20 inch/Trials Uni to Learn Muni?

Couple weeks back bought a 26 inch Nimbus Muni. Hadn’t ridden a unicycle in 30 years, but was able to ride confidently again within a day and gradually had less UPDs. Can ride on the street pretty reliably…only a few UPDs over several miles.

I’m now trying to ride on trails. It feels like I am completely starting from scratch once there are more than a few bumps/roots etc. Steep sections are also an issue both up and down. I don’t think that I made it 50 feet offroad yet. I can ride grass okay, but it takes a lot of effort.

Would learning offroad on a 20 inch unicycle be signficantly easier? Would the offroad skills gained on the 20 transfer to the 26?

Cost isn’t so much an issue, it’s just that I don’t know how much I would use the 20 inch after I get decent on the 26 offroad and I don’t need another cycle taking up space. Not that interested in learning tricks that the 20 would typically be used for.

Don’t do it.
Keep riding.

A 20" Trials Uni with a cushy tire may or may not be easier to ride than your current setup. It depends on the comparative setups and the terrain. But I think it would be cheaper to modify your 26" setup than to buy a 20".

What is your setup on the 26" Muni:

  • crank length in mm (measure from center hole to center hole)
  • width and brand of tire
  • type of pedals

What is your seat height set to? Generally you want a lower seat height for Muni. Is it set higher for street riding?

Are you holding onto the seat handle with one hand while riding over the bumps or are you flailing both your arms?

150mm cranks.
26x3 WTB Ranger (Running between 22-25 psi for offroad and 30 psi for street)
Nimbus plastic pedals with metal pins. Holding my shoes fine. Actually a little difficult to reposition shoe without upsetting balance.

I have my seat height such that I have little bend in my knees. I could try a little lower for off road.

Still seem to need my arms for balance (flailing as necessary). It is a little difficult to balance when holding the handle for more than a few seconds at a time. I do try to grab it when going over larger bumps but often that doesn’t prevent a UPD.

I would just keep riding; you’ll figure it out pretty quickly.

Maybe lower your tire pressure some; I have a 26x2.8" Ranger tire and I run it down around 17 psi* on medium-rough type terrain. So 22-25 is more than you need on your bigger tire and smoother terrain; less would make for a smoother ride.

  • although honestly I have no idea how accurate my gauge is. It's a Topeak D2 digital gauge that looks convincing, but I haven't figured out any way to check it.
  • Yes, you could probably go a little less on the tire pressure, but you’re in the ball park. A hard tire is much less rider-friendly on the bumpy stuff. You just want to make sure there’s enough air to keep your rim from bottoming out.

    Welcome to Muni! It’s not like riding in the parking lot, or especially the gym. Gym floors are great for learning to ride, but they don’t prepare you for an imperfect riding surface. It’s less of a shock for people that learned to ride outside on less-than-perfect surfaces.

    So maybe what you need is to find an easier trail, to allow you to rack up some distance without so much frustration. It’ll get easier. Don’t switch to a smaller wheel, it’ll just get stuck on the bumps more easily. Yes the wheel is lighter, but you lose some of the ability to just roll over stuff.

    Back in the day, it was 24 x 1.75" tires at 60 psi. That’s what was available! More challenging, but also made “easy” trails much more interesting to ride. :slight_smile:

    I normally have my right hand either resting gently on the handle if the terrain is easy, or pulling the handle harder if the terrain is rough, if I’m climbing or descending, or if I anticipate hitting a bump through “reading” the terrain. It would be difficult for me to ride a trail with both hands free and I’ve been riding for a while. I could just grab the handle when I need it, but if it’s already on the handle then I am not moving my arm to grab it, so it doesn’t affect my balance. I can accelerate the wheel a lot faster after pitching forward from an unexpected bump if my hand is already on the handle ready to pull on it hard to accelerate.

    How do you normally UPD on the trail? Do you hit a bump and then immediately go flying forward, does the seat hit your butt and you immediately lose your balance as a result, or do you ride successfully for a few feet after the bump and then eventually fall off?

    for offroad, I would certainly not go down to 20inch. A bigger wheel can ride more easily over bumps and through pits. Also if you wanna go 5-10km, you’d be pedalling way too much on a 20 inch. I can easily ride 15km on a 26". Once did 10K on a 20", but that was just too much. Will never do it again.
    My KH26 was the first muni I had and it has taken me many places.

    Riding on grass is always diffi, especially coz you don’t know where it is bumpy. You basically have to stand on the pedals all the time and just wait until ur thrown off.

    Keep on practicing.

    RE: How do you normally UPD on the trail?

    It is a combination of UPD just as I hit the bump and falling shortly after the bump. I think that your comments regarding keeping a hand on the handle is a key point. I will have to practice riding that way.

    I appreciate everyone’s input. Looks like practice is the key and maybe finding some easier trails to start a little more slowly. You guys in the videos make it look so easy! I figured with the fat tire and a little momentum and I would be hauling butt too, but it’s going to take some time.

