Riding in a non-uni race

I’m not likely to see any unicycle races in my area (New England). I’d probably be allowed to enter a bicycle race but I’d quickly fall behind on my 36er. A foot race would be closer to my speed but I doubt I’d be allowed to enter.

I curious to hear if anyone has ridden a unicycle in a non-uni race.

In a mountain bike race with a unicycle category. But does that make it a unicycle race? Entering an actual race would be kind of pointless against bikes, or runners for that matter.

I’ve ridden in lots of other bike events that weren’t races, which makes things more equitable. We can maintain a reasonably comparable pace when it’s not a race… :slight_smile:

There are two main ways for you to get into unicycle races:

  • Go to one (involves driving, which is true for most of the country unless a big convention is there that year)
  • Organize one (a bit more work, but much more rewarding!)

Last year I considered entering a local mtb race. I asked the organizer and he said it was fine.
The race had expert, intermediate, and novice racers, doing 3, 2, and 1 laps respectively. Experts started first, intermediate started something like 5 minutes later, then novice 5 minutes later.

I considered entering in novice (as I am) and starting last in the group to stay out of the way.
But then I was concerned that the experts and possibly intermediates would end up lapping me, and I’d feel like I was in the way.

Being a software engineer and, well, me, I wrote a little simulation and used the previous year’s results to calculate their average speeds. The simulation showed dots moving around an oval track so I could visualize how the racers would pass each other.
I rode the actual course, got my time, and added myself into the simulation.
I could see I would get passed by a whole bunch of experts and a handful of intermediates. I forget the numbers but something like 15 - 20 riders. (I would also beat like 2 or 3 novice riders)

Maybe I worry too much, but I envisioned most of these top-of-their-class riders trying to pass me, or slamming their brakes behind me down a single-track downhill, saying “WTF! Get out of my f’in way!”

I convinced myself not to register.

If I rode the exact same speed on a bike I would have just registered and rode. So I guess that’s kind of weird. I guess I feel like a target, being on a uni in a bike race.

If the race did not have laps, I would have entered. I wouldn’t get in anyone’s way.

I certainly am not thinking I’m going to win… just have fun, so I don’t think it would be pointless, as long as I had fun.
I’m hopeful that I’ll be a stronger rider this year and convince myself to register in a local mtb race.

In all the events where I’ve shared limited space with lots of bikes, they were always very polite and encouraging. Especially in the race-oriented events. I even got props from endurance MBT legend Tinker Juarez as he passed me in the 24 Hours of Adrenaline. :slight_smile:

So go ahead and enter! It’s not like you’re in the Tour de France and careers are riding on every second of the race. And even if they are, you’re an official entry so you have as much right to be there as any other entry. Don’t hog the trail and you’ll be fine.

I’ve done 2 bike races on my uni so far, as part of a 4 person uni relay team in the biggest road event in NZ - the round taupo cycle challenge and in the off road counterpart, the Karapoti classic.

The road race was real easy, I did 40k’s and we finished ahead of plenty of cyclists.Sharing the road was no problem, although some of the beginner cyclists passed a bit dangerously. (Didn’t give any warning and cut in real close, kinda forcing me off the road.)

The off road race was a different beast. It was hard to be in amongst so many cyclists on such a small track. I felt in the way. Some of them pretty much just rode over the top of me, or shoved me aside. I finished last and even though I want to do this race again next year, it did open my eyes to the fact that a single track bike race (this only had a small portion of single track) is probably only suited to very confident and hard nosed unicyclists who don’t get intimidated easy.

I’ve started in one MTB race on the shortest distance… I’ve started last not to be in anybody’s way and the only part that I felt wrong about was the security guy riding just behind me on a quad. I felt pity that he has to wait for me mounting somewhere in the forest. Fortunately after some 8km he turned to cover the longer route and I was alone in the forests. Then at some point the routes got back together and I was just ahead of most of the group taking the longest distance. As long as it was fire road it was pretty easy for them to overtake and I got a lot of encouragement from them. When it got into steep downhill singletrack I’ve decided to walk on the side as many of them were passing me at high speed and I didn’t want to block them. Generally I was last but still I was very proud I did the whole track. And I haven’t heard a single bad word from anybody. If the time fits in I plan to take part in one or two this year.
So if you have an occasion… do it!

