This past summer I rode the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route on my unicycle. The route is 2,754 miles long and primarily follows rough dirt roads as it winds its way along the Continental Divide, the spine of the Rockies. The route took me 89 days to complete (66 days of riding). I carried everything I needed on my back or on the unicycle, stopping to resupply my food every 2 to 4 days.

I chose to ride by unicycle both for the personal challenge, and to help draw attention to a charity I was fundraising for. Though I rode for a charity, the trip itself was funded out of my personal pocket. I did receive some sponsorships with gear and equipment, including sponsoring myself through my tent making business.

I finished riding on September 19th, and returned home less than two weeks ago. Readjustment into society and life on two feet has not been an issue, yet. I almost wish there would be more culture shock and am sad to find the trip fading into the past so quickly.

I chronicled the trip on my blog:

Edit: trying to fix link Edit: I'm off to a meeting soon and then checking out the First Friday exhibits around town here (I've been looking forward to them the whole trip). I'll get back to answering questions tonight or tomorrow. Happy to see so much interest!

Comments: 1073 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

BradyCycler615 karma

Hey Gen, Congrats on being the BOSS!! This is Brady, I met you in Grand Teton NP! Here's a picture of all of us riders (Left-to-right: Gen, me, John, Rhea, Tyler)

I made it to the Santa Cruz, CA, 5,340 miles in all, but I don't care if I did 50,000, what you did on a unicycle was just blew my mind, I remember thinking after I met you "holy crap, that guy just raised the bar on what is humanly possible." Take care, it was great to meet you!

greatdivideride389 karma

Awesome to hear from you! You're all one of my fondest memories from the trip!


how do you prounce that? Gen like Jen or like Gene?

greatdivideride24 karma

like in again

ashmaht604 karma

I assume that, during the hard times, your version of the Rocky theme was circus music. Please confirm.

greatdivideride515 karma

This may have happened a few times.

glorrrryyyy247 karma

Did you take it off of any sweet jumps?

greatdivideride227 karma

I think I may have gotten air once or twice. I definitely got air many times as I flew off the unicycle.

lolooee164 karma

Did you ever get like three feet of air?

greatdivideride129 karma

Maybe three inches, or three tenths of an inch.

coreycubed230 karma

Is your ass still sore?

greatdivideride293 karma

Unfortunately, yes. I'm still walking a little funny. (actually, it's more skin irritation than soreness)

randomb_s_158 karma

My version of the question:

Do your balls hurt?

greatdivideride115 karma

Not really, no.

TheSemiTallest145 karma

I've known a fair number of unicyclists, and I've concluded that the unicycle is the least efficient form of transportation because it requires constant energy both to move, and to stay still.

How long had you been riding one before you decided to take on this challenge?

greatdivideride150 karma

You're right, the unicycle may not be the smartest way to travel. If I were staying still, that meant I was off the unicycle; I couldn't 'idle' with that big a wheel and with all the gear weight. On downhills, I couldn't coast, but I did have a brake. The brake let me put a drag on the wheel which means my legs didn't have to do all the work of holding me back. They still had to spin though.

I rode a unicycle for fun as a kid, from about the time I was 10 through the end of high school. As of a year ago, I hadn't been on one since then, about 13 years previous. Last November I got one to start practicing.

ethanlan114 karma

I have one question: why?!

greatdivideride111 karma

I wish I knew.

NerosNeptune93 karma

Does your penis still work? Did you have to get a special seat, or do unicycles have special seats so that you can ride them without completely destroying your perineal nerve?

greatdivideride138 karma

Unicycle seats are different from bicycle seats, and I think are much more uncomfortable. I'm not sure why this is, but I suspect it's because nearly your full weight is almost always supported by the seat. On a bike you can support more of your weight on your legs periodically. The unicycle seat is basically a foam cushion with a channel cut out of the center which runs the length of the seat. The channel helps reduce pressure on the perineal nerve. At the advice of an endurance unicyclist and the unicycle distributor, I used a seat with firmer foam rather than one with softer foam or an air saddle (cushion provided by an inflated inner tube). I'm not sure this was the best choice - may have been may have not.

