Onewheel Racing For The People, By The People
Democratized Onewheel Racing:
The Onewheel Underground Circuit empowers local communities to host virtual onewheel racing events on their own terms using Strava.
“You’re fast. You should be racing,” observed Paul Orehek (ProRide) during a casual trail ride with Ted Santos in Monterey, CA last March. “I’d sponsor you.”
Santos knew he was fast, but onewheel racing had never been on his radar. He just couldn’t dedicate entire weekends to travel for a race, let alone taking time off work. Which made him wonder: Who else was missing out on the fun of competition just because they couldn’t fit a pro racing league into their schedule?
Together, he and Orehek came up with the idea for a race that could be done by anyone, anytime, regardless of skill level, gender, weight class, or board modifications… and most importantly, regardless of their schedule.
“It gives you the opportunity to race against a pro even if you’re not a pro yourself,” Santos said. “It gives you a chance to learn your board and yourself better. And it’s giving power back to the community. You don’t have to ride a stock board. The Underground Circuit lets people race for free, with their own boards, any time.”
How It Works
By using the mobile app Strava, riders can virtually compete with champions and pros, see how they stack up, and work to better their race time on 10 featured segments. Competitors can run segments as many times as they like for as long as the circuit is active. If they get bumped out of first place, they can go back later to reclaim their crown.
To avoid confusing times with athletes riding the same trails on mountain bikes or e-bikes, Onewheel riders must set their activity to “ice skating.”
The Movement Gains Speed
Santos and Orehek enlisted Onewheel Soulrider to help spread the word about their new, democratized approach to onewheel racing. ProRide Shack Attack, the trail that inspired it all, became the first segment in the Underground Circuit.
The list grew to feature iconic trails such as Sidewinder in Tahoe, the Float Life River Run in Sacramento, Moose Loop just outside of Vegas, and more. Each segment had its own ambassador whose job it was to scout, maintain, and advocate for that trail. Sponsors took ownership of segments, with trophies and prizes going to the best racers on each segment even if those riders didn’t make it to the finals.
It wasn’t long before the Underground Circuit blew up, with Onewheelers road tripping up and down the state of California to lay down their best times at every segment. Soon people were even traveling from out of state to compete.
By June, regional Underground Circuits had cropped up in Colorado, South Florida, and Boston. Soon after that, Las Vegas, Utah, and Kentucky joined the fun. Bentonville and Texas have circuits in the works for next season.
Underground Circuit Finals
This year’s top competitors earned a spot in a final, live, bracketed onewheel race at China Peak on August 28, 2021. Invites also went out to the winners of Colorado’s Mile High Trail Trials and the SOFLOW Florida circuit.
All told, more than 200 riders participated in the Underground Circuit this season, not to mention those vying for the crown at smaller circuits all over the U.S.
“Seeing others enjoy something I worked hard for is satisfying,” said Soulrider, “but my pursuit has always been self-centered. I only wanted to test my riding ability against others, to see who the best trail rider is. I feel the system is broken and decided to fix it by giving everyone equal opportunity to race in a ‘Circuit’ challenging enough to find the fastest and most well rounded trail rider.”
Pro Division: Dominique Williams took the gold against Jesse Turpin, Brenden Schurmeier, Austen Silva, Travis Frerichs, Neil Bennett, Bodhi Harrison and Jeff Mccosker.
Amateur Division: Adonijah Silsley bested Devon Connolly, Gavin Farris, Riley Johnson, Jahfari Silsley, Drew Scollon, Jordan Camba and Michael Watts-McKenna.
Women’s Division: Allie Stanley took the win against Torrey Schenewerk, Brenda Bonnell and Mercedes Silva.
DIY: How To Start Your Own Onewheel Racing Circuit
Thinking about starting a circuit of your own? Get your pencil ready, because this year’s organizers have been kind enough to share the wisdom they gained through this season of trial and error.
Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Whether it’s timekeeping and scoring, segment distribution, sponsorships and prizes, or simply distribution of labor, “Look at how the established circuits operate then adapt as needed,” advised Adam Pierce (Floatucky Derby). Why make your life harder when so much of the work has already been done?
Choose the right trails.
Seek a balance between short and long, flowy and technical–variety will attract more riders. “If you have two good trails in one location, I would suggest taking the best and holding the second for the future,” Soulrider said. “You don’t want someone from out of town to destroy your trails in a day… you want the locals to have an advantage.”
Set good segments.
Not every good trail makes a good segment. Make sure your start and finish line are in the open and have a good straight “tail” to allow a rolling start and finish. Avoid switchbacks and big turns near the gates, as these can confuse Strava’s GPS tracking.
Know your region.
When distributing segments across a region, consider: Where are local riders concentrated? How competitive is the community and how far are they willing to travel? Every group is different, so tailor your onewheel racing circuit based on what you know about the people you ride with.
“10 trails is difficult to manage unless you have a lot of help,” said Soulrider. “I strongly suggest only taking on trails that you have a worthy ‘ambassador’ for.” The ambassador system gives local riders the power to identify and share the best trails on their own home turf, while preserving local favorites that could be ruined by an influx of competitive riders.
Photos and header video courtesy of Ben Mears, Paul Orehek, and Logan Silsley. Thank you!