Although I have never done it, here in Wales there is an intriguing opportunity to ride against a train. Wales has a legacy of narrow gauge steam trains that go pretty slow. Slow enough in fact to have an annual ‘Race the Train’ event where runners follow a circuit of paths and fields alongside the railway line. There are a few races across Wales, here is one of them:


Because it goes pretty slow I reckon it could be done perhaps on a 26/29" unicycle

…here is a photo from a previous event

If you ride considerately and let bikes past when you get the chance it’s really good fun entering bike races. The longer the better - we tend to do better in endurance type races where all-out speed isn’t so important. You’re unlikely to win but you’ll probably beat at least some bikers.

In the UK it’s become traditional for unicyclists to enter the Mountain Mayhem 24-hour xc race, which is apparently one of the biggest. We usually beat a good number of the bikes (it’s quite a hilly course, which helps). I’ve done various other xc endurance bike races on a uni as well - most bikers are very encouraging as long as you ride predictably and let them past on the fast sections.


I think this race runs along some of the VT100 race course, nice mix of racers, laid back environment from what I hear, a doable course based on topos, would probably work out well if you started at the end of the biking pack. You’d get passed by a lot of runners, but they have should have fewer problems getting around a uni, so safer for you.

I’d be interested in doing this race, esp if there were some other folks willing to try. It’s a long one, so we’d need to talk with organizer and make sure they know we’ll be slow, like midpack with the runners.


I’ve ridden my 24" MUni in two 12 hour MTB races thus far and in a local sprint triathlon a bunch of times.

Do a search on 6 or 12 hour mountain bike races. Most likely there are several not far by and they are a good way to test your endurance w/o having to commit to a set distance; just ride as far as you can in that time frame. At the same time, these types of venues are designed such that passing isn’t a problem becuase there is quite a bit of that happening already!

I’d like to do another 12 hour sometime this year but my opportunities are rapidly fading; my ultrarunning calender has got me swamped! I might just have to come up with my own local MUni Epic instead; sometimes the home grown stuff is the best!

Good Luck!

I’ve raced in several mountain/road bike races as well as fun rides. I have received only encouraging words from the bicyclists, except some joking criticisms from the ones that I beat.

In some of these there was a unicycle class, in the others I was the only one-wheeled participant. In one of the races (a mountainous dirt road and single track marathon) they decided to put me in the single speed class of mountain bikes. That was silly because I’ve got a Schlumpf. One wheel, two speeds vs two wheels, one speed. Close enough, I suppose.

Here are some random tidbits of advice that may or may not apply to you:

When you register for the race be honest about your status as a unicyclist and your abilities as a rider. If you pre-ride the course let them know how long it takes you. They are more likely to take you seriously and let you register if you have a history of reasonable times. Compare your course times with other bicyclist’s times. Most established races will post race times on a website. Check them out.

Take the race seriously, train hard and ride hard on race day.

Know your course. Pre-ride it as much as possible. You’ll know when to ride fast, which lines to take on the treacherous sections, how much energy to keep in reserve in order avoid bonking.

Pick a course that has lots of uphill, that way you’ve got a good chance of passing bicyclists. Every bicyclist that you pass will instantly respect you.

Choose a wheel size and cranks that maximizes your overall speed on that particular course. On the mountain marathon I rode my 36" guni with 165mm cranks. The road up the mountain was about 8% grade which I could ride fast enough to pass a bunch of bicyclists. There was a one mile steep single track section of climbing at the top that I had to walk up. No shame there. The top has a 10+ mile flat section where I could kick it into high gear to hold my own (well, almost). The single track descent was tricky, but I had ridden it enough times previously so that I could maneuver down it on my 36er. In that race I placed 175th out of 204 racers. 29 of them did NOT kick my ass! Woo Hoo! When I crossed the finish line they didn’t need to know my bib number to figure out who I was. Somehow they knew it was me.

Get out of the way of the bicyclists when you’re on the single track. Treat them with respect and they will reciprocate.

Have fun and smile.


I contacted the race oprganizer for the VT50, he is considering allowing muni riders. If he agrees, then how we get a muni contingent.

Anyone interested?

There are few options in this race:

50k (30 miles)

The relay is not for riders, but starts after the riders, so they might let us do a relay, it woudl just require more riders than solo.

I was once an ulta runner, so distance is not a problem mentally, but I have not ridden anywhere near thirty miles on a uni, neither road nor off-road, so I’m thinking that the 50k would be enough for me if I trained up.

