Little-known but well-respected

Published 3:49 pm Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We were surprised a few months ago when we received information about the second-annual S.T.O.M.P. Muni Fest scheduled for this October at Oak Mountain State Park.

Most of us had never heard of off-road unicycles, and we were shocked to find a relatively sizable local contingency of folks who spend their free time one-wheeling it through the woods.

Several weeks ago, we got a chance to sit down with the local unicyclists – most of who live in the same neighborhood in Alabaster – to learn their fascinating backstory.

As it turns out, Geoff Wymer, a teacher at the Shelby County School System’s Alternative School, sparked interest in the little-known sport when he rekindled his childhood hobby of unicycling.

When he pulled his old unicycle out of a box in his garage several years ago, his neighbors quickly became interested in getting involved in the sport. As time passed, the one-wheel aficionados made the connection with a Shelby County gem: Oak Mountain State Park.

On any given day – especially during the spring and fall months – state park visitors stand a chance of seeing a unicyclist powering their way up the side of a mountain without luxuries such as handlebars, gears or even brakes.

The frame on a unicycle is a solid fork of metal, and it does not have shock absorbers like most mountain bikes. Instead, the only thing softening the blow of the rocky terrain is an oversized tire.

“What you are doing is harder than 99 percent of the people you’re going to meet,” unicyclist Wendell Rotenberry said.

“It’s hard to put it into words. When you’re riding, you’re really right there with nature and everything is flying by you,” Wymer said. “I love it.”

We love getting the chance to spread the word about unique and interesting groups such as the local unicyclists, and we are grateful to the group for sharing their story with us.

The editorial is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.