the prizes go 1,2,3 deep in each category? I guess the record’s still up for grabs on a Coker. Maybe with 185s!

Or Mt. Mitchell. 103 miles. Looks hard.

Beginner question: You mentioned that you switched from 145 to 170 when you got to the final ascent. So this means you have at least two holes in your cranks, right? Are there more than that? The ability to adjust crank length during a climb like this seems invaluable. (it was hard to tell what the cranks looked like in your pictures - which are truly amazing by the way!)


Unless I missed it in an earlier post…could you tell us your age? You’re a real encouragement.

Also, how often would you say you had to rest/dismount because of fatigue?