    I see the comments about standing on the pedals. How much of the time are you pretty much standing on the pedals when offroad?

    This is an example of getting worse in the short term…in order to get better in the long term. When you start riding with one hand on the seat handle, you will have very little control with that hand, and your balance will suffer because of your no-longer-outstretched arm. With practice, your hand on the seat will start being useful. Riding off road with no hands on the handle, IMO, is kind of dangerous because the unicycle can be kicked out from under us pretty quickly. Good luck!

    That is very helpful! Sometimes you want to give up on something because it seems to not be working. Knowing that it is expected to get worse or at least be difficult goes a long way to motivating you to stick with it.

    I stand on the pedals when I anticipate hitting a bump which is going to cause the saddle to knock me in the butt and upset my balance enough for a UPD. Anticipating a bump comes through reading the terrain, and prior knowledge of the trail from riding it repeatedly. Also climbing or descending, depending on the steepness.

    You’re not going to be able to stand on the pedals all the time, because it will be too tiring. So you often have to know when to stand, and when not to, before you hit the bump. You can often recover after hitting a bump, but it takes practice.

    If you start to UPD as soon as you hit the bump, then that would suggest the saddle is hitting you in the butt. Try experimenting with lowering the tire pressure, standing on the pedals, and lowering the seat post. Re-ride the same section where you UPDed with different settings at least three times until you are successful. That way you get feedback on what works.

    This is one of the first times in a while that I agree with the concensus on this forum. Don’t change the variables to much, just keep practicing!

    I’d say if you are still needing both hands for balance, you probably just need more seattime. And, for avoiding injuries, I’d recommend doing that on easy terrain, where you are less likely to fall. I’d recommend riding slaloms on smooth surfaces, practicing slowing down and accelerating, riding inbetween two straight lines. Grass is good. So are gravel roads. Ride up and down driveways to learn uphills and downhills. Try to handle bumps on a lowered section of a curb.

    I’m sorry to say, but most beginners on this forum are relatively old to start a sport that inherently will involve a lot of falling to get better. I’d tell a 16 year old to just keep trying on the same trails over and over if it doesn’t get to frustrating for him. But younger people usually are less prone to injury and heal faster, so if they trip over a root after they fell, it doesn’t matter as much. (It would be smarter for them to practice on safer terrain too, but how realistic would reason be?)

    Many people on this forum seem to be obsessed with their goal of riding “Muni”. Yes, managing difficult terrain is cool, and a lot of fun. But unicycling should feel relatively easy by the point you are taking it to the trails. Could you have a full on conversation while riding on the sidewalk? If someone was running alongside you, and showing you numbers with their hands, can you look to the side and see what they are showing?

    Tried riding with holding the handle tonight. Not a problem. Cycled 3.5 miles/348 feet elevation gain (mostly paved trails, some small curb roll overs/ some grass) holding handle about half of that.

    Yes I can have a conversation while riding and no problem to look to the side either.

    I’ll just keep practicing!

    The next step would be to try holding the seat with both hands. This is a lot easier when riding with handle bars, but by having both hands on the seat or on your back, you learn to balance with your hips. You can probably do it a bit on flat asphalt, but then try it off-road ( two hands on the seat, not on your back of course). That is a lot harder.

    “Standing on” is a bit of an overstatement. But just saying “pressure” on the pedals doesn’t sound like much. As a beginner, one of the goals is to be able to relax your legs as you ride along, so you can keep riding without being worn out in a few hundred meters. But if you’re approaching a bump, or riding through lots of them, you need to have some tension to keep your feet on the pedals, and be ready to apply instant power on either side to keep the wheel from stopping.

    Riding on grass is a good example of needing a lot of extra pressure; you can’t predict how bumpy the underlying ground is, so you have to stay prepared. If you’re on a golf course, you’re cheating (and probably about to get in trouble). :slight_smile:

    So the rougher the surface, the more you have to be ready to react to it. Really rough trails, with constant bumps, can be pretty tiring. It’s nice when those sections are interspersed with smooth, rolling parts that let you recover.

    This is true on larger bumps. But back in the early 2000s, after David Poznanter had wrist injuries from a combination of professional balloon twisting and a car accident, we sympathized with his doctor’s orders to not hold onto the seat. The doctor actually preferred he wouldn’t ride rough terrain where he could fall on his hands, but he was going to do it anyway. So people riding with him would also try riding “hands free” to keep things equal. It was an extra challenge that made things interesting. “Hey, I just did that nasty section hands free!” Like that. Good for a challenge, but definitely not as easy as having a hand on.

    I didn’t mention holding the seat earlier, because many new riders aren’t ready for it. It’s fairly important if your trail is really bumpy, but not an absolute necessity unless you have to jump and pull the uni up with you. That said, a rigid arm holding you in relation to the seat will help you get over lots of bumps and drops.

    I think he means “just riding along” unicycling. Because unicyclists definitely don’t like doing things the easy way…