As I mentioned in another reply, most issues down there were skin related. Pressure was an issue at first and periodically throughout, but more an issue with pressure points at the butt bones than perineum.

Anonymousthepeople90 karma

1) What is the charity for?

2) How much weight, if any, did you lose?

3)Would you do it again in your lifetime?

4) How much of a straight up badass did you feel like after just unicycling 2,754 miles? All hilariousness of unicycling aside.

greatdivideride147 karma

1) The charity, Polaris Project, is a non-profit located in Washington DC. They work to combat human trafficking / modern-day slavery, with the focus of their efforts being within the US. I tried to raise awareness of the issue as well, but found it difficult. I didn't feel I knew enough about the issue to speak about it responsibly. 2) I think I maintained my weight pretty closely. I didn't have much to loose to begin with and what weight loss I had from burning fat was probably regained by building muscle. 3) This was a one-time endeavor, I'm pretty sure. I'd love to go back and experience the route on two wheels someday. (If I could go back in time, I wouldn't try to talk myself out of it, I think) 4) After finishing, not much. I was more excited and relieved not to have to deal with the seat anymore, and to have fresh food available. Along the way there were times when I felt pretty hardcore. The most memorable was riding a paved section through Grand Teton National Park. Tourists were stopping all over the place to take my picture and find out what I was doing. At one overlook, everyone was lined up along the side cheering me on and taking my picture (instead of taking pictures of the beautiful Tetons).

catmoon70 karma

Does a unicyclist have to change tires twice as often as a bicyclist or half as often?

greatdivideride51 karma

Good question... I replaced my tire once. I think most of the bikers also changed their tires once. That said, my tire was more aggressive than the bikers' tires. Mine had a knobbier tread pattern and likely a softer rubber compound.

temporarycreature58 karma

I don't have any questions that weren't already covered but I just wanted to say congratulations on finishing this, a pretty monumental achievement. I wish this was getting more attention from Redditors.

greatdivideride37 karma


arnar62255 karma

I saw your take off video a few weeks ago in r/unicycling! Whats the top speed you can reach? You have a 36'' whee; correct?

greatdivideride71 karma

It's a 29" wheel. According to my odometer/speedometer, I topped out around 14.5 mph at one point. Towards the end, the fastest speed I could sustain on 'easy' terrain was 9 - 11 mph. Most often my average was between 5 and 7 mph, including very brief breaks mixed in.

borispavlov038 karma

How did you make your unicycle so comfortable to last the entire journey?

greatdivideride76 karma

I didn't, unfortunately. The seat never became comfortable. There were better days and worse days, and better hours and worse hours. There were times I had to hop off the seat every mile to get some blood flowing. About a third of the way in, I added a sheepskin cover that I made on the fly. It helped, but I have a slight allergy to wool. The skin irritation it caused seemed to be the lesser of two evils.

Big_Sniggs55 karma

"I added a sheepskin cover that I made on the fly"

Did you skin said sheep?

greatdivideride39 karma

The thought of doing so may have crossed my mind as I rode through a flock of sheep once. I had been looking for sheep skin for a few weeks at that point.

borispavlov018 karma

Did you ever regret doing this during your trip? EDIT: I mean, choosing a unicycle instead of, let's say, a bicycle

greatdivideride17 karma

I never truly regretted the decision, but there may have been some fleeting regrets every so often. I did often dream of being on a bicycle instead.

sawalrath36 karma

Did anyone try to throw anything at you?

greatdivideride70 karma

Just waves and smiles. A few squirrels threw pine cones at me.

ChongPing34 karma

What was the worst and best part about the trip? Would you do it again?

greatdivideride61 karma

Best were the people. Worst was the seat. I would do it again on two wheels someday. Maybe again on a unicycle if there is a breakthrough in unicycle seat design, and if I can learn how to coast on it.

ktnlo32 karma

Did you come across any physically challenging uphill or downhill situations? Would you get off and walk?

