A challenge to motivate myself.

Long post alert!!!

I’m not very good with my uni. I find it hard to make the time and often go months in between riding, infact I’ve just started back after something like 3 years off. But I’ve imporoved more in the last week than in the last 5 years, so I’m feeling pretty good about that.

Anyway, I always like a goal to aim for which is something I’ve been lacking with my uni. Without a goal it’s too easy to simply “not bother”. I’ve had an idea and would like some advice/info from those experienced riders amongst you lot.

To put this into perspective.
Where I am now.
I can ride and turn. No idea how far i can go in one shot as I practice in a small area but likely only a few hundred meters. Can’t quite freemount with any reliability. Currently only have one uni which is a real cheap 20".

This time next year some friends are doing a charity cycle ride, cycling the coast to coast (yes, on those odd two wheeled contraptions!). For those that don’t know, this is a 150 mile-ish journey from the east coast to the south coast (or vice versa) of the UK, usually split over 3 or 4 days (they’ll be doing it in 3).
My goal is to tag along on a uni. So I’ve effectively given myself a year to go from riding a few hundred meters to roughly 50 miles a day. Not a lot for some but certainly way way beyond my current ability.

So, now for the advice.
Firstly, any tips for improving my riding in general? And from that, and more importantly, tips for training for longer distances?

Secondly, some opinions on uni type & size, though this could be complicated. Last year they did a combination of road and trail riding. So my options are to do my own route sticking to road only and meet up with them at checkpoints. Or stick with them meaning either getting two different uni’s, one for road and one for trails (though I may not be able to afford two decent uni’s), or one all rounder.
I’m not worried about keeping up with anyone, though not being left way behind would be nice, just the challenge of completing.

So, over to you lot.

Thanks in advance.

Hi Mark! I’ll start by saying that I haven’t ridden 50 miles in a day on a unicycle yet, and I’m interested in seeing what advice others have to offer as well.

I know from doing long-distance running and bicycle rides that the most important preparation is doing a big volume of distance at an easy pace, and that the proper easy pace is easier than what most people tend to do when they think they’re going easy. Get in the miles and get in the time in the saddle. You don’t need to learn any tricks or special techniques, you just need to get steadier and more relaxed and to build endurance and get experience dealing with things that happen around you when you’re out on the road with bikes around you.

Comfort is everything on long unicycle rides because the unicycle grade of uncomfortable is serious pain. While you’re training, you should be figuring out what combination of saddle and pants works for you, and whether you want handlebars and what kind if so. Also, pedal and shoe comfort is something that turns out to be an issue for me as I’ve gotten up to a couple of hours unicycling. Don’t expect the first thing you try to be satisfactory for any of those.

Based on charity bike rides in my area, 10 mph average would probably let you to stay with the tail end of the group, and that’s a pace I can keep up for a good while on my basic ungeared 36". The bicyclists back there might go a bit faster than you when they’re going, but they tend to take breaks and dawdle around a lot and you could match their average if you were steadier.

If you go with a 36", I think you’d find that it works well enough off pavement too. The tires are 2 1/4" wide and unicyclists have done plenty of serious mountain trail riding on them. Of course there are trails and then there are trails, so it depends on exactly what you’re talking about, but on a well graded unpaved path I think you’d be fine.

Quick brain dump… Let’s see what everyone else has to say. And good luck with it!

50 miles a day is a lot. I’ve done it once in 30 years of riding. That was on a 28" wheel.

I’m 55 and I can average 10 – 11 mph on a 36 for an extended period. That translates to around 5 hours of saddle time to do 50 miles.

In order to achieve that, I’d choose a good 36 inch uni with the shortest cranks I could ride safely in the anticipated conditions, and I’d fit a T bar. If in doubt, I’d err on the side of safety with the cranks. I’d need a good way of carrying water and calories.

It could be done on a 29, possibly with shorter cranks, but on average you’d be in the saddle for longer for any given distance.

It’s a big ask, but not impossible. Many people have done 100 mile days, but they are a small fraction of all the unicyclists in the world.

If I were planning a ride of this type, I would be training in 2 hour stretches 2 or 3 times a week, building up to regular 2.5 or 3 hour stretches.

You say that you sometimes go for extended periods without finding time to ride. That is something you would need to change for a period of months.

A more accessible long term goal would be something like a complete lap of your local park, lake, or forest trail, building up to doing a full lap without a dismount. Then try extending the ride incrementally, and monitoring your time, distance and average speed on something like Map My Ride.

