RAAM on unis?

This piqued my interest. The cutoffs for the race are:
Start: noon (pdt) on Sunday, June 8th

Time Station 18: Taos, New Mexico Mile 1,000. 11pm EDT on Wednesday June 11th.
Time Station 34: Mississippi River Mile 2,000. 7am EDT on Sunday June 15th.
Finish: Annapolis, Maryland. Mile 3,000. 3pm EDT on Wednesday June 18th.

So 1000 miles in 3 days, 11 hrs, or 83 hours. You’d need to keep the average at 12.05 mph.

Each next chunk of 1000 miles has to be done in 80 hours, so 12.5 mph

They do have teams of four. I’m not sure if the four-person teams have the same cutoffs as the Fixie team of two, though.

3000 miles in 9 days (264 hours) is “only” 11.4 mph. We could do it.

Team cutoff is 9 days. Average of just under 14mph.


From my other post though:-

If you could get allowed to run an 8 man team, but start with the solos, it’s 3000 miles in 12 days = 250 miles a day which is harsh, but definitely doable.

You’d need 8 people, who could happily ride 32 miles a day at 11mph average. There are probably loads of people at RTL who could do that - the top teams were riding at over 13.5mph average, so it’d just be a matter of training up to be fit enough to do it for 2 weeks solid, and getting used to sleeping at funny times of day. It’d only involve riding 3 hours a day per person, loads of us have done 6 hour days of riding for a week, which is surely almost as hard?


I just shot the following letter of intro. to a couple RAAM organizers. Lets hear what they say. I’ll post the reply (if I get one!)

Sorry about the, “. . . dominated the race.” line to those of you 1:1ers who were blazingly fast!

Greetings from Minnesota,

I was among 105 distance unicyclists who recently completed an international relay-style stage race in Nova Scotia. http://www.ridethelobster.com/ The organization was fantastic and the event was challenging. It left many of us wishing for more distance racing opportunities.

Unicycles are almost ‘by definition’ fixies and the speeds are constrained by maximum pneumatic wheel diameter and crank arm length. However, the recent swiss invention (by Florian Schlumpf) of a geared unicycle hub (ratios of 1:1 & 1.5:1) has given the standard 36" travelling unicycle an effective diameter of 54". Roll-out, in high-gear then, is about 4.2 meters and we can comfortably sustain riding averages of 15+ mph. Still a fixie, but faster.

About 15 of us, who were the early-adopters/owners of these geared hubs, dominated the race. A team of 4 or 8 unicyclists on guni’s (geared unicyles) could, I believe, complete this race within the time frame that your bicyclists are on the road.
RTL: fastest speed reached (note: redwelly/Sam Wakeling is the current distance record holder for fixed gear (1:1) unicycling in 24-hr - 282 miles).

Would this departure from the ‘two-wheeled standard’ for cycling in RAAM be considered for inclusion in upcoming iterations of the race? Would you consider permitting a unicycle team?

Dan Hansen
NE Mpls, MN

Oops, sorry about my bad math, above. You’re right - 13.89 mph.

Cool, Dan. But I bet they say that it has to be two-wheel bikes.

bet a beer?

Not that I want that to be their decision, but you’re on.

One must qualify for the race, I believe. Does anyone have (or want to dig up) info on the qualifying?

Yeah, but how mountainous is the RAAM route? Nova Scotia was hilly, but there weren’t any big mountain ranges to clear. Big mountains can really slow you down.

I did briefly consider whether RAAM would be feasible or not a few years ago. At the time I didn’t think Soloing would be feasible if you were going to make the cut-off. Or it might have been possible but certainly not by me. I like my sleep. Those RAAM riders are incredible!

As for the team option, at the time, I only knew of a few riders who could sustain the average speed required. And most of them probably would have taken some convincing to enter RAAM.

I think since RTL and the GUnis coming on scene, there are quite a few more people who could potentially get a team together for RAAM that makes the cut-off.

Should be fun. I’d be keen to take part in it next year as part of a team if unicycles are allowed.

I still don’t think there are many (if any?) people out there yet who could make the average speed for the proper 9 day team event - looking at it, the time cutoffs are way shorter than Steve posted above - exactly 72 hours per 1000 miles. Even as a team of 8, you are riding the same distance as each rider was doing on the RTL days, and need to keep up a slightly higher pace than the winning team at Ride the Lobster, with no rest days, and a lot of night riding.

But - it does say in the rules that they have extended time cutoffs / early starts for special categories, so there is a chance of getting it to a sensible speed.