What kind of people did you meet? Did you make plans to stay in touch with any of these people?

greatdivideride51 karma

Just about every day. Over the course of the route, there is about 200,000 ft of elevation gain, which is the same as climbing Everest, starting from sea level, 7 times. The climbing itself was usually well graded, but if the terrain became technical, it imposed quite a challenge. On downhills, technical terrain can still be a challenge, but much less so than when climbing. I definitely walked some stretches (even the mountain bikers have to walk some). I walked the most in the beginning where the terrain was a little more challenging and before my legs were broken in. From about three weeks in, I barely walked at all until I arrived in New Mexico. There I found some of the most challenging climbs and terrain. Over the entire trip, a very quick, rough guess would be that I walked around 40 miles total. I could be way off there.

I didn't meet as many people out riding the route as I expected. There's a few who I became close with and expect to be lifelong friends. I also met people about everyday who'd drive by and just want to know what I was doing or want to get my picture as evidence to show their friends. Reactions were always positive, with the exception of receiving the finger from one driver. A few people along the way insisted they buy my lunch or dinner, and even a motel room twice. There are others along the way who open their houses or property for cyclists to stay at while in town.

jimbutts29 karma

What was the best city you rode through? Any cool gifts or donations?

greatdivideride46 karma

My favorite town stops were probably Lima, MT, Salida, CO and Del Norte, CO. I enjoyed these stops the more because of the people there than the towns themselves. Most of the towns were tiny, as in populations between 65 and 2000. Only a few of 10,000 or more. Helena, MT was probably my favorite 'larger' city.

DanDanTheMonkeyMan21 karma

Did you see anyone that you specifically remember for a weird reason? For example, a guy with a very silly hat?

greatdivideride44 karma

Hmm... I was the one with the silly hat. One of the people who most stands out is a man in southern Wyoming. At first I couldn't tell if he was being friendly or not. He turned out to be the nicest guy. We shared a beer on the side of the road as he spread out the arrowheads he had been collecting over the hood of his truck. They were really cool to see and fun to listen to him talk about them. He gave me one to keep!

[deleted]18 karma


greatdivideride19 karma

I'm so glad you didn't ask me this while I was riding. It would have tormented me.

LaughsTwice18 karma

Did you pass the guy who was hiking from Mexico to Canada?

greatdivideride12 karma

I passed plenty of them. In fact, I may have met more Continental Divide Trail hikers than Great Divide Route cyclists.

stax_n_stax17 karma

How much did the unicycle cost? Did you have to invest in a top-end model that would be reliable enough to survive the entire journey? Did the model differ from what one might expect a clown/circus performer to be riding in a show? Did you have to change the tire from the one supplied at purchase?

greatdivideride30 karma

The unicycle cost somewhere around $1,000. It's a mountain unicycle, not one you'd see in the circus. Compared to one you might picture at the circus, the wheel has a much larger diameter (29") and a fatter tire (2.5"). It's actually bigger than most mountain bike tires. I also had 'handlebars' and a hydraulic disk brake. I used the stock tire and replaced it once with the same tire. You might be able to get an idea of the size of the uni in this picture from the last day.

EDIT: Actually, it was probably closer to $700. I forgot to remove the cost of a second wheel that I had built.

whadupinnernet17 karma

One man.....One wheel.......2,754 miles...... Now why would you do a silly thing like that?

greatdivideride34 karma

....One mile may have better fit that pattern

Lithick15 karma

One million miles

greatdivideride44 karma

kill me now

unicycledave16 karma

So this will probably be buried, but I've ridden from Victoria, BC to Regina, SK on a unicycle, but I used a 36 (and was going to go with a schlumpf gear but it broke upon arrival on the west coast). How the hell did you put up with riding an Oregon 29" that far?!