50 miles in a day is achievable. When you ride just try to ride as efficiently as possible. Try and become comfortable enough riding that balance comes automatically. You want almost all of your energy spent driving yourself forward and not fighting a fall the whole way. Be sure to take frequent breaks. I usually take a break when my nuts go numb. About every 4 to 5 miles.

I’ve never done back to back 50’s though.

I don’t disagree with a word you wrote, or, indeed the order you put them in (:D) but the OP is so far only used to riding “a few hundred metres” in a small area on a cheap 20.

In order to become “comfortable enough… not fighting a fall the whole way” for 5 hours a day, the OP will need to do a hell of a lot practice and training. Those things only come with regular saddle time. There are no short cuts.

My own background: many years of half days and whole days of solid riding, but nothing fancy: light muni, cross country, trails, riverbanks and roads, but no north shore, trials or hoppin’ and droppin’. I regularly ride 2 hours/20 miles without a dismount. I would regard a 50 mile ride as a big undertaking, and 3 consecutive 50 mile days would spoil the rest of my week as the bedroom is upstairs and the fridge is downstairs:).

It’s about getting from A to B. A is now, and B is ready to ride 150 miles in 3-4 days. For starters, find a bigger place to practice, get comfortable with turns in both directions, freemounting, and see how far you can go without a dismount.

Start saving up for a bigger wheel. If you want to struggle, aim for a 29". If you want to have the right machine for your goal, you want a 36" (or a 32" if those are available). The smaller the wheel, the more you’ll have to pedal no matter what. You don’t have to buy the handlebar and/or high-end seat in your initial purchase; just start simple and see how you like it.

Get at least one pair of good quality, padded bike shorts. If you don’t like how they look, wear another layer over them. You can thank me later. :slight_smile:

For best results, you’ll want to have completed several 50-mile days before the big ride comes up. Best case scenario you’ll do some back-to-back 50-milers as well, to get an idea of how your body will hold up.

Remember to have fun in the process. Don’t just concentrate on riding straight forward. I would at least recommend learning to idle and go backwards (on the 20") as these are core skills that are helpful even if you don’t use them on a larger wheel. Learn how to deal with road camber, bumps, potholes, railroad tracks, sewer grates, curbs, etc. The more comfortable you are, the less you’ll be stressed on the big ride.

Hook up with other cyclists–unicyclists or not–to keep you company on at least some of your rides. This will help a lot also, even if you ride alone most of the time.

Enjoy the process!

Try every race you could.

I think you’d better try any race you could find. I did last month my first 12km race riding my uni amongst runners. I cannot compete the race, but I’ve been allowed to ride… that give me a real feedback about riding with a timer, keeping up my pace at least with the average runners, face the problem of how to relax on dirt and on pot holes filled offroad trails.
Also learnt I must improve my hill-climbing skill and start using my brake.
You’ve got a good idea: now start training with easier and shorter routes. And buy a bigger uni!

You brought up a point I forgot. OP will need a larger wheel LOL!

Thanks for all the feedback and great advice. Some really encouraging info there.

To answer some of the points made above.

I have had many breaks in between my riding, meaning progress has been painfully slow. That’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to do this, having a goal to aim for means I’ve got a good reason to get out on a regular basis and practice.

There’s a good few places near me that has some long trails to go along. I just need to improve a little first but I’ll be hitting them asap. Likely with those I’d being doing the event with so I’d get an idea of how they do.

I will be getting a bigger wheel, though not sure what size yet. Going to look at a 29" in a couple of days. I’ll likely go for larger, but finances dictate that will have to wait but the 29" may be cheap enough to not worry about losing money on it.

On tuesday the group will be setting off for this years ride. I’m going to pay close attention to what speeds they acheive. Last year they averaged between 8 and 12mph on the different days, however that doesn’t take into account rest times so their actual speed will be a bit more. They were taking roughly 6 to 7 hours each day covering 50 - 60 miles.
If i can work on endurance and have less breaks perhaps I’ll not be too far behind.

It will certainly be an interesting goal to aim for.

Edit: Is there a chart somewhere that shows wheel sizes and rotational distances or speeds acheivable (though that would be subjective i know)?

You will get a bunch of different opinions but here are some past threads on wheel size versus average speed:

The distance a wheel travels per rotation is the same as its circumference.

Circumference is the diameter x Pi.

Pi = 3.142.

So a 29 inch wheel travels 29 x 3.142 = 91 inches per revolution.

