Personal Prep for California MUNI Weekend

Howdy All,

I was originally going to send this to John Foss directly but I thought maybe someone else might also be interested in the answer.

To begin with I'm pretty out of shape. I just started unicycling in December and even more recently started working on Muni about a month ago.  Progress is amazing! Everytime I go out my skills are better.  My physical health is of course getting much better too.  Outside of unicycling I've been doing lots of hiking (which in Santa Barbara is all straight up or down) and trying to get to the gym as much as possible. So I recently set a goal for myself: To be in good enough shape and build up my skill set enough to ride in the California Muni Weekend which is in October this year.  My question for John and any other past participants is what kind of Muni skills should I be working on to help guareentee that I would have a good time and not just constantly trying to keep up?  Also how good of shape should I be in to participate (ie. how long should I be able to ride offroad without breaks and what not). 

I saw this @ October 17-19, 2003: California Mountain Unicycle Weekend. My house will be the base, with rides in Fairfield, Auburn, and the famous Downieville Downhill! (Further information to follow).

Should I be preparing for any specific terrain that I’ll find in abudance at these locations? Or am I just being a dork and trying to be too prepared? :slight_smile:

thanks for any suggestions,


Re: Personal Prep for California MUNI Weekend

this question is important to me too if i go.

i would like to know what kind of terrain the rides will be on for the most part.i would be on a 29er with only a 2.1 tyre.are we talking pinch flat city or what ?

Matt, I’m glad you posted that question. I want to ride with the MUni gang in some upcoming MUni weekends - whichever I can make it to… Vancouver Island, California, what the heck, maybe even Moab next year. :smiley:

And I am in serious ‘training’ now so that I will be at my technical best for group rides on rough terrain. Any specific suggestions are welcome.


I think the most important MUni skill is a solid free mount. You can burn a tremendous amount of energy just trying to get mounted on a slope or rough spot. The ability to hop once or twice directly from the static mount to get situated and pointed in the right direction has helped me a lot.

I’m trying hard to be as efficient as I can on the MUni with a smooth pedal stroke and a “quiet” upper body. That’s tough … especially in technical spots.

When I mountain bike I can recover easily between hard spots by slowing down, shifting to an easier gear, standing up, etc. I may be going slow but I’m not stopped and am still making forward progress. I find it VERY difficult to recover between tough sections on the MUni. I think the ability to go slow and recover is important. I find it common (and frustrating) to be able to ride cleanly through a rocky section only to fall on an easy part while riding slow and easy trying to recover before the next tough spot.

Steve Howard

I can see from your avatar that you still have quite a ways to go with your conditioning. I see a massive coronary coming your way by age 36. I see your father doing dog food commercials and your little brother suffering disaster after disaster on the prarie.

Ride with other people, preferrably people who are way better than you. I’m lucky enough to watch John Childs’ back pull away from me regularly and, when I’m really lucky, I catch up to him to watch how he handles technical terrain. I’m starting to watch Steve DeKoekkoek now, too, because he’s improving very quickly and he approaches problems differently than either John or me. Different breeds broad skill development.

Ride at your own speed. Don’t wear yourself out trying to keep up with someone or trying to keep out of someone’s way. Most of these guys are used to seeing someone dump it right in front of them. I welcome the chance to try to pause in the trail while someone clears a unicycle out of the way and then get going from a hop or idle. It’s like an unplanned obstacle. If I want to avoid that kind of problem I trail by a large margin or lead.

My trail weakness? I like toys…alot. I tend to wear myself out playing on trail toys when I should be spending some time recovering. My rides are therefore short, but lots of fun. By the end of them I am no longer able to see John’s back.


Steve Howard’s advice about the freemount on varied terrrain is really good advice. The following is based on my one and only MUni weekend last year, so I don’t have other experience.

I had a really good time. On one of the rides during the weekend,
a lot of time was spent finding places to play like tree stumps, logs, and whatever could be found. The more capable riders would move on ahead and the slower or less experienced riders could still catch up and have something to watch. You always felt a part of things. You could still attempt stuff too!

The Downieville Downhille ride looks like it would be for experienced riders only. It’s supposed to be 17 miles of downhill.
I have a brake on my MUni. Even so, I will probably not ride this. I see a lot of pressure on my weakened knees and the wrist used to work the brake. John will give more details, I bet, on this ride the closer we get to that date.

