Unicycles, previously seen in circuses and street juggling acts, have gotten an extreme makeover.
The one-wheeled rides -- and their daredevil riders -- can be found careening down the sides of mountains. As the blog Oddity Central put it, extreme mountain unicycling "is all about climbing dangerous peaks and then sliding and bunny-hopping all the way down without falling into seemingly-bottomless chasms." No clowning around, this is a serious sport.
Sound like your thing? It is for Lutz Eichholz from Germany and his friend, Stephanie Dietze, whose mad skills managed to catch the eye of Adidas. The sportswear company underwrote a trip for the two to Italy's Dolomite mountains for a one-wheeled cycling adventure.
Adidas also sent along a professional videographer to capture them doing these unbelievable feats in this otherworldly landscape on this incredibly goofy contraption.
Eichholz, 26, has been on the one-wheeled cycle since he was 9 years old and has been getting attention for his remarkable feats. As documented on his Facebook page, the unicyclist has ridden on a slackline, sped down sand dunes, and even earned his place in Guinness World Records for traveling the longest distance on a line of beer bottles by unicycle. (Yes, apparently, that's a thing.)
But until recently, the sport involving mountains was new to Eichholz. It wasn't until a trip to New Zealand that he gave it a try. "I was in New Zealand and went to the mountains and realized it would be possible, but that it would be difficult. Then in 2010 three friends and I went up the Zugspitze mountain and came down on unicycles," he said.
The sport actually got its start -- where else -- on the West Coast of the United States back in the 1990s, according to the New York Times, which quoted Wendy Grzych, president of the Unicycling Society of America, who explained the appeal: “People like the novelty of it. It’s a whole subculture, and a different makeup than your church friends or work buddies.”
Kris Holm, a pioneer of the sport, writing for Outside magazine last year, noted that the sport is finally having its day, at least for some. "After dwelling in near total obscurity ... in the past decade thousands of mountain and trials unicyclists have discovered that you can ride the same terrain as bikers, from easy ground to terrain that would be tough for even the experts on two wheels."
And yes, they do fall. Unicyclist Hans Van Koppen told Oddity Central, "We fall more often than mountain bikers, but we're going slower so it's not as bad."
Check out the video at the top of Eichholz and Dietze on an approximate 9,000 foot descent on the Dolomites.