Uni'ing in a 2 Hour Xmas Eve MTB race

I and my bud Rolandisimo uni’ed in a 2 HR MTB race today. Here’s a link to the write-up.

But, just in case, here’s the text of it…

Unicycling in a Christmas Eve Mountain Bike Race

Central Park, Schenectady, NY, USA

December 24, 2006

As a unicyclist, an endorphin addict, and someone who likes to set goals, I’m always looking for races or fun-rides to focus my training on. Last November I tried to ride in a cyclocross race, but the organizers couldn’t or wouldn’t let me, even in the single-speed division, due to the requirement of a USCF (US Cycling Fed.) license. Apparently their insurance covers only bicycles, and for this I can’t blame them.

Then on BikeReg.com I saw a Mountain Bike race nearby that didn’t require the ubiquitous USCF license. It was run by a local biking guru named Heather Mosley and some awesome volunteer helpers. I politely emailed Heather with my promises of good trail etiquette and received the prompt, succinct, cheerful reply from her saying simply “Come out!”

The race was held on the morning of Christmas Eve, 2006 in Central Park in Schenectady, NY, on a 3 mile-long single-track, and it was a 2 hour endurance event where riders do as many laps as they can in the allotted time. It is also understood that if you finish a lap just under the two hour cutoff, you go and ride one more.

So I and my pal Roland, a less experienced but younger and more fit local uni rider, pre-registered and showed up along with a couple dozen bikers at about 8:30 on race morning. I rode a KH29 (29 inch wheel) and he rode a KH24 (24 inch wheel). After suiting up and taking the unicycles out of the car, many a bikers’ eyebrows were raised, but I’ve gotten used to this from the previous biking events into which I’ve been allowed entry. It was refreshing and pleasing to us that no one hummed circus tunes or called us clowns or asked us if we juggle. Though a few people called us crazy and said “You’re riding THAT?!?” they said it with respect and not derision.

A guy I know named Joe, from NY City, showed up for the race, but he was riding his two-wheeler this day and not the unicycle he rode when I met him once before. He claimed not to have an appropriate mountain unicycle, but he convincingly tooled around on mine prior to the race, further impressing the gathering bikers: “Wow - someone else can ride one?”

The race started with all the competitors setting their bikes on the ground at the starting line, and following race director Heather down a trail for a couple hundred yards’ running start to get to the cycles. Roland and I didn’t know how technical the trail was yet, and not wanting to be in the way of bikers speeding down the starting hill, we started at the back of the pack. Because many of the bikers use cleated shoes we probably had the most appropriate footwear for this running portion but we took it easy because there was no point in getting to the cycles first. We knew 2+ hours of Muni (mountain unicycling) would be plenty of workout anyway and I, for one, needed nothing extra to tire me out.

Down the first hill tore the leading bikers, competing for the $100 first prize, and down went the rest of us at various slower paces. The track crossed under the registration/lap counting tent and made a sharp right up a steep hill, and we were underway. I was encouraged by cleaning this first uphill, but I knew not to go all-out, because we had a lot of riding ahead of us.

My confidence was quickly taken back down a notch or two by a steep, downward, closely placed set of log stairs on which I wiped out decisively, along with several of the bikers. I noticed, however, that Roland rode down them and across the board bridges that followed without a dismount. I had suspected he was going to beat me in the race, but I didn’t want to give him the lead that soon. Sometime later in the first lap he saw me through the woods, though I didn’t spot him, and I heard “GO STEVE” from what seemed like a mile ahead of me.

There were several more ups and downs on fairly smooth path with entertaining twists and turns that got me back into a rhythm and an “OK – this is gonna be fun” mentality. There were a few log-stacks across the trail on which I succeeded, but not on every lap. There were also rooty sections sprinkled liberally along the trail as an added challenge and quite a few muddy sections. These, too, were ridable on a uni, but became less so as the race wore on and the passing bikes’ tires dug the muck deeper and deeper. All the bikers were very encouraging and cheered us on loudly whenever they spied either Roland or I clearing, or even only partly clearing these obstacles.

The rest of the track had lots of ups and downs, more board-bridges, and then the much-talked-about “drop of doom”, which was a sandy, steep downhill about 20 yards long. Riding this on the unicycle entailed a half pedal revolution followed by a controlled (or not) slide into another half revolution. Roland said he succeeded on it a couple times, but I slid out sideways each lap just as I thought I was going to make it. To keep my ego somewhat intact, I’ll attribute Roland’s success on the drop of doom to his slightly wider tire floating in the deep sand better than mine did. It also could have something to do with his seemingly utter lack of fear versus my healthy dose of terror.

