Muniac Manor (Hop Along Muni)

For those interested in this type of stuff.

Muniac Manor (Hop Along MUni) 3/7/00


 As people discover off road unicycling or MUni for short they may have
 questions about developing the techniques that make trail riding an
 enjoyable experience. I did and I searched high and low to find answers,
 the ones I thought would bridge me to the next level of riding enjoyment.
 Unfortunately, my searching turned up little in the way of instructional
 "self help" books or videos covering MUni riding and related techniques.
 Initially this was a little frustrating, until I considered that publishing
 instructional material costs money that isn't likely to be recovered in
 sales of said material to the audiences it's intended to help. Presently,
 there doesn't seem to be enough MUni people out there to create the
 economic environment to nurture the publishing of new professional level
 instructional material albeit books or videos. So what's a MUni rider to
 do? Here's some food for thought. You can buy "evolve" that shows about 30
 seconds of Kris Holm. You can buy "Dirty Dreams" which shows about 7
 minutes of Kris Holm. You can buy Peck's 22 minute video "Rough Terrain
 Unicycling" that shows George doing, you guessed it, rough terrain
 unicycling. In my opinion, "RTU" and "Dirty Dreams" are both worth having.
 To the best of my knowledge, "RTU" is the only instructional video of its
 kind since Peck narrates the footage himself. "Dirty Dreams", on the other
 hand, is a watch and go figure experience. Watching Kris always gets me
 motivated to go out and ride like hell. From a mountain unicycling
 perspective, "evolve" is pretty light on content at $40 per minute. If you
 have internet service, I highly recommend "" which is
 the unicycling news group. This text only bulletin board runs fast and
 provides access to a wealth of unicycling experience from beginner to
 expert that spans the globe. Both artistic and MUni riding styles have a
 presence and there are no stupid questions, cocky answers or circus music.
 A nice change from some of the brat infested news groups that cover
 mountain/downhill biking. Chances are the unicycling news group is how
 you're accessing this document. So the NG is yet another option to get your
 MUni questions answered. In most cases, after you post a note, someone will
 reply in less than 24 hours. Even though I'm no expert with pen or MUni, I
 try to contribute to the news group with my "Muniac Manor" articles when
 time permits. I encourage others to do the same since each person has a
 little something to say. The article you write may penetrate more skulls
 than you think so be positive. As for this article, take note the
 information presented herein reflects my trek from zero to a point on the
 learning curve. As I stand on that point may I say most humbly to those on
 my left, "Where you are I was and where I am you can be." To those on my
 right I must say, "Where I am you were and where you are I strive to be."
 Knowledge by itself gives only the potential for realizing improvement so
 make sure to put what you learn into practice. Finally, I hope this article
 provides a small bit of knowledge and motivation to the doers among us and
 engages the already active and knowledgeable to constructively amend it's
 contents. For now let's take a hypothetical Muni ride down the information
 trail. Remember to ride like hell, hold on with one hand and get your chair
 bottom nice and hot. Please no helmets this ride, just leave skull exposed!


 I finally got up a flight of 10 steps without a miss (about an 80" rise).
 I've been practicing on staircases for several days now. After dozens of
 attempts I finally got to the top of this 10 stepper that had been giving
 me trouble. Trust me, I'm on no fast learning track. Jumping up on the
 first step was the hardest, which took about six weeks of practice to land
 it. After being able to jump up on the first one (8" or so), steps 2
 through 10 took several days to fine tune. Jumping now comes in handy for
 cleaning the 8-10" logs lacking a ride over build up. I'll need more
 practice to be able to jump consistently and higher. Fool that I am, I
 became bored with the 5" ramp so I hopped off a 24" wall just to see what
 would happen. I guess the practice sessions are working okay because I
 landed just fine. This Muniac Manor article is part I of a two part story
 describing what I did to learn hopping/jumping on my MUni. I'm no expert,
 just some idiot that enjoys doing crazy stuff then writing it down. First,
 let's define some terms and discuss safety before getting started splitting
 the MUni molecule. Hopping and jumping are both used to lift the MUni tire
 off the riding surface. When hopping the saddle remains between your legs.
 In contrast, jumping requires the saddle to be pulled forward and placed in
 front of you which allows more bending of the knees. Hopping is a quick
 maneuver that can be done with little preparation. When small amounts (say
 1" to 6") of wheel lift need to be generated quickly, hopping is your best
 tool. Hopping can be done while stationary or moving forward. Jumping
 requires more preparation time due to repositioning the saddle but allows
 larger heights (20 plus inches) to be generated. Each has their place
 during a MUni ride as both maneuvers are powerful obstacle management
 techniques. Learning and applying hopping/jumping will allow a MUni rider
 to move through terrain that would otherwise necessitate a carry. Now the
 safety stuff.

Safety First:

 Safety first. Do yourself a big favor before starting to generate inch air
 and wear good safety gear. I use a Bell mountain biker's helmet, Roach
 elbow/arm pads, Roach knee/leg pads, gloves and a back pad. If you haven't
 checked out the Roach pads you're missing out on an excellent product.
 These armored pads are light and provide a contoured fit perfect for MUni
 stuff. Roach pads stay in place unlike other pads I've worn that slide
 around on your limbs. They are available in men's and lady's sizes from
 Unicycle.Com (John Drummond 1-800-unicycle). They cost alot less than an
 injury. For the back, I use an ordinary piece of 1-1/2" foam cut to size. I
 practice alot in parking decks, sidewalks and parking lots all of which
 have a smooth riding surface so just the foam is okay. This or other types
 of unarmored back pads may cushion an unstoppable tailbone heading for
 immovable pavement but not one headed for a rock or stump. If you
 anticipate contact with a pointed object(s), you should armor the foam with
 a piece of polycarbonate (1/16" minimum thickness) on the outboard side, to
 even out the force of a point blow. Use only polycarb because it won't
 shatter when hit. To improve comfort, wrap the back pad up in soft cotton
 material. I stuff my pad down my pants so it covers about 4" of my butt
 crack. The pad should be long enough and wide enough to cover the lower
 back too. You should experiment with protection/comfort trade-offs that
 work best for you when sizing up the foam. If you're using polycarb as
 armor, make sure its dimensions are slightly smaller than the foam and
 generously round off all sharp edges. Remember, it's not if you fall it's
 when and how bad. So, when you do fall, the padding described above will
 help you roll through an OOPS with minimum damage. Now that the safety
 stuff has been covered don't say you weren't told. If you feel compelled,
 ankle and wrist supports should be worn too.


 Since hopping doesn't require moving the saddle I found it a little easier
 to learn than jumping so let's begin there in part I. Before starting to
 hop, I suggest you know how to idle with either foot down, be comfortable
 standing on the cranks while riding and be able to ride/idle while holding
 the front of the saddle with the hand of your choice. If you can't perform
 the above comfortably and under control learning to hop is going to be more
 difficult. As previously mentioned above, hopping requires the saddle to
 remain between your legs. Since the unicycle must follow your body as you
 generate lift, the saddle can act as sort of a handle where you create a
 temporary mechanical link. This assumes no other mechanical fastening
 devices (toe clips, clipless pedals, saddle harnesses, etc.) exist between
 you and the unicycle. Temporarily linking your body to the saddle can be
 done in the following three ways: One, holding the saddle front with one or
 both hands. Two, holding the saddle front and back with your hands. Three,
 pinching the saddle between your inner thighs leaving your hands free
 (quick link). You could hold the saddle rear as a forth link but this has
 little or no practical value so we won't discuss it here. For me, I like to
 use just my left hand when linking to the saddle front because it's the
 most comfortable. Grab the saddle front with your fingers underneath and
 thumb on top pointing rearward. If you're grabbing the saddle rear, just
 mirror the front grab. Now let's talk next about how to generate lift. Try
 the following while standing on a stationary surface. Bend your knees then
 push upward. If you push slowly nothing much happens. If you push quickly
 or spring you can cause your feet to generate some air. Adding in arms,
 upper body and ankles makes the motion smoother and allows even more air to
 be generated. Tucking your feet just after the spring will also add air to
 the hop. These same basic springing actions can be done on your unicycle to
 effect a hop as follows:
  1. While riding, bring yourself to a controlled stop with the crank set
    horizontal. Put the foot forward that feels the most comfortable. Stand up
    on the pedals and balance in place for an instant.

  2. Link to the saddle using one hand front or both hands one front and one
    back. Pick the grip that feels the most comfortable to start. As you
    improve you’ll want to use only one hand in front.

  3. Bend your knees and waist slightly and begin a hopping motion. Pull up
    on your hand grip slightly so your feet stay in contact with the
    pedals. If you don’t create that mechanical saddle link, you’ll just
    hop off the pedals.

  4. Now, like a pogo stick, use small hops to keep yourself balanced over
    the wheel. To maintain balance try to hop towards the out-of-balance
    lean. With practice all you should need is a series of small little
    bounces to stay up.

  5. Be patient and don’t go for too much air right off the bat, because it will
    take some time to train your body, muscles and brain to respond properly.
    Note that steps 1 through 4 above take about one second to complete. Once
    learned, hopping will be easy. Hang in there with it because it’s well
    worth the effort spent.

As you get better and more comfortable with hopping you can begin to use your
upper body more to generate additional lift. Also you’ll want to link to the
saddle with only one hand in front. Try the thigh squeeze (quick link) too.
I’ve found this saddle link to be pretty tough on the inner thigh skin. Holding
the back of the saddle with a second hand may help while learning but impedes
your ability to use your upper body effectively. If you started with a
front/back link, abandon the rear grip as soon as possible. You’ll see why as
we develop hopping into an obstacle management technique. For now, practice on
a level surface and just try to stay over the wheel with minimum effort. When
stationary hopping is mastered, you can begin to add the additional movements
described below:

A Twist On Hopping:

 Hopping will become much more useful if you incorporate both linear and
 circular movement. Circular movement is achieved with a clockwise or
 counterclockwise counter rotation and snap of the upper body while
 airborne. The stored angular momentum and its sudden release causes the
 body and unicycle system to spin. Practice in little slivers to start then
 in big chunks as you improve. Persons of average ability should be able to
 spin a 1/4 revolution in one shot. Like other uncycling skills it's
 important to practice spins until they can be performed in both directions
 with equal facility. Up to now our hopping has been done more or less in
 place. To add linear movement, try hopping in all four directions while
 facing forward as follows: Imagine you're drawing a cross or plus sign with
 the unicycle tire. From a center or home position lean forward to initiate
 forward movement then hop out three feet then back. After returning to
 center, hop out right three feet or so then back. To complete the drill,
 perform hops in the other directions three feet or so finishing in home
 position. When executing the "hop out" drill always face forward. When you
 get good, mix in the spins if you like. For example, while at home
 position, hop forward three feet or so spin 180 degrees and hop back to
 home. Use your imagination to break up the routine and explore the many
 variations possible. The most important thing is to get out there and do it
 until it's comfortable. From the above drill you can see that hopping
 allows you both linear and circular movements at the micro level.
 Obviously, hopping would be a slow and tedious way to cover large
 distances. Up to now, we've been working on flat terrain, a necessary
 simplification while learning the basics. On a MUni ride, flat and level
 are bad words. Let's continue to expand our hopping beyond the theoretical
 practice surface to include cants, birms and bumps. For me the easiest way
 to practice was to simulate trail conditions by making simple props.
 Agreed, nothing is as good as the real thing but you'll find simulations
 save time, are challenging and helpful in developing basic technique. Their
 level of difficulty can be altered to graduate the learning process. Here
 are some props I made.

Practice With Props:

 For those that don't know, a prop is a device placed on the riding surface
 to alter its characteristics. Props are active in that they define a riding
 path. Ramps, blocks, boards, cones, bricks are all possible props. Props
 can be stupidly simple or more complex as needs dictate. Here's a simple
 one. Obtain a piece of 3/4" exterior grade plywood and cut four squares
 each about 6" on a side. Now let's put your hopping and spinning to the
 test. Place a plywood square on a level riding surface. Make sure the
 plywood won't skid when there is weight on it. Mount the unicycle and try
 hopping up on the plywood then back off again. You can approach from left,
 right or front. Start with the easiest approach but make sure to get good
 at all three approaches. Backwards, although a possible forth approach,
 probably doesn't have that much value so let's skip it. Try putting
 multiple blocks down to make a hopping coarse. Also you can hop from one
 block to another without touching the primary riding surface. You can stack
 the squares to increase height and make a more difficult hop. Always make
 sure the blocks can't slide! Always test a prop for traction before using
 it. On the front approach you may notice the tire kicking back if it
 contacts the edge of the block. This is a good way to start learning to
 micro adjust with your feet. When the tire kicks back, pop the front pedal
 with a transfer of weight to that leg. This will keep the tire from rolling
 backwards. More torque can be generated by pulling up on the saddle and
 stepping down on the forward pedal. You'll need to practice changing the
 ratio of weight on the pedals to accommodate uneven terrain without losing
 balance. A 16" 2x4 provides a good hop block. Try hopping up on this block
 or turn it on its edge and hopping over it without knocking it down. You
 can nail two 16" 2x4's back to back to create a more challenging hop block.
 Curbs also make good practice providing you gage the height to your skill
 level. You can hop curbs head on or from the side. For the head on
 approach, ride perpendicular to the curb and stop after you've made the
 last full revolution that leaves your strong foot forward. Hop yourself
 from that point forward until the tire just touches the curb, preload your
 legs and upper body and with a small lean forward hop and simultaneously
 swing the unicycle underneath you and up on the curb and finish by riding
 away. If the tire almost makes it, you can push down on the forward pedal
 and complete the maneuver that way. It takes practice so don't expect to
 get the hang of it immediately. One other prop I made was a 16" x 48" ramp
 elevated 5" at one end. When hopping up this ramp, place a support
 underneath at the halfway point to remove the springy diving board feeling.
 Practice hopping up this ramp and back down with front, left and right
 sides facing the direction of movement. Hopping while the tire is parallel
 to the edge of the ramp, will force you to micro adjust against the incline
 to stay balanced while ascending/descending. While on the ramp practice the
 spins done earlier to gain control of the shifting torque on the pedals.
 When you can go up/down the ramp with confidence and maintain good balance
 control you're ready to start hopping off vertical drops. When taking a
 MUni ride it's not uncommon to encounter situations where you need to ride
 off some sort of drop. Some example drops are, logs fallen across down
 slopes that have become back filled with washout or rock formations
 presenting ledges and ramps. Small drops (up to about 10") can be done
 hands free by just riding off them. When drops get higher than 10", you'll
 need to start holding the seat to create artificial gravity between you and
 the MUni during free fall. This will keep your feet in good contact with
 the pedals for a controlled landing. When riding off drops, your crank
 position when landing (point of maximum stress) is arbitrary assuming you
 make no adjustments during free fall. Landing one up and one down may, in
 some situations, be less than optimal. Hopping, a technique based on
 horizontal cranks, can be used in lieu of a straight ride- off approach.
 Here's how it works. Before attempting hopping off things, you should be
 completely comfortable with the basic techniques as presented above. Lets
 first start on the ramp. Ride towards the ramp and begin hopping in place
 just prior to entering the incline. Hop forward up the ramp and bring the
 MUni tire right to the edge of the ramp. Lean forward and hop clear of the
 ramp edge while swinging the MUni underneath you. The forward lean
 initiates the hop and provides some forward velocity. This component of
 velocity should be enough to move the back of the MUni tire forward clear
 of the ramp edge while free falling. Complete the drop by landing with your
 cranks horizontal and the tire underneath before riding away. Curbs make a
 good drop to practice on too. Butt that ramp you made against a cement
 block and try hopping that. All I can say now about hopping is just
 practice everything and anything you can until it gets easy. Use your
 imagination to create interesting obsticles but also use your head and good
 judgement to ride within your ability. Remember to study new props to
 anticipate the possible falls while using them and have a bail out plan in
 mind. Learning to fall correctly is just as important as the maneuver
 itself. With a little effort and a few bucks you can create a mini trials
 course just about anywhere there's space. To get comfortable with hopping
 off greater heights work up to it by increasing height slowly as skill and
 technique are gained. If your hubs are the cheap ones they'll bend/break
 pretty quick under the strain produced by hopping. I've enjoyed blowing
 three hubs so far with my adventures. My current one is hardened and has
 survived hundreds of hops and jumps. Who knows maybe I'll break this time.
 Have fun and look for Part II which will talk about jumping, the Rolls
 Royce of getting air.

“The Muniac”

Re: Muniac Manor (Hop Along Muni)

Scott, this is great info. I especially like the drills. Let me guess… this is
the kind of stuff that you demonstrate on your video?

If so, I will be ordering one from very soon.


David Maxfield Bainbridge Island, WA