In other words, 333.3 miles per day. Or 536km/day, day in, day out, for over a week. Still, per rider it’s only 67km as you say, similar to what 3-man teams did in RTL. But we only raced for 2 days in a row at that pace. Maybe that’s a lot easier than what Beau and I had to do as a 2-man team (approx 100km/day/rider) but I was pretty destroyed at the end of the race, just 2 segments of 2 consecutive days. I don’t think my body would hold up for the required time.

As I know from 24 hour racing, racing around the clock gets almost surreal - in just one day. I can’t imagine what over a week would be like.

Also I don’t suppose you can have alternate riders on the team. I think it’s pretty unlikely that if you started with 8 riders you’d end with the same 8 riders, all capable of doing 67km at speed that last day. Sure would be interesting to try though.


As would I. I think a team of geared 36s should be able to do this.

Sounds like a fun little ride.

America is a cool place…I’ve been there.

No reply yet. In the mail I wrote to the RAAM people, I hoped to suggest that we’d be a ‘special’ case while remaining optimistic & uni-promotional. As I understand it, the solo-ers go out a few days in front of (most of??) the teams. If they like the novelty & marketability of the uni idea, then perhaps they’d work w/us to pick a more uni-friendly start date. Maybe the day the solo-ers leave or the day after . . . it’s not as if they would have to extend the event.

This sounds like a pretty awesome challenge. Ride the lobster was intense but I didn’t train as much as I would have liked. I feel like if a team were to get together for this that it would totally be fun to do - and I’d get myself properly into shape for it (and buy a geared hub…).

From what people are saying (especially how nathan breaks it down above) it sounds very doable. RTL was a challenge but it didn’t totally wreck me by any means.

Here’s what came in today - pasted below.

Hello Dan,

Thanks for your email. I will discuss this with the executive team and see what they think.

Terry Zmrhal
Race Director
Race Across America
The World’s Toughest Bicycle Race

I’ve just seen that there’s a TV documentary about Race Across America on ITV4 Sat July 5, 20:15 (this is in the UK) if anyone’s interested.

Okay, as a disclaimer… I really don’t want to piss anyone off, so this WHOLE ENTIRE POST is strictly IMHO!

Wow, guys, RAAM is pretty freakin’ huge… this is for the cyclists who mean serious business! Lots of folks say RAAM is a harder race than the Tour de France, and for good reason. (Maybe if you’re going solo, it is…) But, honestly, I kind of think it’d be humiliating to go out there and act like we think we can mean business on unicycles compared to the bikes. These guys haul their butts around at 27+ mph all day, day in and day out, and we’d just barely be able to make it with a team of 8, averaging under 15mph? Sounds like a fun race, but it also sounds like a great way for the serious cycling community to think “stupid unicyclists, they belong in the circus!” I could see a team of 4 geared 36es doing it… MAYBE… but daaaaaang, I know I don’t have the endurance even consider that yet. RTL was challenging, but quite doable… but I think that’s because RTL wasn’t that much racing when it really came down to it. (only around 40-60 miles a day) I’m not really too hot on the idea of a team of 8; that just kind of sounds… well, not cool… kind of lame for entering the race if we need 8 people to make the cutoffs. :slight_smile: But, seriously, doing a ride across america with a team of 8 would be a hell of a lot of fun. I just don’t think we have any place at all at a race like RAAM.

I donno, maybe we wouldn’t be seen that pathetically, and maybe it doesn’t matter if we are, but as a way to promote unicycling, it really seems analogous to a big crowd of us showing up to the Tour de France saying “Look at us!! We ride unicycles!,” try to enter the race, and get annihilated by the slowest riders there (who are still really, really, really, really fast)

Even at my fastest, I totally can’t keep up with any cyclist who means any kind of business on his/her bike… and even when I’m doing 19-20+mph, and they effortlessly pass me doing 25 having a conversation with each other, it’s kind of embarrassing, like… what am I doing out here?!? At least I’m not in a bike race trying to compete or make a statement or something, instead just out on my own, having more fun than they are :slight_smile:

Would we be entering the race to actually compete? I think that if we’re not going to compete directly with the bikes, we shouldn’t enter, because at most (IMHO) it’d be a desperate cry for attention to enter that elite of a race.

