Adventures in Freewheeling

Learning the kite part and finding a good place to practice it is much harder than learning to ride a freewheel. It looks like you’re 2/3 of the way there and should be able to get the last part with practice. Good luck!

Yes, coasting on rough terrain is challenging. That’s why I have my 29+ freewheel now, to smooth out the bumps as much as I can. I didn’t have my 36" freewheel very long because I didn’t like the rim brake it had. It was on a wheel I built myself so wasn’t very true. I didn’t go on very long rides with it but have gone 15+ miles on a 20" and 20+ miles many times on a 26". I tend to ride off road because there aren’t many bike paths where I live and they’re short.

I agree with this, but it’s also scarier and depending on your brake setup you can get to a speed that is too high to quickly stop. I generally top out at about 15mph because of the runout issue.

I’d also agree with this but it’s hard to tell exactly how much.

With more practice you can get pretty good at pedaling at a near-constant velocity on flats and mild inclines. It’s easier off road and with more rolling resistance. A lot of riding for me is very short coasts mixed in with pedaling to bleed off the speed. One thing I’m not very good at is very mild braking and the coasting-braking-coasting transition. Too often I brake to get back down to pedaling speed and then pedal instead of just braking slightly.

This is definitely true. When I’m coasting it’s important for me to hold my core rigid which is tiring. Often I’ll resort to a brake-heavy style of riding when I get fatigued.

My braking style between fixed and freewheel is very different and I’m pretty used to changing back and forth now but there was one time I was riding a fixed wheel unicycle and was riding hard towards a bridge with the intention of stopping in the middle. I leaned back, gave the brake lever a good pull, and stopped pedalling. I managed to land on my feet but had to retrieve my unicycle from underneath the bridge.

I definitely agree!

Freeewheeling the Bluff Trail 2-13-2017

The main reason I got a Mavic drone was to shoot freewheel videos but I need a lot more practice with it.

Freewheeling Morro Bay State Park 3-2-2017

I started my DJI Mavic with half battery and still haven’t figured out how to get it to follow me for more than about 30 seconds (Active Track Profile mode). I’m going to do some testing the next time I go out because I think there are two issues involved (phone staying awake in my pocket and descending) and I have a plan to see which is hanging me up. The last couple segments are Active Track Spotlight which is a better and quicker version of the way I used to shoot videos (set up a camera on a tripod and shoot footage approaching the camera and going away from the camera).

Hi Waalrus and all!

I didn’t practice so much my x3.8 freewheel unicycle but I practiced a lot on 24" and 32". I just make a video of an indoor train with the 24".

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Cool! I really enjoyed this video, especially when you showed the fails in reverse, followed by the success :slight_smile:

This is so cool:):):), I really liked your video;)

Thank you !

I think I will edit it a little because of a big translation error : “break” instead of “brake”. :o

If you see others mistakes, tell me please. :wink:

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That’s an awesome video. It’s like opening up whole new areas of hard stuff to do with unicycles! That coasting while pedaling backward just looks so wrong! :slight_smile:

Plus I love the one where the unicycle shakes and bounces on the floor before jumping up and hitting the wall.

Meet “White Widow”

So happy to embark down this new adventure! I’ve been riding unicycles for a bit over 10 years now; mostly offroad on mix of 24, 26 and larger unicycles with some dabbling of long road rides on 36er. I recently came across this thread after also seeing some short video clips on FB page of a young rider doing some Freewheel unicycling. I was hooked! As I already had all the parts for a KH26 build it was a simple matter to purchase a Nimbus Trike hub with disc brake and put the thing together.

I just had my first practice session and I’ve now a huge amount of respect for those who can ride this beast at all for any distance! Wow! I’ve been humbled! Right now I’m going back to basics of how I learned to ride in the beginning; use my car to prop myself up, get settled in the saddle and cranks and then just try and ride as far as I can. So far I can make it around 20-30’.

I’m going to read through this thread now in much more detail about best practices in learning but I’ve got a few questions for starters.

  1. What crank length do you recommend for 26" wheel? I’ve got 152mm on there but feel like they’re way too long to learn on as I can’t pedal smoothly enough.

  2. I’m not too concerned yet about freemounting but how do you even do that? I can (sort of) do a curb mount with cranks basically vertical but it’s sketchy.

Thank you in advance!


Hi MuniSano,

kudos for jumping in the adventure.

I also asked about the recommendations for the initial setup as I got one hub cheap and was thinking about building a wheel.

You can see waaalrus suggestions at this link and my 3 lines summary right after :stuck_out_tongue:

The tutorial video from waaalrus (and others) will be useful overall. For the freemount, as far as I understand, it would mean : 1) lock the brake, 2) jump on without pushing backward on the pedals, 3) unlock and go !