Looks like a nice course for a 29er, not sure about a 36er.

From the VT100 site:
" Vermont Adaptive also puts on a 50-mile race on the last Sunday in September, which you can either run or mt. bike. It is centered at Ascutney Mt. Resort in Brownsville, VT, and is run over a very different course from the Vermont 100.

The 50 Mile course starts at Ascutney Mountain Resort in Brownsville, VT. For the first three miles racers will follow down a gentle downhill on gravel roads. After an easy road climb the course turns onto snowmobile - ATV trails, which it follows through gentle rolling terrain for the next 3 miles. Shortly after leaving the ATV trails, the real climbing and descending starts. The course will follow ATV and jeep trails, single track and roads through the top of the highest hill in Hartland, where racers will get an incredible view of Vermont and New Hampshire. From about mile 40 to mile 46.5, racers will have a nice snowmobile trail over rolling, mostly downhill terrain, before hooking onto the cross country ski trail system at Mt. Ascutney for the last 4 miles. "

To the OP: Another good option for unis is a mtn-climb race. Check the “BUMPS” hillclimb series website: for some good races. These are road rides. Uphill rides even the playing field with bikes vs. unis the most and a fit uni-rider can do fairly well. I’ve done a couple (Whiteface, Equinox - see my sig link) and there are a bunch more.

I’m signing up for at least the Whiteface race this year.

Geoff’s post is spot-on.

I entered in a relatively small MTB race and had a complete blast, even though I didn’t have the right wheel for the terrain (took a 36er where I should’ve had a 29er). A few riders were knocked out with technical problems 1/2 way through the course so I ended up placing 6th out of 11 racers.

The looks from the other riders in the starting gates were priceless!

Okay, so I was starting to think more about this racing uni thing, then last night I saw Ride the Divide:


So now I am all over this idea and ready to start training and finding some smaller races. So I have some questions for the experienced racers :slight_smile:

First off, I have a 26er with a Larry, a 29er with an RR 2.4, and a KH 36er. I use the 26er 90% of the time because it’s easy to ride on tech stuff, but it’s kind of unwieldy, heavy, and has a mind of it’s own when I’m tired. The 29er is a great XC uni, just a tad faster than the 26er (taller wheel), but it doesn’t have as much “suspension” due to the smaller tire, so it’s more work on tech stuff. The 36er is a big ole wheel and though it has enough tire to ride off road, I have not done anything but gravel roads.

maestro8, when you said that you rode a race with your 36er and wished you had taken the 29er, why is that? Was the course to technical, too hilly, to muddy, or ? I have this vision of riding my 36er in a trail race, but I still have a hard time envisioning riding trails more techinical than flowing single track without rocks and roots.

So what about training, what seems to help in terms of building distance endurance? I ride a lot, but it’s mostly technical single track, so I tend to ride in spurts, then rest, then another spurt. Do any of you just go out and cranks the miles on double track to build up tolerance for being in the seat nonstop?

Are there any races that seem popular with uni riders, no climbing events, more like XC. I don’t ride road these days, had too many close calls on bikes, so I no longer want to play with cars.

I think you have the right idea - you need to mix up your riding. The website for the Karapoti Classic has a training page that talks about dividing your training rides into different types to train specific abilities. It seems likely the training theory would translate to uni.

I think the best races to enter on unicycles are the longer “enduro” type xc bike races. I’ve done 4-hr, 8-hr, 24-hr and a 35 mile one. I did enter a few short xc races (10 miles or so) because they were local to me, but in a short race the (lack of) top speed of a unicycle is more of a problem. Longer races where rider endurance comes into play much more are better. And it seems that the 24-hr events attract more of the “office team” type of riders rather than just the keen racers, so there are always slow riders to give us an ego boost :slight_smile:

For most of the xc events I’ve entered a 29er is the usual choice - nice and light on the climbs and not too unwieldy in singletrack, but has a decent top speed. I use a KH29 with a RR 2.4 (tubeless) and 140s. If it’s really sticky mud I’ll sometimes use the 26 with a narrower tyre (2.1") to avoid clogging. Some people really like a 36er on xc courses, but I find I’m just as quick on the 29 and the 36 just feels too big and heavy on the singletrack and long climbs - doesn’t really suit me.

