24", 26" or 29" for new rider who wants to commute

Hi all, I’m quite new to riding uni’s, I’m and able to ride fairly consistently without UPD & fairly competent at being able to steer away from obvious obstacles and I’m close to being able to freemount.

I have around a 5km commute to the train station and a 10 min walk the other end. I’ve read a number of ‘commuter’ threads and a lot of the advice seems to be based on already competent riders and personal preference depending on the terrain being travelled.

Well the terrain I need to navigate is pretty much paved all the way with a 3km stretch (flat) that although tarmac has some undulations due to tree root growth underneath etc. The other sections are good though mild decent/accent etc.

I don’t feel the need for anything bigger than 29" but the main question I have is would a 29" be too big / tricky for someone relatively new to riding a uni? Or would I be better off sticking to a 24/26" inch (I’m currently learning on a 20").

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No, based on my experience going from a 20" to a 29" would not be a problem. The basic idea of riding is all the same no matter what size. When I learned as a kid I started on a 12", then after I wore it our and a few years later I got a 24", not a problem. Then 50 years later went to a 36". The 36er took a short time to learn to mount and just get used to the size but not really a problem.

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Thanks Jim. I’m really enjoying the journey so far and now I’m able to stay steady I figured a jump up in size shouldn’t be an issue I was just concerned a big jump would be too much as I’m still fresh. Then again it’s just practice I suppose.

I tried a 24 at our local uni club last week but it was very tricky because the cranks were short.

There is nothing wrong in trying. For some it will be fine for others like me it was too big of a step to go from a 20" to a 29" and after a few nasty UPDs I ended up buying a 24" that a rode for several months before I eventually mastered the 29" which eventually became my favorite size.

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Thanks Hammer, luckily both the 24 and the 29 I’m considering are very reasonably priced. So I could go for it with the 29 and see how I get on and if I’m struggling I’m confident the club would lend me the 24 changing out the cranks until I got more proficient. Or I could just fork out for both without breaking the bank.

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Some random thoughts from a mostly road and rail trail rider.

It isn’t just about wheel size. The crank length makes a big difference. One of my favourite road wheels is a 26 x 2.15 Maxxis DTH with 114 mm cranks. It is a really light tyre, particularly the folding bead model, very responsive and maneuverable, which can be important if you need to ride among pedestrians or heavy cycle traffic. I’ve run it with 100 mm cranks which is fun on the flat. Very fast but hard to control and climb on.

On an open paved path the 29 would still be the go to for me. My road 29 is a Maxxis Torch 29 x 2.10. I use 125 cranks but the choice really depends on the terrain you are negotiating and how strong you are. I don’t really go in for what I consider really long cranks.

The root undulations are probably going to get worse over time. It is a lot easier to roll over things on a big diameter wheel especially with a fat tyre.

A 27.5 x 3 is the same outer diameter as a 29 inch road tyre. Goes over more things but there are less tyres well suited to road, although the variety of 27.5 tyres continues to increase. I use one of these on the rail trail currently a knobbley tyre that I don’t like much.

I’ve recently found a couple of interesting ones. A Nimbus (great name for a uni tyre) forget the name but it is a lightweight grooved slick. Bought the bike wheel for the tyre at the tip shop.

Another interesting one is a Schwable Super Moto X that I bought for my (ahem) “diploid unicycle”. Much heaver but I want to try it on the trail where the wheel doesn’t need to be so responsive and the extra momentum could be a plus. Looks like it is a really tough tyre.

I like tyres that are designed for hard pack like the DTH. They work great on the road with low rolling resistance and good grip but are also happy on compacted gravel.

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My vote would be none of the above: go for a 36".

My 36" feels like an SUV that goes over obstacles like tree roots much smoother than a 26". First time I rode it, I thought this thing is sooooo smooooooth. With smaller wheels it feels like you are just spinning way too fast and it is less than a “cruise” (or commute) and more of a workout.

