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  • Hub of liberation -- Just go with flow, urges off-road unicycling guru, as kids pedal downhill
    21 January 2007
    The Commercial Appeal
    Copyright (c) 2007 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

    His students were riding unicycles down steep and rugged hills. Tommy Thompson told them to relax.

    "Relax and focus," he yelled to nearly 30 unicycle riders Saturday at Shelby Farms. "If you see something challenging, like a root or a hole, your first instinct will be to tense up. But you have to relax to get through that trepidation."

    That trepidation was unicycling, off-road unicycling.

    These unicyclers were from the Memphis, St. George's and Grace- St. Luke's Unicycle Clubs. They gathered on the Tour de Wolf Trail to hone their off-road skills and get a little mud on their single tires.

    "People look at the unicycle as such an oddity," Thompson said in the chilly morning air. "They only know them from the circus."

    Thompson has been trying to break that stereotype for many years. He began by establishing the Memphis Unicycle Club in 2002. He established a unicycle club at St. George's Independent School after his students saw him riding at lunch.

    Last year he brought the North American Unicycle Championships and Convention to Memphis. While enthusiasts ride their unicycles with staunch fervor, Thompson admits unicycles are far from pragmatic.

    "(Unicycles) are the most ridiculous form of transportation. But there is more to life than the speed in which you travel through it," he said. "(Unicycling) is not about speed it is about agility."

    Agility was certainly the name of the game at Shelby Farms Saturday. Most of the riders were used to riding in gymnasiums or on asphalt, places with linear and predictable obstacles. A tree root doesn't respond like a curb or a set of steps. Riders had to adapt, to think, to trust themselves. Thompson said they had to relax.

    Mary Elizabeth Ward, an eighth-grader at St. George's from Eads, was trying to do just that as she rode her knobby-tired Christmas gift down a washed-out path. Her arms flailed for balance and her eyes were focused on the brown ground before her. Surely the root would stop her wheel and she'd fall like a hammer, face first. Instead, she bounced softly and gently pulled the unicycle from her legs.

    "People think this is a clown sport," she joked. "I am not all that athletic. The only sport I play is lacrosse and I'm the goalie. So I love doing this in my free time. They say this is a guy sport, and I love it when they say that girls can't do this sort of thing."

    Unicycling offers unique physical benefits, Thompson said, calling it "yoga on wheels." However, he sees it as a mental springboard for life.

    "It is an amazing self-esteem boost," he said. "That shows them that if you can do this, then you can certainly do algebra 2 or anything else."


    Join the fun

    The Memphis Unicycle Club meets every Thursday at First Congregational Church in the Cooper-Young neighborhood from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit
    Raphael Lasar

    To Plotz is Human
    To Shvitz Divine


    • Balancing act: St. John's unicyclist enjoys playing the role of high roller
      875 Words
      19 January 2007
      Guelph Mercury
      Copyright (c) 2007 Guelph Mercury.

      ST. JOHN'S, N.L.

      David Cox is a big wheel around town.

      Well, at least, he rides one -- the 20-year-old is a unicyclist who has been pedalling his way around St. John's for the past few years.

      Whether it be summer or winter, Cox can be seen balancing on one wheel, making his way up and down hills, on city streets and sidewalks.

      But he's not riding as a gimmick. Cox uses his unicycle for transportation, just like any other cyclist.

      "It's normal for me to get up in the morning, hop on the unicycle and ride downtown," said Cox, who routinely makes the 8.5-kilometre commute from his home to his part-time job downtown.

      "People see me and say, 'Whoa, this guy is crazy,' but it's just part of my routine."

      Cox and his unicycle have attracted plenty of attention from curious residents, who often beep their car horns, wave, take pictures or just watch in awe.

      "It's a lot of fun just to go around town," said Cox, who has developed muscular legs from two years of regular cycling.

      "You meet a lot of people you otherwise wouldn't. People always stop to talk to you. It's nice because people always smile at you."

      Cox became interested in unicycles about two years ago when he saw unicyclist Pete Duchemin riding on a city street.

      "I was just with a few friends coming from one of their houses when we saw him. I thought it was so cool," recalled Cox, who points out that unicycles can reach speeds of 20 kilometres an hour.

      Cox said he yelled out to ask him where he'd purchased his unicycle and Duchemin yelled back with the name of the store.

      "So, I called up and I got my parents to get me one for my birthday that year."

      Unicycles range in price from $100 for a base model up to $1,500 for a custom-made one.