The other rides seem like they would be doable for all groups. My guess is that the rides will be divided into different levels at the different venues with meeting places for lunch.

I will be lucky to make one of the days, if any. I am going out to New Jersey for NJII this year for a change of scenery. That pretty much uses up my time away from work.

Good luck.


I saw Scott Cooper come down some steep rocky stuff on a 29er using 170 cranks two months ago that I thought wasn’t doable on a 29er, so I think it’s worth a try and you can probably borrow/share someone’s MUni to play on at all the play areas on the trail.

Re: Personal Prep for California MUNI Weekend

My motto is just because you’re a dork doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared…:stuck_out_tongue:

I think Harper’s comments are right on, especially on the freemounting. It’s important that you be able to do that going uphill, without having to do the little backpedal part of it. Not that I’m a very good rider, but I’ll tell you my view having been to one Muni weekend (Moab), and done a bunch of recent woods riding. The areas I end up walking the uni the most are inevitably long or steep uphills, and steep downhills. Getting over roots can be a challenge, but the average dismount time to walk it over a root or downed tree is short compaired to flogging it up and down hills. Try to focus some practice time building your climbing and decending technique, and the roots will take care of themselves along the way.

Work on distance and climbing.

Make sure you have experience doing long trail rides of 10 miles or more. You don’t want one of the muni weekend rides to be the longest ride that you’ve ever done. The muni weekend rides can be long and you’re riding most of the day and you’re doing it two or three days in a row. They’re big group rides and group rides take longer than solo rides because groups like to stop more to play at various technical sections. But you can’t get away from the fact that they are long rides on challenging trails. Make sure you can do the distance and still be able to ride and walk the next day or else you won’t have much fun. Be prepared with plenty of water and trail food like Cliff bars. Know how much you need to eat and drink so you don’t bonk on a long ride. And remember that muni miles are a lot harder than road miles. Being able to do 30 mile Coker rides on the tarmac will not necessarily prepare you to be able to do 10 mile muni rides at a muni weekend.

I was very sore after my first muni weekend. I ached in places I had never ached before (my legs and knees). I was dead tired at the end of the rides. The muni weekend rides were longer and more hard-core than the rides I had been doing at home and I wasn’t quite ready for that level. I still had fun, but I was having great difficulty walking around after the last day when it was time to head to the plane and fly home. I’m now much better able to handle long hard rides. 12 mile muni rides with over 1500 vertical feet of climbing are but a warm up now.

Downieville is an especially long ride. It’s something like 17 miles and over 4000 vertical feet of downhill. Every year there is an additional expert level ride that is longer and harder than the regular muni weekend rides. This year it’s going to be Downieville. You don’t want to do the long expert ride if you’re not ready for it. You’d be amazed at what 4000 vertical feet of downhill can do to your legs. If you’re not prepared for it you may not be able to walk the next day. Downhill uses different leg muscles than regular riding so even if you are in good shape for climbing and regular muni rides, 4000 vertical feet of downhill can leave your legs so sore you may have trouble walking the next day.

Also work on your climbing. Be able to climb reasonable grades efficiently. Poor climbing technique wastes a LOT of energy. Learning how to climb with efficient technique will make the longer rides that much more enjoyable and doable. Muni weekends are never flat. There is always some climbing to be done.

Don’t worry about trials type skills like jumping and hopping. You can walk the short technical sections on the trail. The main thing is to be able to do the distance and to have fun.

I’m not sure what John has planned this year, but he sometimes has alternative “easy” rides for the novice riders.

The muni weekends are seriously fun. Just being there and talk shop, seeing how other people are riding, getting tips, etc. makes it all extra special.

Re: Re: Personal Prep for California MUNI Weekend

I have a “spare” 26x3 muni with 175mm cranks if you need it. I don’t know how I would pack both it and my 24x3 muni for a plane trip, but I could figure something out.

I’m not familiar with all of the rides scheduled. But I have done the Auburn ride before and you could do that ride on a 29er without worrying about tacos and pinch flats. I did the Auburn ride on my Pashley with a 2.1" tire. Others were doing the ride on Schwinns with a street tire.

You might want the 26x3 for Downieville if you choose to do that ride.

Holey bulging quadraceps, Batman!

For me, I’d be lucky to MUni EITHER 12 miles OR 1500 vertical feet of climbing. But I think you’ve just quantified my next goal.

