Alberta unicyclist aims to cross country on custom-made bike

Taylor Stark has been riding a unicycle since he was nine years old and said he just might be more co-ordinated on one wheel than he is on two feet.

Race is on for Taylor Stark to finish journey before he starts master's degree in August

Taylor Stark began his journey from Vancouver in early May. He made it through the Rockies in one piece and just passed through Calgary after spending some time in his hometown of Canmore. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

The 23-year-old Alberta man is on a mission to cross Canada by unicycle — but our long winter and a looming first day of school means he won't make it all in one go.

Taylor Stark has been riding a unicycle since he was nine years old and said he just might be more co-ordinated on one wheel than he is on two feet.

His plan to do a solo trip across the country by unicycle began with a conversation two years ago with a friend when he was trying to figure out what to do with his two gap years between the end of his bachelor's degree and the beginning of his master's.

Stark says his plan to do a solo trip across the country by unicycle began with a conversation two years ago with a friend. (CBC)

"He jokingly suggested that I ride across Canada. We laughed about it and then kind of sat back and actually started thinking about it," Stark said.

Essential camping gear

The Canmore native took to the road in early May — riding on a 36-inch tire with a custom frame to carry his gear.  

The original plan was to make it from Vancouver to Sydney, N.S., this summer, but our never-ending winter meant he got a later start than anticipated, and Stark has to be in Toronto in early August to start school.

The self-described academic even has a Latin grammar manual and Greek dictionary balanced among his essential camping gear, in case he finds the energy to study for his translation exams as he rides around 75 kilometres per day.

Stark, a self-described academic, packed on the essentials for his unicycle trip across Canada — tent, sleeping bag and Latin grammar manual. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

He said just because there is only one wheel, that doesn't mean the journey's half as hard.

"Compared to a bike, the main thing with a unicycle is there's no coasting and there's no gears. So as the wheel is moving, you have to keep pedalling. So once you reach the top of a hill and you're about to go on the down hill, there's no rest. You're battling the down hill just as much as you were the up hill," he said.

"I don't necessarily get tired. More the butt gets sore. The state of my butt by the end of the day is more or less what determines when I'm stopping." 

Love of unicycling

Along the way, Stark is camping, and occasionally couch-surfing, with people often approaching him to ask him if he needs a place to say for the night.

"People have been really nice in coming up to me already, like when I'm in a store or something, people will ask if I have a place to stay. Usually I have something lined up but it's really nice to be asked anyway," he said.

The trip isn't for any specific reason — there's no cause or campaign behind it — although Stark is taking the opportunity to use the exposure his trip gets to raise money and awareness for the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Mostly, Stark just loves life on a unicycle.

No matter where he stops in August, Stark said he plans to pick up where he left off next year.

Follow Stark's journey through his One Tired Canadian website or Facebook page.

With files from Anis Heydari