      Cox has six of them, in an array of sizes. Included in his collection is one with a 36-inch wheel, which he uses for transportation, as well as a mountain unicycle with a smaller and more aggressive tire, which he said is great in snowdrifts.

      Learning to ride a unicycle can be difficult, Cox said, although skiers and skateboarders may have a bit of an edge.

      "It takes a bit of perseverance at first," admitted Cox.

      "It's not quite as impossible as people think. It just takes time and practice."

      Once he was comfortable riding the unicycle, Cox spent the next year and a half perfecting tricks using a special freestyle unicycle.

      "It's challenging and you get a lot of satisfaction when you get a new trick down and land something for the first time," he said.

      Unicycling is popular worldwide. In the United States, there are unicycle competitions where riders perform figures and are judged on their overall performance.

      There's also a unicycle community on the Internet, with sites that people from all over the world surf to every day to write about their experiences and share ideas and videos.

      And that's how Cox found out about what will be his next venture.

      This summer, he plans to take part in the Mediterranean Unicycle Tour, a 1,000-kilometre trip starting in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and ending in Aix-en-Provence, France.

      The 19-day tour will feature 10 or more riders, who will travel through Slovenia, along the coast of Croatia and through central Italy, Corsica and the south of France. The tour will pass through mountainous terrain and along challenging coastal roads.

      "It's going to be great. I can't wait," Cox said. "It's going to be tough, but I want to keep up with the rest of the riders."

      Among those riders will be a former world freestyle champion.

      To prepare, Cox rode from North Sydney on Cape Breton to Halifax last summer, a distance of more than 300 kilometres.

      He figures he's the only "serious" unicyclist in the province.

      "You see unicycles around a lot, and I think I know most of (the riders)," he said, "but I think I'm the only one who does it as often as I do."

      He's not sure if his skill will ever earn him a living.

      "I'm thinking about it, but it would be tough. Being a street performer, for instance, it's a viable living, but it doesn't make you rich by any stretch," said Cox, who has inspired many of his friends to try unicycling.

      "But it's like anything -- there is money to make, but you've got to work hard."

      Also a member of a local juggling club, Cox has not yet used his talents to join the circus, but he hopes to soon.

      He's making inquiries about joining Beni Malone's Wonderbolt Circus, based in St. John's.
      Raphael Lasar

      To Plotz is Human
      To Shvitz Divine


      • Unicycling tour to promote Indo-Pak peace
        25 January 2007
        The Press Trust of India Limited
        (c) 2007 Asia Pulse Pty Limited.

        New Delhi, Jan 24 (PTI) Siddharth Rajan will embark on a unicycling tour from Delhi to Lahore on Saturday to promote the Indo-Pakistan peace process.

        Minister of Sports and Youth affairs Mani Shankar Aiyar will flag off Siddharth Rajan from Delhi, an official release said here today.

        For part of the journey, Siddharth will be accompanied by two friends on bicycles. His parents and sister will cheer for their son till the Wagah border.

        Twenty-year-old Siddharth has excelled in several adventure sports and has achieved several long distance records in unicycling, which includes the ride through Laos.
        Raphael Lasar

        To Plotz is Human
        To Shvitz Divine


          27 January 2007
          The Southland Times
          2007 Fairfax New Zealand Limited. All Rights Reserved.


          90501 JOHANNA PARSONS Roger Davies, from England, and Ken Looi, from Wellington, enjoying a flat stretch of the Crown Range yesterday on the unicycles they are riding around the South Island.

          `I encountered my first gale in Middlemarch. We got blown off the track.'Unicyclist Sean Bennett QUEENSTOWN -- Australian man Sean Bennett eyed a passing mountain biker at the bottom of the Crown Range yesterday and said, "I'll pass him soon" .

          No major feat, perhaps, except Mr Bennett was about to ride up the highest main road in New Zealand on one wheel.

          The unicycling enthusiast was part of a 10-strong group from all over the world on an epic 900km tour of the South Island.

          Organised by Wellington man Ken Looi, the tour began in Dunedin, passing through Middlemarch and the Central Otago Rail Trail, before heading off to the West Coast on Sunday and eventually back to Christchurch via Arthur's Pass.

          Mr Bennett said his first trip to New Zealand had been great, although his thighs did not agree.

          "I encountered my first gale in Middlemarch. We got blown off the track," he said.