That said… I’m sorry to rain on anybody’s parade, but I’m just not really hot on the idea. :slight_smile: I’d love to do a Ride Across AMerica for time, though, with lots of people. I think that’d be WAY a lot of fun. Or maybe make our own Unicycling RAAM, or something, and have lots of teams enter. That could get very expensive, though…

OOOH, maybe we could have MULTIPLE UNICYCLE TEAMS enter RAAM. Then there’d actually be competition for unicyclists… other unicyclists!! I think that’d be really awesome, and then it would be like RAAM would have a de facto unicycle category! I would totally be down to do a RAAM-like race if there was actual unicyclist competition (i.e. more than one team). I think there are enough riders for two teams… right?

Crap, I need to get to bed… If you guys are planning on entering RAAM, that’d be truly epic, and I totally salute you for it. If there’d be more than one team, I think I might like to race, too! But… I think we do need to know our place. Bike racing is really serious stuff, and I think I’d be correct if I said that there is no unicyclist in the world who is even 1/100 the athlete of the typical racer in RAAM. Unicycling is our hobby; bike racing is their job.

(Am I outta line for thinking like this? I don’t know if I’m being really mean or anything, I hope not. The thought of entering RAAM really just rubs me the wrong way. I’m nowhere near capable of doing that on a bike, much less on a unicycle…)

IMHO, I think so. When I was a teen, RAAM got its start and I was glued to the television (yes, they were televised prime-time). So, I too am fully aware of the history and ‘gravity’ of this event. The participants are extraordinary athletes though I wouldn’t go so far as to characterize them all as professionals. Have a look at the categories they admit (ask yourself - are these all pros?);

RAAM: Solo Female
RAAM: Solo Male
RAAM: Solo Male (50-59)
RAAM: Solo Male (60-69)
RAAM: Solo Male - Recumbent (50-59)
RAAM: Two Person Male
RAAM: Two Person Male (50-59)
RAAM: Two Person Mixed
RAAM: Four Person Male
RAAM: Four Person Male (50-59)
RAAM: Four Person Male (60-69)
RAAM: Four Person Female
RAAM: Four Person Female (50-59)
RAAM: Four Person Mixed
RAAM: Four Person Mixed (50-59)
RAAM: Eight Person
Race Across the West: Solo Male
Race Across the West: Solo Male (50-59)
Race Across the West: Solo Female
Race Across the West: Two Person Mixed (50-59)
Race Across the West: Four Person Male
24 Hour: Four Person Female
24 Hour: Eight Person

Many of the participants of this race are amateurs who are competing mainly against their own minds. Some of the fields are very small - i.e. 1. ‘Amare’ (root of amateur) - for the LOVE of it. I’ll bet you that the board of Directors are involved for the ‘love’ of it too - how fun can it get?!

I am of the opinion that participation (finishing) in this event would be incredibly uni-promotional - not in the least bit humiliating. To finish in 12 days would be f**king fantastic! Chuck, do you think that you and three, five or seven others could ride all the way from your home to the east coast in 12 days? What’ll your friends say(?), I can just hear it – “You’re doin’ what? . . . that’s crazy! . . . you’re AWESOME!!”

So . . . that said . . . here’s what the Race Director wrote yesterday;

*see next post

Mail from RAAM Race Director

Hello Dan,

A few thoughts …

RAAM does not have a unicycle division. We could potentially accommodate an entry via the Open Division which is for unusual circumstances.

The current Team time limit is 9 days for 3014 miles or approximately 334 miles per day. The current Solo time limit is 12 days for 3014 miles or approximately 252 miles per day.

I do not know enough about unicycles to currently make an informed decision on what a reasonable time limit might be. 282 miles in 24 hours – that would put you outside of a team time limit by a lot. Are there other long-distance events to look at for comparison?

How do unicycles handle in strong winds?

Ultimately what I recommend is for you to organize a simulation over the summer or into the fall. Get together 4 or 6 or 8 racers and go for 36-48 hours on reasonably hilly terrain. See what you can accomplish in that time frame. That will help you to understand what’s involved – logistically and speed wise – and help me to assess an appropriate time. I don’t want to offer you an entry and have you spend the time and money unless there’s a realistic chance a unicycle team could finish.

Terry Zmrhal
Race Director
Race Across America
The World’s Toughest Bicycle Race

Wow!! I just learned a lot today… I’d only known about the solo, two, and 4-person categories. I hereby withdraw my previous expression of stomach butterflies! Yeah, 4-person 50-59 is probably not a pro team. Nor is 8-person. I didn’t even know there were other 8 person bike teams! I apologize; I spoke way too soon. This is looking doable, now! I think I’d love to give this a shot if the RAAM guys are pleased with our 24-48 hour performance. Just… not this year :-/. I have pretty much no free time between now and when I graduate school, sadly.