An Amusement & Diversion for The Genteel Cyclist. Daily.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Like an infinite wheelie! A conversation with super-unicyclist Steveyo

Steve "Steveyo" Relles is a unicycle rider. We mentioned him before, and we sorta made light of unicycles -- the same way Dixieland bands make fun of trombonists, or orchestras make up viola jokes. But what we said then, we said in ignorance. Riding a unicycle--especially riding a mountain unicycle-- up eight miles at 6 percent grade is a pretty nifty feat, and Steve managed to beat the field and set a new record this year at the Whiteface Mountain Uphill. (You can read Steve's thorough and entertaining race report here. Highly recommended!) But we had our own odd set of questions we wished to pose to the Champ, and he very graciously replied.

We've been curious about this for awhile: Do any unicyclists ever use toeclips OR clipless pedals, or would that be foolish? Especially going uphill, it would seem that you could increase your torque by 100 percent if you could pedal up, right?

A few have tried this. A uni is a yin and yang of both feet at the same time, so the pulling up on the back stroke would have limited value. I'm also chicken. I guess I'd try it all padded up and with the springs set really loosely.

We noticed you’re holding your hands on the “handlebar” at the front of your saddle. Do you intentionally try to limit the amount of upper-body movement to save energy?

Oh yes, on a hellacious climb like that, it's all about saving energy. Also, it takes a little weight off the saddle to push down slightly on the handle.

We've never seen a water bottle cage on a unicycle. You used a camelbak — did you drink all your water during the hour and half or so of the race?

Just about drained it.

Do you play bike or uni polo? We played a lot of uni hockey when we were riding a unicycle, and it was a blast.

Haven't tried it. I would though.

Where did you place in the overall field, including bikes?

I was 201st overall out of 245 finishers, and a bunch of DNFs.

Was it a “fast year” for everyone? We see a new record was set for bikes too.

The weather was a bit warm, but there wasn't too much wind. Some folks bettered their best times, but some didn't.

So there was an official race class designation for Unis this year?


Are there any other special categories— like tandems, singlespeeds, etc?

There is a tandem class, but none race this year. I think there's also a Clydesdale/Filly class for heavy riders. Not sure the cutoffs.

So, you’re a great uni rider. Do you ever ride a bike?

I used to ride a bike for x-training for Ultimate Frisbee because biking is so smooth on the joints. Now I just bike to do errands, like I go grocery shopping with my bike-trailer. Otherwise it's all uni. I really enjoy "muni" the most - mountain unicycling on trails. I was on a 4-uni team in a 24-hour mountain bike race in May - grueling, but a blast!

We noticed you don’t wear tighties or “plum smugglers”—regular biking shorts. Any technical reason why, or just personal preference?

I have them on under the loose nylon shorts. The loose shorts prevent chafing, and the bike-shorts keep the "boys" up out of harms way.

There you have it! Straight from the 2007 Whiteface Mountain Uphill Bike Race Champion (non-bike unicycle division).

Photo by Patrick Campbell


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