36er Muni: Yes Virginia, a 36er can be ridden off road

Since selling my 26guni, I am back on the big wheel hunt: To build a 36er muni.

In “round one”, pre guni, I rolled a KH 36, 170 QuAx aluminum cranks, ti hub, Stealth Rim, and a Nightrider tire/standard tube. Things I didn’t like included a slippery sidewall, poor low speed handling, difficulty with climbing steep terrain, and being unstable on descents and over rough terrain.

For “round two” I started under the premise that having a wider platform would help compensate for having a higher center of gravity. I chose the Nimbus Nightrider Superwide Disc frame which has a 125mm bearing spacing vs. the 100mm spacing for a typical 36er
, then Josh at UDC built a custom wheel using the http://www.unicycle.com/unicycle-hardware/hubs-and-hub-assemblies/nimbus-oregon-disk-hub.html/"]Oregon Superwide Chromoly Spindle Disc Hub with straight 14ga spokes and brass nips. Since I didn’t like the Nightrider tire for off road due to the slippery sidewall, I chose the Coker Non Skid which has some siping on the sidewalls. To round things out I added a Foss Tube for lightweight and durability. I started with 165mm Moments, but quickly changed to 170mm QuAx Tubular Chromoly cranks for more leverage and for an even wider base of support.

My first ride back on the trails was “interesting”. Of course there was a learning curve, figuring out how to move with the big wheel, anticipating terrain changes, adjusting to over and under steer. I was not “pleased” with how the unicycle handled, the tire was adequate and the wheel rolled fine, but I felt a lack of crank based control over the unicycle both in climbing, speed control, and terrain management. I had been talking with Josh at the Raccoon Mountain MuniGathering, he said that one of his 36ers was outfitted with Profile 175’s and that this was a much more powerful off-road set up than the 170’s. Since I know that 5mm can make a big difference, I decided to take the leap: I started looking at 175mm ISIS “trials” cranks.

In the USA, trials’ riding is sorely underrepresented, so I was not surprised to find the trials suppliers were lacking in stock; not one had an ISIS 175mm crank in stock. I finally found all I needed at Tarty Bikes in the UK, not only do they have a number of long cranks in stock, but they list the specs for the cranks, and they are fair on prices. I ordered some Try All Comps 7075 Forged Cranks, they shipped quickly, arriving a week after I placed the order!

When they arrived I immediately noticed the high Q factor, which is listed as 36mm on the Tarty Bikes website; Q factor for bikes is measured from pedal insert to pedal insert which is hard to estimate with cranks unmounted. So I compared The Try All cranks, held flush on a table top, to my other cranks, finding that the Try All had over ~7mm more offset per side than the QuAx cranks; they literally made my 165 Moments look flat. Installation was typical, the threaded side was not an issue (this is where the cog and bash guard thread on for trials riding), the splines are the same for both sides, I used a 4mm spacer which left about 1.5mm spacing from the bearing holder. Cranks snugged up well.

The big ride had to be delayed for illness and rainy weather, but I did get a sneak peek which amounted to a short ride down the road and a little loop into the woods. What I notice immediately was a slight side to side weave as I pedaled and how much power I had with the longer cranks. On the trail the uni was a little awkward on the down, but on the up it was a delight to have enough torque to climb like I was on my 29er. I was still concerned about the platform width which measured a whopping ~ 250mm and seemed to be the cause of the side to side weave! For perspective, a KH 36 with 165 Moments is ~ 150mm in platform width. .

So then last night I got my first real single track test ride and…it was too much fun!

I intentionally picked a harder trail, one that was narrow and twisty, lots of abrupt up and downs, with plenty of roots and rocks, what I would call “typical Appalachia XC riding”. This is a trail section I ride a lot, so knowing what is coming was helpful as making a 36er cooperate takes a bit more forethought. The big wheel learning curve kept me on my toes, and for sure I had a number of “my fault” UPD’s as I found my sense of balance. What nailed this combo as a success was where I had to make a quick transition from a low point where the trail crosses an abrupt drainage to a moderate climb. I managed this transition and climb like I was on my 29er, no sweat, then I immediately had to negotiate a big root tangle that leads into an off angle turn and another climb, again the 36er was not that hard to manage. The final test was a moderate climb over a long series of rocky ledges and loose rock. This climb is hard to get on a 29er, I usually take a break or two as I ride it. On the 36er I was able to ride up ledges that made me work on a 29er, and though I had a few UPD’s on the 36er, I was able to ride most of the section.

Some caveats for 36er muni: It ain’t your grandfathers 29er, that big wheel takes some mojo to roll, it also takes more body english to maneuver, and it’s really easy to overcompensate. But, I found that I can make it do things that suprised me and gave me lots of food for thought, sorta like: Where can I take it next? I found that drops are not a big deal as long as I roll them steady. In thinking this through, a 12" drop to a 36er is “the same” as an 8" drop to a 24er, right :stuck_out_tongue:

All in all I’d say that the 36er XC Muni project is off to a fine start :slight_smile:

I’ll post some picture later in the week…

So who else is rolling a big wheel on single track?

I am planning on entering a local mtb event (http://mocoepic.com/) in October and riding the 50 mile option on my KH36. It is more than 85% single track. The last two years I rode the 25 miler on a combination of my KH29 and KH36. This year since I will be doubling my mileage so I will do all 50 miles on the KH36 so I can finish in time. I am currently running 150s but may try some longer cranks to help with climbing some of the steeper hills.

Hey Claude, do you remember the trail we rode at Haw Ridge before driving down to Chattanooga? That was the trail I rode the 36er on :slight_smile:

Seriously, long wide offset cranks really make a 36er trailworthy. I’ll bring my 36er to the Douthat MuniGathering so you can try it out.

And yeah, now you have me thinking about doing it too…maybe :wink:

I do remember that trail. How did you do on the steep sections? I look forward to trying it out.

I am still very doubtful why anyone would want a 36er for riding anything but “fire roads” or pavement, though. I am very interested to see how you perform on this thing when we get to Douthat later this month. Maybe you will prove me wrong, but I just can’t see being able to ride any moderately difficult technical single track with a 36er. It just seems like you would need 200+ mm cranks to get the necessary leverage to climb the average hill. Throw in a few tight switchbacks on any steep climb, and I think the 36er is going to be useless.

Here’s a video kb1jki took of Brian O. riding trails on his Coker.

I like riding trails with the 36" and 165mm cranks. So far my average speed on the same trails is slower than riding a 29" but the 36" is a different experience and a fun challenge.

“Coker MUni”

36ers are indeed a lot of fun offroad. Have been riding my stock Coker Big One off road ever since I got it several years ago. While it makes short work of the easier XC trails around my home it is indeed a beast to handle on anything much rougher. While I like it a lot, it’s definitely not my Go To MUni. I like it simply because in the summer around here I can ride fast enough in the shady, easy single and double track tails to actually feel a cooling breeze. I agree that longer cranks make the rougher MUni and climbing a lot easier; have ridden 170mm cranks on the 36er but mostly have been riding with 140mm lately.

A big downside of riding such a large wheel offroad (at least around here) is tree limb clearance! One sits so high off the ground that often times I’m battling tree limbs more than I’m battling the trail features! Has lead to many a UPD! :slight_smile:

While that’s impressive and looks like fun, I don’t know of any single track trails in my area that are that flat and straight.

Do you remember when you first learned to ride, everything was hard, even the slightest incline was a struggle, yet know you can ride up steep hills off road. Well, with practice comes greater skills, and even what once seemed impossible can become possible with time.

I can climb my 36er with 175’s now as well as I could climb my 29er with 165’s two years ago, so in a greater sense it is a regression, but it is also an advance as I would not have been able to do anything significant off road on a 36er two years ago.

Even I can admit that in time I might have the skills to ride a guni offroad; might :roll_eyes:

But in terms of trails and picking a wheel size to fit the conditions, I would not pick a 36er for a steep and twisty downhill, but a fast flowing single track with no significant obstacles that is well graded, essentially beginner MTB trails, this is perfect terrain for a 36er.

Some of the regionl riding areas that I’d consider using a 36er:

Bent Creek

Yup, that’s what helmets are for, and the reason I retired my last helmet; I got knocked on my keyster by a limb and it tore up my helmet :astonished:

I didn’t make the steeper up stuff, but the down was not that bad. Seriously, the big wheel is very stable and controllable, things can happen fast at times, but if I keep my speed down it works fine, esp with those long cranks and a good disc brake. The biggest thing that holds me back is my fear of falling hard. I have had three big falls in the past three weeks, so I’mbacking down until the bruises heal a little :roll_eyes:

What gets me most now is if I “hold tight” on the seat and don’t let the uni move under me, so then a slight off balance movement will lead to a UPD. I lowered the seata bunch, like I would for a technical section and this give me a lot more control and room to maneuver.

