Swim, Unicycle, Run…Triathlons won't let me ride!

I’ve emailed quite a few different California triathlons (sprint and trail tris) coming up this Spring and Summer, and not one will allow me to enter the triathlon as a unicyclist. I have read on the forums that others have competed in Tris. If you have done a tri on your uni, how did you convince them to let you join?

What would be the problem with “crashing” a race? I don’t know what it is about California race directors, but they seem to really dislike unicycles. We’ve been rejected by a few mountain biking races already, and it’s always because USA Cycling rulebooks say that unicycles are not bikes. Well, duh!

Any advice?

Triathlons are about the least likely venue for acceptance of unicycles. They’re extremely equipment-focused and frankly a little uptight.

Similarly, USA Cycling, especially the roadies, are not likely to be flexible on having fun entrants.

So, look for events run by local, informal groups who focus on having fun. Global Biorythym has encouraged us to join their mountain bike and criterium races in California. We’ve had people race in the local cyclocross series (and that’s huge up in Portland). We’ve also done the 24 Hours race at Laguna Seca.

I happened to run into a kid at the Berkeley criterium today who is running the UCSC mountain bike event in October. I’ve ridden unicycles with Sam since he was 10 and he’d be totally into it. (Oh, and he won his bike race, too).

You should get involved with your local mountain bike organization (which would be MBoSC); show up to one of their meetings with your uni and I’m sure you can find some connected people who will help find an appropriate event.

Thanks for the info! I was hoping I could do a tri, but I’m starting to lose hope. I’m definitely going to sign up for some CX races this fall. Not a bad idea to join the local mtb organizations. I joined the Monterey one, but I’ve yet to ride with them. Haha I guess I’ll keep trying to convince the tri ppl that my equipment is worthy, just lacking a wheel. :-/

What I did in my region was to write to many mountainbike races and some marathons. The less professional the event is, the more luck you might have. Start small. Ask at local sports events. Ask to start the first year with few unicyclists out of judgement, just to proof that unicycling works at their event. (At one race we did this and got an award ceremony despite it was not planned.) Make suggestions how it might be organized in a way that there are no big circumstances for the organisator. Allways refer to other well known events where it works, where unicyclist take part successfully. Allways work out the positive effects for the event, especially the attraction for the audience. Provide some data, especially how fast you go. Compare with other comparable events to calculate expected times for the fastest and the slowest rider. Explain that unicycling is not half as dangerous as they believe and that they do not have to be afraid of unicycle crashes because UPDs normally do not harm anybody. Propose to do a testride of the course with some unicyclists some weeks before the race to show them …

Thats just what I do. And it woks …
Good luck for you!

Sorry to hear about your troubles getting into a triathlon…
It it usually totally up to event officials, organisers and board if they have one depending how big it is.
With MTV events they all have loved ideas of unicycles being involved. Bare in mind most events have cut off time and need to adhere to liability insurance policies.
Here in Australia insurance in regards to bike events includ unicycles as a pedal or human power vehicle therefore events liability covers us riding only leaving the discretion of organisers to if they like the idea having us enter and being among the other competitors. In general here I have had mainly positive comments and praise riding a uni because we enjoy it so much and it looks so hard.
I could imagine getting into a tri on a uni won’t probably be as easy as muni for xc. Even if you had I geared 36er ride fast as mid pack roadies they still could be hard to get them to welcome you in their traditional race.
I hope you get into one. I will try to get into a road bike race sometime soon but won’t hold my breath. Plan b is trying if a charity race will accept a road uni.
All the best, keep trying some one will be open and welcome you somewhere at a tri!

Some of the (all be it not many) tri’s change the order around. If you find one that is bike/swim/run you would probably have a better chance as you could start at the back and not block other riders which is one of the excusses for not allowing it.

