Mount Diablo Challenge 2009

The Mount Diablo Challenge is a 10.8 mile road race in Danville, California that climbs 3300’. This year was the 28th annual. It attracts approx 1000 racers, and since 2001 or so, there has always been a unicycle contingent. This race is very open to alternative cycles and they report results for the “unicycle division” as well as tandems, etc. This year the weather was beyond perfect. An absolutely incredible day.

On facebook, Tom B asked about the Uni record so I posted this:

Uni WR is held by Glenn Drummond at 1:13:?? in 2003. Read about it here: This year he finished in 59:30 - 144th place on two wheels and told me that he and his son (who is a serious road and MTB racer) may switch back to Uni soon. He says 1:10 but Beau says faster is possible, potentially even 1:00 (although that sounds incredible to me). This year the fastest bike was 47:10 @ 13.7mph.

2009 Uni Results:

Beau 1:14:51 - 459th place
Geoff Houghton (Oregon) 1:18:31 - 519th place
Tom 1:21:59 - 571st place
Nathan 1:29:11 - 647th place
Jimbo 1:35:48 - 695th place
Scot 1:47:48 - 757th place

Results are here:

Geoff was riding a Schlumpf 36 V-frame and I think his time is the 4th fastest ever, behind Glenn, Beau and Gary. He has 2500km on this setup and is very strong. Beau was on ungeared Hunter @125mm, Scot on ungeared Calfee carbon @152mm, me on ungeared Hunter @152mm, Tom and Jim on ungeared 29ers @125mm.

Jim dribbled a basketball approx 25% of the way. I was sure he’d ditch it somewhere, but he crossed the line with it - amazing.

Sorry no photos this year from me but I did find a summit photo of us here: - there are a few others in that set including Beau, Tom and Geoff on the podium and Jim with his basketball.


You guys are all ANIMALS!

Well done people!

Is that one of Pete Perron’s V-frames (“Florian Green”)?


Yes, Geoff was riding a green V-frame made by Pete Perron (constructed from two Nimbus frames). He had a square-taper Schlumpf hub (the only Schlumpf on the mountain yesterday).

Glenn Drummond’s record was 1:13:08

That may also be the only unicyclist who has beaten at least half of the finishers.

Didn’t Beau beat more than half the finishers yesterday? Or do a lot of people not finish?

Didn’t Beau beat more than half the finishers yesterday? Or do a lot of people not finish? Anyway, awesome times posted, guys! You’re gonna kill me next weekend in the MUni Long Course race…

Beau was 459/793, so he didn’t quite beat half of the finishers. Oh, hmm, that was among the men…he also beat 68/104 women, so overall he was 484/907. Still not quite half.

Tom and Jim both did very well with ungeared 29" unicycles. I take it that there is enough uphill riding that 36" does not have much (or any?) real advantage on this course?

The average grade appears to be 6.1%. I guess that is steep enough to keep the 36" cyclists from just riding away from the smaller wheels. In this case a light unicycle might have an advantage.

The average speed for the leader (Beau) was 8.7 mph. For a 29", I believe that pace would require an average cadence of 96 rpm.

For those who have ridden it, what is the optimal unicycle? Would a light weight (geared?) 29" be best?


In terms of all the unicycles which have actually attempted this climb, probably the best is Glenn Drummond’s “world’s lightest Coker.”

The 29er with 110s is a pretty good setup for most of it. It definitely helps on the more difficult sections to have two pounds less rotating weight. Last year, one of the Cokers caught me right at the beginning of the longest challenge–8-9% grade for about a mile. I put 2 minutes into him on that section.

There is one section of the climb, about a third of the way up, with a significant flat/slight downhill traverse across the mountain lasting perhaps a mile. I reached that section this year just a few seconds behind Geoff on his Schlumpf 36"; by the end of that section, he was out of sight, probably at least 2 minutes ahead of me. I might try it with my geared 29, even though I really like the uni I was on this year.

I developed an idea that a good setup might be a geared 29 with long cranks; at 125mm, the hill is too steep to productively ride in the high gear, but it might be possible at 170mm, or maybe even 150mm.

Nice work boys, glad to see you cranking up those mountains; real hillclimbs:)

I’m not sure there actually is a single ideal cycle. I think it varies with riding style, personal preference and experience.

Rob, Yes that’s the “Florian Green” by Pete Perron. (That was the best-spent chunk of change that I ever diverted from my children’s college fund.:)) Cranks are 165 mm and it has an internally drilled rim. The last quarter mile is super steep, I don’t think I could have ridden on cranks much shorter than that. Keep in mind that Beau beat me by 3 & 1/2 minutes with 125 mm cranks.

