Right now you’re either preparing yourselves for the 1999 National Unicycle
Convention in Washington, or wishing you could be there. Or deleting this
message I guess…
This past weekend, I was up in the Snoqualmie area helping Alan Tepper with
NUC details, mainly the MUni events. I now can report to you these hot MUni
MUni events will be held at the Summit Biking and Hiking Center, in the
Snoqualmie Pass, about 1 mile down the road (east) from the Summit Inn. How
convenient! This is a mountain biking and hiking park, with a ski lift that
takes you 1000’ up to access their 37 miles or so of bikable trails. This puts
you at about 4000’ altitude, so be advised that the higher altitude of the
Snoqualmie Pass will affect your riding ability if you’re not used to it. It may
also be colder up there, so dress accordingly (I was fine in a T-shirt, as long
as I kept riding). In fact, there is still plenty of snow up there, and some
trails may still be blocked so ask before setting off into the unknown on fun
rides. Lastly, higher altitude makes you more susceptible to sunburn. If the sun
is shining (fingers crossed), remember you will burn faster there than at lower
As a registered NUC attendee, you will be able to purchase all-day lift tickets
for $5.00 Friday-Sunday, and Monday and Tuesday mornings. The lift will be FREE
to riders and spectators on Monday and Tuesday afternoons! Bike rentals are
There will be three official MUni events. The NUC Program books have already
been printed listing four events, but we combined two of them for time and
safety reasons. They are:
- Observed Trials (first time ever)
- Uphill Race
- Cross Country/Downhill Race (UMX) There will also be some group rides for
fun, on all convention days.
Here are some general rules that apply to all events at the Snoqualmie Pass:
- ALL RIDERS AT THE SUMMIT BIKING AND HIKING CENTER MUST WEAR HELMETS, COMPETING
OR NOT! It’s private property, and helmets are the house rule. Riders will be
required to sign a release of liability for the park.
- The competitions will require helmets, knee pads, and gloves. I recommend
elbow pads as well.
- Age groups: 0-10, 11-14, 15-29, 30-up, Expert. I don’t know if the
Experts must choose this group in advance, or be separated out later.
We’ll let you know.
- Unicycles: No restrictions on wheel size or crank length but only standard
unicycles may be used, meaning the pedals attach directly to the wheel axle.
The reason for this is that chain driven bicycles can actually jump higher
than unicycles, so we’ll stick to standard unis for now…
OBSERVED TRIALS: This is an event done at mountain bike competitions, where
riders negotiate unbelievable obstacles, mostly by hopping. You have to see the
bike version of this sport to believe it. It’s pronounced “Try Al’s”, not “tray
uls”. Al’s Trials courses will be designed by Peter Rybka of the Summit Biking
and Hiking Center (where we’re riding), and Kris Holm of Vancouver, the only
Men’s Unicycle Trials champion yet in existence (from last year’s MUni Weekend),
with some help from others.
The event will take place on Monday afternoon, 1-4 pm, which means it’s at
the same time as the “non-traditional” track events, like Juggling, Ultimate
Wheel Race, and Coasting. You will have to choose. The Trials courses will be
set up right next to the parking lot. Peter Rybka will be using his heavy
equipment to bring in some boulders, logs, cable spools and other wreckage to
build our courses.
They aren’t built yet, but here is an outline of how we think the event will
work (subject to change). There will be two courses, each maybe 10 meters long
or so, consisting of several obstacles. Your object is to ride over all the
obstacles, following the marked path, with the least dismounts or dabs. There
will be some more difficult alternate routes marked, which you can do to get a
better score, at risk of more dismounts.
You get points for mistakes. If you put only one foot down, you get one point.
That foot can be used as a pivot to re-position your unicycle in a more
advantageous spot, so it’s a move some riders may do on purpose. If you put down
a hand, two feet, your nose, or otherwise dismount, you get three points. There
will be a maximum of 15 points per section.