Training-wise I don’t really know. I’ve always just ridden a lot (bikes and unicycles) so I don’t tend to do any special training as-such for events. I’m naturally better at endurance than out-and-out speed so I’m attracted to the longer races (same was true when I was racing road bikes years ago). I’d suggest just doing longer rides (perhaps a bit less technical so there’s more flow, less stopping) more regularly to get your body used to it.


The course took us up and over a ridge at a ski resort. The up was on fire road, not too bad. The down was flowing singletrack, which would have been great if the terrain wasn’t so sandy. It was hard to hit all those sandy downhill switchbacks on the 36er… I suspect a 29er with a fat tire would’ve been king!

I’ve done technical Muni on a 36er, including rocks and roots, but only on hard pack. It’s “totally doable” with longer cranks… I use 165s. Just keep the seat low and hold on tight!

Yep, long cranks will really broaden the terrain possibilities on a 36. Be proud of those 165s. They give you lots of power. This aint no weanie smooth road spin fest.
In fact, that’s what I’m going to do right now. Take my 36 guni with 165s and ride a steep twisty twiny trail. Woo Hoo!

Over the past 3 years I’ve done 2 dozen or so local MTB races on a unicycle (11 in the last year alone.) I’ve used everything from a 24" to a 36" wheel with stops in between. I don’t know if that qualifies me as an expert, but here’s my opinion anyways:

  1. If there isn’t a uni class, you should be pretty doggone fast. Being on both sides of the fence (racer and promoter)- waiting for the last person to finish isn’t the most fun thing ever. Race day is the culmination of a lot of work. Promoters want to put on a great race, but they’re concerned about getting things flowing like awards ceremonies, tear down, etc.

A way to compensate somewhat is to offer to leave early before the main pack. More about that later.

  1. You better not only be fast, but also very aware of others on the course. Getting in someone’s way isn’t cool. If it’s a lap race, get out of the way of the experts, and the sports, and the beginners. Most riders around here are now used to seeing unis on the course and are more than accomodating. I still make sure I’m aware of riders behind me and communicate what I’m going to do and offer to let them pass the most convenient way possible for them. Often I can yell, “I’ll hold my line.” and offer the best line for them to pass.

Last thing you want to do is get in the way of someone who is the prize money and impact the race’s outcome because you were out of control. That being said, the guys (and girls) at the front are some of the nicest people and will most likely be entertained by your antics.

  1. Be familiar with the course. That allows you to gauge points #1 and #2. The first race I thought of riding a muni on was a 10 mile race (short for MTB) I had done several years on the bike. That gave me a huge confidence boost knowing that is was going to be tough. It was a lot tougher on the uni and I had finished 2nd overall the year before (on a singlespeed bike). Many of the other courses I had raced before on a bike too. On one of the courses I hadn’t, I tore a sidewall about 8 mi. in and had to boot the tire with a dollar bill to finish.

Riding a uni in a non-uni race is enough stress. Don’t get caught off guard.

  1. Be sincerely gracious to everyone- especially course volunteers and promoters. They always appreciate being thanked, and if you are running toward the back of the pack (which most likely you will be), they don’t harbor anything against you for making their day a bit longer.

Encourage others both on and off the course. Some people on bikes get really annoyed when passed by a uni, even if you’re having fun. Last thing they want is someone rubbing it in.

Once again, these are my opinions. As far as success goes, we now have uni classes at many of the local events. From the first race I entered, that was the long-term plan.

I should have added a point about checking ahead of time even though I personally didn’t. Many of the races I’ve entered on a uni I had a long standing reputation as being a pretty fast bike racer (often finishing top 10 overall while riding a singlespeed). I knew where I stood and I knew I wouldn’t finish last overall even though I was the only one on a uni.

Apologies if that sounded like bragging. Not my intentions at all. I just like to pedal. I started racing the uni because I wanted a new challenge. Honestly, I don’t often want the attention. Riding the uni takes longer than riding a bike and I get more for my entry fee!

You can be the Lone Ranger, but it’s more fun where there are more riders. In the Month of Mud Series we had up to 5 unis in some of the races. The promoters of this series have been incredibly welcoming, but we’ve made it painless for them to accomodate us. On many of the courses we’ve offered to run early before the bikes so as not to make the day any longer for the organizers. We’ve helped set up the race courses- not just for the unis, but for the bikes too.

Unicycling in this region is exploding. We had 4 36ers on a fun downtown bike/uni ride last night. One of the riders commented, “Isn’t it awesome to be doing this?”

At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.