I’d love to go to something like this someday. But Memphis is relatively flat. I suppose I could do the same hill over and over until I’ve accumulated 1500 feet. (30x?). One thing that draws me to MUni is my short attention span. I need the ever changing variety, so laps or repetition are mentally as well as physically challenging. But I’m here and you gotta play the hand you’re dealt.

Is there a website for the California MUni Weekend? Is there a similar weekend in the works for somewhere this side of the Continental Divide? Great Smokey Mountains Nat Park would be nice.

Thankya, thankyaverymuch, tom.

Not only that, but one of our rides in 2004 will probably end at your house! (That’s the Flume Trail at Lake Tahoe, at which we finish up at the Ponderosa Ranch). But that’s next year…

Lots of good advice from Steve Howard and others. There is no substitute for banging out trail miles. As John Childs said, road miles do not equal MUni miles, and flat, easy MUni miles do not equal steep technical miles. If you live in a relatively flat area, you can indeed practice riding up and down your hills over and over. It’s the same as people running up and down the grandstand at the track. Great exercise! Just work on building up your mileage.

At the earlier MUni Weekends I always tried to have easier variations on the main planned rides. But in later years when there has been only one main ride, everyone has seemed to enjoy themselves. It’s much less a question of how much technical people can handle, because they can always walk around those sections. It all boils down to mileage. Prepare yourself for the numbers of miles to be covered, and the rest will be relatively minor.

Someone else asked about a 29" 2.1 tire. Not to worry! Remember, most of us started out riding MUni on 24 x 1.75 tires. Once we found out how much fun it was, then we started figuring out how to get mountain bike wheels onto unicycle frames. At the first MUni Weekend, I had constant troubles with my newly-upgraded 26" wheel crammed into a Schwinn frame (Piece-o-Schwinn). So I mostly ended up riding my good old 24 x 1.75 Miyata.

With a larger or skinnier tire, you just have to be careful about potential tacoing and pinch flats. Watch for hard-edged rocks and don’t just dive off everything, and you should be fine. Bring a spare tube.

I will soon be putting up some Web details for MUni Weekend 2003, but it’s not there yet. I have just finished (I hope) dealing with the going-out-of-business of my former Web hosting company. I’ve just moved to, and so far everything’s great. Still got to fix my CGI though. If you’d like to try LunarPages, please go in through their Affiliates link, and I’ll get a discount! :slight_smile:

Rockville Hills Park:
This park has a ton of trails in a relatively small park (only a few square miles). Everything from flat fireroad to I’m-not-going-down-that. I think we will also try to set up some games in a rocky area that has a kind of ridged rock hillside and some other interesting terrain. I’m hoping to set up some games like we had in Moab.
Friday riding TBD, but will be only as much as people want to do.

American River Confluence, Auburn. This is where the first MUni Weekend started, and we were there 1996-98. It’s where we first witnessed George Peck riding on big round river rock in '96, and where the MUni world got introduced to Kris Holm for the first time in '98.
Read about the first three MUni Weekends there:

Saturday’s morning ride will be the Clementine Loop. This trail is about 7 miles with a 1000’ climb. We will probably be able to drop people off near the top, skipping most of the climb (but some of the scenery). Novices will have the option of riding the Quarry Road Trail, which follows the opposite side of the Middle Fork. After lunch, we will ride Stagecoach or Manzanita Trails, and a new optional side trial, details TBA. I’m not sure how we’re going to fit it all in a day, as it’s always been a squeeze in the past. We will also do the classic Confluence Uphill Race, which we did the first three years.

Sunday will be the Downieville Downhill:
Brett never made a trail page for this one, but there are tons of sites out there. Here’s one example:
We saved Downieville for the last day because all that downhill can mess up your legs, otherwise it would be a Friday experts-only ride. I am working on figuring out a shorter ride option, but I don’t know yet how many miles we can cut off. Riders will also have the option of riding part of the trail from the end, then turning around. This will not involve as much uphill as you think, most of it’s toward the other end.

The Downieville day will be a long one. It starts with the drive up there, which is about 100 miles from my house, 40 of them windy. The town of Downieville is the end point of the ride. From there, we pick up a shuttle to the top of the Sierra Buttes. There will be a small fee for the shuttle, TBA. If some people want to be drivers and take their own cars up, that might help. Then you ride down, down, down!

Taking the shortest choices of trails from the top to Downieville, it’s over 15 miles. There are roads that connect with the trails, however, that should make it possible for people to get picked up in those locations. I have to work out the details.

