Adventures in Freewheeling

Nice build! I never found much comfort in a fat wheel outside of soft terrain. I presume you’re going to learn on a sidewalk somewhere away from baby carriages. If you run into too much trouble you could swap on a different tire just for the learning phase. The good thing is that riding a freewheel is a proficiency skill and if you keep at it you’ll get it.

Thanks! I may switch the tire out during the learning process. Thanks for the encouragement!

Another beautiful build! Amazing-looking uni! (You know, if that whole nursing thing doesn’t work out, you could do well building custom unis. LOL!)

What brand are those spokes?

I actually don’t know. I’ll ask my wheel builder where he ordered them from.

About three months ago, a freewheeling unicycle fell into my possession. It was created by an adventureous soul, but had spent the last few years getting dusty in a Wisconsin attic. I never expected to be awesome at riding it, but I was amazed at waaalrus’s videos, and knew I had to give it a try. Plus it was free. (See this thread for the miracle of the free unicycles.)

So, I gave it a try. I’m a modestly functional unicylist. I can’t one-foot anything or ride backwards much, but I can get around reasonably, on road and off. The freewheel is a whole different game. It’s hard. I landed on my butt. More than once. I put my fearless 10 year-old on it. He fell on his butt. He went back to his muni.

I knew I didn’t want it to get dusty in my attic, so this week I took it to a club practice at the gym. I am lucky to have a club with several current and past world champion track/freestyle riders. These people know what they’re doing. They one-foot ride with their left foot on the right pedal. They do the backwards hand-wheel-walking nonsense. They don’t fall over. They amaze me. So I casually offered the freewheel uni to them, for some light amusement. Five or six riders could get about 10 feet on their second attempt. One brave young man must have caught the bug, because he worked with it for about 45 minutes. By the end, he was sweating pretty good, and could make it across the gym. I told him to take it home with him, because he was going to use it more than I would.

I guess the moral of my story is this: freewheeling is hard. Practice makes it better. If you’re not going to persist through the rough beginning part, I strongly suggest getting a free one. :smiley:

Hi UnderTheLake,

Thanks for the detailed feedback. It feels like a new challenge but you nailed it in how it challenges you (and you butt :D).

For sure, it is the best way but there’s not a lot of freewheeling unicycles around to make this ~ 1% case not so frequent :stuck_out_tongue:
The second best is to know a rider nearby that has one and try it out several times to know if you have it.

Time will tell if I get to meet someone who has one or if I will be a future project :wink:

I’ve got a hub and cranks for sale whenever you take that first step. :grinning:

Thanks Bri, for the hub! I built the freewheel hub into a 20" wheel.

Has anyone taken apart a non-disc nimbus drift trike hub? Mine is making slight grinding noises between the ratchet pawl clicks. Sounds metallic but am not sure what exactly. Is this normal? If not, has anyone serviced the innards of this hub?
My roommate noted that it sounds just like when you rotate a clicky pen cap’s cap the wrong way.

**Another note about building up the wheel. I had ordered spokes and used the hub flange diameter on UDC, which were incorrect at the time. I ordered spokes that were 1mm shorter as Amazon had even-millimeter-length spokes for a low price. With the actual hub flange diameter, luckily they should have been only .3mm too long so I didn’t have to reorder spokes. However, after tightening, the spokes were loose, possibly due to the inaccuracy of my measured ERD. I rode it like this my first day since I just couldn’t wait.

The next day, I bought #8 brass washers from the hardware store to use as nipple washers(ID ~4.4mm. I was again impatient, as I had actually also ordered nipple washers online the day before(4.25mm ID). My hastiness led me to forgot to check the OD of the washers at the hardware store… The washers didn’t fit in the inner wall holes in my rim, so I had to drill the holes a bit larger which was a pain because my drill couldn’t hold the drill bit, so I had to go into a workshop and use a drill press. Spokes are still a tad loose but I only have 1 or 2 90-degree turns until some spoke threads bottom out. I think 1 more 90 degree turn on all of them will make them have approximately the same tension as another 20" wheel I have for reference. Hopefully it’ll hold together for now. (Maybe l’ll add another set of actual nipple washers later).

