Q&A with Kris Holm, mountain unicyclist

Q&A with Kris Holm, mountain unicyclist

Credit: Sharon Bader

If you’ve seen a video clip of Kris Holm riding a unicycle (scroll down to watch one), you would remember it. Perhaps it was the one where he rides his unicycle along the Great Wall of China. Not on the walkway down the middle, but on the actual wall. Or maybe it was the one where he rides his unicycle to the summit of Pico de Orizaba, the third- highest mountain in North America. And then there’s the one where he hops and teeters and wheels over the extreme trails of Vancouver’s North Shore, balancing on log bridges 10 metres in the air.
There are a lot to choose from. The 38-year-old Vancouver resident has been the subject of 13 films and almost as many TV shows. Add to that more than a hundred newspaper and magazine articles and it’s easy to see that he has done more to popularize the sport of mountain unicycling (muni) than anyone else.

But just to make it official, he has now written the first book on the sport, The Essential Guide to Mountain and Trials Unicycling.

Q. What is your goal in writing this book?

A. The exposure I’ve gotten over the years virtually never conveys what the sport of mountain unicycling is really like. It would be similar to your entire understanding of skiing coming only from watching big-mountain ski movies. I want to show how accessible it is. People think unicycling is harder than it really is.

Q. So how hard is it?

A. It’s similar to learning how to ride a bike—people forget that it’s not so easy your first time. The first hour you feel incredibly unstable. But after a couple of days of hard work, you’re off.

Q. You’re also manufacturing your own brand of mountain unicycles. How big is the sport these days?

A. It’s still way below the radar of big manufacturers. But it grows a little each year. In Vancouver there’s a small but dedicated community. More than half my sales are in Europe.

Q. Are there any advantages over mountain biking?

A. There’s no chain and no derailleur, so a unicycle doesn’t have the things that normally go wrong on a bike. Plus you can get a top-of-the-line model for $700 versus $5,000 for a top mountain bike.

Q. You’ve said that unicycling is similar to climbing. How so?

A. It has the same ethic of minimalism. With both sports, it’s about doing harder things with the least amount of gear possible.

Q. What’s one thing people don’t know about mountain unicycling?

A. It’s as extreme as you want it to be. You can do everything that a mountain biker can do. But you can also ride 50K and just have a good time.