20inch vs 24inch

Greetings Everyone,
I trust this reaches you all well.
My daughter has taken an interest in a local circus school over the past couple of years and I need some help/insight.

I found a used Unicycle a few weeks ago… i believe it is a Universe 24" Tire(blue and white) is a little dried out 24 x 1.75 and the nice leather seat which is blue and white is well worn. Some rust here and there but not too bad.

What I am looking for is some insight into if this is the right size for her… she is about 5ft 2in. fairly long in the legs. I read somewhere that i should consider starting her with a 20". Trying to figure out how they are normally fitted and why one would be better than the other…

Also what is the best place to get replacement parts? What is best, a street tire or BMX style tire… is there a special type of peddles… other than helmet should i get other types of safety stuff.

Grateful for any insight… Kindest Regards, Nervous Dad.

To know which unicycle is right, we must start with the intended use. You mentioned a circus school situation; if it’s focused on that, 20" would be better. If there is an end goal of performing at some point, she will want a uni that gets her more wheel turns within a limited space.

But that might be more of a long term goal, that she can worry about later. 24" is also a fine size to learn on, even at 5’-2". The “Universe” uni you described sounds suspiciously like a UniVega, of which I have two examples hanging in my garage. That is essentially a Miyata with different stickers, and possibly with reversed colors on the seat. That was top of the line back in the day, and a very nice machine even if it needs a new tire.

If the seat has steel bumpers it’s an older one, and that seat’s not so great, but if it has plastic bumpers, that’s a better (and slightly newer) one.

Fitting shouldn’t be much of an issue; if it is indeed a UniVega, it may or may not have an extension tube in the seatpost. The proper height for starting out is to have the top of the seat reach roughly to your navel. If you don’t have hands-on with it, ask the seller for that dimension.

For parts, you may have to look around if you need a seat extension post, but if you want to replace a seat you have lots to choose from at Unicycle.com or elsewhere. Same goes for pedals. Tires can be found anywhere you can get 24x1.75 tires. The one thing to be careful of if it’s the UniVega is to not over-tighten the bearing holder bolts; they’re a little thin. This is only a thing if you’re changing the tire. Use a 10mm socket and just don’t over-tighten. We used to beat the hell out of them and I ended up drilling out the holes and putting in fatter bolts (which Miyata later copied).

Best tire will be anything that fits, without too aggressive of a tread. I just looked on Unicycle.com and was surprised to see only two offerings at 24", both of which are too fat to fit. But your local bike shop, or even department store will have something. The stock pedals will be fine for learning; once she starts doing tricks you might want to think about something with more grip, or if it’s indoor riding, something more floor-friendly.

For safety gear I’d concentrate on protecting the hands/wrists and knees first. Heads aren’t so much at risk in unicycling, but putting one on isn’t going to hurt. I bought my first helmet about 10 years after I learned to ride, and I bought it for my bike. :slight_smile:

The difference between a 20 and a 24 is a big step. 24 inches is 20% bigger than 20 inches. That means you move 20% faster at the same rate of pedalling, and you need about 20% more input to change speed.

However, there is no reason why a fit confident person with good balance skills cannot learn on a 24. People have learned on sizes up to 36 inches.

That said, for performance, rather than “sport” a 20 is generally best. You can use it safely in a smaller space (surrounded by a crowd, or on a small stage) and there is virtually no distance to fall. The uni is light and mobile and lends itself to all sorts of skills (tricks, stunts, call them what you will.)

You wouldn’t want to travel far or fast on a 20, but it is an ideal size for use in a small area. Most performers, and most trials riders, use 19 inch or 20 inch wheels.

For more general use, 24 is more versatile, and there is a “sweet spot” around 27.5 to 29 inches which many people find is the best all-round size. However, a lot of people who get the bug eventually buy a range of sizes. :smiley:


Thank you so much for the responses. Yes… it is a UniVega. The seat does have small metal protectors under the seat but does not look like they helped much. seems like the best plan would be to replace the seat/post all together… too bad about the seat because it is really only worn around where it was hitting the ground. Any idea what size it is ? the peddles are white and would be fine but the bolts are rusted pretty good. one looks slightly bent or cross threaded. hope it is just bent. When fitting the seat to her… is it like a bike where you want a full extension of the leg or shorter? Thank you for all of the information. seems like it is worth putting some effort into. Kindest Regards, Slownsimple


oh… and i think for the time being she will just be riding it around the neighborhood. Not indoors. Seems like if she takes to it we will look at getting some other sizes…

UniVega with steel bumpers. Vintage! That makes it circa 1981 or so, assuming it’s the original seat. Here’s a picture showing mine; the two on the left are UniVegas I found on eBay. Those unicycles are part of my “Museum Collection”. Too high to reach; they mostly don’t get ridden.

The metal bumper seats were kind of wide in front, and you can use it until it gets worse (or until she learns to ride; good for the next seat). Pretty sure the post size is 1" (25.4mm). If you do a rough measure and it looks smaller than that, it could be 7/8" (22.2mm) but I’m pretty sure it’s 1". Lots of choices on Unicycle.com, but none with the Miyata bolt pattern, which is depreciated. Actually I think your seat is riveted to the post, so that won’t matter. :slight_smile:

Are you describing the two bolts on each side that attach the wheels to the fork? Try letting some penetrating oil soak on there overnight. If the existing tire holds are, it should be fine for learning, while it lasts.

Seat height for learning can be set based on having the knee slightly bent, with heel on the pedal at the bottom. But don’t ride with heels on the pedals; you want the ball of your foot centered on the pedal.

looks just like the second one from the left.:slight_smile:

One of each, no doubt.:smiley: