I wanted to create a thread to encompass my experiences with freewheel unicycling. Heretofore these have been spread out throughout a variety of threads in the last few months:
Coker freewheel hub on a uni. (jona’s thread about the possibility of using the Coker freewheel hub on a unicycle which turned into a more general freewheel discussion, where I got my first freewheel hub from lobbybopster, and where dmacuni posted the availability of the Nimbus Drift Trike hubs.)
I’ve also created some posts in Pictures of your latest ride and it was a recent post that made me want to create a separate thread so as not to hijack that one. I hope everyone feels free to post here about their own adventures in freewheeling but of course you can create your own threads as you see fit or post to other existing ones. Besides Killian, Nurse Ben has put together a freewheel unicycle (which I’ve purchased), kenzyme2418 has made one out of a Huffy Slider, and Carina is working on one of her own. I’d love to hear anyone else’s recent experience with making or riding a freewheel unicycle. I’m sure there are people outside this forum as well. After burning through a couple 20" freewheels I currently have a 26" and a 36".
Today I went on a ride that I used to do every week on my 36" fixed wheel unicycle. I recorded the ride in three segments as recently as early September so I thought this would be a good ride to try out with my very new 36" freewheel. The first segment is 3.7 miles of paved road which turns into a dirt road with about 450 feet of elevation gain. On the fixed wheel I averaged 8.5 MPH and on the freewheel I averaged 7.8 MPH. The second segment is 3.0 miles of a bumpy, rocky dirt road with about 400 feet of elevation gain. I had to walk through steeper portions on both wheels but walked more with the freewheel. I also had significant brake rubbing from wheel flex which turned out to be due to loose bearing caps. I also had some trouble mounting down steep hills (which I improved at over time) and being able to brake sufficiently on steeper declines. I feel with more practice I can improve at both of these. On the fixed wheel I averaged 6.0 MPH and on the freewheel I averaged 5.1 MPH. The third segment is 1.5 miles of mostly downhill. On the fixed wheel I averaged 9.3 MPH and on the freewheel I averaged 7.9 MPH. I feel with more practice that I can get achieve faster speed.
My freewheel parts will be delivered within the next week I bought the Nimbus Drift disc trike hub and put it in a 26" wheel. My only worry is that the D’brake adapter doesn’t match the old KH frame I’d like to use. Are there any possibilities to use this two things together?
I’m really excited how hard it will be to ride this thing
Exciting! My 36" freewheel unicycle has a KH frame and one of the reasons I didn’t go with a disc brake was because of the D’brake issue. Some people have done grinding of one kind or another so maybe they’ll chime in with their experiences. You might also see what UDC has to say. I’ve used a Nimbus Muni frame and a Nimbus Oracle frame successfully with the D’brake. My favorite part of riding a freewheel is the first few days when it seems just impossible. Enjoy them because they don’t last!
Freewheel unicycling the de Anza trail - 36 inch edition
This morning I practiced my 36" freewheel on a short section of what’s called the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. It’s a hardpack trail that can get sandy in parts and has slight elevation gain. I like the fact that it’s not very busy. I wasn’t planning on making a video but I was practicing pedals-level coasting and was near my car so figured I might as well film it. Then I went down the trail a little bit with my camera and created this video from the footage:
I think the crank size is suboptimal for coasting. I adjusted my brakes so I could handle the smallish hills in the video but when I went to a different trail later I found I still was unable to brake sufficiently on steeper sections. I practiced riding on sidwalks later in the day but had to quit when my wheel became so untrue that it was noticeable while I was coasting. This was the result of several violent UPDs including one where I ended up stepping on the spokes. I finished my practice by riding hills on my 26" freewheel utilizing the pedals-level posture.
This is a very interesting thread/topic. Question: Is coasting more tiring than pedaling? I think if it was me, my legs would be super tense when coasting and might burn out faster than if I was pedaling. How relaxed are you when coasting?
Today was a maintenance and experimentation day. I worked on truing my 36", got frustrated, then finished it in the afternoon. In the meantime I tried 100mm cranks on my 26" and ended up bending them riding a trail. I got enough time with them on the sidewalk that I’m planning to order some better quality ones. The size seemed to work out well. I also tried 114mm cranks on my 36". Mounting wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be and the smaller size seemed to work out better as well.
Even when I’m making a concerted effort to coast more there’s still a lot more pedaling. I don’t exert a lot of leg effort coasting but have a fairly stiff body posture starting with my core. I try to keep this while pedaling although it is possible to relax a bit.
Since this post I mainly have been practicing riding my big wheel with the 114mm cranks. I tried a few bike paths and had an incredibly frustrating ride last Friday when I hardly was able to ride because of the state of my brake. I adjusted it and trued my wheel yet again and this past week I mostly practiced pedals-level coasting on flat sections while I waited for new cranks for my 26". Today was my first practice session with my 26" and decent 100mm cranks (and new pedals and gloves). I had a great couple of loops on one of the short trails I ride, emphasizing the pedals-level posture, and then when it got dark I rode on sidewalks with my lights and I feel like I made a breakthrough. With the 100mm cranks and pedals-level posture I was able to pedal faster than ever before and also coast faster on flat than ever before. Transitions between pedaling, coasting, and braking were also more seamless. I’m going to do my normal Friday ride tomorrow on my 26" and have a feeling it will compare favorably against when I did it two weeks ago on the 36". I plan to continue working on the pedals-level posture, braking less, and increasing my speed.
I did this ride on my 26" freewheel yesterday. I made the mistake of not bringing my socket wrench along for the ride after putting on new cranks (100mm) and wasn’t able to ride the 3rd segment. My GPS said 7.55 MPH for the first segment which was slightly slower than the 36" freewheel and about 1 MPH slower than the 36" fixed wheel. My GPS said 5.56 MPH for the second segment which was .5 MPH faster than the 36" freewheel and about .5 MPH slower than the 36" fixed wheel. I’m getting considerably faster riding downhill on rocky and bumpy terrain and more importantly it’s a lot of fun!
I purchased Nurse Ben’s 24" freewheel unicycle recently. I had my local bike shop replace the hydraulic Magura MT2 disc brake with the same mechanical disc brake as my 26" freewheel (TRP Spyre) to leverage my experience using and maintaining it and I got it back Friday. I rode it a little bit and tried to bed in the pads and got a couple longer rides on Saturday until I got a flat. I found it to be a great wheel and about what you’d expect. It’s a little bit slower pedaling and it’s easier to go over bumpy terrain without a UPD. While there’s still room for improvement I had significantly fewer UPDs on a trail that’s a lot more challenging on my 26". However, it’s possible that my new riding style and greater experience played a factor as well. Hopping in general is also easier. Another thing I found interesting was that even though the difference in center of mass from my 26" must be fairly small I can ride down extremely steep sections pretty easily. That’s one benefit I see of the freewheel over the fixed wheel, especially for people like me who are uncoordinated. I’m going to keep practicing with the 24" on more technical trails.
This helmet cam footage will probably only appeal to die hard freewheel fans so I’m posting this video here. It shows a trail I’ve been riding lately which works better on the 24" and has a short section at the end with the camera mounted to the frame. When my left hand is extended that usually means I’m brake-assisted coasting. I’m planning to work on a more interesting video this weekend.