I definitely echo with the others. I’ve never even considered asking a USA Cycling event or even a triathlon, like Tom said ‘uptight’ comes to mind. Definitely join your local cycling clubs, go to a few meeting, do trail workdays/clean ups and join in on rides that you can keep up with. Grass Root local events are the most fun and the most accepting, nothing but positive responses from races I’ve done. I even got asked again this year to put on another demo at one our mt bike series races. When asking make sure to mention your experience, big rides or other events you’ve done, your safety equipment, features of your unicycle (like brakes), etc. Liability and holding up the event are legitimate concerns so address that if you can. Get out there and do charity rides, uni meetups, recreational rides, etc. It’s almost like building a Uni Resume, you gotta woo them, haha! Here is an email for a downhill race, Rumble in the Concrete Jungle, I was going to ask permission to enter to give you an idea. I usually send something like this to event organizers and have always gotten a green light. However, I just signed up for a big century ride that sold out in a few hours and didn’t ask, just going to show up and try to blend in (yea right) lol! Good luck and don’t give up!


My name is James Turner. I’m from Wilmington, NC and I’m an active member of Cape Fear SORBA and the Waccamaw Trail Blazers. We have at least a dozen riders and family from our area coming for your event. Myself and another rider, Roland Kays of Raleigh, however are expert mountain unicyclists and would like to participate in this event. If allowed we would use either 29" or 36" mountain unicycles equipped with hydraulic disc brakes and have all the proper safety gear including shin and wrist pads. I’ve raced against bikes in dozens of mountain, road and cyclocross races the past 2 years on my uni and just several weeks ago made podium against 12 other bikes in the beginner class of a cyclocross race. This year at the Unicycling Nationals in the XC event Roland placed 4th and I came in 6th overall and for the Downhill race we finished 2nd and 3rd in our class.

I’d assume there is going to be a good mix of bikes including XC, BMX, DH and maybe even Cross Bikes. Adding our Mt Uni’s in the mix would make this event even more interesting. We are experienced cyclists who should have no problem safely completing the course and would love the go ahead to register for your event and race our mountain unicycles.

Thanks for considering,[/I]

I’ve had too much caffeine today, but the OP has really got me thinking…

The time spent trying to convince triathalon, mtb, cyclocross folks to let us play in their sandbox might be better spent starting our own event. This event could promote our sport by combining some features of existing events but giving them a special uni spin, so to speak.

So I’m proposing The Unicycle Quadrathalon, a skills and endurance event consisting of four stages, length and difficulty to be determined to maximize participtation:

  1. swim
  2. muni
  3. run
  4. road

Rather than being a media circus sponsored by mountain dew, red bull, or some other asinine product, it could be a massive charity event to raise awareness and money for real human issues in the real world : access to clean water, access to toilets, human trafficking/sexual slavery, the appalling treatment of girls and women worldwide, as documented in the book “Women Hold Up Half the Sky”, etc. Supporters could pledge X dollars per mile, with a big bonus pledge for anyone who finishes.

Rather than being a selfish, testosterone-poisoned quest for individual glory it could emphasize and reward cooperation over competition, in keeping with the above theme of social responsibility. There could be a system which allows competitors to amass points by helping fellow competitors – sharing water, fixing flats, splinting and bandaging legs, etc.-- rather than grinding them into the dirt.

Triathalons, marathons, roadies, etc., are a dime a dozen these days, and they’re very boring to watch, but a socially responsible event like a Unicyle Quadrathalon might just be weird enough to catch the attention of the general public.

In addition to bringing exposure to our special sport, it could actually improve the lives of fellow human beings around the world.

Around here a Unicycle Quadrathalon would likely have exactly zero racers.
Unicycling is already so unique. I don’t think an event that requires that skill plus three others attract many people.

Yeah, a uni-only event sounds great, but I dunno about a quadrathalon… I can’t swim or run :smiley:

A noble idea.

From the pragmatic point of view, it’s very unlikely to happen.

Asking to play in the sandbox of other events is a great way to expose the sport to those outside of unicycling- AND it affords the luxury of having a budget to make an event happen.

I’ve organized uni specific events (NAUCC 2013) and others that have tagged unis onto it as their own separate group (Butler County Stage Race in 2010). In addition to that I’ve raced in several races with uni specific classes (Fat Tire Challenge, 6 Hours of Brady’s Run, several Month of Mud races), and raced in a whole lot more as one of one or several unicyclists who are permitted to race. I’ve spent a significant amount of time on both the organization and participation side.

