Unicycle articles (2 more)


309 words
3 November 2002
The Salt Lake Tribune
(Copyright 2002)

Richard Terry, Attorney, “Unicycle Guy”

Why do you commute to work on a unicycle?

I’d be riding or walking. I don’t particularly care for cars.

How long have you been riding a unicycle?

I started 37 years ago. I’ve been riding to work ever since I graduated from law school. That was 21 years ago.

Every day?

Yes. I’ve gotten halfway to work a few times before I had to walk. I can do as good as a car, just put a snow tire on it.

How did you get started?

I don’t really know what got me started. I was about 12. . . . I did ask for one for Christmas. Santa Claus gave me one when I was about 10, but unfortunately I couldn’t reach the pedals.

Why a unicycle instead of a bike?

There’s a decided advantage because you can carry a briefcase in one hand and grab Rocky’s flag in the other.

What’s your best story from commuting? (his question)

It was during Christmas and I was going [north on] West Temple. A policeman stopped me and said, “You can’t ride bicycles on the sidewalk.” . . .

I said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” It was 6 o’clock during Christmastime. He jumped in his car and I immediately jumped in front of his car. If I was ever going to ride in the street, I was going to have a police escort.

So I was riding in the street at about 8 miles an hour with all of Salt Lake trying to turn in to the Crossroads Mall parking lot. After about a half block the officer told me to get back on the sidewalk.

That’s my one run-in with the law.


HEADLINE: One for the Off-road Charleston man takes unicycle into mountain bike territory

990 words
8 November 2002
Charleston Gazette
(Copyright 2002)


If you happen to see Marc Fuentes riding along one of Kanawha State Forest’s mountain bike trails, don’t bother asking him where his other wheel is. He’s heard that line already.

“Every person who sees me has some sort of comment,” says Fuentes.

Small wonder. After all, who would expect to find a unicyclist pedaling his single-wheeled machine on trails that, until recently, had been the exclusive territory of hikers and gonzo mountain bikers?

For Fuentes and a growing number of extreme-sports enthusiasts, however, mountain unicycling is the latest, hottest new hobby.

Devotees of one-wheeled cycling have discovered they can get the same adrenaline rushes mountain bikers get by riding cross-country, climbing narrow hiking paths and careening through gonzo downhill courses.

The sport is especially new in the Charleston area. Though he’s ridden unicycles in and around the city since the late 1970s, Fuentes believes he’s the only mountain unicyclist to show up so far.

“I’ve never seen anyone else doing it,” he says.

Perhaps that’s because mountain unicycling is not for the faint of heart, the weak of limb or the unsteady of balance. Fuentes - an avid skateboarder, unicyclist, mountain biker and distance runner for decades - had the necessary physical tools and coordination before he ever realized unicycles could be ridden off-road.

“I’d been riding unicycles for 24 years,” says the 38-year-old auto salesman.

“So I wasn’t starting from scratch when I bought my first ‘MUni’ - that’s what people in the sport call mountain unicycles. I had the balance and coordination down pat, at least for road riding.”

Fuentes’ interest in unicycling began in 1978, when he got curious after seeing unicycles ridden in a circus and bought one at a local bike shop.

“I had good balance from skateboarding, but it took me a month of constant, everyday practice to begin to feel comfortable on a unicycle,” he recalls.

“But pretty soon, I was riding it all around my neighborhood, sometimes for miles at a time.”

Until recently, he was content to ride on paved streets. Then he ran across an ad on ebay, the popular Internet auction site.

“It was the first MUni I’d ever seen,” he says. “It was on sale for $300, so I bought it and started riding it.”

Unlike Fuentes’ standard unicycles, which have thinner tires and relatively light-duty components, the mail-order MUni turned out to be built for strength.

Its hub was created for a heavy-duty BMX bike. It sported a wide, knobby-treaded mountain bike tire mounted on a heavy-duty downhill mountain bike rim. Its beefed-up crankarms were longer than standard for increased climbing leverage. In short, it wasn’t exactly a toy.

“New, it would have cost me $900,” Fuentes says. “One with brakes costs $1,400.”

That’s right. Fuentes’ off-road unicycle has no brakes. When he rides it downhill, he relies on leg strength to slow the wheel’s rotation.

“You can’t coast on a unicycle,” he says. “That’s one of the things that makes them a little challenging to ride.”

Unicycles’ single-speed, direct-drive pedal mechanisms also require considerable leg strength, especially on uphill stretches.

Mountain bikes have “granny gears” that allow their riders to climb steep pitches with minimal effort. Each revolution of the pedals propels the bikes forward roughly one-sixth of their tires’ circumference, a significant mechanical advantage.

On unicycles, each revolution of the cranks turn the single wheel its entire circumference. To riders, the feeling is similar to riding in one of a mountain bike’s more difficult-to-pedal gears.

Even so, Fuentes says he can go up a relatively smooth trail - such as Kanawha State Forest’s Middle Ridge Road - faster than some mountain bikers.

“You should see the looks I get when I pass them,” he says.

As if the constant hard pedaling weren’t enough, unicyclists also must be able to handle the innumerable little bumps and gullies they encounter.

Coming downhill, mountain unicycles are relatively easy to keep rolling. But uphill, each rock and root becomes a potential stopping point.

“You’re leaning toward the hill, and are pedaling hard trying to keep up your momentum,” Fuentes says. “You have to pick your route carefully, because if you hit an obstacle without enough momentum to roll over it, you fall off.”

Mountain unicyclists call such tumbles “dumping the load.”

“Everyone dumps his load in this sport,” Fuentes says. “Pretty often, in fact.”

For that reason, unicyclists avoid the misnamed “clipless” pedals that have become standard equipment on most mountain bikes. Clipless pedals actually lock cyclists’ feet to their pedals, and are released with quick outward twists of the cyclists’ ankles.

But even a quick-release mechanism isn’t quick enough for unicyclists.

“When people log on to mountain unicycling Web sites such as www.muniac.com or www.unicycle.com and ask if they should use clipless pedals, we veteran riders refer them to dentists’ Web sites,” Fuentes says with a chuckle. “Because, on a unicycle, clipless pedals are a face-plant waiting to happen.”

Like many adventure-sports enthusiasts, Fuentes would like to test his skills against those of other off-road unicyclists. To do that, however, he’ll probably have to travel.

“For some reason, most of the competitions seem to take place in New Jersey,” he says. “But even there, the turnout isn’t as big as you’d expect. At the last one, only 12 people showed up.”

Such is the world of the mountain unicyclist. Right now, their pursuit is as solitary as the wheels on their machines.

Writer John McCoy can be reached at 736-3585 or by e-mail at wildwordwv@cs.com.

thanx for sharing!