We went down to Solvang, California this weekend to unicycle the Solvang Half Century. This huge event with over 5000 riders overwhelms the small town but we were very lucky to be hosted by a great local rider, Mark, and his wife. The full century starts at 6:30am and our 50 mile ride started at 9:30. We had a 5 mile extra loop first, then the ride headed west to the town of Lompoc on a quiet country road, returning a shorter route on a busier highway.
Everyone did great on the ride and some set personal distance records: Mark’s previous longest ride was 33 miles for instance. The terrain was mostly flat with some rolling hills so I tried an experiment: riding with 110mm cranks. After the first couple of miles (tiny hills only), I was thinking that it was a mistake as I could already feel extra strain in my legs and knees, but raising my seat a little cured that. Beau and Scot also had to stop to get just the right seat height, then rode strongly the rest of the day. Camber bothered some of us from time to time - I wish I knew how to deal with camber the way I can on a bike (ignore it). Overall, I am not sure if the 110mm cranks helped or hurt in this ride. With limited climbing they were ok, but 125mm overall is probably better. Mounting with short cranks gets harder at the end of a long day.
One interesting thing is the amazing variety of 36" unicycles we had:
Beau: Hunter 125mm cranks and Scott Wallis seat system
Mark: Coker 140 mm cranks, suspension seatpost and Lars Clausen-inspired rear handlebars, front handlebars & brake
Mike: Hunter 152mm cranks and GB4 handle
Scot: Hunter 140mm cranks and custom Hunter handlebar and brake
Megumi: Coker 152mm cranks and CF air seat/Reeder handle
Nathan: Hunter 110mm cranks and CF air seat w/DeathGrip handle and brake.
The one downer of the day was that one cyclist was killed just at the end of the ride coming into town. It was evidently a freak mistake, catching something in the spokes and falling left into traffic.
We ended up staying overnight again with Mark and preparing a huge feast after the ride. We watched a few unicycle videos then slept really well and made our way home the next day. THANKS to Mark and his wife for putting up with 7 crazy invaders!
Thanks for the comments. Megumi did set a distance record on this ride but just barely. She opted out of the first 5 mile loop so did 45 miles, 2 miles more than her previous record.
I rode Mark’s unicycle a bit but couldn’t get up the nerve to freemount. The way you mount is:
Lift one leg over the rear handle
Lift the other leg over the other rear handle
(You are now standing on the ground but ‘inside’ the cycle)
Put one foot up on a pedal
Jump onto the other pedal
Mark can do it, but it’s hard even for him. I prefer a simpler, lighter, less scary setup!
Thanks to Nathan, Scot, Mike, Beau and Megumi for helping me have such a fun time on the Solvang Ride. And yes, I can mount my scary setup but you have all convinced me that in order to do hills I need to use a more “conventional” setup with a front grip that lets me stand up. I’ll be practicing!
I checked their website and it looks like the ride is still going strong. Here’s the 2013 50 mile route for instance: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/2157437 - looks pretty much just like it was in 2007 and 2005.
That is very sad and also unnerving, as I’ve ridden those curved stretches of road leading to and from the Solvang on my 36er. It is indeed very dangerous since there are many blind spots where traffic in both directions often can’t see you just ahead, and there no bike lanes in these areas! At least I don’t remember any on the curved road leading up to the main village.
Sorry - missed that response. No there is nothing at all steep on this ride. I did it one year with 110mm cranks (might’ve been both times) and it was no problem.
Yes Tom is right - I would certainly do it on a geared 36 nowadays. That ride could even be a chance to try out the shorter setting (125 instead of my normal 150mm). For me the geared 36 is just so much less effort and more enjoyment and more speed. Since there is so little climbing, this ride is fast and the gear would make it more so. I haven’t done it, but the full route (100 miles) is much tougher.
As with anywhere that has car traffic you have to be careful on this ride. Even though there are thousands of cyclists, if you just suddenly bail left into traffic, the chances you’ll be hit are high.