I absolutely have enjoyed being involved from the organization and promotion aspect- although I can assure you it’s a LOT of work. It’s also difficult to put on a quality event without an army’s worth of help. Even with NAUCC being the premier gathering it takes a lot of registrations to make it happen to pay the bills associated with the event. When it comes game time having the help of many local organizations outside of unicycling was essential for us as we simply did not have the manpower to make it happen on our own.

When we did the BSCR Stage race we actually were able to piggyback onto an established USA Cycling sponsored event. The ONLY way that happened is because the main organizer wanted it to. We were approached to add the unis and figure out logistics so that we could run parallel to the bike races. It boils down to- we couldn’t share the course at the same time.

One of the biggest benefits that happened at BCSR was that we had excellent interactions with the bicyclists. Many of them hadn’t really seen competitive unicycling and were impressed by how fast we could go (thanks Roland!).

When we hosted NAUCC we did a whole ton of PR work before the event. It hit the papers all week long, was on TV multiple times, and yet we still didn’t have a huge amount of non-unicycling spectators.

Great competitive events require good budgets. There has been a trend towards people just wanting muni weekends and unicycling gatherings without official competitions. These are great! For the most part they have a lot fewer costs associated with them than putting on official races typically do- especially if that race happens to require traffic control.

At this point, as far as racing goes, we either need to have a lot of people show up to cover costs (a difficult venture) or we need to build towards more events than just Unicon and NAUCC (I hope you’re all going to one or both this year if you’re reading this and sitting in North America). The big conventions are AWESOME, however, NAUCC is once a year and Unicon is once every two.

There are a lot of weekends on the calendar that are not booked with unicycling events.

We need to fill some of those slots- AND show up. The Singlespeedapalooza in NY looks to have a good turnout. The cross race in VA a month or two ago did have a good turnout. There are other competitive events around the country too. The common denominator is most likely going to be that we tag on to the event rather than are the sole participants. There’s nothing wrong with that- especially if we can get uni specific classes.

As far as this region goes, we have a pretty full calendar. With 5 or more we can have an official class in a fall series of 4-6 races. We have a 6 hour race this Spring with both uni duo and uni solo classes. We have a uni class in the Fat Tire Challenge. We have several other options too.

All of these events are put on by independent organizers. All of them have welcomed us because they know how we ride and we have a good long-standing relationship with them. They’re not unicyclists, but they’re still our friends.

I would do this minus the swim. I hate swimming.

Thank you for your replies! Since I live in an area where the races are HUGE (Big Sur marathon, Sea Otter Classic, etc.), I don’t see much hope in joining a tri. I will start riding with the Monterey mtb club and get my name out there in case they join a small, local race. All of my emails to the race organizers have been short because I don’t have much of a unicycling “resume.” You’ve got to start somewhere though! Maybe I will include my average speeds. :slight_smile:

It would be really awesome if we could have a triathlon unicycling event at one of the two. :slight_smile: I don’t think I would want to swim in cold Canadian waters this year though. :slight_smile:

Dunno if this would work, but if you have a Strava (Or similar) profile you could point them towards that, even if you’ve not done any ‘real’ races/competitions/events, just showing what you do day to day might help? :smiley:

Good call. :slight_smile: thanks!

Around here we have the Eppie’s Great Race, which bills itself as the world’s oldest Triathlon (Run, bike kayak). My wife entered it a few years back with a team from her company. I don’t think they even allowed recumbents. The event, of course, belongs to its organizers. The hard part is usually “breaking the ice” of showing organizers that unicycles aren’t so horribly dangerous or as unstable as people always seem to think. Most events may not even have the option of allowing unicycles (“educating” insurance carriers is a lot harder), but it always helps if they actually see it first.

Rather than convince race organizers about yourself, you might get them more interested in looking by offering a selection of links to awesome unicycling videos of the appropriate topics. Grown adults riding straight, not falling off, and going at a reasonable pace. Think BungeeJoe, who cranks out tons of miles and was one of the oldest racers in Ride The Lobster!