20" vs 24"

Is there really that much difference in the wheel size? If I get a uni thats a 24" and I do trials, would I perform better if I had a 20", or does it matter what size it is?


The 20" wheel does allow for alot more controll of wheel movement, that’s why it is used for trials and freestyle. A bigger wheel is more in-the-way, so a 20" allows you to pull it higher/farther with more ease. I recently got my new muni, and after leaving the trials alone till today, the wheel seemed so small and light and awesome, it was cool. You should gve a 20" a try, and see how you like it. I bet you will.

All other things being equal, a 20" wheel will be lighter, stronger, and smaller than a 24" wheel; all advantages for trials riding. The main disadvantage of course is getting places. If you have to use it to go from A to B, then you’ll have to consider which aspect of riding is more important to you first. Later on you can get the other unicycle.

For me, if I had to pick, I’d get the larger wheel. I like riding trails more than doing trials, but I can still hop around on stuff with my trail-riding uni. But if your priority is more on Trials, this will be different for you.

How much difference would a 20" wheel make for freestyle? I have heard it is much better, so I’m planning on switching from a 24" to a 20"as soon as I save up the dough. Would it make a big difference in my riding level, or would it just make it easier to learn new stuff, or would it be basically the same?

So if I get a 20" inch. Will I get tired faster if I travel farther? Or will it really make no difference.

I had a 24" Muni for my first year of riding. I tried some trials with it, but with limited success.

After I got my 20" I felt like I could fly. It makes a huge difference in trials as your feet are closer together (shorter cranks), and you’ve got less weight underneath you.

Physically, a smaller wheel increases your “pendulum frequency”; your corrections will affect the unicycle/rider system faster (in time). This could be good or bad, but for the beginning trials rider (me) I find it helps me learn to balance.

A smaller wheel also means a lower speed for the same pedaling frequency. This makes a big difference in distance riding (anything over 1-2 miles). A quick calculation (based on 19" vs 24" rim, add 1.5" tire) shows you only achieve ~80% distance per pedal on the smaller wheel. This means you’ll expend ~20% more energy to achieve the same distance on a smaller wheel.

To make your choice, decide what’s more important to you now. Do you want to ride distance with limited trials ability, or trials with limited distance ability. Buying a 20" doesn’t preclude doing any Muni, but it will make it difficult. Likewise you can do trials on a 24" but the learning process may be hindered with a larger wheel.

Either way, good luck! If you love uni’ing enough, you’ll end up with both a 20" and a 24" in no time. Send us some pics!

Assume for the moment that you are talking about the exact diameter of each wheel. A 24 inch wheel is 20% bigger than a 20 inch wheel.

(A 28 is 4 inches bigger than a 24, but is only 16.7% bigger.)

20% is a lot. It’s a fifth.

So, at the same rpm, a 24 will go 20% faster than a 20.

5 miles per hour becomes six miles per hour. 10 becomes 12, and so on.

But the “kickback” is 20% bigger too, which means that it takes 20% more “control” to accelerate or stop a 24, compared to a 20.

It matters.

A 20 is ideal for freestyle, or anything requiring a light, manoeuvreable unicycle.

A 24 can be used for these things, but not easily.

A 24 is ideal for scooting about from A to B, and can be very competent off road. 20 mile days on a 24 are possible. This can be done on a 20 - I did once - but it’s not ideal.

However, we are not talking about exact wheel diameters, because you can put a super fat tyre on a 24 and give it an actual diameter of 26 inches, which makes a good MUni.

20s and 24s are very different beasts indeed.

On a budget…

Would a 24 muni frame accept a 20" wheel and appropriate crankset? Would this be a desirable combination as an easy fix in the interim?

wow what a way to do math, thanks you really narrowed it down. 20" it is then!

I ride a Qu-Ax 20" trialsuni. It is great. if you are going to ride distances up to a few kms., and then generally just going to do freestyle, and trials the rest of the time - get a 20"

It seems to me that when you will ride for some distances, the importnat thing is the seat. I’d spend my money on a KH saddle instead of a better wheel.

20"-ers are good for many things- trials, unicycle hockey, stage shows; but not for distance or getting around on.

They’re slow and much more prone to attracting unwanted comments about clowns etc.

IMO a 24"-er with a 3" tyre (so effectively 26") is the best minimum size for getting around on and doing any distance- you’ll get there at a decent rate and you’ll look more like a commuter than an entertainer.

For Freestyle, the difference between 20" and 24" is not as big, and is more a matter of preference.

Certain moves are clearly going to be easier with a 20", generally anything requiring quick movements of the wheel, like a 360 Unispin for example.

But other moves work better with a 24" wheel, such as spinning, one-footing, or anything where wheel momentum is a good thing.

Japanese riders get smoothness in their riding by using short cranks with the 20" wheel and this works too, but then those short cranks make some other tricks a lot harder.

Back when I first got into unicycling people generally used 24" wheels, unless they were kids. You brought one 24" unicycle to a convention, and used it to race and to do whatever trick riding competition you entered.

The change to 20" was started, for me, by the guys from Sweden who came to the USA convention in '81 and '83. These were the guys who pioneered coasting, seat drag, unispins, and other quick-movement tricks. It was obvious their 20" wheels made some of that stuff easier, including coasting, where you’re able to get your feet down lower.

In 1984 I made the transition from 24" to 20". It was frustrating, and took quite a while before I was comfortable with the 20" wheel. But I’ve stuck with it ever since. One of the reasons for this is that a 20" wheel fits onto a smaller stage, and that’s what I did with it. A typical elementary school stage may only allow 5 wheel turns (or less) from side to side with a 24" wheel. If you can get 6 or 7 with a 20", it will be easier for you to fit a Freestyle act in there.

But some people still use 24", such as Sem and Teresa, and some people still prefer the look of the bigger wheels, especially on larger or taller riders.

I think size depends much on what kind of riding you are most focused on. For me, everything is about the Muni. However I found having a 20 inch trials uni is a very good thing to have in first learning many of the technical moves you will need to do hard Muniing. For instance, learning how to hop and drop, seat out work, and gliding, is much easier to get dialed on a 20 inch (especially seat out hopping and dropping–which at first is hard on a 24 inch Muni, which, with a Gaz or Duro, is actually 26 inch).

Just a few houghts,



well the 24" is my fave uni to ride. I use it for Street mostly, i like the speed and its easier to commute around. But when it comes down to it you need two unicycles. a 20 and a 24, may cost more but its worth it in the long run.


I got to try a 20" unicycle for the first time yesterday, when my brother’s Nimbus II arrived. It felt very different, and I could hardly wheel walk on it at all. (big feet+small wheel=tangled mess) Coasting was impossible, but I did a really good pirouette (for me) on it. I suppose it just takes a while to get used to, but the 20" seemed really weird.
I think you can probably learn almost anything, (trials or freestyle) on a 24" or a 20", and what you learn it on is going to be easier for you until you’ve had a long time to adjust to a new wheel size.