That's an awesome ride man, one of my passions is long distance touring, and moreso on a unicycle because you meet so many people because of the novelty of what you're doing. I'm glad you had a blast, and it looks like you had the right gear for the trip too (my confusion about wheel size choice aside), which must have made it even more pleasant :)

greatdivideride4 karma

Awesome to hear from another uni tourer! I think the 29" was a good size wheel to be using for this trip. Anything smaller and I'd have been crawling. Bigger and I'd have trouble getting up some of the climbs and lifting the uni up over obstacles. I think with a bigger wheel I'd also have trouble mounting the unicycle with gear weight (I was carrying up to 10 liters of water which made mounting the 29'r a big challenge at times).

Ideally, I think a 26" with the Schlumpf hub, or maybe the 29 with the hub, would be ideal. I was running the 165/137mm cranks and sometimes wondered if a step smaller might be better. For those of you wondering what I'm talking about, the crank arms have two holes drilled for the pedals. This let's me move the pedals in and out to effectively change the gear ratio.

Chriss123412 karma

How long have you been unicycling?

greatdivideride13 karma

I rode a unicycle for fun as a kid, from about the time I was 10 through the end of high school. As of a year ago, I hadn't been on one since then, about 13 years previous. Last November I got one to start practicing for the trip.

nittanycopa12 karma

Did you encounter any dangerous wildlife? Poisonous snakes, moose, bears on unicycles?

greatdivideride24 karma

I saw a good number of moose, which are said to be more dangerous than the grizzlies. I encountered a handful of bears (I think 2 were grizzlies) and saw a good number of elk in the south. There were a few rattlers, one black widow, and one tarantula. Scorpions were around, but I didn't see any. The scariest animal was a Sandhill Crane who I thought might try to peck my eyes out. Cows were everywhere and once I found myself in the middle of a stampede (which I had caused).

Not_A_Meme11 karma

Wait, WTF?!? How did you cause a stampede? I'm super hoping you will respond to this, a stampede sounds fascinating. Also, I sometimes unicycle for exercise/fun, I'm always so happy to know there are other people like me. I can't idle that well, but I can go straight pretty well. My best i've done is completing a 3.5 mile circuit starting/ending at home with no falls, and only stoping to lean on stoplights where necessary.

greatdivideride15 karma

Cows seem to be deathly afraid of unicycles. They're also not very smart and often tend to run with you or towards you rather than away from you. I have a shaky, not very good, video of cow chasing on youtube.

People ask me if I can do tricks on the uni. I tell them my trick is riding. I used to be able to idle my small uni when I was a kid, but I haven't even tried on this one.

Megv64611 karma

Did this experience change your plans for the future at all?

greatdivideride23 karma

I think it's added some fuel to my overall level of motivation. I wouldn't say it's changed my plans, but it's helped me realize that I need to isolate a few things that I want to do in life and work towards them rather than spreading myself too thin between many things. I suppose I already knew this. Now I'm actually trying to act on it.

FletcherPratt11 karma

Approximately how many times did you fall?

Also, I've been fascinated by this stuff for 15 years, apparently. I still remember reading this article when it came out.

greatdivideride7 karma

I kept track of the times I fell and actually ended up sprawled out on the ground, but I haven't tallied the total yet. Guessing around 15? If you count the times I landed on my feet, hundreds.

Highpower110 karma

Holy crap. I think I might have seen you, out in the middle of absolutely nowhere. I have a ranch near Chama, NM. I was driving out on a Saturday... I think it was early September. Our access road is a dirt road that drops south off of Colorado Hwy 17. A friend of mine was driving my RZR out, and I was following in a truck a couple miles behind. He radioed me and said "you are not going to believe what is coming down the road". A short while later I saw a dude on a mountain unicycle. I damn near drove off the road.

BTW, for everyone else's benefit, this dude did not just ride his unicycle on paved road. This guy was at about 10,000 feet of elevation, on one of the worst dirt / rock / mud "roads" I have seen.

Was this perhaps you? Earlier this summer, I saw a lot of bikers doing the Tour de Vide, same route I guess. Were you part of that "Race"?

greatdivideride7 karma

Must've been me!! I was going through that area in early Sept. I rode the same route as the Tour riders, but was not competing in the event.

