Mike Tierney’s wild ride continues | AspenTimes.com

Mike Tierney’s wild ride continues

Nate Peterson
Aspenite Mike Tierney poses with his unicyle during his ride of the La Sal Mountain Loop Road outside of Moab, Utah. Tierney finished the 62-mile ride in a little more than eight hours. (Courtesy Mike Tierney)

The one thing that separates local Mike Tierney from the rest of Aspen’s hardcore cyclists? It’s pretty apparent if you’ve ever seen Tierney riding around town, or competing in a local race. Tierney only needs one wheel to accomplish things that most people find inconceivable on two.Take one of his most recent single-wheeled accomplishments: The grueling La Sal Mountain Loop Road outside of Moab, Utah, which spans 62 miles and includes some 7,000 vertical feet of climbing. Tierney completed the ride on May 14, finishing in just a little more than eight hours. To his knowledge, he is the first unicyclist to ever complete the scenic byway loop, which ranges in elevation from 4,000 feet to 8,300.

While the climbs were unforgiving, the views were awe-inspiring, Tierney said.The loop snakes through the mountains of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, before dropping into Castle Valley, then jogging along the Colorado River on the edge of Arches National Park back to Moab.Castle Valley is famous for its unique buttresses, and has been featured in numerous Westerns throughout the years. Tierney didn’t run into film crews on his ride, but noted that nearly every car that passed him stopped at a viewing area to take his picture.There was also this humorous anecdote. Tierney stopped to talk with a curious motorist who was snapping pictures of him as he made his way through Castle Valley who told Tierney he had spoken with another cyclist while driving through the Manti-La Sal National Forest. The cyclist mentioned to the motorist that he thought he saw someone climbing through the mountains on a unicycle.

“But [the cyclist] wasn’t sure,” Tierney said. “He told the [motorist] that it was too early to be drinking, so it had to be true. We had a good laugh about that.”Tierney’s next goal is to bag a few more highway passes this summer around the state. He currently has completed 25, which includes one 80-mile day last summer going over Vail Pass, Battle Mountain Pass, Tennessee Pass and Fremont Pass.First on the list for this summer are three high-alpine passes – Wolf Creek, Slumgullion, Spring Creek – in the San Juan Mountains, located in the southwest corner of the state. “I think there’s about 40, so I’m more than half way there,” said Tierney, a Highlands ski patroller and co-owner of Aspen Solar Inc. “It’s an ongoing project. I want to do all the ones in this state, then ultimately I’d like to do all the ones on the Continental Divide. I’d love to be up in Montana – that’s definitely on the list.”

Tierney planned to compete in his second Iron Horse Bicycle Classic next month, but canceled after his nephew – with whom he planned to ride – was injured in a motorcycle accident. Last June, Tierney was the first unicyclist to complete the gnarly 50-mile ride from Durango to Silverton. There’s still the possibility of trying to set a new unicycle record in September at the famous Mt. Washington Hill Climb in New Hampshire. Last year, Tierney broke the previous record by more than 34 minutes, and finished in the top two-thirds of the 600-rider field. Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com

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