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We Talked to the Unicycle Guy Carrying His Skis During the Worst Winter Storm of the Year

Karim Kammah does not see his transport choices as anything special.

by Sara Barrière-Brunet
Jan 21 2019, 5:56pm

This story first appeared on VICE Quebec.

On Sunday, Karim Kammah decided to buy a pair of skis at the Poubelle du Ski store in Montreal. That's nothing extraordinary.

Except this 32-year-old Frenchman from Bordeaux made the round trip from his home on a unicycle, and back with his pair of skis on his shoulders. Of course, his ride through the coldest snowstorm of the weekend was widely documented on social networks and shared on the Instagram account @Fucknomtl.

One could say that it has become a kind of emblem of the Quebec winter. We spoke to him Monday morning, before he left his home for work ... on his unicycle.

VICE: Hello Karim! Yesterday, during the storm, you decided to ride a unicycle to buy a pair of skis?
Karim Kammah: Yeah, that's it. There is no bad time to ride. I never take the subway, I do not like it. I always move in the city like this. For me, it was not exceptional. Of course, the conditions were a little, but when you drive on the road that is cleared, it goes well.

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Photo: Instagram/Fucknomtl

Why do not you come back skiing?
I thought about it when I came home! That might have been a good idea. But it's far too much fun to ride .

What kind of weather prevents you from going out on a unicycle?
If it's a real storm, maybe I'll reconsider the option, but yesterday there was just a bit of snow [editor's note: about 20 cm]. When I left home, it must be midday, it was already quite calm. Sure, there was snow, everything is not snow[shovelled] perfectly, but it was not insurmountable, so what! I traveled 25 kilometers and I did very well.

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Karim's trip.

Apart from skis, do you ever carry other objects on your unicycle?
Um yes! It happens to me regularly. A coffee table, a barbecue, those who are small and portable. Beanbags, it's lightweight, but fucking bulky. I move with my unicycle because I hate to take the metro. If it's feasible, I'll do it in a unicycle. If I carry big objects, I will take secure bike lanes, which are not in traffic. There is clearly a challenge behind all that.

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Karim carrying a barbeque.

Does the reaction of people surprise you? This is not the first time that you are filmed like that?
Since I came to Quebec, in 2014, it happens pretty much every year. It surprises me a little. There are always people taking pictures and videos, but yesterday, I feel like it's all the time. I had to be on video 42 times. I could not turn my head without someone with his cell phone.

Do you like people seeing you in a unicycle?
Me, it does not bother me. When I meet kids, they are always euphoric to see me. I am happy. They are happy. Everybody is happy. Good if I distribute happiness when I go out shopping.

Do get insulted by drivers sometimes?
Ah, yes, all the time. The world thinks it's dangerous, I risk my life, etc. Yesterday, I had to fall maybe twice, because on René-Lévesque, there was a lot of snow and another time, I had to pound a pothole. When I fall, I fall on my feet, and I take a risk for myself. I will not fall on anyone else, I'm pretty cautious. But those, who make comments, they do not realize that they are fucking dangerous too. The number of people I saw in cars that drive a little fast, who have no time to brake when the light turns orange ... I saw a lot yesterday. From those skidding, from those who are happy to barely make it to the stop line on the red, but in fact they are in the middle of the pedestrian crossing. If we put things in context, I think I'm really no more dangerous than another. And maybe a lot less actually.

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What is the longest distance you have traveled in a unicycle?
Once, it was the end of the winter, I traveled 80 kilometers. It was not the best idea I had, because I was clearly not prepared, not covered enough. It was not a great idea! It was to train for Ride to Conquer Cancer. It's a bike ride at the base. And we went from Toronto to Niagara, it was 130 kilometers. It's pretty much the longest I've done in the summer.

How fast do you roll?
I drive at 18-20 kilometres an hour. Of course it's a lot slower than cycling, but it's more fun. It's a big feeling of freedom.

Have you ever had an accident?
No! Already, I do not fall often. It happens like everyone else, like someone skating, or cycling. A pothole, chances are you'll fall if you did not see it coming. It happens, but 99% of the time, the unicycle stays behind me, and I fall on my feet. I have never had an accident or dangerous situations.

How long have you been doing the unicycle?
It must be 10 years now. This is my fifth winter here.

If you want to ride with Karim Kammah, he is one of the organizers of the event No Off Season, on February 23rd .