Divide by 36 to get yards. 91 / 36 = 2.5 yards.

So a 29 inch wheel travels 2.5 yards per revolution.

A 36 is exactly a yard across so it travels 3.142 yards per revolution.

This gives some idea of relative speed, but the actual rpm will vary with skill, experience, fatigue, terrain, crank length, head wind and so on.

A rough comparison of likely speeds can b done by dividing the larger wheel by the smaller one.

e.g. 36/29 = 1.24. The 36 will be 24% faster at the same rpm.

I think 150 miles in 3 days is possible, but only with more breaks, not less. Also, I think it’s unreasonable to expect you’re going to keep up with the bike riders. The pace you need to ride at is the pace of greatest energy efficiency. Once you start chasing down the bikers, you’re going to burn out really quickly. I think you need to allot 9-10 hours/day of riding/breaks to do your 50-mile days. Maybe at least one minute of breaks for every 10 minutes of riding. If you work too hard on day one, you may be disoriented on day two. Your balance will suffer, causing you to ride less efficiently and be more likely to fall.

I’m going to suggest… depending how your training goes, how about bringing both a unicycle and bike? Unicycle day 1 and 3 and bike day 2? Just thinking it seems like a lot of riding, particularly as you seem to have little riding under your belt.
Or with both a uni and a bike as a backup, you could do as much as you can on the uni then switch over to the bike to give your body a break for the rest of the day.

I know my back in particular could get sore, and doing that sort of distance on a uni saddle would not be pleasant.
Finally… Please ride as much as you can right now. Ride to work, ride to shops, ride to collect something etc…
And you need the bigger wheel. Everything is a different experience to the 20" wheel. Going anywhere on a bigger wheel is generally much more enjoyable, whereas a 20" is quite painfully slow and a lot of work for not much distance.


Sounds reasonable. Maybe it works out, maybe it turns out to be overly ambitious, but working towards that goal you might make more progress than you would have without it.

That sounds like a good prospect if it turns out to be in decent shape. You could build up riding that one for most of the year, see how it goes and what pace you can sustain. Then if you get to the start of spring next year, and things are going well but you see a need to go about 25% faster, you could get a 36" and still have a couple of months to get used to riding it. That was a pretty smooth transition in my experience.

Backing up Mikefule’s math, you might cruise at roughly 8 mph on a 29" vs 10 mph on a 36" in very approximate terms, based on a relaxed cadence of 90-100 rpm. (Talented riders with a lot of experience can spin faster but it gets pretty frantic above that for most of us.)

For any endurance sport, I think there’s an important barrier at around 4-5 hrs, when you’re out there doing what you do long enough to miss a meal time. Things get ugly quickly if you don’t manage your nutrition. That’s as important in training as anything, getting your stomach used to taking in calories while on the move and figuring out which foods/products work for you under those conditions. (One top runner says that an ultramarathon is basically an eating contest, that the one who can put down and keep down the most calories per hour probably wins.)

And since you mentioned finances, expect to spend more on groceries! Your calorie needs at least double the day of a multi-hour ride and stay higher than normal the next few days while you recover. And figure that whatever you settle on for nutrition while riding probably costs more per calorie than your normal fare, especially if you go with gels, energy shots, etc marketed to endurance athletes. It really adds up over the months.

Just start making a little noise…

I have a little experience in this area.

It will all depend on you, MonkeyMark. A few have completed bigger rides and events in similar or even worse circumstances. Be hesitant to put much trust in opinions of those who never made an honest effort to accomplish similar feats.

Most unicyclist will not have the reason or determination to follow through and be successful on your challenge.

Fifty miles nonstop, no problem. Seventy-five miles nonstop, I have issues with this one. I’m still working on the skill “peeing while riding forward without splashing on my feet”. I’m thinking of moving on to “peeing while riding backwards without splashing on my feet”. I’m not sure which skill level these two are as I’ve still not completed my level one certification.

Skill level certification, no problem. Not a single bicycle event has ever made me show my card or refused my entry because I’m not a certified unicyclist.

I’ve only been to one event that required me to pass a “qualification test” and it was put on for unicyclist (Ride the Lobster). And yes, I manipulated my test rides to demonstrate the test was a joke and only required me to ride a total of fourteen miles.

Wheel size, anything will work. It’s just a matter of how much sleep you want to get each night. Jack did the STP (Seattle to Portland, 204 miles) in two days on a 24”.

