One wheel, two chances to impress

This year’s Mountain Sports Festival welcomes mountain unicycling, aka “MUni,” to the mix. Two new events—the Kitsuma Challenge downhill MUni race and the Mountain Unicycling Trials Demonstration—will debut on Saturday.

photo by Kent Priestley

Both were organized by Asheville resident Adam Masters, a fierce devotee of the fringe sport who owns a half-dozen trail unicycles—probably about as many as there are all-terrain unicyclists in Asheville. But the young sport’s eccentricity hasn’t deterred Masters from promoting it. “It’s like kayaking was 30 years ago,” he notes.

The first single-wheeled trail riders rolled onto the cycling scene more than a decade ago. The sport has caught on with more gusto west of the Mississippi, but it’s gaining a knobby tire-hold right here in the Southern Appalachians, thanks in large measure to Masters.

The festival’s inaugural MUni event will be the Kitsuma Challenge, starting at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. Riders will meet at the Kitsuma trailhead near Ridgecrest, about 20 miles east of Asheville. The only rule is that riders must travel on one wheel. Otherwise, anything goes. The four-mile, mostly downhill, timed race is certain to include some thrills and spills on the way to the finish line at the Old Fort picnic area. Curiosity seekers based there should be well-positioned to catch the last half-mile or so of the race.

If that’s too far to stray from the festival grounds, the Mountain Unicycling Trials Demonstration will be held at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday at Carrier Park on Amboy Road in West Asheville, providing another chance to catch some one-wheeled action. The demonstration will showcase a handful of unicyclists hopping, balancing and launching from assorted obstacles. Seeing what can be done on one wheel, you’ll be beside yourself.

The MSF events are also part of what Masters is calling the first annual Southeast MUni Fest. He’s taken his inspiration from the long-running Moab MUniFest, which draws nearly 200 riders to that Utah town. Masters says he’ll be satisfied with just a fraction of that showing this go-round. If you’re game, he has an extra unicycle or two to share. For more information, visit southeastmunifest.com

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