          "New Zealand is a fantastic place to cycle compared to Australia, because everything is so close together." The former marathon runner was forced on to a mountain bike after injuring his ankle, but was soon frustrated with back and neck pain. In May last year, he tried unicycling and had been riding since then.

          Fellow Australian Nick Clearwater, 12, was the youngest member of the tour.

          He said he tried it out after his dad started unicycling. "And I have to be better than Dad," he said.

          The 145km ride over the Haast Pass would be tough but was made easier by a rest day in Wanaka and the help of a support crew, Mr Looi said.

          The grind to the summit of the 1119.7m Crown Range road was easier on a unicycle because it only had one gear (although the crank width could be changed manually), the tyres were fatter and the body was right over the drive, he said.

          And downhill? "You hang on -- really hard," he said.
          Raphael Lasar

          To Plotz is Human
          To Shvitz Divine


          • Unicyclists wheel into town
            25 January 2007
            Otago Daily Times
            Copyright 2007 Allied Press Limited. All Rights Reserved.

            Have wheel, will travel. And they have, all the way to Queenstown.

            A group of unicyclists has battled strong winds this week in its one-wheeled tour of the South Island.

            The group, which includes 10 of the world's top unicyclists from as far away as Austria and Hong Kong, is spending 16 days riding through the lower half of the South Island, to finish in Christchurch on February 5.

            Yesterday, they pedalled 88km through the Kawarau Gorge from Clyde to Queenstown in sunny weather. But, earlier this week it was more challenging.

            Cyclist Ken Looi said it was so windy during the 84km ride on the Rail Trail from Middlemarch to Oturehua they could not keep their cycles upright and had to skip sections.

            "Getting on top of the wind was just so hard; I was just aching like anything. We all went to bed pretty much straight away."

            He said they were making good time, but were slightly slower than their two-wheeled colleagues. On the road their average speed could be around 25kmh; on a two-wheeled bike that could be as fast as 40kmh.

            Their one wide tyre travelled well over the dirt of the Rail Trail, but it was hard work using only one gear, especially on hills.

            "It's a bit harder on the legs, but you just lean forward and pedal a bit harder."

            They are accompanied by a support crew. They cannot carry gear on their cycles, so are limited to a camel pack of water and some food on their backs. The van takes the rest.

            From Queenstown, the group will head to Wanaka, then from Wanaka to Haast. That is a day they are dreading: 145km.

            Mr Looi said they were most worried about being overtaken by large trucks on the highways.
            Raphael Lasar

            To Plotz is Human
            To Shvitz Divine


            • Unicycle ride to promote India-Pakistan friendship
              Calcutta News.Net
              Saturday 27th January, 2007 (IANS)

              A youngster Saturday embarked on a 530-km unicycle ride from New Delhi to Lahore to spread the message of peace and India-Pakistan friendship.

              Siddharth Rajan, 22, was flagged off by Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Mani Shankar Aiyar at the National Stadium.

              'We need to spread the message of peace among the people of both countries. It is a tough journey but I know we will achieve it because we are determined to do so,' said Rajan who hails from Hyderabad.

              Said Aiyar: 'It is a good feeling to see Siddharth ending his journey at a place where I was born. It is a very good initiative to spread the message of friendship among the people of both sides of the border.'

              Rajan is accompanied by his Australian friend Benjamin Boyle. They will stop at Panipat, Ambala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar and are scheduled to arrive in Lahore Feb 3.

              Rajan's sister Samyukta will accompany them on a bicycle till the Wagah checkpost on the India-Pakistan border.

              Rajan took to the sport of unicycling - cycle with just one wheel - when he was pursuing his diploma course in engineering in Singapore and also went onto captain the national team there.

              He is currently based in Australia, where he is pursuing his post-graduation in sports and outdoor recreation and aims to be a mountaineer.

              At the flagging-off function, Aiyar tried his luck on the unicycle and was quite successful.

              The minister said Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri played an important role in making this expedition possible.

              'Siddharth was having problems in getting the visa and when I came to know about it I called up Kasuri, who is my college friend from our Cambridge days. In the next few days the visa was ready and so the expedition is on now,' he said.
              While you and I are having our cake-and-ice-cream party, the others are having a drink-the-blood-of-the-poor party in the back room. --[QUOTE=maestro8;1433130]


              • Mayor keeps her feet on the ground
                5 February 2007
                Bath Chronicle
                (c) 2007 Bath Newspapers Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

                There may be a family connection between unicyclist Pauline Paradise and Mayor of Bath Cllr Carol Paradise.