Hey Claude, I have a present for ya’, so don’t buy any cranks until I see you at month’s end :slight_smile:

How about some of Beau’s riding?

1 Like

I will have to agree with you. I’m sure KH (and some others) can tackle Muni trails on a 36 that seem impossible for me to do on my 24. I do eventually intend to get a 29 or a 36 for cross country Muni, and I intend to push it as hard as I can. I guess it all goes back to the “quest for the perfect Munil” - which doesn’t really exist. I’d say a 26 inch Guni comes pretty close to perfect, but there is always going to be some compromise in any Unicycle. Right now, I am compromising speed and rollover capability with my 24. However, it is giving me quite a workout on the technical twisties, so my waist appreciates that.


+1 a 36er looks down on a tall guy riding a 29er mountain bike. The single-track trail builders in Kentucky don’t account for someone as tall as me on my 36er. I got the MUni bug and put 165mm moments on my 36er (before I got my 26" Oracle:D). Tree clearance was the primary cause of dismount. Even the sidewalk on my wife’s run has a couple trees that make you duck. In short, a 36er is very tall.:wink:

The only people looking down on my 36er at the Hike, Bike, and Paddle event are on full sized pennyfarthings. :sunglasses:

Last night I continued to brave the single track on a 36er, this time it was a popular winding trail called Concord, one of my regular after work stop overs. This trail is a tad more difficult than what I rode the other day, so I expected to get my a$$ kicked, but it went suprisingly well :smiley:

I’m learning a few things about riding a big wheel off road:

  1. Don’t look down, look further ahead than you would on a 29/26/24. I found that by looking further ahead I was more stable, sorta like what happens to a new unicyclist as they get more confidence.

  2. Let the uni run! This is a hard one cuz it’s kinda scary and when you blow a line it’s “off into the trees” with ya. But when I let the big wheel run it was more stable and easier to control. I am amazed at how much easier it is to roll obstacles on a big wheel, rocks, roots, logs.

  3. Get comfortable with low speed maneuvering. I found that I could easilly get going faster than necessary, so low speed maneuvers and stalls, though they felt odd at first, really have their place in big wheel muni; just as they are useful in regular muni.

  4. Big cranks for a big wheel. Again, the wide set 175mm cranks rule the day, not just for the ups, but for the downs! I was able to crank up and down rooty twisting single track with confidence all because I had the cranks to control the big wheel momentum.

So, if you’re getting the bug, here’s a cheap way to give it a try: UDC has the QuAx 170mm cranks on sale. These are high Q factor, lightweight, ISIS, cranks, ~$15 delivered in the Conti USA. I have three sets of these, used one set for six months on my 29er and they are suprisingly sturdy.

I will be bringing a couple pairs with me to the Douthat State Park MuniGathering; yes Claude, the surprise is LONG CRANKS!!


I know this seems strange, but it is really, really fun to roll that big wheel. I feel invincible and I look down on the bikers like I’m some sort of creature from the beyond. Last night was the popular mtb Wednesday night “weenie” ride, so as the bikers passed me thay saw the big wheel, a couple even stopped to check it out, then for the rest of the night they’d hollar “big wheel coming through!”.

Just do it!

Time for a reconnaissance mission in Ashland this summer. Bring your 36" and 26". We’ll do some West Coast muni. None of those little up and down rides. More like 1000’-3000’ foot climbs followed by glorious single track descents. Then you can finish it with a dip in the swimming hole, 'spresso and pastry or your favorite beer at a local pub. It’s a tough life but I’m doing my part.


Not just offroad! :sunglasses:


Great video Terry. Really nice skills. I can’t even hop onto a picnic table with my Trials Uni yet, now I just feel totally inadequate… Some amazing drops for a big wheel, too. Is that a standard wheel build or something custom? Seems like you never run anything standard. hahah!

Great pics and vidoes guys, they really show what can be done and that limits are only what we make them :smiley:

Tomorrow I’m heading to Chattanooga for an endurance ride at a local XC area, the plan is to ride for four to six hours, doing as many loops as possible. There is one long climb that I expect to work on, otherwise it’s all rolling single track.

I don’t expect that my 36er will replace the 29er, but for places where a fat tire is not needed and I can esilly spin out on a smaller wheel, the 36er will get me going faster and provide a little challenge and thrill.

Hey Terry, you are some kind pf mutant rider :astonished:

Thanks, yeah it’s a standard KH 36er, with standard rim, but I do have a FOSS (clear) tube in there because it’s lighter than a regular tube.

pf? lol, is that good or bad? :slight_smile: