Muni: MTB Pro challenge

A uni-que perspective of the MTB Pro challenge

two day mountain bike orienteering event.

(as found in aug-sept CATCH mag) 15th-16th June 1995, Dalby Forest, North York
Moors, England.

There was I looking forward to a couple of days of gentle pootling around Dalby
forest on me Muni (Mountain Unicycle), soaking up the sun, waving at the punters
while gently cruising around leafy forest trails. I was certain I’d be
blissfully oblivious to any serious form of competitiveness which was going on
around. Why? cos’ I knew from past experience that all jugglers/unicyclists were
pathetic wimps who didn’t dare ride outside their sports/church hall in case
they got lost, or had to stop for a fag every five minutes. A phone call two
days later changed everything. Out of the blue a challenge was issued, there was
going to be another Muni competitor! and not only that but his uni was state of
the art and more generously endowed in the rotational sense (i.e. 26" as opposed
to my 20") At this point I began to get the sneaking feeling that this weekend
was not going to go to plan and could even be slightly more challenging than
than I or my body was expecting. “Aghh what the hell, how bad could it get, go
for it” said my sadly over-inflated ego. At that time I just didn’t appreciate
how much pain and effort was really going to be involved. Next time I’ll just
pay someone to break me legs or wave a white flag surrender and cry, or maybe I
could even start to train, Hmmmm this is getting serious.

I met Roger Davies ‘the challenger’ dressed in full technicolour MTB battle
armour on Saturday morning thirty minutes before the start, It was then that I
really started to have serious doubts about what I was letting myself into. I
already knew Roger’s Muni was made with carbon fibre/alloy and glued with
araldite (see earlier CATCH for Mk 1 version) What I hadn’t appreciated was the
wonderful quality of the finish, the bloody thing looked just so dammed
beautiful and professional to-boot, Damm, Damm, Damm. Then I discovered to my
horror that
a) The 26" wheel was also Sooper fast and smooth with XXX mm alloy cranks (sorry
trade secret!) and
b) The Lack of mass makes his uni much more responsive, akin to thoroughbred
racehorses and equally twitchy. Then we started and my suffering began in
earnest as Roger and the rest of the MTB faithful gradually disappeared into
the dusty distance, while I sweated and tried to invent plausible injuries
that would permit an early and gracious retiral. Sadly my imagination was
defeated by my ego which said ‘keep going you snivelling wimp’ (and you think
you got problems!) 25 mins later I had a quick conflab with Roger at the
checkpoint handout area, me pretending to be cool while desperately searching
for oxygen. We agreed similar routes for the six + hours remaining (stupid or
what?) and then hit the road, or at least I did, Oww.

In the following hours a cruel pattern developed, Firstly, Roger cruised off
into the distance, while I trailed behind pedaling the Muni faster than it is
physically safe to do. Honestly, this is not recommended for long rides if you
plan to have a family at a later date. Seperate route choices would then cause
us to split up, but to gain time I would cunningly run all the steep unridable
sections to catch Roger at the checkpoint. He may well have looked suprised as I
strolled in, but what he didn’t appreciate was the bloody effort it cost me. I
knew I couldn’t keep it up. To add to this I was also becoming dehydrated with
the extra effort and only one drinks bottle. But at the end of day one our
scores were equal on 80points, but Roger was 45mins faster. That evening I had a
really good nights kip. This was due to; masses of pasta, a unicycle workshop,
five to six pints of beer wi’bitsin and the apalachian dance band till 1am and
being totally wrecked. Next morning, was I ready for another day in the saddle?
Was I bollocks! (or what was left of them). But we did it again anyway and I
must admit that at some point I really started to realise how much I had enjoyed
the event, or was I halucinating with the pain? (ask my wife she’s convinced
it’s the pain) No, what was so good was to have someone else there who was as
sadly adicted to Muni riding as me, Yup we were making our mark and the Muni has
now become an accepted official Polaris class. At the end of day two I also had
to bite the bullet. Roger had by tremendous effort reached an extra 20 point
checkpoint so his substantially impressive 150 point total, clinched the first
place. Is that man human? Doesn’t he feel pain?

Later, on reflection as the scars slowly healed I did some calculations and
discovered that a 26" wheel travels about 25% further per rev, which means I
travelled about an extra 9000 revs in the 40 or so miles we covered in the two
days. No wonder I felt so knackered. Now, what if I use a 26" wheel? Hmmmmm, and
what about having two bottle cages so I can carry more drinks? and what about an
alloy rim and seatpin?..Time to call Pashley. Time for a cunning plan.

Are we bitter? Are we beyond help? Are we going to do the October Polaris? and
Do jugglers do strange things with fish? Stay tuned for the answers. This is
only the beginning buddy, now we’re going to get serious.

Duncan Castling. (can be contacted via Roger Davies (