I bumped into a video about a 54-year-old who took up unicycling four years ago, lost weight, became fit and now has over 275 videos on his web site . Terry Peterson calls himself UniGeezer, and you should see him do his extreme rides cross country, up stairs, down mountain trails. He’s a real inspiration, and the news broadcasters who interview him all agree he looks half his age.
A really good story about him was written by Tom Berg for the Orange County Register (California) in 2008:
Mountain Biking on One Wheel? Yes!
An alarm rings in most guys’ heads around age 50.
It is nature saying: You know, you won’t live forever!
Some respond with sports cars; some with trophy wives; some join the Peace Corps.
“I said, ‘My God, I cannot button my jeans anymore!’ ” says the professional piano tuner. “It dawned on me I should start exercising.”
Running, however, was out of the question – hard on the knees. Swimming? Inconvenient. Biking? Boring.
“I mulled over the options,” says Peterson, now 52, “and they all seemed boring.”
Until he remembered a short-lived, 1960s fad he tried as a 10-year-old.
Since that day, Peterson’s waistline has shrunk from 35 to 29 inches. His weight dropped from 165 to 140 pounds. His on-line videos elicit responses like: You’re the coolest 52-year-old I’ve ever known!
And he’s virtually dropped the name “Terry.”
When people see him pass now, they point and holler: “Hey, there’s the UniGeezer!”
Pure music to his piano-tuning ears.
The UniGeezer’s uni-verse is filled with uni-spins, uni-drops and uni-fests. He founded the Uni Psychos club. And he writes uni-poetry. Guess what he rides.
Peterson is not simply in love with unicycling. He is head-over-heals, madly, obsessively, compulsively in love with unicycling; specifically mountain unicycling.
That means no low-gear for going up hill – it’s all direct drive. And no coasting going down hill – again, direct drive. It means knowing how to jump, hop and drop off rocks, roots and ruts.
It means dealing with UPDs (Un-Planned Dismounts), and carving out a line to ride over the obstacles in your path.
“It’s a lot like life,” he says.
“I try not to avoid the obstacles. I like to confront them head-on and get over them.”
Yet even the UniGeezer has his limits. Seven times, he’s come to this 8-step stairwell in Redondo Beach to practice a drop. And every time he’s backed out.
He is one of maybe 10 extreme mountain unicyclists in Orange County, one of maybe 300 in the entire country. But they’renot geezers. They’re young, with young legs and young bodies. Like the skate rats who’ve gathered to watch him pull off this stunt.
Peterson can’t jump as high as younger kids so he must compensate with more speed – to clear the bottom step. If he doesn’t fly out far enough, the last thing he’ll feel before crashing is his wheel catching the bottom step.
He backs up, he pushes off and this time, he launches into the air.
Let’s pause here to discuss the dirtiest word in unicycling.
It is never to be uttered aloud. Never to be joked about. Never to be implied, particularly by humming big top music.
“Unicycling is not just done by people with frizzy hair and a big red nose,” says Peterson.
“Notice I don’t use the words ‘circus’ or ‘clown’ because we don’t want to be identified with that. It’s every bit as hardcore as mountain biking – even more, because we have much less to work with.”
Peterson’s $1,200 mountain unicycle features custom pedals, rim, seat post and seat base – made of carbon fiber and double-walled, aircraft-strength aluminum.
“It rolls over stuff like a tank,” he says, though he adds that it doesn’t feel particularly tank-like.
“It’s an extension of your body. It’s graceful, like a dance on your wheel.”
He’s pedaled up Iron Mountain in Poway and down Mammoth Mountain.
“I pass hardcore bikers a lot,” he says. “Going up, they’re in the lowest gear so I go ride right by them. Going down hill, they pass me, but they’re coasting. I have to keep backpressuring to keep from going too fast.”
Peterson rides every day, piling up 60 rugged miles a week through places like Aliso Woods Canyon and Sullivan Canyon.
Your grandfather’s unicycle was a novelty act. A toy. Something that would crumple under the feet of today’s extreme riders. That changed in the late 1990s – thanks to the Internet.
Suddenly there was a place to buy high-tech unicycles. A place to discuss the sport. To plan competitions. And post videos of tricks. Extreme tricks.
Into that world, the UniGeezer was born.
Peterson almost always rides with a trusty companion – a Canon video camera that he’s used to post more than 100 videos of himself on-line.
P>They show him dropping off 5-foot brick walls and 7-foot tractors, bouncing down bleachers and boulders, and jumping across five-foot mountain ruts and up 70-step stairwells.
“I’ve been riding since I was a teenager and he’s doing stuff I’m chicken to do,” says John Foss, former president of the Unicycling Society of America and a world champion unicycler. “I aspire to be where he is.”
Watch one Kris Holm unicycling video and you’ll see why it’s perched to be the next extreme sport. It’s daring, edgy and different enough to give riders an air of exclusivity.
The U.S. national unicycle championships now draw some 400 riders, according to former champion Jamey Mossengren, 29, of Fountain Valley. The international championships draw some 1,500 riders.
Meanwhile, the Moab MUni Fest – which started with two families in 2001 – now attracts more than 300 mountain-unicyclists every March.
“It’s a Zen feeling,” Mossengren says. “Once you get that feeling, it’s like you’re addicted. You can’t get enough.”
Which is why the UniGeezer pushes himself, even at age 52, to jump higher, hop longer and drop farther.
Back at the 8-step stairwell, he hears the skateboarders goading him on. No backing out this time.
He launches. His unicycle clears the bottom step but he pitches off the front, landing on his feet as his unicycle crashes to the concrete. Without hesitating, he runs back for another try.
“I’ve always been introverted,” he admits later. “Almost a loner. This has taught me it’s OK to have a connection with people. I don’t fear that.”
This time, the UniGeezer has the distance. And the landing.
And the feeling that he just might live forever.
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