                But that was not enough to persuade Bath's first citizen to trust herself to just one wheel during an official visit yesterday.

                Cllr Paradise dropped in on the Unicycle Maniacs club in Weston after presenting a grant to its members and its organiser, who happens to be the mayor's sister-in-law.

                Pauline said: "It was the first time Carol had been to the club, and I think she was very impressed.

                "She didn't try the unicycles or stilts as I would think she is a bit heavy for that.

                "For someone who is over 60 and a bit overweight, just starting out would be very tricky."

                Despite Cllr Paradise not taking to the stilts or unicycles, the oldest member of the club is a 71-year-old, though most participants in the weekly sessions are in their teens.

                The tutors focus on the basics in these skills, as well as teaching elegant routines and some floor-based circus skills, such as juggling.

                A parent won a raffle offered by the mayor's office to mark the visit, and will be able to take afternoon tea at the mayor's parlour in the Guildhall.
                Raphael Lasar

                To Plotz is Human
                To Shvitz Divine


                • CHALLENGE OF ONE WHEEL
                  6 February 2007
                  The Press (Christchurch)
                  2007 Fairfax New Zealand Limited. All Rights Reserved.

                  Ken Looi has halved his potential for puncturing on the Speight's Coast to Coast -- his cycle has only one wheel.

                  Looi, a doctor in Wellington, will pedal into Coast to Coast history by becoming the first athlete to ride a cycle leg of the event aboard a unicycle.

                  He is partnering Peter Williams, of Christchurch, in the teams competition. Williams will paddle the kayak section and complete the other cycle leg.

                  "We're obviously not out there to win. It's just something different to do. This is more to promote unicycling and have a bit of fun," he says.

                  Looi had been a competitive mountainbiker before discovering the challenging world of unicycling. "I took it up because I saw one hanging up in a bike shop about six years ago and decided to take it for a bit of a laugh."

                  Using the internet, he found a mountainbiking variation of the unicycle, called MUni. "I thought I'd give it a go because I was a pretty competitive mountainbiker. I did the nationals in 1996 and 1997 in the experts' class. I wasn't that great but I was very competitive," he says.

                  In more recent times, he has raced his unicycle at the world championships. In Tokyo, three years ago, he finished third in the cross-country, third in the downhill and fifth in the 10km road race. Last year, he won the marathon in Switzerland, an event with 60 or 70 entrants.

                  Looi's preparation for the Coast to Coast was a 900km unicycle tour that started in Dunedin on January 20 and finished in Christchurch this week. "I didn't have a lot of time to train before this, so the tour is training. This is the second tour I've organised. I have 12 unicyclists from five different countries," he says.

                  "Our longest day was 160km from Wanaka to Haast followed by a 130km leg."

                  Looi says he travels on average about 50 per cent to 60% of the speed he would attain on a regular bicycle.

                  "Going downhill, I can get up to 40km an hour and pedalling furiously but, on average, I do about 25kmh on the flat. We're about as aero- dynamic as a flying brick wall," he says.

                  "We don't slow down a lot on the uphill stretches and we don't speed up a lot on the downhills."
                  Raphael Lasar

                  To Plotz is Human
                  To Shvitz Divine


                  • Unicyclist not hanging up helmet yet
                    By Sam Stevens
                    277 Words
                    6 February 2007
                    Otago Daily Times
                    Copyright 2007 Allied Press Limited. All Rights Reserved.

                    Eight of the nine unicyclists who finished their 1000km South Island ride in Christchurch yesterday were looking forward to a rest, tour organiser Ken Looi said.

                    However, Mr Looi swapped one wheel for two, and began training for this weekend's Coast to Coast endurance race.

                    "The [Coast to Coast] race, is not going to be anywhere near as long or hard as the unicycle tour," he said.

                    Mr Looi, of Palmerston North, and 11 other riders left Dunedin on January 21 and travelled through Central Otago, the West Coast and Canterbury.

                    During the trip, Mr Looi estimated the unicyclists travelled an average distance of about 80km a day. On a "really long day", the group covered 160km, between Wanaka and Haast.

                    Mr Looi said the aim of the trip was to have fun, and the group made frequent stops to rest, see local attractions and take photographs. The group particularly enjoyed the scenery on the West Coast, despite getting "totally soaked", he said.

                    Touring unicycles had large 36 inch diameter wheels, enabling them to travel at speeds of up to 35kmh on flat roads. Some of the fixed wheel bikes had a hub mechanism which allowed riders to select a higher gear, he said.

