Way back in 1988 when I got into the sport of unicycling the choices for an Australian unicyclist were somewhat limited. Most of us rode Taiwanese crapcycles that were stocked as novelty items in most bike shops. The lucky ones were sometimes elevated to the status of owning semcycles (XL and Deluxe models of which I have owned 1 and 2 respectively). Occasionally one might encounter a Unicycle Factory (Tom Miller) or a DM.
I did see a few custom builds but most of these were giraffes. My first giraffe was a 7ft beauty. Probably too tall to start on but I was young and invincible.
Since those days the choice of brands and styles of unicycles have exploded and we have machines built to exacting specifications depending in the style of riding. Freestyle, Muni, Guni, Trials, Trails, Street, Autobalance, etc. People even customised them to include suspension (but we all eventually realised that a fat tyre and a soft saddle worked better).
The question that I pose is this. What comes next?
I am now studying Industrial Design and I have to remake an existing product so that it meets the needs of a new user. My group has chosen the unicycle.
If you could have a unicycle designed specifically for a new style of riding what would it be? Nothing is too outrageous when brainstorming. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Underwater, outer space, for level 11 riders, riders with one leg, on the beach, on top of the water, for long distance unsupported treks, etc.
Come up with some ideas and post them here. The best one will be designed by a crack team of 2nd year industrial design students. I will even post the finished assignment here for all to see.
Let the ideas flow.
Wayne van Wijk (former uni-cycle guy, now uni-student guy)
Make a sturdy 12" uni that has a single speed geared hub with a 1:2 ratio (creating a simulated 24" tire size). It would be the most compact, harmless - looking, practical transportation device to ride around in public places where people might think of a full sized unicycle as a safety hazard. You could put a really fat tire on it for hopping around, too. The small size might make the rent-a-cops let you ride in peace.
Speaking as a relative novice, the three things I see as unicycle “shortcomings” that might benefit from a new design:
Hard to learn: some sort of training unicycle that was more stable. I have no idea how one could do this but it hasn’t been successfully done, or we’d all know about it. Perhaps this needs to be designed as a part of a complete training program
Bumpy. The fact that most agree that a fat wheel/soft seat is the current best suspension solution merely proves that there are no good suspension alternatives today. There is no reason that unicycles shouldnt benefit as much, if not more from suspension than 2+ wheeled vehicles
Overly specialized. The narrow speed/power range of individual unicycles makes each one limited to a narrow set of riding conditions compared to other vehicles. Variable gearing would seem to be the best way to improve this.
I’m not purporting to have any solutions to the above, but they seem like pretty obvious limits to unis today. Designing to improve upon any 1 of them would be a challenging project.
We’ve seen the electric unicycles that balance themselves like a segway. Imagine if you took the balancing tech but left out the electric motor and applied a clutch or variable gearing inside the hub against the power generated from the pedals.
You could basically hop on, pedal as unevenly and as fast as you want and the hub would keep your forward and back balance for you. It would make a unicycle as easy to ride as a bike while being much smaller for taking on the bus etc.
A light weight V-frame combined with a pnuematic wheel more than 36"- maybe 56" and have a narrow tire and innertube similar to a racing 700c for lightness. And somehow convince a wealthy benefactor that it is a charity project so the customers don’t have to wear the initial development costs to prevent it happening. The wheel must be stiff, and be somehow resistant to punctures even though you are saving weight with the narrower tire.
I want a practical urban commuter. Should have Gears (More then 2), brakes, be able to hit bike speeds with a wheel no bigger then 26", and being able to coast with my feet on the pedals would be nice.
Where I come from, Industrial Design means designing the look of things, not necessarily designing the things. That’s engineering. A caution you on spending too much time/effort on the engineering part, which will take away from the ID part.
So I like Rowan’s idea of working on a V-frame. There’s still danger of it turning into an engineering problem, but you have lots of options for making it beautiful! Ultimately it would be nice to have a design that works for a range of rider sizes and tastes. Some are short, others tall. Some like a close-in handle, others like a high handle, others want a lot handle way out front, etc.
Another possibility along the same lines is a Freestyle frame; one that’s designed to optimize it for typical Freestyle tricks. These days, that mostly means stand-up skills. Make it good for those while not a problem for other tricks, and you have something UDC might want to actually build.
BTW, I “come from” the College for Creative Studies, Detroit. I studied Industrial Design there, but only for one year.
Design a unicycle with a kick stand that stays out of the way when you’re riding.
One thing I really want is a non-shifting, geared hub. So a 26" could be as fast as a 39", but stay compact. Hopefully the fact that this hub only has one gear would create a manageable price for those who cannot afford a shlumpf.
I also love the idea of suspension. Just think if you could have a skinny racing style rim and tire on your 36", but had suspension for cushon. It would be much lighter, but it would still be smooth.
+1 to the V-frame idea. Make it adjustable for the height of the rider, with adjustable/customizable handlebar mount. Also add a practical luggage rack that’s not too large or heavy to use, but still useful, and it should be removeable. And maybe a hard-sided thin storage compartment within the V, arcing over the wheel?
Edit: to avoid engineering and cost issues of making a new tire and rim, I’m thinking new V frame for a 36" wheel.
I think I’m falling into the engineering rather than design side here, but it ought to be possible to design something with a geared up single speed and suspension to keep most people here happy. Based on something like http://www.unicycle.uk.com/unicycles/road-24-36/26-huni-rex-unicycle-black.html but with the wheel supported on a suspension arm so that the whole seat/pedal combo is suspended.
A downhill geared 2 or 3 to 1 jump uni, for sand dunes
Must have fat tires. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. I have crashed dirt bikes in sand pits at 50 + MPH wearing a T shirt, and the rash is super mild. A high geared 36 could jump off a downhill ramp and catch air at maybe 20-30 MPH.
I think it’s a great idea. You should build it and and then have Terry try it first. I will watch and cheer.
An idea I thought of, not sure how it would work out but the idea stems from my longboard I have that features a quick-release adjustable truck angle which allows for an extremely stable board to something that can turn quite sharp. Typically, one would need to install wedges to do such thing and only be able to do it in increments. With the board I have, the trucks are mounted on a curved bracket, allowing for extremely fine tuning. Why I bring this up: versitility. A single board is now useful for multiple uses and rider preference.
Now in the unicycle world: something along the lines with an adjustable crankset. The idea would be to shorten your cranks for longer rides to lengthening them when you want more control, doing a performance, or navigating something that requires a decent amount of leverage. An added bonus could be an adjustable Q-factor so that riders can get their uni to fit them like a glove rather than having to try out different parts and install them.
Now if only someone could somehow come up with an airless tire setup that could be adjustable in diameter. However, all of these ideas would probably cause a lot of stress points in the uni, especially an adjustable wheel diameter.