So I agree with Nathan that different people with different riding styles have different ideal unis. I love my 36" guni with long cranks. But I could see Tom riding that fast with a skinny 29" guni with long cranks. The steeper the hill, the less advantage the 36" has over the 29". But I think on this course the 36" still has the advantage, so far…

I won’t hazard a guess on breaking the one hour mark but I will say that when the day comes that skinny and light 36" tires are available we’ll see a big drop in times. Although the technology has leaped forward with the Schlumpf, distance unicycling is still in it’s adolescence. We need to make our wheels start to resemble bicycle wheels. Just bigger in diameter. The technology is there, the only thing holding us back is market force. An order of 500 to 1000 would be enough profit to spur development of skinny 36" tires. Someday soon we’ll look back at this summit shot with our proud faces and fat and heavy tires just like we look at pictures of skiers from a hundred years ago with their 8 foot wooden skis. “Egads! Look at the size of those things!”

Tech talk aside, it was a fabulous day. Perfect weather. Great riders. Wonderful people all around. Beau rode an excellent race. He rode like the wind. I caught just a few glimpses of him from a mile back on the switch backs. He made it look effortless and he probably didn’t sound half as ugly as I did as I was grunting my way up the last steep section. Congratulations Beau. Thanks to all the riders for making this a memorable day.

Pictured in the summit shot here are: Jim Sowers, Tom Holub, Nathan Hoover, Beau Hoover, Scot Cooper, Geoff Houghton

I think it’s a lot more likely that we’ll wind up with bike-sized wheels, with higher gearing than we currently have, than that we’ll wind up with lightweight 36" wheels.

Hey all,

I’m going to be in the area for Thanksgiving week, and am considering riding up Diablo just as a fun ride by myself or with other local riders if I can find someone interested. Probably on my 29er.

However, I’m totally out of shape. I really didn’t ride much this year, after breaking my leg in January, then having pretty extreme forest fire smoke in my area much of the summer, and finally spraining my ankle three weeks ago.

Is this ride doable (even if not totally :wink: ) as a fun casual challenge ride, with a reasonable pace and rest stops as needed? Or would I be better off just riding flats and come back to Diablo another time?


Or are there decent xc trails on Mt. Diablo? My concept here is to do some riding while I send wife and kids to play on rocks. :slight_smile:

I’ll be there for Thanksgiving as well. I’ll be staying about a mile from the bottom of the hill where the starting line is. I’m not sure what kind of shape you’re in or what you consider to be a big hill. But you can find something that strikes your fancy.
Mt. Diablo, and the Bay Area in general, has a lot of good riding and a bunch of good riders. The locals know the trails much better than I do. I’ll bring either my 36 guni or my 26 muni depending on who wants to ride what. I’m game for just about anything.

And for those of you who just read this thread: Jim Sowers and I just raced the Mt Diablo Challenge again a couple of weeks ago. My time was 1:14:14.7 and Jim’s time was 1:33:08.0. So it looks like I still have to shave off another minute and a half to break Glenn Drummond’s record. Maybe the new skinny 36" tire will make the difference. That and maybe some training…

Most of the climb is not steep, but it’s very long. 1000 meters of climb over 20km. If you know what 1000 meters of mostly gradual climb feels like, that’s what it feels like. It’s hard if you’re not in training.

I’m not sure I’ll be around Thanksgiving weekend, but if I am, I’d maybe be into doing a ride up on the road and down on the trails. If it’s not wet, there are a number of fun big wheel trails on the mountain (not much real MUni). If it’s wet the trails are mostly unrideable (sticky mud) but we could get you to some 29er trails which are rideable in the wet.

I saw that on the results page; keep it up, you monster, you’re already in Beau territory! Ask Glenn to borrow his custom carbon fiber uni to beat his record. (I saw he was in the race on bike, still well under 1:00).

You want to really avoid doing any Muni at Mt Diablo when it’s wet. The mud turns to the most amazing thick heavy glue you’ve ever seen!

Thanks for the info everyone, and great job to those who rode again this year!

I’m out of shape in the way that I think I could finish the ride, but definitely not in one shot, and probably not in less than 2+ hours. I’m starting to feel like maybe this wouldn’t be entirely fun for me at this point in my physique. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m just trying to figure out a way to get in a ride while the family has something to do. It’s not a vacation if I don’t get to uni somewhere new, right (I’m originally from S.F., but have never ridden a uni in California)? So maybe I’ll head over to Point Reyes or the Marin Headlands, drop the rest at a beach (kids from Montana find that fascinating!) and hit up some moderate trails. Or perhaps if I bring my Coker I’ll see if others want to ride the GG bridge then to Sausalito for lunch or something (I might be able to justify that one if my dad’s interesting in joining on two wheels).