What is Mountain Unicycling?
Mountain unicycling is an adventure sport for thrill-seekers that involves riding a unicycle through mountainous terrain. Frequently abbreviated as Muni, the sport requires extreme balance and endurance to conquer the rugged trails. Mountain unicycling trails are often specially designed to challenge riders with steep, rocky, and wooded topography.
Mountain unicycling is a unique adventure sport that combines the difficulty of unicycle riding with the thrill of traversing mountainous territory. The sport demands extreme strength, endurance, and balance to master. Mountain unicycling’s origins date back to the early 1990’s when pioneer Thierry Bouche founded the first ever mountain unicycling club called MTT Sensations in France. In 1994, Duncan Castling designed the very first specialized mountain unicycle for Pashley Cycle Company. He named his invention Muni, which remains a prevalent nickname for the sport to this day. Since then, mountain unicycling has spread vastly and become a passion for unicycle riders seeking a challenge all around the world.
Mountain unicyclists can either blaze the trails on their own or participate in competitive cross country, uphill, downhill, or cyclocross races. Unlike mountain bikes, mountain unicycles lack a freewheel and gear system, which means participants must have increased awareness and control of their movement. Mountain unicycles are equipped with broad tires, durable hubs, gripped pedals, and rim or disc brakes to assist riders in conquering the difficult terrain.
The objective of mountain unicycling is to get from the start of the course (typically atop the mountain) to the end of the course (down the mountain) as quickly as possible while still maintaining stability on the unicycle. Riders are challenged by other cyclists to see who can complete each race the fastest. While mountain unicycling competitions provide this singular objective, many people ride mountain unicycles for a variety of other reasons such as leisure or the health benefits associated with the sport.
Mountain unicycling requires specific equipment that is designed to increase performance and protection for the rider.
- Mountain Unicycle: Mountain unicycles are a riding cycle with one wheel. Mountain unicycles share similar characteristics with a mountain bike such as large wheels, tire size, and a modified seat with more heavy padding than regular unicycles.
- Knee Pads: Mountain unicycling knee pads are designed to provide protection without sacrificing mobility.
- Gloves: Mountain unicycling gloves are similar to mountain biking gloves, but are much thicker to protect against potential accidents.
- Shoes: In order to make sure your feet have a proper hold on the pedals, shoes with good traction are essential. Open-toed shoes are dangerous to use while mountain unicycling and are not permitted in competition.
- Helmet: A helmet is always recommended when unicycling, especially when it involves going down a mountain at high speeds. Mountain unicycling helmets are similar to mountain biking helmets, designed to maximize visibility and protection for the head.
Mountain unicycling has a set of rules and regulations designed to ensure safety of the rider and fairness in competition.
Here are the important rules:
- Riders are required to wear thick gloves at all times, open-fingered gloves are allowed.
- Riders are required to wear helmets that meet specific safety requirements.
- Riders must wear shoes at all times, no open-toed shoes or sandals are allowed.
- Riders may overtake one another granted there is a large amount of space for passing, if there is not enough space it is deemed an illegal overtake and a penalty is assessed.
- If a rider crosses the starting line before the start signal is given, it is considered a false start.
- Races are generally between 100 meters and 800 meters in length, although relay races may be longer.
- Dismounting the unicycle is not allowed during the race, except for 800 meter races or longer relay races.
What is Muni?
Muni is an abbreviation, or nickname for the sport of mountain unicycling itself. The term Muni was originally used as the name for the first ever mountain unicycle developed by Pashley Cycling Company in the mid 1990’s. Muni has since become an internationally accepted name for the sport.
What are some of the most popular places to ride mountain unicycles?
While you can ride a mountain unicycle wherever there is a mountain bike trail present, regions with larger changes in elevation are considered the best places to mountain unicycle. Specific regions that are known for their mountain unicycle trails are the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and Southwest British Columbia in Canada.
How dangerous is mountain unicycling?
Mountain unicycling certainly includes some inherent risks. Due to the rugged nature of the sport’s terrain and the difficulty of balancing a unicycle for beginners, falls can pose a threat of injury. However, specific safety measures are suggested and often required in competition to ensure the safety of riders. Equipment such as helmets, gloves, and knee pads are critical for protecting riders from taking spills on the course. As riders become more experienced in navigating trails and riding the unicycle itself, the level of danger is significantly reduced.