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Long Distance Riding

With any luck, our experiences with long distance unicycling will be helpful and interesting to you. We trained all of summer 99 for the Unicycle Across Minnesota event that took place Aug. 14-22. We had a great time and we hope to do more distance events in the future. For this ride, we used 28" Semcycles, however, if we do another event like this one, we think we would rather have Cokers (with short cranks and a brake). Our Semcycles have a few modifications for road riding: a Miyata air seat (highly recommended!), short 110mm cranks, Odyssey triple trap pedals (for grip) and a slick (smooth) tire for the road. Most of the people on the ride also had 28" Semcycles, and a few had 36" Cokers. The smallest uni was a 26" and the largest a 38".

Training

Obviously, before any big ride, training is key. We trained over 1000 miles in the four months prior to the ride. We tried to vary the lengths of the rides (usually 10 to 40 miles) and ride several days a week, sometimes every day. It's also important to do a lot of miles consecutively for several days to see how your body reacts.

It's easier and more fun to train with other people. If you can't find another unicyclist to ride with, bikers or rollerbladers can make good companions. :)

Water

You must have a water container - it's too easy to get dehydrated without one. Remember, by the time you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated! We have CamelBaks to carry our water. They are expensive, but VERY nice and we think they're perfect. It's like a small back pack that holds water, in addition to bandaids, food, or whatever else you want to carry with you.

Food

Unicycling burns a lot of calories, so eat often to keep your energy up. Our favorite snack foods while riding are Cheerios, granola bars, Oreos or other cookies, and animal crackers. :)

Seats

We modified our Miyata seats by dismantling it, ripping out the foam, and replacing it with a 12" innertube. You can inflate it to your personal preference. We can think of other things we'd rather sit on, but as far as seats go, air seats are the best thing we've run across. On the ride, lubrications like udder butter (bag balm) and BUTT'er were very popular!

Breaks

We take lots of breaks when we ride, usually every three to five miles, although when we are tired we take even more breaks! Sometimes we stop every mile or two. Short, stretching breaks are best. We find walking breaks helpful - where you dismount your uni, walk with it for several feet, then remount without ever stopping moving. Sit-down breaks every few miles are nice for relaxing and stretching. It's amazing how much a little break can relive saddle soreness. We take longer breaks every 10-15 miles to refuel.

Miles

The most miles we've done in one day is 68 (the first day of Unicycle Across Minnesota!). That was a long day! Toward the end we started taking more and more breaks and slowing down.

Speed

The more you train, the faster you can go. It took us all summer to get comfortable enough to go pretty fast - an average of 10 mph is our goal. On 28" unicycles, some people averaged 12 mph, and on Cokers, some people could average as high as 14.

Wear

We usually ride in T-shirts or tank tops, padded bike shorts, Converse high-tops, and plenty of sun screen!!!

Protection

All we really wear as far as protection is gloves. Gloves are nice for gripping the seat as well as saving your hands if you wipe out. Some people also wear helmets and knee pads, which are probably a good idea, but we don't. We have never landed on our head while unicycling, so we aren't too worried about it. Occasionally on a busy road, we do wear helmets, but as our mom so tactfully puts it, "If you're hit by a semi, you're probably a gonner either way." Thanks mom.

Injuries

Some of the most common problems we had on the ride were in the knees and achilles tendons. Tammy hurt her knee from overuse and repetitive stress and bruised it from the inside out! Knee braces are an option, but we're not sure how much they help. One thing you can try for knee pain is raising your seat - then more of your weight is on the seat rather than the pedals and your leg gets to stretch out fully every revolution. However, a high seat can contribue to achilles problems - it's a rough life!

Wipe outs are inevitable, although we haven't had any really bad ones. If you're going much over 10 mph, you usually can't run out of falls anymore and you have to roll. But road rash is temporary!

Roads

We prefer riding on paved roads with wide shoulders. Gravel is just not nice at all with the tires we're using.

Riding Time

We prefer to ride in the morning if possible, when it is cooler. We have had many 5:00 a.m. wake-up calls this summer! On the ride, we tried to get started by 7 a.m. and ride until we reached our destination. We were usually finished between 4 and 6 p.m. We find riding in the heat of the day the hardest, because it's so hot and we get burned! Drink lots of water and wear plenty of sunscreen.

In conclusion, distance unicycling with a group is more fun than we ever thought it would be and it's a very rewarding experience.

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