Advice on unicycling the 2013 Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City

Anyone planning to unicycle the 2013 Five Boro Bike tour in New York City on May 5? The past three years I’ve ridden my bicycle in the event, but this year I thought it would be a fun change of pace to try the 40 miles on my Coker. I’d greatly appreciate any advice from anyone who’s done the tour on one wheel.

Hey Leeway,
I’ve done the 5 boro on a 36" in 2011 and 2012 . This year I left NYC (and sold my 36") so I’m going to miss it.
I will not go on with general suggestions about distance riding, there are better threads in this forum for that, I will give a couple of tips specific for the 5 boro:

  • you will be riding with unexperienced bikers, people who rented a bike for the first time in 6 months for the 5 boro, and kids. This means, you have to think for them too, and be in control all the time. Last year for instance a girl on a small bike crossed the road in front of me perpendicular to the riding direction, getting out of the sidewalk, while I was going full speed on the road. While I managed to avoid her by an inch and I got a lot of “Whoa that was cool, how did you do that” from bikers around me, I did not find that entertaining at all.
  • if you’ve done it by bike already, you know that congestions are an issue and stops can be frequent. Be very confident in mounting and dismounting. You will have to mount in little space, perhaps slightly uphill, and without swinging to the left and right for the first pedal strokes, as there will be bikes passing by close to you and others coming up behind you.
  • Coming back to point 1 (being in control), if you are unsure if you can finish the ride I suggest you to leave a bike in a pay parking lot in Brooklyn (or wherever you think you may be tired) close to the 5 boro route, and swap your ride if you are actually tired when you get there.

Have fun at the 5 boro and post pics!


The same thing happens to me in our bi-annual Hike, Bike, and Paddle event. My LBS owner suffered a subdural hemorrhage falling off her Penny Farthing because a kid swerved in front of her. She recovered but chose to lean rather than ride her ordinary at CycLOUvia where pedestrian traffic also comes into play and I ended up switching my geared 36er for the KH29 so I would always be in control.

START AT THE FRONT! My advice might be outdated, but in the past, “odd cycles” were welcomed to come up to the front of the assembled horde, and start in the first block of the lineup. There you will get to mix it up with the 10-person bikes, the King Charles Troupe if they’re in town (posers; rode a few blocks and then veered off), penny farthings and pretty much anything you can imagine with pedals. You might get your picture in any of the major NYC newspapers, as I did in the late 80s with my 45".

Don’t ride a 45", or anything with a solid rubber tire. Sure, you can make it, but it’s a pretty harsh ride! Also don’t try it on a 24", I don’t think anyone’s ever completed it on that size wheel because you have to maintain an average 10mph, without stopping, or be passed by the sag buses and trucks at the back of the ride, to be left in car-filled streets!

Expect boneheaded riding, as described above. You will see less and less of it as you go farther into the ride, but some casual riders join in at all parts of the route, so they’ll always be there. Don’t be afraid to use a loud voice to announce your presence to knuckleheads weaving in front of you, for instance.

Last but not least, don’t take the ride too seriously. It’s a “fun ride”, not a race, and the lighter your approach, the more fun you’ll have. You will get tons of attention, so be prepared. But it’s coming from fellow cyclists, mostly, not pedestrians, so 99% of them will be on your side.

I rode the 5-Boro Bike Tour most years from 1985-1993 or so. Below is a picture from the 1985 tour. It’s hard to picture how much space 20,000+ bikes and riders take up. They use over a mile of street to line up at the start of the ride, and spread out over many miles along the course. In the photo below, if you think you see a lot of bikes, now look at the bridge. The top deck is solid bikes, across all lanes!


Leeway, start at the front regardless of registration time/zone restriction. Last year I tried riding (uni) with my friends (on bikes), but we started so far behind that there was no way I could complete the ride. According to other previous riders (above) and the captains along the route, just go ahead of everyone. Screw the bikers, we’re special.

What really annoys me is that they won’t allow backpacks (due to the Boston Marathon). Unis require more effort, so more hydration, and now backpacks/hydration packs are banned. Look into attaching a water bottle to your post, otherwise it will be a very tiring ride. Fanny packs are not banned, so looks like I’ll be picking up one of those this week.

