Unicycling around Lake Tahoe 2005

Last year, Scot Cooper and I rode our unicycles 72 miles around Lake Tahoe in a ride called America’s Most Beautiful [unicycle] Ride. We attempted to repeat that this year, last weekend. Due to a couple of mechanical problems neither of us or Beau made it the whole way, but we still managed to have a great time.

At 7:10am, Beau, Megumi and I started out from Harrah’s with about 2995 bikers. Gary Kanuch was with us like last year, on his kick-bike. Megumi’s goal was to ride the “hard half” of the lake, 42 miles, to lunch, instead of the “easy half” she did last year which was 30 miles. She rode steadily, but we pulled away as we had so far to go. For the first time this year, they actually closed the highway around the lake for two hours to allow cyclists to ride the most difficult part. This is the climb above and around Emerald Bay, from about mile 10 to 15. This section of the road was closed from 6:30am to 8:30am which was great for us.

Since Beau and I both had Scott Wallis seats, we managed to ride the first 14+ miles to the first rest stop above Emerald Bay without a dismount. That might be my longest ride ever without a dismount - the strange thing was that as we finally reached the stop, I still felt nothing - no soreness or pressure at all. Later in the ride I felt the normal “build-up” of pressure after a few miles, but not in that first 14 miles.

The day was clear but very windy so we were blown backwards, forewards and sideways from time to time on the curvy road. Although that made it hard, I think I prefered it to the heat we had last year. There was another rest stop at 25 miles, followed by a huge lunch stop at 41 miles. We made it there by just after noon and were met by many of my relatives as we were having a big family reunion that weekend at my Aunt’s house right in King’s Beach where the lunch stop is. Very convenient and fun.

We ate for an hour then took off. Surprise surprise, but in less than a mile, we saw Scot Cooper riding down the hill coming the other way. He had been able to repair his uni when the bike stop finally opened and rode 30 miles around the lake in the opposite direction to meet us. He turned right around to finish the ride with us. Alas it was not to be. After just a few more miles, I heard the dreaded pssssss of a flat. My second in something like 8000 miles. Somehow I didn’t have the mental power to change the tire on the road (or the equipment) so I called my Aunt who was just coming by to go shopping. A few minutes later Beau and I were back at the house sipping beer and eating icecream while Scot pedalled and Gary kicked around the lake.

With the strong winds I thought Megumi would be hating the ride, but she finished strong and had a great time even though she rode alone and was almost the last rider to make lunch. Scot drove the car back and we had a fantastic feast, then Scot played superman and did the whole drive home himself in 4 hours, ending a little after midnight.

One nice thing we noticed in the registration packet was that the newspaper they gave everyone had a big article on the ride with a full-page photo from last year’s ride - of just one cyclist, Megumi. She was also featured in another ad in the same paper.

Even with a couple of mishaps it was still a great ride. If not the most beautiful in America, then surely in the top 10.

I kept track of heart rate, elevation, speed etc and you can see the charts etc here at www.motionbased.com Here’s something the guys at motionbased clued me into: GPS dot racing! (requires IE6 or later with Adobe SVG plugin)

And I made an album with my photos, Gary’s photos and some of my uncle Rich’s: www.webshots.com
In case you’re interested, here’s my writeup/photos from 2004

This would be a great ride to do with more uncyclists next year!


MAn, just another reason for me to get a coker… that’s just a 30 minute drive from my house…

Looks great, Nathan! Thanks for showing us all your photos. Sounds like Scott’s saddles are proving out well.

What mechanical problems was Scot Cooper having?

I think I’d like to do at least the first half next year. That’s the more photogenic side of the lake as well. What size cranks did your group use?

For those not familiar with Lake Tahoe, here are a couple of facts to increas your impressed-ness with their ride:

Tahoe is an alpine lake, straddling the California-Nevada border in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s surrounded by top ski resorts, including Northstar, where we’ve ridden at three MUni Weekends. The altitude at lake level is about 6300’, over a mile above sea level. The road circling the lake is not flat, climbing over 1000’ at least once on each side of the lake. I’m sure the ride is quite a challenge!

Scot used 140mm cranks, Beau and I used 125mm and Megumi used 152mm. The steepest climbs were fine on 125mm although my heart rate got up to 93% of max due to trying to keep up with Beau. Scot’s mechanical problem was the threads on his hub getting stripped so he couldn’t tighten the crank. The bike shop “fixed” it by jamming on a slightly smaller nut, but that is not a long term solution.

John’s exactly right that this is a challenging ride. We blew by many bikers who were walking up the steeper hills. Beau and I again did the simultaneous passing of groups of bikers on the left and right which is always fun. Of course that’s not to say that unicycles have the advantage on uphills, just that some of the 3000 bicyclists are out of shape or can’t deal with the altitude or something. Actually I don’t really understand it: the sag wagon had zero bikes on it when it first passed us around mile 5 or 10. By mile 15 it had several bikes. By mile 25 it had tons. What are these people thinking I wonder? It can’t all be mechanical problems. Do they just totally fail to read up about the ride to the point where they can’t even complete 1/4 of it?

Before you try a 72 mile hilly ride at altitude you should be comfortable riding hills for say at least half that far or more. I don’t think it would be much fun doing any kind of ride at all if it’s so hard. With a little training a ride like this is a 100% awesome experience but without I imagine it would be hell.


I missed another one! Next year, I’m going!

I can’t wait til I’m out there in California so I can join in on some of these awesome rides. Too bad everybody’s going off to the Alps as soon as I arrive.

You’re coming out here? Where to and when?

Wow, that’s sounds so cool- good training for the Alps in August too!

I’ll be coming out the end of July. I’ll be staying in Santa Cruz temporarily while I’m searching for work in San Francisco and Los Angeles. I’ve been intending to dig up your email soon. I’d like to make contact with and see a bunch of the northern california unicyclists when I get out there.

Maybe you can save me the trouble of trying to find your email address. You can email me at this username at yahoo.

Nathan -

Great ride. It sounds awesome and I’d love to try it. Long way, though.

Is it a timed race thing, or just a fun or charity ride?

Well, everyone isn’t going to the alps! My santa cruz muni / bay area riders page is:


Join the mailing list:


and you can send emails out when you are here about wanting to ride. People regularly email the list about the rides that happen in the Bay and Santa Cruz area.