Riding a unicycle is an activity that, like bullriding or doing
handstands, would seem to be an end in itself. Just staying
upright is impressive. So the idea of mountain unicycling might
seem about as practical as swamp surfing and as intelligent as
nude fencing. Even after you've watched Kris Holm, the sport's
foremost practitioner, career down a boulder-strewn hillside
like a human avalanche, legs spinning and arms windmilling as he
negotiates roots, stumps and rocks, it's still hard to
comprehend how he does it. "It's really not that different from
mountain biking," says Holm, 28. "It's a perception thing.
Riding on one wheel seems intimidating, but it's not that hard."
At least it's not that hard for Holm, who took up mountain
unicycling--or MUni for short--within months of getting a
unicycle for his 12th birthday. Since then he has ridden his
custom-made $1,500 one-wheeler most every place he has traveled.
He has cruised atop the Great Wall of China, landed drops of 15
feet in Squamish, just north of his hometown of Vancouver and,
last April, sped down 18,555-foot Pico de Orizaba, the
third-highest peak in North America. Last year he rode 50 feet
along the six-inch-wide concrete guardrail of Vancouver's
Burrard Street Bridge, which is about 200 feet above False
Creek, during rush hour. "That was one of my more
high-consequence rides," Holm says with a laugh. "I just looked
at it and decided I could do it."
A seven-time U.S. unicycling champion, Holm has also appeared in
numerous films, including the adrenaline-addict favorite
Unizaba, which follows him as he cycles through Mexico and
ultimately descends the side of a volcano. He admits that he
falls--a lot. "I'm actually pretty good at it," says Holm, who,
remarkably, has suffered nothing worse than a sprained ankle.
"It's an easier fall than on a bike because you can throw the
unicycle out of the way and jump in any direction you want."
After he completes his master's thesis at the University of
British Columbia, where he's enrolled in the physical geography
graduate program, he plans to go to Nepal. There he hopes to
make even more madcap descents. "That'll be really cool," he
says. "The bigger the ride and the crazier the experiment, the
December 3, 2001