My friend and I are riding our unis, so join us at the front on Sunday. Fair warning, as is my friend’s and my tradition, we will be hitting the occasional bar along the route. Fact: Uni distance riding improves with beer.

Seriously? They banned backpacks and hydration packs because of a couple of nutters in Boston? Knee-jerk over-reaction FTW! :roll_eyes:

I like the pubs idea, but banning hydration is really, really dumb.

If someone wants to blow people up they can easily toss a grenade without wearing any kind of pack…

Rabulioni, Do you have a recommendation on a place/time to rendezvous before heading into the fray?

To be honest this will be my first year of cutting to the front. I have the Silver registration, which means I should start at 9:15, but several captains (and people on here) told me I can start at the beginning 7:45 with the VIPs and specialty cycles. I doubt they will, but even if they say “no” I’ll just hop on the train, go one station up, exit and join the tour anyway. I live in Brooklyn literally across the river from the Financial District, so I’ll probably leave my place around 6:45 or so and show up at 7:00-ish. I’ll queue up at Chambers and Church St.

Really though, bring whatever form of hydration you can. Looking over the info book provided the water stations are few and far between. Those few water stations will probably be very strained as well. The absurdity of banning backpacks/hydration packs is beyond stupid. Honestly, how many will be injured due to dehydration? Are we any safer? Ugh, sorry for the rant but I’m pissed about this.

Hope to see you there

Sounds good. I’ll look for you. Thanks for the hydration advice. I’ve put one water bottle on my handle, and I’ll be carrying another on a waist holder. Two bottles was enough when on a bicycle, but I share you concerns about whether they’ll be enough on a unicycle.

My sister took this picture in Herald Square today. She was looking for unicyclists and only spotted one. Hope to hear how the ride went for you all…

Yep, there I go. Towering above the bikers. :smiley:

Hey Rabulioni,

Looking good! Sorry we never got a chance to meet up. I got delayed at the Staten Island Ferry and ended up starting around 9:30 with the silver group. Still, a really fun time. Oh, one unexpected benefit of starting so late: By the end of the tour I was riding with the more casual riders, so going up the Verazzano Bridge I ended up passing EVERYONE. Of course, they all blew past me on the way down.

So wait, no backpacks, but paniers are totally cool? Oh the logic…

Scott, the guy in the background with the paniers was one of the many tour marshals. Security was great. Nevertheless, saw a few riders who somehow managed to take backpacks and other large bags, which were far larger than my Camelbak.

Fair enough. Good to know that everyone was safe.

Rabulioni what uni are you riding? What cranks/tire did you have on it for that kind of ride? If you want a full resolution version of the picture PM me. Looks like a neat ride!

The terrorists win another round. :angry:

Leeway, glad to see you rocked the tour. I heard a few riders passing me saying “oh, another unicycle” so I was sure you were back there. I’m proud that you crossed the Verazanno, especially as I pansied out in downtown Brooklyn and travelled the whole four blocks back home. There are several things I could’ve done to better prepare for the tour, including not tiring myself and getting sunburned during naptime in the park on Saturday. Probably should’ve had something bigger than a 26’ as well. Next year I’ll have to get a 36’ and live up to the standard you set. But few things are as priceless as hopping in place in a sea of idle bikers.

If you do it again next year, post on here. I’m definately down.

Pretzel, I rode a Nimbus 29 frame around a 26 sun rim with a schwalbe big apple tire. KH 125/150mm cranks (set at 150), KH freeride seat, muni pedals. I know it’s not the best setup for distance but it has served me very well riding on the streets, sidewalks, and parks in New York. That big apple tire is amazing. Its thickness makes my 26’ nearly the size of a 29’ while maintaining minimal rolling resistance.

Most of my riding is on the city streets with some light offroad in the parks. The size and weight is ideal for hopping over curbs or getting through turnstyles in the subway.

Rabulioni and Leeway, looks like a great time. Nice pics! Maybe I’ll be able to join you next year.