SystemCrashOverRide9 karma

You mentioned you rode a big wheel, was it a coker? (sp?) I have a small 20" with a Kris Holm seat, what kind of seat were you riding that bothered you so much? Did you idle or learn to ride in reverse (I never have). See any other people on unicycles during your trip?

greatdivideride11 karma

I was riding a Nimbus Oregon with a 29" wheel. I used the Kris Holm Street saddle. I wish I had tried the touring saddle at some point to see which was better.

On the 29'r I've not even tried idling or riding backwards. I did practice, and can ride with, one foot off the pedal for short distances. I think this helped save me a few times when a foot would slip off the pedal.

I did see one other unicyclist, very briefly, about a week into the trip. I didn't see him again and hear he finished the route about a month ahead of me.

Pitrestop7 karma

Did you train much prior to the trip? It seems to me riding for 66 days must be pretty physically demanding.

greatdivideride17 karma

I made it out for a few rides, but nothing that I can really call ‘training’. I think my longest ride was 24 paved miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway and, other than that, maybe a handful of 7 – 12 mile rides. I basically rode enough to know that I could ride a unicycle. Before the fall, I hadn’t ridden one in 13 years or so! I only managed to ride once with a fully loaded pack before leaving for the trip.  Sometimes there’s no better way than to just jump right in, right?

strikerthedj6 karma

Was there any point in time you just wanted to stop? If so, where was it?

greatdivideride19 karma

I almost always wanted to stop, as in stop riding and take a break. I didn't want to stop the trip itself. Over the last half I became more and more ready to be done with the trip, but I never seriously contemplated quitting or changing my mode of transportation.

lockstock_teardrops2 karma

Any mechanical failures besides flats? I'd guess with less kit you have less chance of things breaking.

greatdivideride3 karma

The brake gave me issues from the start and I had it replaced. I had one bearing go bad and the base that holds the seat and handlebar to the unicycle broke where the handlebar attaches. The replacement broke in the same fashion about 5 days from the finish.

Regginaldo2 karma

That's amazing. I have a few questions:

1 - Would you recommend the trail to cyclists? Was it beautiful? Any considerations for someone interested in cycling the trail? 2 - What precautions did you take against Bears and Mountain Lions? 3 - Were there campsites along the way or did you just pitch your tent in a welcoming spot?

greatdivideride2 karma

1) I would definitely recommend the route to anyone who thinks they might enjoy this type of thing. It's kind of a mix between bike touring and backpacking (bikepacking). 2) I carried bear spray while in grizzly country (the first half). I also bear bagged (hung my food & toiletries in the trees) in bear territory. If I got an uneasy feeling that a big cat might be checking me out, I'd stop riding as not to look like fleeing prey. Side story: I had a mtn. lion stalk up to about 15 ft from me once on a different trip before I inadvertently scared it while hanging my food. 3) The majority of the time I camped in established campsites, as in it was obvious people had camped there before. I also stayed in a few forest service campgrounds along the way, and camped wherever I happened to end up other times. It was tricky sometimes to get to, or know if you were on public or private land. If I wasn't at an established site, I was usually pretty well 'hidden'.

Beastmonger1 karma

You said that you brought a tent. Did you just pitch it when it got dark where ever you were? if so did you ever run into problems not being aloud to camp somewhere?

greatdivideride3 karma

Most often I rode till near dark and then looked for a suitable place to pitch. Sometimes I'd stop a little earlier or later if I came across a beautiful place or knew I wanted to try to get to a particular destination like a water source. There were some places where getting to public land to camp was logistically tricky or impossible. I was never harassed or confronted (I was usually out of site). Essentially, every night was simply trying to determine the best solution for the spot I found myself, while keeping in mind that I had to set myself up for the next few days. It's a logistics game.

zimbabwe78781 karma

What size wheel did you use?

greatdivideride2 karma


Mubutu1 karma

Are you trying to one up the guy who did an AMA about walking from Mexico to Canada the other day?

greatdivideride3 karma

This is actually my first time on Reddit since leaving for the ride last June. I'll have to go find this hiker. Maybe I know him.