By Published On: October 13, 2023Categories: Travel

Story By Livi Welch 

Photos Contributed By STOMP Muni Fest

 

Fifteen miles south of Birmingham, Oak Mountain State Park boasts thousands of visitors each year. There, it is common to see helmeted figures on dirt bikes zip by. Maybe you’ll spot a family on bicycles with a baby strapped on the back. Oak Mountain sees many picnickers and hikers from around the Southeast, but few can say they’ve seen a unicyclist traversing the hills, much less a crowd of them. 

For the eleventh time, Oak Mountain is hosting the Southern Trails of Oak Mountain Park Mountain Unicycle Festival, or S.T.O.M.P. Muni Fest for short. The event will take place Oct. 12 through 15, where participants can traverse more than 25 miles of bike trails each day. There are three types of trails, ranging from easiest to hardest. Green trails will be most comfortable for beginners, blue for intermediate riders and black diamond trails are only designated for those who can ride more than seven miles, averaging five miles per hour with few breaks for rest.

STOMP is sanctioned by the Unicycling Society of America (USA). Those interested only have to pay the $25 entry fee in the form of an annual membership to the USA in order to participate, as well as the additional fees to enter the park each day if not camping within the park. Donations are also appreciated.

Out-of-town participants have the option of camping at the South Trail Head, sleeping in their personal camper or staying at a hotel nearby. Camping with a group is encouraged, and four can sleep in one tent and split the $20 per night tent fee. Participants with a camper must park on the other side of the park from the South Trail Head and should call 205-620-2527 to make a reservation. People can reserve a cabin in the state park as well.

“The family-friendly nature of our event and the number of activities and unicycles makes the experience of camping in the field unbelievable and memorable,” said Geoffrey Wymer, one of the event coordinators for STOMP. “Many many long-term relationships have been forged over the four-day immersion experience. We do understand that some participants need hotel accommodations for their particular situation but we do encourage as many as possible to join us in the park.”

In the past, the festival has brought in more than 50 participants. 

“I could not imagine this year being any different,” Wymer said. “We were fortunate to have the ‘Michael Jordan’ of our sport with us last year, Kris Holm. He is the pioneer and probably the biggest supporter of the sport.”

And what a pioneer Holm is. The Canadian first picked up a unicycle when he was 12 and was soon traversing the mountains of several countries, going on to become the 1999 North American, 2002 World and 2005 Unicycling Trials champions. Holm has over 200 media appearances and has been featured in countless publications, including Sports Illustrated Adventure, Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, ESPN Magazine and National Geographic Adventure. In 1999, he created Kris Holm Unicycles (KHU), by which his unicycles are sold throughout the world.

This year, STOMP is sponsoring another star in the unicycling world — 33-year-old Lutz Eichholt. He holds a Guinness World Record for the longest distance by unicycle on a line of beer bottles. This line has now been replicated in trials to give riders a chance to test their balance. Eichholt specializes in trials and mountain unicycling and has appeared in many TV shows globally, aiming to bring more interest to the sport. He will be making the transatlantic trip to Alabama from Kaiserslautern, Germany.

“As a member from Kris Holm’s team, [Eichholt] will be another great addition to our event this year,” Wymer said.

Wymer said he is thrilled for the festival.

“[STOMP is] my second family,” he said. “Unicycling people are just a different breed, and I mean that in all of the most wonderful ways. We love our sport, what we have accomplished and the family-like community that we are now a part of. STOMP is our annual family reunion.”

Though many participants will dive straight into the black diamond courses, less experienced riders shouldn’t worry. 

“We work extremely hard to remember and include all levels of riders. With the growth of [STOMP,] it has allowed us the ability to offer more options for [people of] different levels,” Wymer said.

Additionally, riders only have to ride where and when they want to. Wymer and his colleagues are determined to make the event accessible for everyone, but there have been an exciting number of demands for more rides.

“We listened to feedback and have added more ride options every year, but also completely respect the rider who chooses to optimize the relational experience over the physical exertion of intense riding. Some less proficient riders may even choose to accompany others on more difficult rides just to watch and learn as more experienced riders demonstrate.”

Though unicycling is at the heart of STOMP, Wymer said that there is more to explore than just exercise. 

“One wheel often feels like a single[-person] activity,” he said, alleging how it can quickly become “too isolating.” STOMP is breaking that mold one rider at a time.

“A person may have chosen to challenge themselves to [reach] the next level, but may feel like they are alone in that endeavor. Our event helps to network and create community. [We] are challenged by others to continue growing in the sport.

“Due to STOMP, we have now started an annual road ride each spring. We have also encouraged other groups from different areas of the country to plan [their own] group rides. [STOMP] continues to take on a life of its own as our participants pour themselves into this event and the community.”

For more information about STOMP Muni Fest and a detailed event schedule, visit www.stompmunifest.blogspot.com. 

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