Have fun and good luck !

For crank length, I found shorter was better for pedaling smooth, but you also need to re-accelerate if you start with learning brake coasting, so 125 were a good medium for me on a 24". For a 26" either 125mm or 138mm. Now I have 150s on my freewheel 26" for MUni.

Here are some of the mounts that can be used, in order from my favorite to least favorite:

Rolling mount/hop mount: walking while holding the unicycle. Then I lock the brake all the way and basically pole vault (only arms and a little bit of butt on the seat). Once I am on top of the unicycle I put both my feet down at the same time then pedal away.

Seat in front variation: this one is kind of complicated, but it’s the one I learned with. Hold unicycle upright in front of you, turn cranks 180° from how you would standard mount. Put your mounting foot on the crank that is on the side your mounting foot would normally be on (it will be 180° from where it would normally be). Lock the brake and swing your other leg over the seat so you are sitting on the seat and the non-mounting foot is on the pedal. Move your mounting foot from the crank to the pedal and ride off.

Simple hop on mount, but it turns out that that mount alone gets you leaning backwards and the resulting falls aren’t comfortable.

Reverse Mount: exactly like in freestyle riding, step in front of the unicycle. Put mounting foot on crank behind you at 3°clock position. Step down and catch the other pedal with your non-mounting foot and ride off.

Standard mount: put foot on pedal and pull backwards while pushing off of the ground with the non-mounting foot.

So I’ve been practicing for about 5 hours total now spread over 5 or 6 sessions. I’m at least comfortable enough now to quickly mount now via a prop (wall, car, pole) with brake applied and cranks vertical. I then spin cranks to horizontal, release the brake and ride. I’m ok to ride dozens of yards as long as I slowly accelerate. But as soon as I need to coast to slow down I’m usually right off the back of the uni. I’ve realized the crucial skill I need to learn is the pedal-coast-pedal transitions. Sometimes I can pull off some micro-coasts but not very successful at longer, cranks vertical, transitions. It’s as if I can’t will my legs to pedal again after I go into a coast; that my balance envelope has shifted to far back to recover from.

This thread is a wonderful resource for more advanced riding, but I’d like to see some more fundamental, beginner level advice if at all possible. I’m sure I just need to practice much more and the transitions will improve.

Any advice or pointers or lessons learned from a beginner’s point of view?

Thanks in advance!


First, I was looking at your first post again, Hi! I’m the young rider on UDC Facebook, congratulations on your jump to try freewheeling!

So at NAUCC this year I was letting basically everyone try my freewheel MUni, and the people that were successful started riding with one hand on the brake at all times and would feather the brake even when pedaling. This was the very first thing I did while learning to ride too. I hope this helps!

My two tutorial videos are:

Because I’m an avid coaster and had no experience with a brake before I started riding a freewheel my technique is more geared towards coasting. After five years of freewheel riding I only recently learned to pedal while braking and my braking in general is not very elegant. As far as mounting I actively pull the unicycle towards me with my foot, hop on, and tap (not hold) the brake as I’m going over the top. I can mount without the brake and used to do that exclusively. I would say you just need to keep practicing and see what feels right to you. The most important thing is to have fun. For me the hardest transition is coasting-brake coasting-coasting. Once you can get long coasting runs in pedaling-coasting-pedaling is not too hard although can be tiring if you go significant distances.

Thanks for the advice AJ KJ and waaalrus. I hadn’t come across that older tutorial video. That mounting technique really makes a lot of sense to me, as does the concept of really using a lot of braking while riding.

So my final question for now is what does your typical ride look like? AJ KJ you mentioned you started out doing a lot of brake feathering while riding and waaalrus you mentioned extended rides with pedaling-coasting-pedaling would be tiresome. So, outside of videos, when you go out for a long ride are you riding more like a conventional unicycle and using the brake to control speed and to take the place of inability to apply back pressure to the pedals? Or are you throwing in frequent coasts to dump speed? I’ve noticed that you both ride some significant distances on trail so what are you doing out there?

Thank you! Now back to lurking and freewheel unicycle practice!

My typical ride is MUni (turns out freewheel isn’t so great for road until you get really good at coasting), basically as it is in my video (more videos coming) except I fall a LOT, and I pedal - brake coast - pedal on flat ground. On smooth descents I let off the brake as much as I feel comfortable. As I get tired I find that I don’t stand up off the pedals to coast, so I will brake coast (I need to work on my endurance…).

I’ve practicing coasting over more uneven ground, because as you said, it gets tiresome. For now I am mostly using the freewheel for enduro type riding, climb up a hill, bomb down. This means I don’t get stuck in the flat ground dilemma. Also, I just need to ride more to get my falls down to what I’d expect on a fixed wheel MUni ride.

