I work at a lot of bike races and I have recently gotten into riding muni. I was wondering if I could get some of y’alls input on how a muni race would do in Georgia, USA and what would it need to be like. It would be attached to a mountain bike race in early May. (I am kind of guessing it would turn more into a good excuse for people to meet up to ride muni but I don’t really know) (I am not positive I can get it added but if I knew I had a fair bit of interest I think I could.)
I’ve long had an idea of attaching MUni events to local mountain bike races, as qualifiers for a national competition. So let’s get started!
My experience (and Dave Krack’s, who’ll probably also chime in here) is that it’s hard to get people to travel for a race unless it’s really a special event, or unless there’s non-trivial prize money available. So you’ll probably need to drum up interest from your local group. If you can get at least five or six riders it’ll be worth doing; it’s fun and it can broaden the community. It’s probably easier to turn a good mountain biker into a good MUni rider than to convert an average unicyclist into good MUni rider.
We do have quite a racing scene here in Western Pennsylvania. In Winter, The Wheel Mill (an indoor bike park) hosts events for the cycling community. Munis are not only welcomed, but there is a uni class at almost every competition it makes sense to have one at. If there is a cash prize for the bikes, there is a cash prize for the unis. If it’s swag for bikes, same for unis. Last weekend’s CX race was a good payout- enough to cover entry fees and some extra left over for dinner after for 1st and 2nd. The Wheel Mill also has a Uni Night on Fridays throughout the year with a discount for uni riders.
In the Spring and Summer, the Bike the Wilds series welcomes unis. The http://http://fattirechallenge.com/ is the first race to feature a uni class (since 2011 I believe). The course is modified based upon rider input so that we stay mostly out of the way of the bikes on the tricky sections, and the length is shortened so that we can finish around the same time. It’s still a challenging 10ish mi. Most people wouldn’t be interested in a whole lot more.
In the Fall, we have the Month of Mud Series that’s had an unofficial muni class since 2009, and it went official in 2014. This series has cash payouts at each race (like the bikes) and at the end of the series, swag for the top 1,2,3 (and trophies). Once again, treated like the bikes.
We also are part of many other cycling events regionally as well.
All of this has happened because we have invested in the cycling community. I started racing my uni in '08 after racing bikes for several years. I made it sure that with ANY event we enter, we’re welcomed because we’re professional about our conduct.
With most of the races we need a class of 5 riders to have the cash and prizes. Almost always we make it happen with a core series of locals. Efforts to draw in outside riders has met with mixed results. It’s a tough sell to convince others to travel.
Tom and I have indeed discussed this topic a fair amount. We have made a ton of progress regionally over the past few years because we don’t just ask if we can have a class, we offer to help the organizers. With the Moraine Month of Mud race, I was an assistant organizer for a few years and head organizer last year. With the Fat Tire Challenge, I realized the differences between the bikes and Munis as far as what the speeds would be and distance limitations of typical riders and worked with the organizer to make a suitable course that took little extra effort for him to accommodate us. We have also been one of the primary groups to assist in CX setup during the Month of Mud. We then make sure we’re involved in assisting the organizers whenever we can. At the Wheel Mill, we pay our admission, show up for events, and offer to help whenever we can. We (Butler Wobble) have also monetarily sponsored the park.
I’m also one of the 2 Stewards (the other being a uni rider as well) for our local trail system we’re building at Alameda Park.
In short, we’ve made ourselves a valuable asset to the local cycling scene.
It’s been a lot of work over the years, but it is worth it.
It’s a mix. What we’ve found is that we have very few who ride unicycles exclusively. Most of us came from biking backgrounds, although several have raced munis more than bikes. Many of us split our time between one and two wheels still. Bikes are great. Teaming with the local bicycling community gives a MUCH broader base both volunteer wise and financially to be able to get bigger events and races than could be accomplished with just unis alone.
We definitely have found that bicyclists are more likely to try a unicycle if you don’t try to make them put down their bike.
Funny you should mention this as we are in the process right now working with the race committee and adding a MUNI division to the Bump & Grind Mt Bike Race here in Birmingham, AL! Adding MUNI to an already existing mt bike race is a win/win for both parties because it really doesn’t take that much more work.
Anybody over in GA definitely needs to head over the first weekend in June because this is the biggest mt bike race of the year in Alabama! If you mountain bike, bring that as well because it is an all weekend event including DH and XC racing. And it will only get better if we can get a good showing of MUNI riders.
They are re-doing the website but here is the Facebook page for more information on past races:
BUMP (Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers) is the organization that puts on the Bump and Grind as well as maintains the 20+ miles of trails out at Oak Mt State Park.
These trails were recently classified as “IMBA Epic.”
I completely agree that adding on to an existing event is beneficial for both parties involved. Because this is a public forum and before people run out and just try to bully their way into local events, keep in mind the speed differences between the 2 user groups (bikes and munis). A well designed course and race will minimize the inconvenience for both. Bikes don’t want to have to brake excessively for unicyclists on open sections of trails and muni riders don’t want to dismount every few seconds so that another bike can pass. This is typically a minor issue for a well organized event where competent muni riders have been involved in adding the muni class.
Thanks bhgant for being inclusive and encouraging riders to bring their bikes too. With an IMBA Epic Status, it’s a great trail system for 1 or 2 wheels.
Alabama in June sounds like a great place to be!
Unfortunately the timing doesn’t work out to head that way for me as I can’t get vacation time until a couple of weeks later.
Well, we are very lucky to have a group of folks on our race committee that fully support this and see that adding a MUNI class just adds for value to the event by giving spectators an opportunity to watch something they have never seen before. It’s a win/win because this just adds more people to the event, including more $$$ being spent with the food vendors, beer truck, etc.
If you are serious about adding MUNI to an already existing event, contact the race committee and go through them. I just attended a race committee meeting last night and was very well received.
Very good point about the different speeds between the mountain bikes and the munis. Our plan is to hold the muni event in between a couple of the other events utilizing a different section of the trail system so that we are not in the way. It will also be on Saturday, not on Sunday when all the XC racing occurs.
If anyone can make it, mark your calendars for the weekend of June 4-5th! Going to be a fun weekend of racing (and riding for those that choose not to race) being hosted by the Magic City Muni Club. I’ll be posting more info as we iron out the details.
If you’re in GA, I recommend connecting with Unicycle.com as they may have a local group of riders that could fill our your categories if you’re able to get a race together. If it’s a large enough event, who knows, they might even set up a booth there if it fits the event.
Because everybody wants something to hold onto when they first try a unicycle…
Little side note. As many above have said above being part of the mtn bike community helps. Besides getting being involved in races, if your follow your local trail building and maintenance events sponsored by the mtn bikers and show up on work days you accomplish the same goals.
I should have added earlier that an ingredient of getting into mountain bike races usually involves giving the organizers a guarantee of a minimum number of unicyclists who will show up. That was my experience with a few events we did in the Sacramento area. We rode in our own category in a reduced version of a 25-mile MTB race a few years ago, and also a street Criterium in Auburn. To add a category, organizers are right to require enough entrants to comprise a reasonable minimum to justify the category. It’s usually a lot less than what’s required for an added category for bikes. I think we did it the first time with just 5 riders. And that 25 miles was still the hardest unicycle race I’ve ever been in!
I would definitely go to a muni race in Georgia. I may even have a friend who would be interested in going too. He unicycles and races mountain bikes. I’m helping him pick out a muni after he borrows a few of mine.