                    The group attracted much "tooting, waving, and people taking photos".

                    "The response has generally been really positive," he said.

                    Although there had been "one or two close shaves", motorists generally had driven responsibly near the group.

                    Mr Looi was one of two New Zealanders on the tour. Other riders came from Australia, Hong Kong, Austria, Britain and the United States to take part.
                    Raphael Lasar

                    To Plotz is Human
                    To Shvitz Divine


                      Amanda WARREN
                      228 Words
                      6 February 2007
                      The Press (Christchurch)
                      2007 Fairfax New Zealand Limited. All Rights Reserved.

                      Proving that one wheel is at least as good as two, a dozen cyclists yesterday completed the first international unicycle tour of the South Island after peddling 900km on one wheel.

                      The South Island New Zealand Unicycle Tour rode its way into Cathedral Square yesterday afternoon, after setting-out from Dunedin 16 days ago.

                      The troop of more-or-less a dozen international cyclists, wound its way through central Otago, up the West Coast and across Arthurs Pass.

                      Despite strong central Otago winds, lashing rain on the West Coast and steep roads over the Southern Alps, tour organiser Ken Looi said the group had a great time.

                      "It's been pretty physically challenging but the scenery has been absolutely fantastic," he said.

                      Looi said this trip was just for fun but he had been involved in charity unicycle tours in the past.

                      "It's really just getting people from all round the world to meet up with other cool people," he said.

                      However, some of the cyclists went further than that. Support driver Connie Cotter, from the United States, and United Kingdom unicyclist Roger Davies tied the knot during the trip.

                      They held a secret wedding ceremony on a swing bridge over the Hokitika Gorge -- balanced on their unicycles of course -- before telling their fellow cyclists the good news.
                      Raphael Lasar

                      To Plotz is Human
                      To Shvitz Divine


                      • Mary Rios and I were on Denver local TV for our 169 seconds of fame. Here is a link to their website;
                        You have to scroll down, we are just below "My Little Pony". Good thing we weren't competing with that! I was just glad that 1) I didn't have to talk and 2) I didn't biff.
                        TTFN- JR

                        Keep your Gubmint hands off my Medicare!

                        In theory, there's no difference between Theory and Practice
                        In practice, there is.


                        • slickrock unicycle

                          That article about unicycling on the Slickrock Bike Trail is crazy. It's demanding enough on a mountain bike.




                            • Article in Newsweek by John Drummond
                              Raphael Lasar

                              To Plotz is Human
                              To Shvitz Divine


                              • NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS - Southwest Tigard
                                Metro Southwest Neighbors: Tigard
                                C.J. Gifford Dianna Weston Susan Morelli Ginger Moshofsky Kathryn Lattanzio Rowe Rebecca Luedloff
                                Special to The Oregonian
                                1531 Words
                                8 February 2007
                                The Oregonian
                                2007 Oregonian Publishing Company. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights reserved.

                                TIGARD / COOK PARK

                                Unicyclist looks ahead,

                                but never back or down

                                For Cook Park neighbor Bill Ervin, there's only one way to get around, and that's on one wheel.

                                For 25 years, Ervin's transportation of choice has been a unicycle. As a teen, Ervin was inspired by an apple-eating juggler on the "Merv Griffin Show." Already familiar with apple eating, Ervin taught himself to juggle. Then, he says, "I thought, why not unicycle?"

                                He made the next step logical enough for his mother to buy him a 24-inch unicycle. "I just fell flat on my face and flat on my back until I could ride it," Ervin says.

                                After two months of bruising, Ervin hasn't looked back. "You can't look back --or down," he says from atop a new 36-inch commuter model. "You just look straight ahead and get back up when you fall off."

                                Unicycles don't chain up well, and winter weather has left Ervin little chance to practice on the newer, taller model. Dismounts can be dangerous. He points to his well-padded elbows and knees and says, "Don't ride it if you can't run."

                                Ervin's goal is to ride to and from Metzger Elementary School, where he's a special education instructor's assistant. He once rode his old 24-inch model, but "it took me an hour each direction and almost killed me," he says.

                                The kids at the school loved it, but it's taken his children longer to come around. Lauren, 14, rolls her eyes as Dad rolls by, but Gabe, 11, finally has uttered those three little words every apple-eating, juggling, unicycle-riding father wants to hear: "Teach me, Dad."
                                Raphael Lasar

                                To Plotz is Human
                                To Shvitz Divine