29-er update

I’ve been out on the 29-er (2.1" tyre, 5"/125 mm cranks) pretty much every night for the past 2/3 weeks.

It’s fitted with lights and I’ve got a fluro waistcoat so I’ve been venturing onto the roads as well.

Past excursions have been fun but also involved some pain and dissapointment (doing a search on my past posts will give the details), so I’m happy to report that this latest one has been wholey good.

This time round I didn’t launch off determined to prove that the 29-er can tackle the same terrain as my 24x3 muni. Instead I found a nice route which took in what I believe to be Sheffields longest non-road cycle track; there are bits of steep gradient but not the really extreme hills.

Plugging away at this route has reaped good results in terms of control and confidence.

One transition point I noticed is when I started to get some of the hip swaying/wheel leaning that was a big part of my muni riding, another was tonight when I got some consistent high speeds and felt totally stable with it.

One thing I’ve noticed is the existence of ‘devious’ bumps i.e. I found myself UPD-ing at certain spots for no apparent reason. Later, on UPD-ing at the same place I checked it out and found a bump which, in the dark, was impossible to see from the unicycle (my lights are there purely to satisfy road legislation and so that I can be seen on the road, they cast very little light onto the path).

On a muni they’d be no problem, in daylight on a 29-er they’d be visible, but the combination of 29 and night = UPD; until you’ve ridden the path and know where they are.

Luckily they seem to be confined to paths rather than roads.

During the three weeks, I have had a couple of UPD’s on a road, both happened when the road was devoid of traffic and I was pushing the speed.

On roads with traffic I’m very wary; though I’m confident of my abilities I know that bad things happen on roads, often the fault of someone else. I guess it’s because so much of my life is about being active (unicycling, poi spinning, walking etc) that I question whether it’s worth the risk.

But then again I think I’m starting to really enjoy big wheel riding, maybe if I moved somewhere suitable for a Coker e.g. a place with long non-road tracks, i could start getting some real distance in and maybe get to the point where I could take part in one of the long distance Coker runs.

I’ve been thinking about how difficult the transition from a muni to a 29" wheel/125 cranks is; many on this forum have pointed out that the is actually little difference i.e. a 29-er is only a little higher off the ground, the wheel is only a little larger and the cranks a little shorter

Nevertheless I’ve found the difference quite large, and I think it’s because though the differences are small, when taken in combination they add up.

So, on a free mount, it’s true that you only need to jump a little higher, but, when you land on the seat you not only have to get control from a jump higher than you’re used to, but with the added difficulty of a larger wheel and less crank leverage.

My mounts on the flat are getting a lot better, but still not the 100% certainty I had on the muni, and gradients are a challenge.

At a guess I would put the extra difficulty of free mounting and general riding (i.e. tackling a few gradients, curb drops etc) at about a 1/3 to a 1/2, lowering with practice.

As always, this is in Sheffield; somewhere flatter it would probably be easier, and I expect if I had a go on a Coker here I would probably wonder how I ever had a problem with the 29-er.

But it’s well worth it, when you accustom to the shorter crank turning circle you’ll appreciate the extra speed and smoothness a lot.

My tips for any beginners to 29-ing, especially those transitioning from a smaller wheel are: -

  1. Safety first. Wristguards will help you not to break your wrists, helmets are good.

  2. Take it easy at first, a 29-er won’t do the same stuff as a muni, especially at the start; later on it’s surprising what it can do, there’s a little but longish off road hillock that I like to do on the muni, it’s great fun climbing it on the 29-er and then bombing it a 29-er speed.

  3. Be 100% solid before riding in traffic. I think on the roads a helmet is a really good idea- whilst some argue that a UPD-ing unicyclist will rarely land on their head, the presence of cars adds a new element to the equation. A car impact can throw you at high velocity in a way leaves you unable to have any influence on the way you land. Also, you’ll look more as if you know what you are doing if you have sensible safety gear on.

  4. Lights are essential on roads at night, a rear reflector is probably a legal requirement and also good in case your rear light fails without you being aware of it. A flouro waistcoat is a good idea.

  5. Trying 125’s on a muni for a few days is nice, the shorter cranks are easy to adapt to cos the height and wheel size stay the same. Also a muni with 125’s is a nice machine with good control and a useful extra turn of speed.

  6. Remember you’re higher, branches that wouldn’t be a problem on a muni could be grabbing your head on a 29-er.

Good write up. Glad you’re enjoying the 29 at last.

The trick with the sneaky bumps is to ride at about 75% of your maximum speed, and to rely on feel and reflex. This will get you over a lot of stuff. I sometimes ride without a head torch at night. In the summer, I practise riding with my eyes shut.