Frequently Asked Questions
CBS Evening News story on unicycling!
Early in 1999, when first we heard about mountain unicycling (MUni), we thought there were some nuts out there. But after taking a ski lift to the top of a mountain at Snoqualmie Pass, Washington, and riding down the bike trails, we were hooked. If one could combine the sports of snow skiing and mountain biking, it would be MUni.
The word MUni was coined in the UK by Duncan Castling. It's now a registered trademark of the Pashley Cycle Company in England.
George Peck, a soft-spoken magistrate living in Seward, Alaska, is credited with giving birth to the sport of MUni.
George created a videotape entitled "Rough Terrain Unicycling", giving tips and techniques that he'd learned on his own. It was sold by the Unicycling Society of America, and interest in the sport grew quickly.
In the UK, Roger Davies began off road unicycling around 1987. He was pictured in MB (Mountain Bike) UK magazine on his Pashley Muni 26" (a converted 24"). Visiting friends in California, he was riding down Mammouth Mountain in California, a 4 mile course.
At that point, Roger had never met any other unicyclist, MUni or otherwise!
Kris Holm, a geologist living in Vancouver, B.C. is considered the premiere MUni rider today. Kris is the only unicyclist on the Norco Factory Trials Team, and he holds the world record in the unicycle high jump at 62cm (over two feet).
John Foss, a three time world unicycle champion, began hosting the California MUni Weekends in the Fall of 1996. He said the idea came to him while riding the trails, just after he'd moved to California. "I just gotta share this!" he said to two bicyclists friends nearby.
Promoting the event on the Internet and word of mouth, John soon discovered the lure of off road unicycling. The first California MUni weekend was attended by 35 riders. By the 1999 event, the number of riders grew to 55.
What is MUni?
There are three types categories of trails that MUni riders enjoy:
Rough terrain: This is generally a trail that has some combination of rocks large and small, fallen trees, stumps, undergrowth and mud.
Uphill: This is the toughest of MUni trails. It requires an extraordinary amount of leg strength and endurance. Mountain unicyclist Ted Howe rides uphill trails for fitness.
Downhill: These trails are the most fun. The best way to begin your downhill trail ride is on a ski lift. Seriously! Take a lift to the top of a mountain and ride down the bike trails. It's an absolute blast.
What kind of equipment do I need for MUni?
MUni pioneers like George Peck and Kris Holm built their own off road unicycles, in some cases spending thousands of dollars. Riders like Bruce Bundy and Geoffrey Faraghan applied mountain bike technology to theirs.
Unicycle: The best off road uni's to date are built with some combination of these components, at minimum:
- Hardened, splined axle
- 170mm (6.5") or longer crank arms
- 36 spoke wide rim
- 24" or 26 x 3.0", knobby tire
- Pedals with pins or mild teeth
Safety: We recommend wearing all of these items when you MUni:
- Wrist guards
- Elbow/forearm pads
- Knee/shin pads
- Ankle Guards
Surprisingly It is pretty easy to ride under the right snow conditions and at least ridable in almost anything. If you too want to give it a try, here's all you need to do:
- First, learn to ride a unicycle. (If it's not completely obvious, it's hard to learn in the snow.)
- Next, go to the hardware store and pick up some raw materials. You will need a surprising amount of chin (I used .77"/link chain). You will also need two clips to join the chain to the wheel.
- Fortunately it's all pretty cheap stuff. Take your wheel diameter (likely 20" or 24") and call that d. If you use the same chain size as I did, you'll need (d - 6") pi x 4.25 inches of chain. (That's 15.58' for a 20" wheel or 20.1' for a 24" wheel.) The chain will form a d - 6" dimater circle on each side of the wheel with a 9 link cross chain every 4 links. (I originally made it with a cross chain every 9 links but found I didn't have the traction I wanted.)
- Here's how to assemble it:
- The tools I used were a pair of regular pliers and a pair of needle nosed pliers. There are two loops of chain, one on each side of the wheel, attached by cross members. Here's what I found worked best:
- opening the chain: Laid flat the chains will form a ladder shape. (You want to make sure that the side chains are lying flat so that you don't have kinks once you finish.) break apart the chain so that you have two lengths that are just over (d - 6") pi long each (that's inches). Lay the two chains next to each other and make sure they are free of kinks. Take the remaining chain and break it into 9 link lengths. Now attach those 9 link sections to each side of the two long chains. Here's the effect you should get:
- laid flat: Be sure that there are no kinks and that every cross member attaches at exactly the same spacing. It's not crucial to the chain's performance but the chains will look much better and fit more snugly to the wheel that way. Once you have put on all of the "rungs" of the ladder shape, you need to attach The clips. (You may be able to get away with not using clips and just leaving a link open at the end to act as a hook but I have't tried.) Now you can get the chains on the wheel. This might be easier with two people but it's not that hard. This is the point where you'll see if you made the chains long enough. (If they aren't, just add more chain an no one will know the difference.) At first the chains will be very tight but after a few minutes of lining things up you should be able to tighten things up by a link or two.
- Finally, the fun part. Can you ride it? I've found the chains work fine on pavement and cement as well as industrial indoor carpet. Watch out for things like marble flooring. Although the chains grip well in ice, on hard, smooth surfaces you are riding on just chain and have almost no grip. Ideal surfaces are packed snow and fresh snow on cement and asphalt (like a sidewalk or parking lot).
Obviously riding in the snow is dangerous. The chains do help but still use caution as all forms of unicycling is inherently dangerous.
The most accepted theory for the appearance of unicycling is that it was found "by accident" while riding a "penny farthing". This kind of bike had a disadvantage: when you applied the brakes it was very easy to be thrown over the front of your bike. Get rid of the useless parts and you're left with a much safer vehicle. And so, unicycling was discovered... There is also the theory that they were brought by the pixies.
A: I'm paying for it in instalments.
A: You're kidding, it was there last time I looked (and promptly fall off).
A: I got the bike on sale, half off...I didn't realise they meant the bike.
A: This is the recession model.
A: Two wheels? That's twice as hard!
A: My other wheel? Why, I don't need a training wheel anymore! (my favourite, to bike riders)
After this research, the Japanese Educational Department officially recognized this discipline: they integrate it in their school program. Today, there is over a milion unicyclists in Japan.
Also, an International Unicycling Federation was founded in Japan, June 1st 1982 and further to the elaboration of a structure and a regulation for this sport, the Federation sanctioned the first World Unicycling Championship which took place in Syracuse, New York, in 1984.
- Wrist guards
- Leg armour