But whatever else, you’ll have to ride downhill A LOT. The first time I rode Downieville, though I had a blast, I was never more sore. It took a week to recover, and several days before I could walk down stairs without having to hold the handrails. However, we rode the trail again last year. I started riding my bike to work a few weeks before that, and this preparation helped me hold up much better. I was only sore for a few days, and not nearly as much. That’s without brakes. If you have brakes, you have a great advantage!

Downieville has plenty of technical sections, which makes it a very fun ride. We’ll have to remind ourselves to keep moving, or we’ll never finish. But as with all other trails, the technical sections can be skipped over if you don’t feel comfortable. The vast majority of the ride is rolling, but the technical sections and scenery keep it more than interesting.

My house will be opened up for indoor or outdoor “camping.” Plenty of room, and lots of unicycles to play with. I also plan to arrange some pool riding in my sister-in-law’s pool around the block (our pool is for swimming), and possibly Trials or other games in her larger back yard.

If you have any questions about the event, feel free to contact me (my email address is at the bottom of every post). If it’s something everyone should know, post it here at the newsgroup.

I have photo albums of all the MUni Weekend riding locations. Sorry, I know my Ofoto albums are a bit of a hassle to navigate, but it’s a ton of pictures. Go to my MUni photo albums page:

There are tons of Auburn pictures, two sets of Rockville pictures, and Downieville pictures from last year.

Also at the very bottom of the page, you’ll see a link to the pool we’ll have a chance to play in.

Re: Re: Re: Personal Prep for California MUNI Weekend

thanx but i’ll have to re-think this the whole thing now,17 miles off road doesnt sound like much fun to me,im not into the torture/marathon side of MUni.i also prefer to walk up hills that are so steep that its faster and more efficiant to do so.slogging up,grunting and sweating doesnt give me any jollys.

the longest muni ride ive ever done was about 8 miles and 4 of that was walking to the top.i could do that ride twice in one day but not if i rode up,its really steep.

Thanks a lot John. I wasn’t planning on making the trip, but your description is really tempting me. We’ll see how things look at the end of summer, but now I really want to go!
As if I didn’t have enough complications in my life, now I’m going to be a MUni junkie…

John, this sounds like big big fun…I can’t wait. I may just change my mantra to “Are we there yet? Huh? Huh? Are we there yet?”

I was exaggerating when I said a 12 mile ride with 1500 feet of climbing was only a warm up. That’s a healthy ride for me. I’m tired at the end of a ride like that. But I do consider that to be my benchmark ride that all other rides are rated against.

The point I was trying to make, but didn’t actually say <g>, was that what the California guys consider to be a typical muni ride and what other people consider to be a typical muni ride may not be the same thing. The California guys have a high expectations for their muni rides.

I don’t want to scare people off thinking that the rides are too hard-core. But people who go to a CA style muni weekend need to know what is to be expected. The rides aren’t just lazy rides through a local park.

For east coast rides check out I think they are planning a group ride somewhere in New Jersey. I’ve heard other rumblings of some other east coast people wanting to get an east coast muni weekend going.

You people ROCK!!!

These were all answers that I was looking for! Now of course I’m scared to death I’m not going to be in shape enough to ride but thats great too. Nothing like a deadline to push yourself a little harder. Heck even if I’m not ready for the Downieville Downhill I do have a pickup truck that can help transport Munis. Thanks for all the suggestions. If anyone is looking for me I’ll be in the foot hills of Santa Barbara heading uphill for the next 2 months. :slight_smile:

Thanks again for all the help,


Don’t sweat it, you can keep me company at the back of the pack. We can pass the time by picking out the little moving specks on that far ridge ahead and saying “Do you think that one is John? Or is it John?”

That’s easy. John will be in front of me. I tend to be one of the slow ones on the group rides.

Actually it’s fun to watch John Foss. He tries to take lots of pictures. He’ll zoom past everyone, find a strategic place to get a photo as people pass by, rejoin the group at the back of the pack, and then zoom ahead again for another photo opportunity. John is like a sports car the way he can accelerate by everyone. I’m like an old diesel that chugs along. I get there, but I can’t go fast.

I’ve got a new question concerning training for this event. Right now I’ve got 170 mm crank arms with a pretty wide q-factor. I love them, but I think they might get in the way on some trails (I heard of a few UPD’s in Moab that happened when the pedals bottomed out). Should I get some shorter cranks, or will this be a problem on the California trails?