Multiple days in a row, no problem. I’ve done 80 miles days seven in a row in bad weather with vertigo.

New inexperienced unicyclist, no problem. I was a level “0” unicyclist and had never ridden more than five miles at a time five months before my first full century. My friend Roy learned to ride one summer and was doing 80 mile gran fondos in seven months and a 156 mile solo unsupported single day ride at one year traversing through downtown Seattle.

So it depends only on you, MonkeyMark. Do you think you have what it takes? Then I suggest you do like I have and make a little noise about it. Put the challenge out there loud enough you can’t back out. Otherwise things will get difficult and uncomfortable. Then distractions will interfere. You knees will give you the final excuse to back out. And instead of enjoying the challenge you will start to resent what it takes to ALWAYS be a finisher.

I’d suggest you do what I did a dozen years ago. Go buy a Sun 28”. Should be about $125 now. Mine was $80 back then. Ride it. Sometime later switch the cranks to something like 89mm. With 89mm you should be able to climb just about anything paved.

Start saving for a 36”. Stay away from the Nightfox. If you don’t have enough for the Kris Holm 36” then stick with the Titan 36”. You could save money by having Rodger take off the brake on the Kris Holm 36”, you will not need it. I wouldn’t waste my money on handles either. Learn without and you’ll never be needing them. For beginner 36” I’d suggest something in the 137-140mm range. Then 110-125 mm after you have been on the 36” awhile.

The difference between a 28/29” and a 36” is like night and day — like riding in a British Mini compared to a limousine. Both have there place and both have advantages. I’ll always choose the 36” on an all day tour. After 20 minutes on a 28/29” on pavement I’m always wondering why didn’t I grab the 36”.

If you plan on getting a 36”, don’t do like me and wait until the last minute to get the 36”. I only had mine less than two weeks before my first STP.

When you decide to tackle riding in the road pm me and I’ll share a few tips.

Now it’s time to commit, make some noise about it, and start succeeding. Get some milestones under that wheel. When setbacks hit you — focus on finding a solution. Ignore the naysayers. Don’t die trying, but make everything a game and you’re on YOUR game!



Threadjack. I’m curious: why do you say this? What is the problem with a Nightfox? Genuinely interested.

When I started unicycling, I set an arbitrary goal. I told myself I would be officially unicycling when I could ride a single, 1/4 mile loop around my neighborhood without dismounting. Part of the goal, as well, was to be able to self-mount. It took me about 6 weeks of daily practice (1-2 hrs/day) to achieve that goal. Having a goal helped me keep practicing.

But then, I discovered that I enjoyed practice for practice sake. There was a past forum thread about yoga and unicycling. I came across this quote:

One of the principles of yoga is not to seek the fruits of your actions. Practice for its own sake, without regard to success or failure. This is the way to equanimity. --Baron Baptiste

In other words, love the process.

Also, as you improve, basic skills, such as riding forward, will get a lot easier. You will start to relax, and you might actually start having fun. I think some beginners quit after they’ve learned to ride…but before they get to the point where unicycling gets easier.

Keep practicing!


Are you make any noises or commitment?

When ever I drive the route first I’m always convinced I’ll never finish. You might go drive the route. That way you’ll see just what you’re getting into — makes backing out the only reasonable thing to do…

Usually I’m already committed to the ride first.

An acquaintance had a NightFox. He had a love/hate relationship with the Nightfox. He even posted reviews on unicycle.comUSA — Don’t bother looking for his reviews.

What he disliked most was his ignorance, thinking the internet was an honest place, that his polite yet slightly negative review would help others make informed and wiser choices than he had.

It was not like he was suggesting they go somewhere else to shop.

He also thought his reviews might offer the manufacturer insight into some minor inexpensive improvements which might increase customer satisfaction and product durability.

You may notice that on unicycle.comUSA reviews are heavily weighted.

I’m usually glad I’m not a sponsored unicyclist. No one is dictating my choices or my expressions of enjoyment.



Sorry but what issues was he having. I have a nightfox. Any issues I should be aware of from a safety standpoint?

I think if there was something wrong with or inherently defective with the Nigthfox that the internet would blow that issue way out of proportion. Just like anything there are advantages and disadvantages with the Nightfox. An advantage is that the seat can be adjusted lower then any 36er but the seat angle may be harder to adjust then most unicycles. Do a goggle search for “nightfox unicycle review” for several reviews. I saw no major issues, there are many happy Nightfox owners out there.