Mountain unicycling (muni) consists of traversing terrain similar to mountain biking, but requires more attention to the short distance, as unicycles’ lack freewheel and the typical gear system prevents the rider from high speeds. The Moab MUni Fest is short for Moab Unicycling Festival, taking place in a city located in Southeastern Utah, a well known bicycling Mecca, where the BLM dedicated the Moab Slickrock Bike Trail in 1969 and started riding it annually about 20 years ago. Some have the lever under the saddle, primarily helping with the downhill-slope force, but riders also need skills such as core strength and balance.
We keep our shoulders upright and eyes on the target as we hike the final steep steps of Misery Ridge at Smith Rock State Parkas and reach the top, emitting the usual growl of victory for a daredevil view at 3,000-foot pinnacles of volcanic ash. Some skills are needed to jump over gaps or keep the crank clear of the ground, such as high-speed gliding, in order to rush down with the feet off the pedals. The Moab MUni Fest is the location of a “Fest”, and that’s what it is all about: to break the winter cabin fever and to ride with other MUni riders in what has come to be known as the red rock landscape, a place to expand your limits and learn new techniques.
We got hooked on unicycling, as many transitioned into serious equipment due to the rugged terrain unicycling, and the first MUni Fest was held in 2000 when we wanted to see if there were people willing to come along from Idaho, but there was a rapid growth of the event since the attendance inception. On a unicycle on a rocky outcrop is where you’ll find essential mountain unicycling, another extreme sport taken to extreme, as reaching the top is just the means of pedaling down, and the MUnicyclist is a daredevil willing to hoist upright over the single wheel, pedal or hop over mountain terrain as well as park benches and hand railings. The landscape is about having fun figuring out how to avoid the obstacles and there’s plenty to keep you entertained, as it’s a great place to renew friendships within riders.
MUni is a trademark word and we learned a lot about unicycling from Joe Stoltzfus, while John Foss was the first to capitalize the “U”, although many were then making their own unicycles: the commercially available ones were pricey. Though top speeds reach only 3 M.P.H., lots of padding is required because the slower the speed, the more difficult it is to balance, and it is challenging or even impossible for anyone unwilling to clock in hours devoted to falling down in the alley. The Moab MUni Fest will be Friday 28 through 30 April, an annual gathering held during spring break, and riders typically drive down with a group to pounce on a cluster of campsites generally ending up being within a mile of the trail parking lot.