Mountain Unicycling in Yorkshire, for Dalesman Magazine, July 2014
As the Tour de France comes to Yorkshire, some cyclists push the challenge even further, by choosing Mountain Unicycling – MUni for short – for their sport.
I met a group of MUni enthusiasts at Sheepwash,near Osmotherley, in the North York Moors National Park. Some unicyclists were members of a club in Stockton on Tees; some had come from another club in Harrogate.
Addictive qualities of MUni
In trying to explain the appeal, almost all described MUni as ‘addictive’: it’s difficult, with the constant allure of becoming more skilled.
Richard Jeal said: ‘I uncycle anywhere, I take one on holiday wherever I go. I predominantly ride in the Cleveland Hills and Hamsterley forest.”
The first time he went out with a MUni group, he continued, “I was amazed to see the astonishing skill on display. I’m turned 60, and it’s the best exercise I’ve ever taken. You get puffed out going up hill, it’s very difficult. The added difficulty is keeping your balance while you’re stood up on the pedals. ”
As in any sport, you can spend as much money on kit as you like. Richard comments, ” I’ve got three mountain unicycles. They’re all fitted with disc brakes. You would think that they would throw you off the front, but coming down a steep descent, it’s hard to keep it under control. You go faster and faster, then jump off. But with a slow brake, you can drag the pedal against it and stay on.”
Not all unicycles have brakes: many riders have to judge when to jump off, before the speed gets too much.
MUni encourages fitness
Richard comments, “It’s quite a spectacle when we have a ride. We have up to fifteen riders. People stand back aghast, and in the local woods at Guisborough, people show an interest and we distribute club business cards.”
Most unicycles don’t have gears, which encourages fitness as riders go up hills. Therefore, says Richard, “One of our most memorable moments was when some mountain bikers saw us. It was a steep hill, and the bikers all got off and walked up. Our MUni cyclers cycled past, and the bikers’ jaws dropped.”
Off-road Mountain Unicycling
Richard takes his unicyle out as often as he can, and comments that unicycles have very little environmental footprint and don’t travel very fast, so they can go to lots of places. Requiring total concentration, all the riders recommend it as a total break from the working week, and a good physical work-out.
For anyone wanting to have a go, Juggling Unicycling Stockton on Tees welcomes new members and has equipment for learners to have a go
The Harrogate group, Circus of the Absurd, meets weekly.
Read more, ‘One Wheel’s Better than Two’ in Dalesman Magazine, available at all good newsagents.