Muni: The Complete Idiots Guide



Before we go any further let’s just get one or two things straight. Firstly I’m
no expert (except at falling off) I’m just a Muni addict, and I’m sure I’m not
the first to do this sort of thing. So if perchance you’ve been riding your uni
up and down Ben Nevis for the past five years; I salute you and hey give me a
call. In the eyes of the man on the Clapham omnibus I may be classed as a bit
nuttier than squirrel sh** and a lot less wholesome, what does he know 'cos it’s
all relative to your definition of the ‘norm’. This is intended for all those
sad lunicyclists who ain’t seen the light yet. I suppose it’s just like my
brother said when I first started “It may look difficult but it’s not really
that bad” (liar). As long as you take mountain unicycling in easy steps the
process will be a lot less painful than learning the basic riding technique, so
aim to conquer molehills before you move to mountains.

If you can’t ride confidently in a sports hall, turn, free mount and stop
without a serious face-plant then hurry up and get it sorted, I’ll just wait a
bit until you’ve got that fettled… Right OK you’re now ready for the big
world outside. Three of the most difficult but essential skills to master are
learning to go downhill, uphill and remounting after you’ve fallen off. (ya
don’t say) The bit in between is a doddle.


Gravity and life, going down is a hell of a lot easier than up. To develop a
kamikaze descending style start by practising on downhill roads until you can
cope with riding down say a 25% slope with some degree of control and preferably
find one without any potholes or juggernaughts to spice things up. Then
gradually increase the duration/length of the slope. But remember your knees
take a hammering back pedalling so take it in easy steps. You can however take
heart from the wonderful things that are happening to the muscle tone of your
inner thighs (ooerr). Also useful is practising dropping down kerbs (not in
front of moving traffic pillock!) until you can ride over them without slowing
appreciably, then try to increase the drop until you get too scared. Using these
techniques off-road also requires plenty of sooper-quick planning to pick the
best line down a track and this is where it gets interesting. It is possible to
ride down some pretty hairy descents, until the deciding fall-off factor is the
tyre/track friction relationship and the bagginess of your shorts. Riding down
seriously gloopy/gravelly tracks is also possible by allowing the Muni to slide
slightly and adopting arm waving techniques similar to that required for human
powered flight.


The same initial comments above apply re practising on-road when attempting to
climb hills. But I have found I have two distinct ‘gears’ when ascending.
Firstly the regular climbing pace that only requires increased pedal pressure,
but still flows. I find moving my upper body in rhythm to the pedals helps my
climbing ability by providing greater resistance to push against. Innocent
bystanders often appear initially impressed by this rhythm technique(?) until I
go too far and blow it, ending up with my face in the gloop. Then they pi**
themselves laughing. I’ve actually found that I can now climb further in this
‘gear’ which is great 'cos the alternative usually coincides with a feeling of
being totally sha**ed-out (can i use this word Ed?). This second and ultimately
last-resort ‘gear’ involves pedalling half a rev then balancing. Try moving
forward slowly up a hill then freeze/balance until you start to fall then repeat
this technique on the other side. It is effective and incredibly tiring but it
eventually gets you to the top. With this ‘gear’ you can cope with fairly steep
hills/rutted or rough tracks. I’ve often wondered why I just don’t just get off
and walk. It’s all very sad really.


You don’t need to read this unless you fall off, then things get surprisingly
difficult. It’s all very well being able to free mount on the level what about
on hills/descents? Things got so bad for me that at one point I used to spend
more time trying to remount than riding, until I discovered the secret. This is
to perfect the ALL-TERRAIN-HALF-SUICIDE-MOUNT. Which should be easy but I’m
such a clutz, I still usually get it wrong, which is why my falling off
technique is perfect. What you do is to hold the saddle with one hand by the
front, while standing behind with your best pedal at eight o’clock and kind of
jump/shuffle on, best leg first, with minimal pressure applied. Just ensure
you’ve got it sorted on the level before trying this in the dirt. It also helps
if you can use either leg, which is where I go sadly wrong. I’m also not to
proud to use walls, trees, rocks and ramblers as supports when starting off.
Ramblers have the advantage that they are softer cushion when you fall on them,
but will probably class you as a mountain biker and curse you as a ‘despoiler
of the countryside’ (they did!). So it’s probably more sensible to just smile
and keep your distance.


Let’s not mess around. If your uni is on its last legs, sort it out, or it will
break when you are knackered and miles from anywhere. Also why not take some
essential bits and pieces with you e.g. map, compass, mini inflator, spare inner
tube, spanners that fit uni bolts (don’t laugh I got this wrong), cagoule,
nibbles/crunch bars, basic first aid and some money just in case you want to
wimp out and get the bus or phone for mummy. A bumbag is big enough for this for
most short trips. I usually leave a brief note of my route for my wife, which is
probably a waste of time 'cos my writing is illegible. There are also certain
things that make the uni better suited to go in the dirt. Firstly knobbly MTB
tyres, just don’t get too radical. Believe me the tyre profile is critical to
your balance on hills. Plastic MTB pedals don’t eat shins like metal ones and
provide great grip. Sealed main bearings stop gloop penetration and a water
bottle and rack looks cool and also means you don’t have to drink stream water
blended with bits of dead sheep/liver flukes. A simpler alternative is to buy a
purpose built Ugly Muni which will set you back a staggering #95 plus postage
(0191 232 0297 ask for Tony!)


When (If?) you get to the stage of looking for a bit of competition or sympathy
here’s Just a few dates for your diary Firstly there’s the MTB PRO weekend on
15th 16th June 1996 somewhere in the North York moors, England. Exact details to
be released 2 weeks before the event This event comprises of two one-day MTB
orienteering events anything up to 7hrs / 5hrs each day, individual & partner
classes, returning to campsite each day. The event will have a Muni class if
enough of you lot contact the organisers. at; Challenge Events, 87 Hollins
Spring Ave, Dronfield, Nr Sheffield, Derbyshire, S18 6RP. UK. or
Saturday night pasta party, beer tent, family fun, open air, juggling (wazzat?),
Munimania, games and MTB happening. sounds great don’t delay cost about #22?
inc. pasta/entry/camping per bod. There will also be the Working Woodland
Festival in Chopwell Woods Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, England sometime in July
1996. woodland crafts, Juggling, entertainments, Muni race all comers welcome,
valid sense of humour essential. If this all sounds too easy then get serious
and go for the big one; The Polaris Challenge same as MTB Pro event but High
level overnight camp and you (and partner) carry all your kit. Fairly tough,
requiring good navigational and riding skills. (Muni class created in April 95
by us 186 MTB teams from 500 humbled!) next event October 14th 15th 1995 entries
still available for the MUNI class! Contact Challenge Events address above,
('cos we’re gettin bored if no one else is going to play)

Duncan Castling. (can be contacted via Roger Davies (