After the drop, we rode back through the lap-counting tent, complete with its staff wildly cheering and shouting encouragement, and back up the first hill again for another lap. At one point, I stopped to rest with a couple bikers at the top of this, but we made the mistake of stopping within sight of the tent. The shy (NOT) Heather, a hardest-of-hardcore cyclist, spurred us on sharply from below: “What is this, a TEA-PARTY?!? GET GOING!” So, of course, off we went.

As the laps wore on, Roland and I both far surpassed the longest trail ride either of us had ever done on a muni, and damn if the son-of-a-so-and-so didn’t lap me some time into my fourth time around. We hung together for the rest of that lap, and were delighted to see a big red-tailed hawk take off right in front of us when we arrived at the drop of doom.

On the next climb up the starting hill I actually got out ahead of him for a while, though still nearly a lap behind him. His youthful exuberance and superior aerobic capacity eventually won out as he caught and passed me, regaining his full-lap lead. He chose this point to let me know that his legs were really getting sore. “Yeah, okay, Roland.” I didn’t see him again until the end of the race.

As I passed the tent starting my fifth lap, leg starting to quiver with exhaustion, I was told there was about 30 minutes left. “Gee”, I thought, “I’d better slow down or I’ll finish the lap before the two-hour cutoff and have to go around once more.” No such luck. I got to the tent with a little time left in the race and any thought I had of quitting early was quickly dispelled by the score-keepers’ cowbells madly ringing and Heather’s conspicuously non-demure urging of “COME ON COME ON GET UP THAT HILL! LET’S GO! GO! GO!”

My last lap was a fog of near-terminal quad cramps and a light-headed, empty-tank sort of feeling, but I made it, although I allowed myself a bit more walking than any of the previous circuits. It felt great to be done. I’ve unicycled more than that distance before, but only on roads. Riding a muni requires much more concentration and much more weight on the pedals, and so this day turned out to be quite an expenditure of energy. The winning racer did 13 laps, and Roland did 7 and I did 6 and I have to feel pretty good about those results.

I returned home to my family and learned with joy that my beloved wife Rose had replenished our house beer supply. That brew never tasted so good as she graciously allowed me to sit for hours totally non-productively and even more graciously listened to me prattle on about the race and how much my thighs ached.

Much thanks to Heather for taking a chance and letting the one-wheeled crazy men enter this event, and kudos to the volunteers who did a great job as the winter weather went from cold and drizzly to windy and sunny on this Christmas Eve morning. Also, mad props to all the bikers who were nothing but positive and respectful to see us there, and encouraged us, start to finish.

Congratulations! Great write up!
I was just going to PM you to ask for a wright up for those of us who couldn’t attend, be it location, other commitments (or in my case a lack of exp/skill and stamina).

Any forthcoming pictures?

Great write-up, Steve!

I slept in till 10:30. Your wife made sure to have a fresh supply of beer, and mine had tea ready. Sounds like we both had fine mornings!

Enjoy the rest of the holiday!


Congratulations! I loved the story.

Steve, this sounds like a great way to have spent the morning. Congratulations on the great ride, and on representing the uni community so well. One more biking event that will hopefully continue to welcome us one-wheelers going forward.

Happy Holidays!


A lot of people were taking pics and I’ll link to them from here when and if I get hold of them. Pics of me will mostly be of a UPD into the ankle-deep mud or flailing, half off the uni down that drop of doom.

Sounds like we both have awesome wives, too!

Thanks. As I mentioned in the thread about your amazing race, you were a main source of my inspiration. As the last lap drew on, I thought “What would Unijuul do?”, and that kept me going strong, or, maybe just “going”.:o

It was a great morning, Tom, and I think it’ll be easier to get into these local races now that the biker community has seen that one-wheelers can be serious and gnarly, too.

“conspicuously non-demure” – I love it!

Thanks for the write-up Steve.

Thanks Steve,
Your write up was on my Christmas list. 6 laps, 5 in 2 hours, over 7.5 miles an hour, you are moving on those trails.

Great write up.

Thanks, Dave. I try to make the writeups interesting.:slight_smile:

Thanks Ken. We missed you, but I’ll keep you in the loop for the next race.

Sounds like a blast!
Great job!!!

Steveyo, what was your and Roland’s finishing times?

Sorry if you already said and I missed it.

Thanks, Adam. It was way fun.

I don’t actually know. Something around 2:13 for him and 2:15 for me.