Crank length also makes a huge difference, and shorter cranks make commutes easier. So it’s not just the wheel size, it’s crank length.

You might consider an intermediate step with a 26" b/c it’s a bit of jump from 20" to 36". Self-mounting a 36" is much harder, but learnable. Also, you just grab onto a pole, fence, sign, etc. to launch for a while until you learn to self-mount. Actually, I never learned to self-mount a 36" since launching poles, signs, etc. are all over the place.

I would not go smaller than 29".

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A 36 might a a bit inconvenient in a commuter train especially if it is packed. But OTOH, it would be the perfect uni to ditch the train and commute all the way with the 36 :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

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20in wheels feel hyper twitchy to me. I learned on a 24in and the smaller wheel feels ‘off’.

I feel that 24in is too small to commute. Hard to beat for the small size and ease of portability though. It’ll get you where you want to go, but will take a while longer.

I don’t own a 26in and when I tried one it felt small. I’d been used to a 36in when I tried it. Quicker than a 24in.

A 29in is nice in that it is small enough to take into places with you and not be too intrusive for others. Gets you where you need to go quicker than 24. Was not hard to get comfortable with this wheel size. Best of a bigger wheel for speed and portability. My vote says pick this size up.

— Honorable mention ----

A big steed 36in truly is a blast for flat riding and slight inclines. Every time I ride mine and get on a smaller wheel I feel sad that “this doesn’t go as fast as my big wheel…”. I was very intimidated my first time but got it with enough practice. If you can meet up with another rider with one, go for it.

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Fulltime unicycle commuter here, go for 29". Its super portable, can be made to go anywhere fron 12-18 kmh average. Its also a good size for shorter and longer rides. Also easy to bring on the bus. 26 is also a lovely size becuase of good tire availability, 24" is a bit harder to find.

Re crank length it makes a huge difference. I started in 125mm cranks, went down to 100mm cranks, and now 75mm cranks on my 20" and both go really fast now. Shorter cranks arent going to make you faster right away but as you get more proficiency with longer sizes dropping down will become easier to maintain a higher speed. For example my 20" goes about 15kmh average in good conditions.

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My most consistently satisfying uni is a 29x2.0" (Schwalbe Marathon Supreme) with 110mm cranks. Named Zippy. Perfect for rides up to about 5 miles (boring after that). 110mm is probably shorter than you want to go with at first, I rode it with 125mm for a couple of years before I switched.

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Oh very much so I would say 110 mm cranks and 2 inch tire are a very good size for normal people

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Good advice here. Long-term you will want a 29 with short cranks (or a 36 if you have longer distances and/or become a very proficient rider).

If you’re buying new, I would recommend buying a 29 with multi-hole cranks and/or planning to upgrade. Maybe start with 150mm cranks and then upgrade? Or something like the VCX 150/125/100 cranks: You can start with 150 and then try switching to 125s on a straight road and then work your way down. (Full disclosure: I commute on a 36 with 125mm cranks and sometimes my 29+ muni with 110s but it feels slow, but I’ve been commuting a while – used to run 100s on the 36 when I had 16km/10 miles one-way commute).

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Welcome Carl! I don’t think the 29 will be a problem for you. I learned on a 29er because it’s what was available to me and I didn’t know any better. I now have unis in 20, 26 and 29. I don’t find it difficult to jump between wheel sizes sizes but the jump in crank lengths will throw me off quite a bit when it comes to free mounting. Like if I’m riding a 125mm crank all day on my 29er then try to get on my 20 inch with 75mm cranks and I can’t freemount without 10 attempts! For around town riding on the 29 I’m most comfortable with 125mm cranks. You’ll love it!

*I did want to edit just to say that I find my 26er to be much more maneuverable than my 29. However, while road riding on the 26 I have to ride shorter cranks to get more speed and that negates some of the maneuverability for me! So the 26er for me is mostly a muni with 150mm cranks. It’s probably best to just have a uni in every size and also have on hand every crank size :grin:

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