North East USA riders: Steveyo's challenge for Mt. Greylock climb

So, Steveyo got the ball rolling with this post

He was seeing if anyone had an interest in unicycling up Whiteface (a mountain in upstate NY) during a time trial b*ke event. This led to some discussion and the idea of doing the hill climb up Mt. Greylock (western Massachusetts) on Sept 10th came up. See link here:

Cliff Hirsh jumped on the bandwagon and I joined in. Steveyo said in his previous thread that he could be readily persuaded. Even Alan (Animal Cage - a newer rider and a great guy) started making noises about doing it. Then, the situation took a dramatic turn for the worse: Cliff actually called my bluff and said he really wants to do it. He said us “old guys” need ambitious goals. So…enough idle chatter. I’m in!

I think Greylock is a good choice because of the September date. I can convince myself that, of course, I’ll be in great shape by then. Any daunting endeavor that is two and a half months away is always a great idea. I am an expert at mortgaging my future!

Who else is in? Come on, all you Northeast riders - sign your enlistment papers today! Unicyclists are absolutely welcome. There is a $50. prize for the first unicyclist (Steveyo, I think) to finish.

A few questions:

  1. Two of my teenage boys may enter with me (It currently seems like a good idea to them, but we will have to gauge the commitment of each team member team after our first really steep training run). We have two 29ers and a 36er. Does it make sense to do a steep hill climb on a 36er? Or would we be better off using my 24" Onza muni instead of the 36er?

  2. If one of us uses the Onza Muni, should I take off the knobby tire and replace it with a high volume road tire? Is there such a tire? If so, what should I get?

  3. Any training advice (besides practicing on steep hills)?

  4. Any strategy advice for the actual big day?

The bigger the gang of Uni riders, the more fun this event will be.

36 / 125s

I have not done this ride. But if I were to so up I think I would first try it on a 36 with 125 cranks then time that against a following ride on 110s. Looks like a fun hill.

A smooth tire would be easier to roll. A good, cheap (though not light at 920g) option is the CST Cyclops 2.4. I have one on a 24" wheel for cruising and like it very much. If I was buying a tire specifically for a hillclimb I might be inclined to give up some volume for a lighter tire. Maybe something like a Tioga PowerBlock 2.1 (520g).

8 miles? Uphill?? The furthest I’ve gone to date is 2.4 miles on a straight, and my legs were butter. OK, fine, I’ll start training. I guess Monson Rd will become my best friend.

For a steep ride, wouldn’t longer cranks (say, 150s) be better? I think that more leverage would deliver a bigger benefit (as a force multiplier) than getting less leverage from shorter cranks.

Greylock hill climb

Hey Kerv and others.

Hill climbs are great fun though very brutal, Just ask Stevyo!
I did Greylock last year. My time was 1:07:22. The race is very difficult on a uni. It would be puff for a 29" guni. The reason is that it
is very steep right off the start. It then has some down hills in it followed by a few steep sections, some down hill and then a very gradual last few miles. With out gears you need to pick the right wheel size

I used a 36" with 170 cranks. I use 170’s for all climbs but just change the wheel out between a 36, 29 or 25 " depending on the pitch. Washington is the 25". Whiteface is the 29". The 36" was brutal for the first 16% grade mile of Greylock. It was fine the rest of the way and perfect for the final few miles that where around 4%. It would kill you to do it with shorter cranks unless you dropped the wheel size.

If you have never done a hill climb before, pick a smaller wheel like a 24 or 29 with some larger cranks-150’s or longer. Rather spin fast for a while then try and gut it out standing up the whole time. Find a local hill with a similar grade and do lots of repeats.

I will not be at Whiteface or Greylock this year due to weddings and another race on the Greylock weekend. I’ll be at Okemo on June 25 if you want a steep shorter hill to try it out.

You have got to love a challenge…

Longer cranks are slow. I try to choose the shortest possible for the steepest section. I find it best to learn the technic/skill to ride steep with short cranks slow enough to keep your heart rate within range on the steep sections. Then spin it out on the not so steep sections. I use heart rate to limit speed like a governor so as not to burn myself out and ruin the rest of the ride.

Heart rate remains near the same for both 150s and 125s on the same incline at the same speed if your skill level and strength are up to the 125s. On long hill climbs the difference between 150s, 140s, 125s is amazing. 110s become a technic/skill challenge.

I ride 13% to 16% on 110s if it’s not a sharp switch back with camber. If they will allow you, ride the outside of the curves on the switch backs. There the camber will not be as bad and the slope is the least. One time trial I have done a couple of times has curves that are 16% on the outside of the corner, 20% at the center line and 25% plus on the inside of the corner. Makes a huge difference in required crank length.


Here are three older pictures of taking a different line on the same corner on the same day. This is practicing on the hardest corner on the ‘Cougar Mountain Hill Climb’ (

The fourth picture is just a fun ride I do several times a year practicing for the Mount Baker Hill Climb. This trip is on a 43 Semcycle.


Count me as Interested - ro

Psyched for all the interest.

Eric (scmojo) says 36/170s, Joe says 36/125s. I think somewhere in between. I’ll probably ride my 29/137 guni.

Roland, don’t you have something else that weekend?

I appreciate all the opinions on wheel size and cranks. I really liked BungeeJoe’s advice on minimizing slope by riding the outside of the curve. Any other advice for an aspiring hill climber?

So after accepting Steveyo’s challenge to ride in the Greylock climb, I have to back out. The tornado that hit Springfield, MA earlier in June really slammed by 81 year old Uncle’s house. I am spending all my free time (formerly reserved for training) at his property cleaning up and doing repairs (he has no insurance…kind of a long story). Anyway, I have not done any serious riding in 3 weeks and I realize that most of my July and August free time will be spent on this project. If I don’t train for the Greylock climb, I’ll be toast.

So good luck to any riders in this year’s event. I’ll pass until next year (when I will turn 50). A fitting goal for my 50th year!

Umm, sorry…the industry standard 50 bday male boondoggle is helicopter skiing! Common knowledge :slight_smile: Unfortunately, mine occurred during the recession :frowning:

Oh, and for advice…think motorized assist…

OK, all you NE hill-climbers…

I just went to the Greylock site and signed up, and paid my money. It would be cool to get as many folks as possible to this race. When you sign up, there are starting time blocks to choose (riders go off every 30 seconds). In case us unis want to ride near each-other, I picked the 9:30-10AM block as first choice and 10-10:30 block as my second choice.

On second thought…I really don’t think anyone else should do it, so I can get the $50 prize as first unicycle. :wink:

I’m probably in, need to double check the date…and train on a few hills :astonished:

I haven’t been getting in the practice I thought I would. My longest ride so far is 5 miles, hoped to be past 8 by now. If I can get to 8 by September, I will do a last-minute entry. I may just go and do it anyways, see how far I get.

No, Ro, I think you’re busy that weekend.

It would hurt, but you could do it.

You can do it, just go out and do 8 right now, you’ve got it in you!

Is the Uni record on this mountain Eric’s finish from last year (1:07:22)?

I think Eric’s 1:07 is the record (maybe only?). There’s a profile at Doug’s NE hillclimbs page.