by Joe 'Mojoe' Kisley
Hello, my name is Joe. I'm a beater fixie rider, turned track rider, turned singlespeed mountainbiker, turned offroad unicyclist.
I love the simplicity of fixed gears and single speed bikes, and I always figured I'd get a unicycle some day, if only to get me around my driveway. Then I heard about muni--mountain unicycle.
I remember my first muni sighting, in a unicycle.com ad in the back of Dirt Rag magazine. It was a picture of Kris Holm descending a really steep rock on a knobby-tired unicycle. It was love at first sight. I knew right there that I had to have one.
Two weeks later, I took delivery. It took a couple of days to learn to ride from the front door to the gatepost. In a week I was commuting to work, two miles each way. In three weeks, I ventured offroad.
Mountain unicycling is not as hard as it sounds. Once you've got your balance, going offroad is easy. Start out with easy trails and progress from there. Like singlespeeding, muni makes the easy trails hard again. For a while, anyway. Then they get easy and you have to search for more challenging terrain.
The key to successful muni is learning to keep power to the pedals. Over rough ground and on steep hills, that means pulling up on the front of the seat. I have a gizmo called a 'Reeder' handle bolted to front of mine to make it easier.
Beginners tend to worry about pedal clearance, but I've found that I seldom hit my pedals on rocks unless I'm riding in a deep rut. Log crossings are easy, you just hop onto or over them. Like on a fix, a jump requires good timing--you need to get your cranks just so. But then it's just a matter of hopping the wheel. This is where that handlle really comes in useful! In some ways, jumping a unicycle is easier than jumping a fix, since the cranks are mounted right onto the wheel. There's no risk of getting the crank hung up in a tree branch.
That first unicycle of mine had a 2.6" Nokian Gazzaloddi Jr. tire, Sun BFR rim, and Suzue unicycle hub. This turned out to be a pretty good all-round setup, with a big enough tire for most terrain.
But most serious muni riders have a dedicated machine with a 24x3" downhill rim and tire. I upgraded when I found that my taste for big drops was bending the cheap square-taper cranks.
I've now pretty much settled on a Yuni frame, Viscount seat, Profile Racing hub and splined cranks, Sun Doublewide rim, and the grown-up version of the Gazzaloddi.
The crank/hub combi can take anything I can dish out. I've done lots of three foot drops and even landed a four and a half footer. The cranks are 170mm, giving plenty of leverage for technical stuff. The 24" rims are much stronger than their 26" equivalents, and, with a 3" tire, work out almost as tall. Fatter tires let you run lower pressures. I inflate mine to 19 psi and it just eats up rocks and dips. Works for me!
This summer, I rode at the Sugarbottom trails in North Liberty, Iowa. Sugarbottom was a blast! It took me three hours to complete. I rode all of the difficult loops. The only parts I couldn't ride were the extremely steep hills.
Besides trail riding, I enjoy urban assault, trials type riding. Urban riding offers more challenges than the trails in my area. Tables, benches, walls, fountains and planters are my playground. College campuses and larger cities are prime spots for urban riding. Iowa State University and downtown Minneapolis have been ridden by myself and other midwest unicyclists.
If you're looking for a fun, challenging sport, give mountain unicycling a try. Of course, you'll have to learn to ride first. It's worth it!