MTB Challenge

MTB Challenge, 16/18/19 July 1995,

70 miles off road, racing against mountain bikes is hard work. It is also great
fun. The event was the MTB Challenge near Pickering in the North Yorkshire Moors
National Park. It was not a full Polaris Challenge event as we were not forced
to carry camping gear (and the temperatures were above zero) and returned to the
same camp site each night. The weather was surprisingly good, with only a little
rain on the Saturday and enough sun on Sunday to get sunburnt, although a steady
wind made riding on the top of the moors more difficult. Although we had high
hopes of getting several unicycle entries, on the day we had only Duncan
Castling on a 20" Mountain Unicycle and myself on a Jez Western style 26" super
light beastie (see later for notes). The winning two senior teams were also rid
den by unicyclists, but they were riding tandems, maybe we can persuade them to
cut it in half for next year. We were given details of controls marked on a map
which were given a score varying between 10 and 50 points. Due to the course
being set-out primarily for mountain bikes the distances between the controls
were often tens of miles apart so choosing a root suitable for a unicycle was
difficult. Having been given the same start time, and choosing the same controls
to follow, it is not surprising that Duncan and myself rode a lot of the first
day together and collecting 80 points each. This placed us about three quarters
of the way down the total listings. I attribute this to our ability to map read
and choose roots while still moving and not being greedy and staying out too
long and loosing points. Of the 30/35 miles done on the first day 30% was
Forestry track, 20% Moor track, 30% Road and 20% single track of which 95% was
ridden. My cycle computer showed an average ridden speed of 6.8 M.P.H. The
second day started very slowly as we were both very saddle sore, hung over (in
my case) and suffering from severe midge bites obtained while running a
unicycling workshop in the evening. We were not the only ones suffering, I was
able to keep within the main bunch for the 4 miles up to the control hand out
point. We had a choice of two roots, either collect 50 points giving only a 15
mile ride or collect 70 to 90 points and have to travel 35/40 miles - with only
5 instead of 7 hours to do it in. Duncan chose the shorter root and I chose the
longer, with Duncan gambling that I could not do it in the time. I succeeded by
planning the root to give a 7 mile road hill climb (which I was able ride at a
cycling pace at or above that of the fellow bike riders) then a downhill
moorland track, this tactic which might not have been appropriate for the two
wheelers was great for unicycles. Although our final positions have not been
posted, the provisional postings showed our positions well up the list.
Generally it was an very good and enjoyable weekend; unicyclists, although look
upon as slightly odd people are now fully accepted at these events. I hope that
we will be seeing more unicyclist next year (more competition - bigger prizes)

Unicycles off road - notes My unicycle was constructed from carbon fibre tubing
fitted in to a Pace fork crown. The bearing housings were machined aluminium
with push fit bearings. The seat was a Sem one (the light 2 colour one - I don’t
know what they are called). Rim was a light weight 36 eye 26" thin mountain bike
with plain gauge spokes. Tyres - first day, large 1.75 Avocet slick (this did
not give me the grip in mud that I needed) - second day 2.1 Storm Control (this
gave a very good result with a good balance between grip and consistent
surface). The cranks were cut down mountain bike ones - 150 long, which gave the
26" wheel a chance of going up/down hills. Generally it performed very well
(Duncan has sworn revenge on a similar machine) having a unicycle with less than
half the weight of the normal one, gives a 26" uni the manoeuvrability of a 20".
I found on a steady road or forest track climbs I was easily a match for a
mountain bike (much to the surprise and annoyance of our 2 wheeled friends). The
cranks being longer, made the uni harder to ride forcing more stretching, but
were a great help when climbing or descending and on rough ground. Why is there
a restriction on crank length for racing? I surmise that there is little
advantage either way: consider that track bikes put on shorter cranks for speed.
Has anyone else experimented with longer cranks off road? The one point I will
look to improve is foot to pedal location, toe clips? When I was racing along at
between 12 and 15 MPH I found that my feet tended to drift from the pedals. It
was important to keep the ball of my feet on the pedal to gain the higher speeds
(I used to ride with the arch of my feet on the pedals when I was learning (17
years ago), I only do so now only for steep down hills).

Rgr Cleveland UK