Seattle To Portland On A Unicycle (July 2009)

I am considering the STP in July 2009. I have a lot of decisions to make about training and gear. If there are any veterans of similar long distance unicycle rides that feel inclined to comment on gear and/or training and their own personal choices I would find value in it, maybe some others here would as well.

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Here’s an old thread I dug up, there was a really really long ride-report post in there somewhere. Maybe it had something about equipment in it… I was too lazy to read it all the way through. I keep considering doing STP this year… 200miles in 2 days sounds like a fun challenge. There’s a few riders here who have done STP quite a few times maybe they’ll chime in.

Go for it!

It is on my list. I didn’t make it last year. Decide now. Buy your bib early. It will help keep you from backing out. Start training today.

See the finish.

STP thoughts

I did the STP in 2005, shortly after my 40th birthday. Bungeejoe did it in 2007 (shortly before his 50th birthday?), and various other people have done it other years. I also tried it in 2008, as a spontaneous post-Ride-The-Lobster event, but I didn’t finish that time. I rode 121 miles the first day and then decided that the hotel pool was more tempting than riding the remaining 83 miles on Sunday.

I think we’ve had exactly one unicyclist attempt it every year for the last 5+ years.

Good equipment is certainly crucial. A 36" unicycle is the minimum you should try it on – that’s what every successful rider has used. A geared 29" or geared 36" is a more expensive option but would make the ride significantly easier. If I do it again it will definitely be on my geared 29". This lets me ride 10-20% faster, and really confuses the cyclists.

A comfortable seat is crucial. Some people like air seats, but there’s a new KH seat that is supposed to be better.

Handlebars of some sort are recommended. They let you climb and descend hills easier (not that the STP has any real hills) and I find my riding is slightly more reliable when I’m holding my handlebar.

Experimenting with different crank lengths is important. I find I can go a bit faster with a bit less knee strain with 125 mm cranks on my Coker, but switching to 150 mm cranks when you are exhausted is a nice option to have at the end.

And then, it’s all about training. Your limiting factors (assuming that riding skill is sufficient) are likely to be leg strength/endurance, saddle soreness, and nutrition/electrolytes.

For leg strength/endurance there is no substitute for putting in the miles. I like doing a combination of commuting (~15+ miles per day on lots of days) and long rides on the weekend (40+ mile rides on the weekend). This is also what lets you know whether you’re ready. You need to be doing 80+ mile day rides and 120+ mile weekends to know that you’re ready.

Preparing for saddle soreness is a mixture of putting in the miles and having the right saddle. Pedaling faster also helps minimize saddle soreness by reducing the amount of time you are riding and by putting more weight on your legs.

Nutrition/electrolytes management is, for me, the trickiest part. Despite riding STP and RTL I still haven’t figure this one out. On long rides on hot days I get nauseous and it makes it hard to eat, hard to ride, and generally not as much fun. Some day I’ll figure out the right balance of salt pills, bananas, grapefruit and other food to keep my body happy.

The STP organizers strongly encourage riders to not have a support vehicle, because support vehicles increase traffic and danger. I’ve always assumed that there is a blanket exemption to this rule for unicyclists. Unicyclists should have a support vehicle because we are doing a more demanding ride, we need more food, we have less time to spare and, we can’t predict as accurately how far we will ride the first day. My wife drove support both times I did the STP. We’d meet up three or four times throughout the day to replenish my food and drink, get moral support, and get a ride to the hotel at nightfall. I’d also stop at the official stop points and grab some of their food and drink, but it wasn’t enough by itself.

Start early. Both times I rode until darkness. It’s nice to get in as many miles as possible. Traffic getting to the starting line is bad, especially ‘later’ in the morning (after 6:30?) so you have to get up earlier than you think, or stay near the starting line the night before.

Buy your number and book your hotel early. You can always sell the number and cancel your hotel if you can’t do it.

It’s really hard. It’s the hardest athletic endeavour I’ve ever done. Then again, some riders find that sort of distance trivial, so you may have a different experience, but you’re safest assuming that it’s a serious challenge until your training proves otherwise.

It was incredibly satisfying. My goal was to prove that another birthday didn’t mean I was getting old, and I did that, setting a ton of personal best riding records during the training. The moral support from the cyclists is incredible – you are a superstar to them and you will be told that hundreds of times. That was an amazing part of the ride.

For more details my full write-up was linked to earlier, and I think bungeejoe has a write-up somewhere.

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Incredibly satisfying…

Decide to do it, buy your number, and make a little noise about it. Then drive the route to see what you got yourself into.

It gets easier if you are well prepared, trained enough, and things go good each day.

Even doing only half of it is rewarding.


Has anyone here every thought of(or attempted) making the entire route in one day on a 36’er? I’m considering it… if you were to average 11-12mph you could finish the ride in about 17-18 hours… with enough training it shouldn’t be impossible right?

I’ve thought about it, but I haven’t done anything that put me in danger of succeeding. Doing it in 17-18 hours would be a world-class ride. I only know of three riders who have done 200+ miles in 24 hours, and one or two that might be able to do it in 17-18 hours.

But hey, go for it. If your training tells you it might be possible then make sure you start as early as possible and have your support vehicle prepared to tailgate you with floodlights so you can ride into the dark if necessary (they’ll kick you off the course if they think it’s not safe). It would be an awesome achievement to do it in one day.

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that’s what I’ve been thinking… I’m going to keep pumping out the miles and we’ll see as the date approaches if it will be possible for me.


Sounds good. You should come up to Seattle some time and do a training ride with a few of us. PM me if you want an e-mail address, as I don’t read RSU very frequently.

Sounds like a plan, PM sent

Ducttape, Thanks for taking the time to hook up the link. I hope you do the STP in 2009.

Bungeejoe, Congratulations. I will look up the details of your STP ride. I hope you come out this year and set the pace for some of us that ride the STP in 2009.

Bruce, I am familiar with your STP ride. I heard from some friends that they saw a guy doing the STP on a unicycle and your story popped up on the first search. I read your story. You write well. Began surfing around and saw some video with Kris Holm and Dan Heaton, really impressive atheletes. I rode alot when I was younger, actually did a paper route on my Schwinn unicycle. Still have an original Schwinn Giraffe. I was completely unaware so much was going on with unicycles. I saw a lot of extreme sports and who is not impressed by those athletes? Extreme sports guys were making the line between what was possible and impossible pretty thin. After seeing top unicycle riders like Kris Holm and Dan Heaton it seemed like the line, at times, no longer existed between possible and impossible. Amazing athletes and good people I am told by some acquaintances that saw Dan Heaton in December at the new downton Seattle Columbia Store opening where he did a unicycle demo.

I loved those videos with Kris Holm and Dan Heaton and other top riders. I loved watching Air Jordan launch from the top of the key and owning the net. He never faked the funk on a nasty dunk. Never once did I suffer the delusion I would ride a unicycle at their level or school Jordan at B-Ball. Your story Bruce, kind of struck a chord. The idea of a road trip on a unicycle had appealed to me since I was 14. You made it seem possible. Have’nt been able to shake the idea loose. So it’s your fault. See how ya are?

I know the desire to succeed is only as great as a persons desire to prepare. I know it’s not a race. I know my life is’nt some halcyon moment that will occur when I connect Point A to Point B. I’ve been riding alot lately and enjoying it. This thing feels possible.

When I found your article on the STP, I was on the mend from a significant physical hurdle. Repercussions from that struggle will figure into this challenge as the distance stretches.

At this point, it feels like the only failure for me would be to not ride the STP.

Thanks again for the thoughtful responses…What is your preference for a saddle now? Air or gel, which model?

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The KH fusion freeride is general regarded as the best stock distance seat you can get and I agree. I have tried an air seat and a gel seat, but they are not as nice as the fusion freeride with the center cutout. A good handlebar helps too - most riders go with a T7 handle, which will help with hills and taking some weight off your crotch.

As far as a unicycle choice…you will want to get a Nimbus Nightrider Pro Isis or a KH 36er OR if you have the funds get a geared 29er or a geared 36er.

Hey straightarrow, where are you based? If you’re anywhere near the Seattle area, there’s a good possibility of connecting with folks in the local group for some training rides. Sounds like Joe is in, I’m giving serious thought, and even some of the locals not riding it would get out and do some long rides just 'cause.

Hey ducttape: just remember that stopping to talk to other riders while on your quest will break your concentration and undermine your goal. :wink: Seriously though, if you are seriously thinking about going for it, good luck to you. You’ll enter a pretty small club, even if the other uni riders will miss the benefit of your company during the ride. One thing you might do in prep is read all the posts by Ken Looi and Sam Wakling on their 24 hour records, and try to calculate how many hours in they were when they hit the 200 mile mark. Or PM them with the question. I can’t remember reading that level of hour-by-hour breakdown, but knowing it would give you an idea of how long it took world class riders in peak condition who knew they were going for a world record to do it, and you could then figure out the do-ability for you, and what it would take to prep for a successful run at it.


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Thanks for the encouragement Tom. :wink: I was just about to see if I could find Ken’s 24 record report, I’m going to be doing A LOT more riding now that’s for sure. I’m no where near peak condition at the moment.

One day? Why not?

I feel one day is certainly possible. That was my goal last year, then I fractured my tibia plateau and went through reconstructive knee surgery at the end of June. Wheel chair and crutches for three months.

The previous year it took me 22 hours of riding and breaks over two days. Shorten the breaks and start early enough and it is possible if every thing goes well. You have your youth. Both an advantage and a disadvantage.

My training two weeks prior to the 2007 STP had me up to doing 110 mile one day followed by 70 miles the next. I knew I could do it if no big problems came up.

This year I would like to see if I might be able to build up to attempting the STP in one day. Today my surgeon released me to ride with only self imposed common sense limits and a few warnings. (I think my surgeon already realizes that every body classifies me as crazy.) I had already stepped up my daily routine. I have a long way to build up to the STP in one day. I have to see where I get to by July.

It would be nice if for once, more than one unicyclist was attempting the STP. We should keep each other posted on the progress we are making and problems to overcome. Should help us stay motivated through the long rides and bad weather.


I had planned to do 50 miles today in the 3 hours I had between day school and night school(pushing my limits for what I think I could do in that time limit right now) but the rain shortened my ride to around 25 miles because I stopped a few times to warm up and dry off.

Siafirede, Thanks for the info. It helps. I want to make the best decision I can. My sixth sense tells me you are considering the STP in 2009? Maybe?

tomblackwood, Hello. I live 15 minutes south of Seattle. Definitely would ride with the locals, so, yeah, count me in. Thanks for asking by the way, I appreciate the inclusiveness. I have a 26 inch Yuni with a 2 inch plus change street tire till I decide on a mount for STP. I been riding a 24 inch 07 Torker DX everywhere for more challenge. I am hoping you do the STP.

Bungeejoe, Some good advice. Be certain I am listening. That two of the veterans of the STP (Bruce and yourself) take the to time respond makes a pretty big statement about the value of this event.The biggest liability for me is the left knee. I had an agressive 10 cm tumor( A ripe peach is about 10 cm) removed from that knee. Unfortunately the tumor had attached to the bone. Thankfully it had not yet breached the bone, or it would have been game over for that leg from above the knee down. They flipped over the kneecap (patella) severed the quad tendon, manipulated muscle, connective tissue, cut out the tumor and scraped the tumor off the bone and out of the joint. Then I did radiation at Overlake. Radiation is really hard on a knee joint and basically baked the lymphatic system, nerves, compromised the muscles and attenuates the range of motion and vitality. I look at the Caring Bridge sites of some of the people I met during that month of radiation and I feel very fortunate. More than 70 percent of the most decent, beautiful, vibrant people you could ever hope to meet are just gone. I have some permanent lifelong challenges but life is really, really good. I feel strong. I can do 15 miles of mixed terrain on the DX-24 with the stock saddle. My heart rate is around 54 BPM, not overweight. If I make good decisions and apply myself the STP could happen.

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I like your attitude. And some days I think I have problems. Then I am reminded that I’m still above the grass and can still spit the dirt out.

You may want to join who ever may be doing the Chilly Hilly
I have booked a room in Winslow and am looking forward to finally doing this one after several years of conflicts. It should give you a feel for what it is like to do a long event, but chilly and shorter.

Tom may be able to find some one from the SAR who might be willing to loan you a Coker so you can try it. Some complain about the mounting after a long day but if set up right the ride is totally different than on a 28. At the Chilly Hilly we could trade or work out a way for you to ride mine if nothing else is available.


I injured my right ankle, knee and hip, 2 days ago in a running dismount at 18mph. I hit the ground heel first in a running dismount because the large backpack I was wearing made a rolling dismount too difficult and jammed everything back mashing my achilles, bending my knee the wrong way, and jamming my leg into my hip bone luckily I didn’t break anything, but that’s not what I decided to post today though it leads into my story haha. I was bored today because i couldn’t ride due to that injury and I wiki’d the STP and it turns out that this years ride will be the STP’s 3rd decade in existence! Ain’t that cool?

Be back on the grid on 1-17-2oo9,

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