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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.