I practiced for a half hour. Falling backwards so much started to hurt me knees, but it was very fun! :slight_smile:

I can’t help you with the hub question, but the wheel build is a different matter. First some questions:

How did you measure the hub and rim? What were the values you plugged into the calculator? Which calculator did you use?

What length spoke did you buy? What length should you have? If you have the wheel up to tension you can measure the amount sticking out of the nipple and add the depth of the nipple slot to determine how far off the length is. Then just subtract that from the spoke length.

Did you measure the spokes to verify that you received the right length?

What x pattern did you use?

Fascinating thread.

I find this thread absolutely fascinating and appreciate the updates from waaalrus, carina, bwrightback, and the others. What great efforts to pioneer this groundbreaking part of our sport.

This is not directly relevant, but I spotted this well-done gliding video that might incorporate some of the same principles as freewheeling. I have never seen a unicyclist glide for such as distance–or so courageously, for that matter.

I’m going to keep my eye in this thread, especially with regards to skills acquired and hub lifespans. :). Thanks.


Hey Jtrops, thanks. a bit of a thread jack about the wheel build…

UDC originally had 52.6mm listed as the Nimbus Driftrike Cotterless Hub’s flange diameter. Other measurements on the website(which are correct based on my measurements using a digital caliper):
flange width: 67.3mm
spoke hole diameter: 2.8mm,

I first measured using ERD with two spokes in opposite spoke holes. I threaded them on with two nipples until they bottomed out, then pulled them towards each other, marked with tape on both spokes at one point where they overlaped. Took them off, threaded them back onto the nipples, and measured the length of each from the end of the nipple to get a total of 398.6mm. I then did the same thing with another pair of holes 90 degrees off, and by looking at the tape, the measured ERD seemed to be exactly the same at this location.
I also tried using a 1m paper ruler to measure circumference to get a diameter value, and then subtracted the depth from the inside wall where I measured to the top of where a nipple would be. I got around 400mm, but the tape measurer was a bit wide so it didn’t fit inside the rim very flatly, so I decided to use 399mm as my ERD.
I built the wheel using 36spokes and 3 cross, and that’s what I entered into the calculators as well.
I used the UDC spoke length calculator and it said I need a spoke length of 188.93mm for a 399mm ERD. I also used the DT Swiss website one and also got ~189mm.
Thus, I bought 188mm spokes.

With the new hub diameter fo 58mm, the UDC calculator says 187.91mm, so I thought I would be fine(spokes would poke out of the end of the nipple head a tiny bit).

The spokes are poking out up to .5mm to 1mm. With extra spokes and nipples from the same batch, I can only thread them on until about 1.1mm is poking out, so the spokes/nipples on my wheel are really close to bottoming out.

I measured a couple of the spokes (out of the 50 that I got), and they are 188mm.

I took apart the hub, and everything seemed fine. I added some grease on the pawls which made the pawl clicks quieter and also made the scratching/grinding sound go away.

I just googled ‘adding grease to pawls’, and now realize the grease I used might dry up after a while and cause the pawl to not engage properly…
I will leave it as is for a few months.

Another issue I just noticed is there is about one paper thickness axial play on both outer bearings. Maybe I pushed something in with too much force, or there was always play and I didn’t notice before taking apart the hub. I don’t think this will be a problem.

I haven’t seen that issue. One thing I’ve is that the ease of spin can vary a little bit over time and between hubs. For instance, rolling the wheel with the cranks staying still vs. rolling the wheel with the cranks following along. This may be due to dirt or grit getting in somewhere. I’ve broken a hub on a tough climb (after 1000 miles) so that it freewheeled in both directions. I had that serviced and the fix was probably to replace one or more pawls.

That’s one of my favorite unicycling videos. Those guys are super talented and for me gliding has very little similarity with freewheeling, at least skill-wise. I spent a few years trying to learn to glide, including six solid months where it was one of three tricks I focused on, and didn’t advance very much. The balance is a little different but the biggest issue for me is the coordination needed for braking. I have extremely poor coordination. I could ride that road brake-coasting on a freewheel but I could never glide down it.

Practiced tonight for under an hour; stopped when I noticed my bearing holders were loose. Apparently I’ve only been tightening all my bearing holders on all my unicycles to about 1 Nm(just bought a torque wrench recently). The fact that I bent shims to use on this hub in my 29er frame might have also made it come loose more easily(Surprisingly I’ve only had 1 other bearing holder come loose in the past 2 years…).
I used 12mm x 1mm brass strips I found at the hardware store for my shims.
Anyways, I tightened it down more and will hopefully find time to practice soon again.

Started out falling a lot my first time riding last week. Still falling a lot, but coasting for even a couple feet is exhilarating!

My goal was to coast across No Man’s Land (area from baseline to service line), and I finally got it 3 times today! It is quite difficult for me to initiate a coast still; my body just wants to keep pedaling.

I will most likely look into getting a disc brake and building up a 26 or 29 inch freewheel.
For road riding, would a 29er freewheel have an advantage over a fixed 29er if one is skilled enough?
Given appropriate gearing, I think that cyclists would always be pedaling in order to go as fast and efficiently as possible(other than cornering or maybe a few other scenarios). However, I’m curious how much faster a single speed freewheel is compared to a single speed fixed unicycle on various types of road rides / inclines. (Though I’m personally not too keen on going 30+km/h downhill)

Great work! If you haven’t seen it yet I made this tutorial video:

As far as braking goes, I don’t like the braking feel of aluminum frame + D’Brake. I also found that steel frame + D’Brake may cause the D’Brake to break relatively quickly. My frames have been steel + steel disk tab with the exception of my 36" which had a Magura rim brake. For my riding style there wouldn’t be a lot of difference between 26" and 29". For smaller wheels like that with no gearing my pedaling pattern is to pedal up to speed and then bleed down that speed by coasting or braking. The top speed I’m comfortable going is 15mph although my average speeds are much slower. There’s a 20-25 mile ride that I used to do on my 26" freewheel:

I don’t have a comparison for that ride on a fixed wheel because that would be an incredibly boring and tedious ride at 1:1. I wouldn’t average a faster speed on the freewheel or expend less energy, but it’s certainly more challenging and fun. I have a 20" 3.8x geared freewheel that I ride every week which is fun but not very practical at that gearing. I think a 26" 2x would be just about perfect if such a hub existed. Some comparison rides are:



If you end up deciding a 26" freewheel is what you want I have one I could sell you. It’s a great unicycle for the road and for non-technical trails. I’ve been keeping it as a backup but it’s redundant with my 24" freewheel. That has a 65mm rim and 3" tire (vs. the 36mm and 2.2" of the 26") so the diameter is pretty close.

I’ve watched the video! :slight_smile:
Have you tried, or what do you think about, an aluminum frame with a disc tab?
If I’m not careful, even on flat ground, I end up pedaling too fast and have to coast. And since I can’t coast very well yet and I can’t slow down quickly enough to start pedaling again, I fall :roll_eyes: . But, I guess this helps me practice coasting more and won’t need to rely on brakes as much(or I’ll be able to appreciate them more) when I get them.

I haven’t tried an aluminum frame with a disc tab but I’d like to and I think it would work OK. QU-AX has a frame like that but I haven’t seen it for sale by itself. The only other alternative is to get a disc tab welded on and it’s maybe a little harder to find someone who has experience with that vs. a steel frame. shop (Germany) has some for sale and you also have the latest KH frames that are aluminum and with a disk tab.

KH frames are made for external rotor (tab on the right) and QX frames for internal rotor (tab on the left). I guess, external rotor would make no sense for a freewheel :roll_eyes: