READY TO PEDAL, TEST HIS METTLE\ UNICYCLIST PREPARES FOR 25-MILE SPIN\ RAISING MONEY TO HELP FIGHT MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
MARY GOUNDREY; Courant Staff Writer
3 June 2003
The Hartford Courant
2 WEST CENTRAL
Copyright 2003, The Hartford Courant. All Rights Reserved.
UNICYCLIST Tim Colegrove, 16, of Kensington keeps loose in preparation for Sunday’s 25-mile bkm/Steelcase MS Bike Tour, a charity event to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis research. Colegrove sees the ride as an opportunity to help a good cause, while simultaneously drawing attention to his rather unusual sport.
On his 9th birthday, Tim Colegrove unwrapped an unusual present – a unicycle. He took one look at the gift and thought it was ``ridiculous, for obvious reasons.’’
Years later, Colegrove has rethought his judgment to such an extent that the one-wheeled contraption has become his trademark.
Colegrove’s father, Jonathan, said it took his son about a year to become a unicycle aficionado. Initially, the cycle was not a big hit. ``He toyed with it a bit and got frustrated, as you would expect, and put it away,’’ the older Colegrove recalls.
At 10, with his father’s prompting, Tim Colegrove took the cycle out of storage and taught himself to ride; no one knew anything of his progress until he was up and pedaling.
Today, the 16-year-old Kensington resident can perform stunts that are the envy of many skateboarders. On Sunday, he will embark on arguably his most impressive feat to date: the 25-mile bkm/Steelcase MS Bike Tour, a charity event to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis research.
Colegrove, together with a small group of other unicyclists, rode a 10-mile version of the course last year, causing quite a stir. Initially, officials from the Connecticut National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which sponsors the ride, were hesitant to let the one-wheeled riders participate. They feared the unicyclists would be injured while riding on the road. Eventually, the unicyclists won out, and became the hit of the event.
It's such a novelty that we had to investigate it,'' Jane Ferketic, communications director for CTNMSS said, laughing. We work hard to ensure the safety and pleasure of all of our riders.’’
She added, ``Just like anything new that comes into an event, you have to take time to understand how it impacts you. Now we’re so very excited to have them involved.’’
This year, Colegrove and five other unicyclists are scheduled to pedal from the SummerWind Performing Arts Center in Windsor. Colegrove sees the ride as an opportunity to help a good cause, while simultaneously drawing attention to his rather unusual sport and getting to ride with friends he has made in the small, but tight-knit unicycling community.
Training for the race is difficult because, as Colegrove said, ``You don’t normally take a 25-mile ride in the middle of the day.’’ So, instead, he practices for an hour or so every day, riding strictly for distance two or three times per week, traveling 7 to 10 miles.
Normally, distance is not in the forefront of Colegrove’s mind when he’s on his cycle, since he is too involved in the combination of acrobatics, dance, free-falling and other elements of mountain unicycling. The sport developed about the same time Colegrove took to one-wheeling, and now he spends time in skate parks, performing the same stunts, such as jumping off 5-foot walls, that skateboarders do.
``He doesn’t see obstacles anymore; he sees things to be jumped on,’’ his father said, recalling, in particular, a family trip to Europe. Colegrove disassembled his unicycle and took it to Italy in his luggage. Soon he was performing in crowded, cheering town squares.
Unicycle riding is slower and more technical than riding a two-wheeled cycle, Tim Colegrove said. ``It’s like a bike, but not,’’ he said, explaining that you cannot use your weight to gain momentum in the same way, since it is more difficult to stand up.
This constant sitting is the basis for Colegrove’s most pressing concern about the upcoming ride: comfort. Although he plans to get off and take breaks at rest stops, not even the special, air-filled ``comfort seats’’ designed for extended use are meant for 25-mile rides.
Regardless, the unicyclists are sure to generate plenty of attention. Even those who have seen them take to the streets before still admire the achievement.
It's so impressive,'' Ferketic said. They keep pace with all the other cyclists; they’re not wobbling down the street.’’
For additional information on the bkm/Steelcase MS Bike Tour and the Connecticut Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, visit www.ctnmss.org.