9 foot custom giraffe

Hey all,

I just scored a 9’ custom-made giraffe from the thrifties section of my local newspaper for $100. I’m surprised the guy was selling it for so cheap. It seems to me that it’s probably worth $200-300 at least.

I have a few questions about my new unicycle for anyone who might know the answers:

  • Is it possible to freemount this thing? If so, how do I do it? How long will it take to learn? (I'm about a level 5 unicyclist and I can ride the giraffe with some confidence)
  • What's the best way to dismount?
  • Who made this thing? (It looks like it was made by someone who knew a thing or two about unicycle manufacture. It's pretty well put together. I'm wondering if maybe it's a Tom Miller unicycle.)
  • Any idea about how much it's worth? (not that I'm interested in selling it)
  • This giraffe has 180mm cranks - kinda long for my taste. Are giraffe cranks normally long? Is it safer that way or what?
  • What about chain tension? How do I tell if there's too much or too little tension?
  • Any advice/tips/tricks would be greatly appreciated.



Oh yeah, here’s some pictures:

Re: 9 foot custom giraffe

It depends how badly the seller wanted to get rid of it. Sometimes it’s hard to connect with a person who wants a tall unicycle, especially locally.

  • Is it possible to freemount this thing? If so, how do I do it? It is doable. The hard part is getting from the top of the tire to the bottom pedal without letting the wheel move. Mine has a step in between. The step is on a spring, and when you step on it, it presses down on the tire. This makes the mount a lot more plausible, but you still have to deal with the weight of the cycle (catching it each time), and yourself as you do lots of dismounts in the learning process.

    In my “prime,” I could freemount mine on about 1 out of 3 attempts. My most rewarding one was in the Puerto Rico Parade in New York City, around 1990 or so, when I made it on after several tries. Thousands of people were riveted, and I got a huge ovation when I made it up! Good thing too, as I was all alone. My unit was way down the street by then!

    I have seen Tom Miller freemount a regular giraffe of 8 or 9’, using a depression in the grass of his yard to hold the wheel.

  • What's the best way to dismount? Best way to dismount is to return to where you mounted, if you started from some support or high place. This is not very spectacular, but easier on the ankles and other body parts. Otherwise, look for objects higher than the ground. One of the nicest things to dismount to is a grass berm at the side of the road. The higher the berm, the less of a drop. Don't let the wheel roll out as you tip over, and you can sort of aim yourself at your chosen landing spot. Remember to always account for where the unicycle will end up when you come down. In other words, using a car is not recommended!

    Tom Miller did not make your unicycle. His style is different, and generally a lot heavier than yours looks. It does look well made, in that it’s reinforced in the areas that tend to be weak.

  • Any idea about how much it's worth? I think the price of a giraffe is very much related to if there's anyone around who wants it. Shipping can be prohibitive, so you're limited to a more local market. Or bring it to a convention, but even then you can only sell it to people who drove there.
  • This giraffe has 180mm cranks - kinda long for my taste. Are giraffe cranks normally long? Is it safer that way or what? A tall giraffe is a "display" cycle. In other words, it's not about speed or efficiency. If you watch circuses or other full-time performers on giraffes, you'll see a lot of long cranks. These are more visual, and show lots of body movement. Plus you have lots of leverage, which is real nice when you realize the juggling club you just dropped has wedged itself perfectly under the front of your tire (this happened to me on a 12 footer--talk about a heart attack!).

    Remember what a tall giraffe is for. What is it for, anyway? Parades, mostly. Try bringing it on a stage, and you’ll find most stages aren’t high enough. You’ll be visible from the waist down behind the top curtain. :slight_smile:

  • What about chain tension? How do I tell if there's too much or too little tension? The chain should not jangle around too much. The longer your chain run, the more you may need an idler wheel in the middle to help keep it in place. When you pedal, the frame will "bow" a little bit, making the chain loose on the side opposite the pedaling force. You must do everything possible to keep your chain from being loose enough to derail for any reason. This will give you a sudden dismount with no warning, and no time to correct your body position. Dangerous.

    I don’t know if larger chainwheels are better or worse for chain tension. Basically, you want to have it nice and tight. Tight enough that there is some friction in the drivetrain if you spin the wheel while holding it off the ground.

    Test your tall giraffe by holding onto something and idling it real hard. Since mine is used so infrequently, it needs testing before each parade or other use. I hold onto the edge of my roof and do super-hard idles and starts/stops. You need to simulate whatever you’re going to be doing when you’re out in the open. This is especially important if the next use of the cycle will be in a night parade, for example.

    Have fun riding it, and remember to be a little paranoid when you’re up there.

  • dismounting

    You might not want to try this on a 9-footer, but the easiest way on a smaller one is just to stop pedalling and fall forward. Make sure you bend your knees when you land, and that you catch the unicycle. The other thing to bear in mind is how much space there is behind you. There should be at least the length of the unicycle between you and the nearest solid object (such as a wall). The reason for this is that when you dismount, you fall straight down, and the wheel moves backwards, If there’s a wall in the way then the uni will push you forwards as you fall, and you’ll go flying.

    Chain Tension
    I don’t really know on that one, when mine (5ft) came, it had a really tight chain, which was really hard to pedal, and wasn’t doing the cycle much good. So I loosened it of a bit, and over time, it stretched anyway so now its a lot slacker than anyone else’s I’ve ridden, but it’s not quite at the point of falling off, and it’s much less work to pedal along. It must be a harder balance to strike with one that tall, as there will inevitably have some slack in it, because of the length. So long as it’s not possible to pull it off by hand I generally assume it’s alright, but I’m sure someone knows a much better way of doing it.

    BTW, the builder’s “choice” of 180mm cranks was probably not based on any specifics on desired length. Giraffes like that are built from easily available bike parts! And for the most part, crank length is a lot less important on a giraffe than on a MUni or other regular uni.

    Rolling out the wheel when dismounting is not recommended. I think you land a little less hard when you keep the wheel in place and let the uni fall like a tree. This also makes it easier to control your landing area. When the wheel is rolling out behind you it could hit a person walking (they always want to walk right behind you when you’re doing hard stuff), or a wall or other obstacle if you misjudge the distance. That can hurt–a lot. But your best bet is to find something higher than your base ground level to land on.

    very nice!

    Re: 9 foot custom giraffe

    On Wed, 26 May 2004 11:20:06 -0500, “johnfoss” wrote:

    >Rolling out the wheel when dismounting is not recommended.
    I agree.

    >I think you
    >land a little less hard when you keep the wheel in place and let the uni
    >fall like a tree.
    I think you land with a (slightly) higher vertical velocity. Because
    the potential energy of both rider and giraffe is the same at the
    moment you reach the ground, but the rotational momentum in the
    giraffe is larger (it has fallen quicker), and there is also momentum
    in the wheel and drive. All this must have come from somewhere.

    Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

    be sure to remove the saddle and simply sit on the seat post. this is far more comfortable - tennisgh22 on the comfort of Savage unis