For me freewheel riding style depends on the terrain. On very bumpy terrain I definitely have to go slower and use the brake a lot. I’m still working to improve this so I can go faster over bumpier terrain with fewer UPDs. On relatively smooth terrain I will go faster and coast more. There can still be plenty of UPDs depending on how much I push it and often because of overbraking. I don’t have access to a long bike path but would ride one a lot if I could. I ride shorter bike paths and have gone on a number of longer (20+ mile) road rides including the WNBR at Unicon in Montreal. I ride my freewheel on most of the trails I would ride fixed with a couple exceptions. A trail that has a lot of rock gardens is not really suitable for me. Any place you need to hop to get past is not suitable because of the strength of the cotterless hub (and I don’t hop past obstacles even on my fixed wheels). I joined Strava in January 2014 and was riding almost exclusively freewheels then through about October 2014 when I started to mix in fixed riding more (I started to make a concerted effort to improve my fixed riding at that time). After I got back from Unicon in 2016 I focused even more on fixed riding and was not riding freewheels nearly as much. Now I’m going back into mixed mode again. I’ll ride the fixed wheel when I ride with others, want to work on my technical riding, and want to get raw exercise and I’ll ride the freewheel when I want to improve my skills and have fun. When I first started riding a freewheel my fixed riding skill was not much better but now I can blaze past bumpy sections I have to ride very slow (or have many UPDs) with the freewheel. I want to even that out again. I started riding a freewheel around June 2013 and recorded my progression with a number of videos:

Small section of sidewalk (no brake)
Freewheel unicycle practice 6-9-2013

Longer sidewalk rides (had a brake but couldn’t use it yet)
Freewheel unicycling on Santa Barbara Road 6-23-2013

Longer sidewalk rides (using brake)
Freewheel unicycling on Santa Barbara Road Redux 7-1-2013

Off road flat mostly smooth
Off road freewheel unicycling 7-1-2013

Slightly rough terrain with slight elevation changes
Cross country freewheel unicycling West on the Salinas Riverwalk 7-14-2013

Mostly smooth terrain with rollers (runouts at end)
Freewheel unicycling dips: the three bears 9-5-2013

Mostly smooth terrain with bigger elevation changes (runouts at end)
Freewheel unicycling the Jim Green trail - Why Pedal? 10-26-2013

(Helmet cam) Slightly rough terrain with even bigger elevation changes
Johnson Ranch Freewheel POV 12-11-2013

(Helmet cam) Bombing down sidewalks
Freewheel unicycle speed runs - lessons learned 12-13-2013

(Helmet cam) Slightly rough terrain with even bigger elevation changes
Freewheel unicycling Poly Canyon - You are a beast 12-13-2013

Slightly rough steeper terrain (runouts at end)
Freewheel unicycling beyond the fence 12-14-2013

Mostly smooth terrain with rollers (runouts at end)
Freewheel unicycling loops at the de Anza trail 2-15-2014

Practicing coasting jumps (runouts at end)
Freewheel unicycle small jump practice 5-16-2014

(Helmet cam) Rougher steeper terrain
Freewheel Unicycle Helmet Cam - Hazard Peak 6-8-2014

Rougher steeper terrain
Freewheel Unicycling - Downhill dream at Rocky Canyon Trail 10-4-2014

Recovery from Coasting

Like yourself, I’m fairly new to freewheeling and am climbing the beginner’s learning curve. I’ve gotten to where I can freemount and coast ( brake assisted) for maybe 10 seconds at various speeds and slope angles

I also have had a major issue with leaning back and coming off the uni. I made a bunch of headway on this issue recently by braking more and braking harder. I’ve found that at the beginner stage I need to have the brake on a bit while coasting to control my speed and calm me down so I don’t instinctively lean back (and bail off) to slow. If I lean back I brake hard (harder than I ever would on a fixed uni) and then try to straighten my body and lean forward - this has kept me on the uni and allowed me to start pedaling again.

For reference - I’m using a 29er Oracle with a light off road tire (see pic). I use a 203mm disc rotor which can be a bit grabby, but allows for hard braking to keep me on the uni. I may switch the disc down to a 180mm rotor. I chose the 29 'cause that’s what I had, but I think a smaller wheel would have been easier to learn on.

Thanks waaalrus and the others here for inspiring me to take the freewheel challenge - it just adds another cool wrinkle to the sport which keeps it new. Thanks TrevEv for swapping me the Nimbus Drift trike hub.

One more thing that helped me (echoed by others here). After my 1st freewheel session, I switched from 150mm cranks to 125s (even though I typically ride 150s on my fixed uni), because the longer cranks effected my body position more: making it harder to mount and and causing me to accelerate too fast for a beginner. Once I get better, I expect Ill go back to the 150s.