Additionally, you can hook your pedal on an obstacle and support your weight on
the pedal, as long as your foot stays on the pedal and doesn’t touch the
obstacle. This might be a way to climb up high obstacles.
This is not a race, and the only timing is a time limit, in which you must
complete the section. If you exceed the time limit you will automatically be
given 15 points for that section attempt.
We are planning on two sections, so two riders can be going at the same time.
Each section will be ridden either 2 or 3 times (to be announced), and your
points totaled for all rides to make your final score. The lowest score wins.
This event will be hard. Normally I’d say “it’s not for beginners”, but there
aren’t any experts at this sport yet. This will be the first time an Observed
Trials event is held for unicycles, similar to the method used for bikes. The
one we did last Fall at the MUni Weekend was less structured.
UPHILL RACE: The object of the Uphill Race is to ride up a short course in the
least amount of time. Different from last year, we are going to allow dismounts
because the course is harder. If you dismount, you will have to back up to
somewhere before the spot where you fell. There is no time penalty, other than
the time you lose getting back on and continuing. Winners will most likely be
the ones who can manage it without dismounts.
There will probably be two courses, an easy (and short) one, and a longer,
harder one. You must enter the long course to compete for the overall MUni
award. Both courses will start near the base of the ski lift and go underneath
it for no more than 100 meters. Riders will be allowed two attempts, with their
fastest time being official. Course judges will tell riders how much they must
back up if they dismount, and all mounting must be done without assistance.
CROSS COUNTRY/DOWNHILL (UMX): This is the main event. We used to call it UMX,
but it never really resembled BMX, so we should stop using that expression. It
is most equivalent to a mountain bike cross country race. This year it’s also
downhill, so it’s a combination of both. Due to the layout of trails at the
Summit, it was impossible to design a race course that didn’t either go downhill
a lot, or go uphill an amount a NUC crowd is probably not prepared for. Also the
logistics of bringing people to a start or finish line a mile or more away from
civilization was prohibitive. So we kept it simple and watchable, racing
basically from the top of the ski lift to the bottom. There will also be a
shorter course (about half the distance) that starts partway down, avoiding the
steeper and more technical parts.
I discouraged the idea of a straight downhill race, believing riders, in their
zest for speed, would ride beyond their abilities and stack up in nasty ways.
Only THEN would ESPN and the X Games take notice of us But if we’re to have
unicycling on TV, I’d rather it be without the blood.
But we ARE riding downhill about 1000’ in the long race, and the potential for
crashes is very real. I purposely made the course long, in an attempt to hold
the speeds down. Riders should be advised that a steady speed without dismounts
is going to be faster than a high speed with lots of (potentially painful)
dismounts. The main course is 2.36 miles, according to my cyclecomputer, making
it the longest MUni or UMX course we’ve ever done at USA or IUF. it also has the
biggest elevation change, the highest altitude, and is the most technically
difficult course I’ve heard of in any unicycle competition ever.
Riders are encouraged to join in the fun and ride it regardless of ability
level, but NOT to go all out unless they are experienced trail riders. Safety
first. The races will be mass starts, and riders will be cautioned to be extra
polite in the first 100 meters or so, until they get spread out. Course
officials will be instructed to disqualify riders if they notice any intentional
fouling going on.
Riders must enter the long course to compete for the overall MUni award. The
long course will start at the top of the lift, in a wide area that gives us room
to start. The short course will be just over one mile, starting directly under
the lift about halfway down the racecourse. To reach the starting line, riders
will take the lift up and ride or walk down the long course to reach that point.
Here is a course description: The long course starts just below the lift house,
at the top of the lift. We will ride on Trail #1 (on the park’s trail map),
which is wide enough for a truck and very rocky. The first part is level, then
goes uphill a little bit. riders will still be spreading out through this
section, and we will caution all riders to take it easy. There’s plenty more
trail further down.
When you crest the little uphill, you will come down and turn left onto a wider
and slightly smoother road. This is like a wide dirt road with lots of rocks on
it. It will take you down to the area called Grand Junction, an intersection of
many trails. When you reach the junction you will be at the .65 mile mark. The
trail should be well marked, and you will be turning left.
The next section is trail #12, and is the easiest part. It’s a pretty smooth
double track, but not for very long. Then it narrows down into rocky
singletrack, going up and down (mostly down) with all sorts of obstacles. Roots,
rocks, branches, water, more rocks, and even some snow as of last Friday (this
should be gone by NUC). This is the most technical part of the race, and this
area does not lend itself well to passing. Don’t try too hard to pass in this
area, you’re still less than halfway done.
You will come out of the trees under the ski lift. It’s still pretty rocky and
hairy, but the trail has widened out into a double track again. Then it goes
parallel to the lift for a little bit, straight down the mountain. This is the
steepest part. Careful! After this, there is a sharp left turn into the trees
again. This turn area is where the short race course starts (at the bottom of
the steep part).
The trail then traverses the hill for a while, still double track, driveable by
any 4x4. You will come out into another big open area with several ski lifts and
lodges down below. You will turn left up a little double track that takes you
uphill to the top of a nearby lift (all these other lifts are closed in the
summer). With your heart in your throat, you’ll pass by the lift and turn back
downward again, rejoining the road you were previously on, heading back toward
where you turned off it.
Then you will come back to where you turned left, but you’ll be facing the
opposite direction and you’ll turn left again (hope they get the course marked
right). There will be some switchbacks down this ski run, on a narrow path which
I haven’t seen yet (the mountain bike park is going to scrape some trails just
for us!). This goes back and forth a few times until heading straight down to
one of the lodges.
You’ll turn right on the dirt double track in front of the lodge, through some
small water bars, and then turning left onto another double track for about 100
meters. Then you turn right again onto a wide, soft road made of pine needles.
This is only about 200 feet or so, then you turn right again on to a more
traveled looking dirt road, heading straight for the base of the original lift.
This road passes just above the lift house and then curves to the left, taking
you down to the Southeast corner of the parking lot, and the finish line. Whew!
Due to the size of the course and the time involved, it will probably be
impossible to take riders on a preview of the course like we have done in the
past. But anyone can check it out on the preceding days, especially Monday
afternoon if they are there for the Observed Trials event.
MY PERSONAL RECOMMENDATIONS: If you have little or no off-roading experience,
the Trials and Uphill events are not for you to compete in, but they have been
specifically set up to be easy to reach and interesting to watch. All courses
have been designed with spectators and accessability in mind. Anyone is welcome
to attempt the Cross Country race, but it is not smooth like last year, nor is
it grassy like Chariton in '96. Take your time if you’re not an experienced dirt
and rock rider! Also remember the altitude and the effects it has on you if you
live at lower levels.
I will be using a 26" MUni with short cranks for the Cross Country race. I am
also thinking of buying some stronger kneepads. The old volleyball pads I have
are fine if you don’t fall much or don’t fall hard, but this course already got
me once on Friday.
I will be hoping to borrow a MUni with long crank arms for the Uphill and Trials
events. Or I might have my new DMATU by then, but I don’t even know what size
cranks it comes with. Be advised, regular unicycles can do all of these events.
Last year’s main MUni race was won by a 24" Miyata with a regular street tire
and 5" (125mm) cranks. Dustin Kelm driving. The same type unicycle, with Kevin
Gilbertson driving, won the Uphill. So don’t think you need special equipment
just to compete and have fun.
FUN RIDES: Throughout the convention, there will be people riding on the trails
instead of watching racing or artistic competition. Brett Bymaster, George Peck
and others will be leading rides on various trails on the mountain. There are
some trails there that are too technical for us to race on, but beautifully
challenging to ride for fun. You will have the chance to ride on some of those
this has been a really long post. I wanted to get it done, so sorry about the
length. Look for some of this to be added to the NUC web site
(http://www.unicycling.org/usa/), maybe even including a map of the Cross
Stay on top, John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone
Stay on top, John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone