NO uni's in Bike MS, NJ

Well I was planing on doing the Bike MS tour here in NJ. I thought I would be a good idea to give the event organizer a heads up on my plans to ride a unicycle in the event(didn’t want to show up and get turned away). Today I got an e-mail back from them. I will post it along with the e-mail I sent them following it. I know there has been unicycles I other MS Bike tour so I thought it wouldn’t be an issue. Did I do the right thing by e-mailing them or should I just show up to bike events with my uni that I plan on doing in the future?

Jeff Brody <> to Organic Steam <>12:20pm

Thank you for contacting us. I have checked with our Risk Manager, as this is the first we’ve heard of a request like this, and unfortunately, we cannot allow unicycles on the road. I do greatly appreciate the fact that you checked with us first and I’m sorry that I don’t have better news.


Jeffrey M. Brody
Development Manager

National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Greater Delaware Valley Chapter
One Reed Street, Suite 200
Philadelphia, PA 19147
tel +1 215 271 1500
fax +1 215 271 6122


From: Organic Steam []
Sent: Sunday, August 23, 2009 11:23 PM
To: Jeff Brody
Subject: Unicycling the MS Ride

I was thinking about signing up for the Bike MS: City to Shore Ride you have in NJ (75 mile one day). I am e-mailing you to find out if there are any rules that would now allow me to ride a unicycle in this bike event. I have looked through your site and have not found anything that would suggest that it is not allowed, but thought I should check first. I know there have been unicyclist in a few MS bike tours, but not specifically this one. I would like to thank you in advance for any information you can give me on this issue. Also I know there are time limits on how long you can be on the course, but I don’t foresee them as being an issue.

You might give them a follow-up and educate the organizers a little. They may not know about 36ers and the ways they are used on the road, the speed, etc. They’re probably picturing someone showing up on a 20" or something. You could point them to results from bike events with unicyclists (the ride around Lake Tahoe, for instance) to show that we’re not hampered by riding one wheel. Send links to some YouTube vids that show 36ers being ridden responsibly on the road.

You never know. It might get you into the race!

If there are others here in the forums who have done an MS ride, please let the OP know when and where. Specifics about events that allowed unicycles might be more compelling evidence for the ride’s organizers.

Good luck!

It’s a shame they feel they way.

Two of us rode in the 2008 MS charity ride from Sydney to Wollongong.
I think between us we pulled in over $2000 for MS Australia.

A real opportunity lost :frowning:

I e-mailed them back just to inquire what made them come to their decision. I also let them know other MS Bike events have had unicyclist in them including a soon to be 5 time rider in Washington.

I would be more likely to get hurt worse on 2 wheels than on my uni

In communicating with them, you should definitely educate on the safety elements of unicycle (i.e. top speed of 10-12 mph, can’t coast down hills and wipe out at 40 mph the way the bikes can), and also let them know there has been precedent in other Bike MS rides. The Texas ride has had multiple unicycles, as has the Washington ride. Perhaps you could also volunteer to have a flashing taillight, and reflective “slow moving vehicle” triangle on your backpack.

This will be my fifth year riding the Greater Washington Bike MS Tour, including one year when I was a RIDE MARSHALL on my unicycle. Interestingly, I’ve also been among the Top 20 fundraisers each of the years I’ve ridden. I would be if they contacted the Greater Washington chapter, they’d get some positive feedback on having a unicycle in the event.

Good Luck!


Did you do the right thing? Yes, in theory. They’re the ones that did the wrong thing. But I guess you have to see it from their point of view. Since you gave them a head’s up, there is documentation that they knew this unicycle was coming. It’s not a bicycle so it’s a potential liability issue (regardless of speed, safety, logic, etc.). The paper/electronic trail exists to put them in a sticky spot legally, if something were to happen to you.

Had you just shown up, which is definitely what I’ll recommend for next time, I’m sure you would be greeted with smiles. No paper trail, much less liability for them.

Do these MS tours close the roads for the event? If not, surely there is a limit to their ability to “not allow unicycles on the road”. Another thing to consider. How much money have you raised? This might work on a just-showing-up basis, but is not likely to have any effect at this point with the current tour. That amount is nothing compared to the possible disaster that could happen if you got hit by a car or something…

Generally, the event shares the road with cars. In the WA version, there is one section–crossing the narrow and heavily trafficked Deception Pass Bridge–where they have the bikes hold up and then cross in big groups, protected by some Harley riders in the back.

I’m not sure I follow the logic on why bikes have a better paper trail from a liability standpoint. Every rider signs the same liability form. My experience in four years of the event is that I’m one of the safest riders out there. The Bike MS Tour is, frankly, amateur hour, and there are a lot of well-meaning fundraisers that look like they get on their bikes about two days a year. I stop to help fix their flats because they didn’t bring their own kit. I watch as they try to do pacelines without the benefit of regular practice. I see the crashes…most of which have happened because they were going just too damn fast on a gravely corner, or were watching the road off the end of their front wheel and so missed the stop sign until it was too late.

Steam, I know some of the WA event folks, so will try to get their view on whether educating might help, or whether the ruling of Risk Manager is Final and don’t waste your breath.

Last night I sent a response e-mail to the one I received. I do understand where they are coming from. This is a bicycle event and if they don’t want a unicycle in it I can understand. Much like a 5k run wouldn’t allow you to ride a bike or unicycle in it. Any way here is the last e-mail and repose I got. Seem to be positive. Also they don’t seem to waste any time on responding which is very encouraging.

I am sorry to hear that I cannot participate in you event. Your quick response is appreciate. Was there a spesific reason behind this decision? I was a little suprized because I was talking to a unicyclist that has done the Washington ride 4 going on 5 years in a row. I don’t want to come across as angray or upset, I understand the postion you are in trying to make this as safe as possible for everyone involved. Thank you again for not just trashing this e-mail, I know it must have been something you could never guessed would be asked. If you ever want to look into some of the distances or types of rideing we do as unicyclist has lots of information on it. Including so write ups of the Ride The Lobster Race, a 800km race in stages over 5 days in Nova Scotia, Canada

Jeff Brody <> to “” <>8:30am

The main reason behind the decision is the overall concern for everyone’s safety. As I mentioned, I needed to check with our Risk Manager as they have the final say. To be honest, I was hoping for them to say yes but as we know, they didn’t. I’m going to pass on your note about DC Ride as maybe it may allow for a second look into this matter. If something changes, I’ll follow up.

Thank you again,

Jeffrey M. Brody

You’re getting good responses to your emails, so maybe this isn’t critical, but you might want to proofread and spell check. Some people are turned off by typos or grammar mistakes.
I say this with all due respect. I think your persistence is admirable.

It’s not logic, it’s insurance. I’m not a lawyer, but I think it goes something like this. In the event of a claim, the first thing that the insurance company does is look for ways to not pay. “What? The guy was riding a unicycle? Not covered.” If there is a lawsuit, the “not covered” applies to the event organizers, who can’t afford the risk.

Doesn’t matter if the unicyclist was hit by a drunk driver or one of the other cyclists. Doesn’t matter at all. :frowning:

Mostly for themselves. As Tom described, the organizers are well aware of the inexperience of the masses of cyclists that will be assembled, and there are probably crashes involving ambulance rides every year (I know this was the case for the 5-Boro Bike Tours I used to ride in). Adding a unicycle into the mix just makes their risk higher, and the event less safe for them.

I wonder if a Unicycling Society of America member would have an edge if he/she produced a copy of the member’s liability insurance? That might actually work, though it would probably take a while for the information to go from one insurance company to the other, through the filter of lawyers, etc…

i would show up anyway…

but I’m an ass

I tend to agree with this. It might give the organizers a chance to see you in action so that they can make a better decision the next time around. I really appreciate the effort you made in trying to get into the ride this time around. However, I think you actually got booted specifically because you took the time to ask ahead of the ride. Had you just shown up with some sponsors and a good amount of skill, you’d have had no trouble. Lesson learned, I think. It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission, as they say.

Me too.

If they won’t let you pay, it’s time to poach.

Counts double if they’re not blocking off the streets specifically for the ride; you then have just as much right to be there as anyone else.

Maybe you can show up with two wheels like this :D:

When I was wondering if I could ride in a certain bicycle event, I called the PR person and asked if I could cycle with a fixed gear. She said yeah. I figured I at least had a little bit of an argument. When I showed up, they were concerned at first but let me ride.

Is that assuming the same probability of falling/crashing? Yes, I’m far better off failing from my uni than a bike, but I’d fall from a uni a lot more than a bike.

I think riding a uni in a bike race is a bit selfish (depending on the rider). I’m a fairly competent rider, can manage 125’s on my 36, can mount 9/10, But on more than a few occasions I’ve hit a bump and have been launched off the front, I was fine, but my uni rolling/falling behind me could have easily collected 5 bikers if they were trailing behind.

So maybe some of us should get off our soap boxes and actually think that we might pose a risk, not necessarily to ourselves but to other racers.

I’m all for uni’s in bike events but it very much depends on the rider and the course structure (wide road/shoulders).

Not sure if you realize this is a charity ride, apparently on open roads, and not a race. In the case of an actual race, I highly recommend asking about unicycles first, because generally you will be in the way of the two-wheelers and that’s a factor for everyone. Here I’m not on a soap box, I just speak in terms of what should work. Ride organizers have no way of knowing the difference between a completely unskilled, one-weekend-a-year bicyclist, and a Unicon-Marathon-winning unicyclist. Unfortunately, the crappy bicyclist is riding the expected vehicle, so the liability on the part of the organizers is less.

In this situation, having established communication mentioning the unicycle and being told no, the organizers chose to protect themselves from the off chance of their insurance company treating unicycles differently from bikes.

Because apparently they can, right or wrong.

This sounds a lot safer, but still puts you in the position of having “outed yourself” on record prior to the event. I think it’s far less likely that an insurance company would have issues with a fixed gear (bicycle), but it could happen, for example, if the bike didn’t have brakes, the rider was reckless and went too fast down a hill, etc.

My philosophy, not that insurance companies have any reason to agree with me, is that for all intents and purposes, in these situations, a unicycle is a bike. “I’m sory, I didn’t notice in your event paperwork that my cycle had to have two wheels. Does it really matter?” That could work, though they still have that whole “bi” thing on their side if they want to disallow you on the day of…

I am extremely embarrassed that I sent that e-mail without doing a spell check or looking it over. I almost always do those two things because I am a terrible typist and I can’t spell. Guess there is no way of coming back from that, what is sent is already out there.

Heard back today. There are national standards that apply to many elements of the Bike MS rides, although each Chapter holds the right to go above the minimum standard when implementing and enforcing their event policies. While the National standard for permissible bikes (single, tandem and recumbent types) doesn’t exclude unicycles in the policy language, it does exclude trailers, tag-alongs and carriers that are designed for children. These exclusions support the National standard age limitation for the event of 12 years and older. The WA Chapter does not exclude unicycles, but another Chapter could choose to at their discretion, as NJ has done.

The person here did not see any issue with your strategy of trying to at least appeal the decision, provide more education on the safety element. Feel free to reference the Greater Washington Chapter as an example of one that permits unicycles to participate in the ride. As mentioned, this year will be 5th year in a row I’m doing it, with no safety issues. Last year my son did also so there were two unis, and this year there will also be (at least) two.

Good luck!