Article written by Roger Davies for UniMagazine
What is MUni?
Muni is the riding of unicycles off road, but it does vary dramatically. Some riders ride along canal tow paths other throw them selves down the mountain bike black runs in the Alps. What is common is a love or riding their unicycle outside on dirt.
When I went to Mammoth, California in 1987 for a friends wedding I was an avid mountain biker and had already been riding a unicycle for a few years. I had already converted my 24" Pashley unicycle into a 26" when the rim collapsed and I had the largest mountain bike tyre on it that I could get at the time. It seemed normal for me to take my unicycle with me rather than my bike, just more convenient. After seeing the Kamakarsi down hill course, I just had to do it! While the Mountain bikers were doing it in 4.45 minutes, I took 40 minutes. It hurt: my knees and back ached, and I inner thigh was raw from the Pashley saddle. I also got a photo in to MB UK magazine and I was hooked on what was to be called "MUni".
All around the world people found mountain unicycling independently, and it got many different names consequently, rough terrain unicycling, mountain unicycling, off-road unicycling, UMX, mountain unibiking and MUni. Duncan Castling designed the first purpose made, mass produced, mountain unicycle for Pashley in 1994 and called it a Muni. Although it is a registered trademark of the Pashley Cycle Company in England, the word "Muni" is becoming the internationally accepted word for... well what ever you want to call it.
Here is some information on the pioneers of "Muni":
In 1994 Duncan Castling (on left) and Simon Schofield (on right) entered the Polaris Challenge on a unicycle. In what was a straight competition against the mountain bikers in what is claimed to be the UK's roughest'n toughest mountain bike happening, they actually beat some of the bikes! The publicity that was created from this act of pure stupidity inspired many people to get on their unicycle and get dirty, including my self.
A Mountain unicycle club called Mtt Sensations was started by Thierry Bouche in 1990 near Grenoble in Southern France. The club was affiliated to the French cycling organisation in 1993 and has over 50 active members.
The club use 20" unicycles with long upward facing seats to give them control when descending the incredibly high mountain using a technique taken from down hill slalom skiers.
George Peck, a soft-spoken magistrate living in Seward, Alaska, is credited with giving birth to the sport of MUni in the US.
George created a videotape entitled "Rough-Terrain Unicycling", giving tips and techniques that he'd learned on his own. The Unicycling Society of America sold it. His skill level is second only to that of Kris Holm, he is awesome.
Kris Holm, a geologist living in Vancouver, B.C. is considered the premiere MUni rider today. Kris is the only unicyclist on the Norco Factory Trials Team, and he can jump a unicycle over 90cm (three feet).
Kris started riding off road in 1986, but it was only in July 1998 that he type "Mountain unicycling" in to a search engine and found he was not alone! I still have his first email where he says "I'd love to find people to ride with"... he certainly did!
He is also one of the stars of the UNIVERsE Video along with Dan Heaton and Adam Ryznar which was the film that catapulted Muni in to the lime light.
John Foss, a three-time world unicycle champion, began hosting the California MUni Weekends in the Fall of 1996. He said the idea came to him while riding the trails, just after he'd moved to California. "I just gotta share this!" he said to two bicyclist friends nearby.
Promoting the event on the Internet and word-of-mouth, John soon discovered the lure of off-road unicycling. 35 riders attended the first California MUni weekend. Now the event attracts 100s of riders.
What kind of equipment do I need for MUni?
MUni pioneers like George Peck and Kris Holm built their own off-road unicycles, in some cases spending thousands of dollars. Riders like Bruce Bundy and Geoffrey Faraghan applied mountain bike technology to theirs. Now a days there are many off the shelf muni unicycle available, they have ISIS hubs, big knarly tyres and even brakes. Things have come a long, long way!