I live near Seattle.
I started unicycling 3 weeks ago on an Impact 19" Athmos. I just managed my first free mount and can regularly pedal one hundred feet. I feel like this 19" was a great place to start, but I really want to start riding longer distances, like on my road bike, and this isn’t the Uni for that.
Should I just bite the bullet and leap frog up to my end goal of a 36er?
For a little perspective, I’ve been a roped rock climber for 43 years. Uni seems pretty safe compared to climbing.
I’ve been trying to be patient and master this small uni before upgrading…but I’m wondering if it’s time. Money isn’t an issue…but I do have a bad habit of being impulsive according to my wife.
This is me a couple days ago. I’m better already. I’m learning to put more weight on the seat, finding that sweet spot between pedaling and sitting.
68th birthday ride
Thanks for any advice you can offer.
I’m not gonna say you shouldn’t buy another unicycle, that wouldn’t be true to the spirit, and I’m sure someone has learned from the start on a 36”, so just go for it. If it’s too much at first, just keep at it on the one you have until you are super comfortable and then try the 36 again, or just go cold turkey and figure it out. You have already gone past the point of no return and will surely progress however far you want to in this sport.
Go for it, as @Unigoof said, you’re past the point of no return.
Given that you’re planning on the leap from 19" to 36" my only suggestion would be to start with 170mm cranks and work your way down to shorter ones as you feel more confident/comfortable.
The longer cranks will make learning the 36er a bit easier.
I will try to give you some realistic expectations of what is achievable on a Uni. I mean you can ride distances of 100km or more on a road bike with some training. You may never be able to cover similar distance on a Uni even with a lot of training. Just riding 30km will require significant training.
An ungeared Unicycle is slow compared with a road bike. A 36" Uni will make for the most relaxed ride achievable on a single wheel. Even after quite a bit of training you may not be able to do more than 15km/h on average.
Sure, why not? But its a big step. I would personally get something in between initially. A 29" is also quite good for covering some distance even if its slightly slower. It’s also difficult to know what size you prefer if you have not tried them “all”…
Thanks for the thoughtful replies all. I have no access to other sizes. I called a few local bike shops and they were like: “Uni-what?”, and there isn’t a uni group in town. The nearest one is an hour away. All I’ve got is youtube. I’m completely fine with suffering the learning curve on a 36. I know it will be ugly.
I’m leaning toward the Nimbus 36 Nightfox and maybe getting the multi hole cranks so I’ll have an option for 170mm. This uni looks very adjustable in case my grown kids want to try it.
Based on my reading, I might need to add a brake? Is that an option on the Nightfox?
I could also go right to the high end and get the KH 36, oops, out of stock.
And then there is the Oracle, which comes with a brake…but can I add those fancy handlebars as an upgrade?
Welcome! I’m about 100 miles south of Seattle.
I’d bet that some would say to step up in sizes but based on my experience I’d say to go to the size you want. I rode a little as a kid on a 24" but after a 50 year break from riding I started riding again on a 36er. It is a little different but the basic idea is the same.
Looking at your video you may want to become more comfortable on the 19" but the step up to a 36" should not be a problem. In any case it does take some time to burn in your muscle memory, no matter what size you ride.
Take a look at Craiglist for used unicycles. You’ll see some real gems every once in a while. And it is usually easy to pick up an inexpensive 24 or 26 inch as they are fairly common.
Could get a 26 inch Torker from this person for $60: Unicycle - general for sale - by owner
I’m not trying to dissuade you from a 36 - they are a lot of fun. But you may be able to try other sizes for relatively low cost as stepping stones to the 36. If you buy one you don’t like much, put it back out on Craiglist for the next person to try.
Nightfox is designed specifically for short people who cannot ride a regular 36" due to the inseam requirement. It has some limitations but you can mount a brake!
Sure there are several options for aftermarket handlebars . The Oracle is a solid choice.
So just wanted to plug I’m selling a 36" inch that with shipping to Florida was about $550 US for an ISIS uni but it doesn’t have a brake but the frame can take one, wheel can’t. Price based what I quoted another for shipping, if you PM me your address I could figure the exact cost
I think the recommendation of riding the 170mm to start and working down toward maybe 125’ (my comfort limit) it for sure how you should transition of you do want to go this way.
Consider if you’d like to do a big jump in size, I find that 15-17kmh average is a do-able pace on a 36" in contrast to a response above, but I primarily ride my unis on road for speed so I have put in the time to get there.
If you have riders near you it might be worth seeing about trying it. I prefer 29 myself for long ride rides but the 36" is a fun beast of its own and once you get the hang of it it’s very stable.
There’s a good bit of previous posts about the different feels of a smaller uni size vs a 36" but for distance they have quite a following that loves them. I’d recommend read the literature and get some opinions because I choose my 29" anyday even for long rides and I can maintain a respectable pace but not lance Armstrong road bike pace and even an experienced 36" rider may find that hard.
Sure you’re ready but a 27.5 or a 29 in between would allow a better transition of skills in a much safer manner.
You said money isn’t an issue… so you have your learner, now get yourself a ride for dirt and slower paced outings.
Get good on it for your next step to the big wheel.
Now you have three wheels that can cover any outing.
Also coming from road cycling it’s hard to break the bigger number better person mentality, it’s something I’m still working on for my Unipacking. But a 40-60km ride on a 27.5 or 29 is still a really nice long ride in my mind.
What’s your rush? Is there a 100 mile criterion that you are trying to get ready for?
Here’s a few skills and things you might want to “master” on your current unicycle.
Unless, you already feel bullet proof and have learned to recover from falling any which way.
Then, you can skip the rest of my advice.
A 36" unicycle is moving up a magnitude in difficulty.
Not just riding and tight turns, but having the reflexes to get out of trouble in road conditions.
Some simple skills:
1.) Learn to do a “walking” free mount.
2.) Learn to do a jump mount.
3.) Learn to bunny hop.
4.) Learn to idle
5.) Learn to drop off a sidewalk curb.
6.) Learn to “fall off” a unicycle. Yes, hands out and judo roll or if you have full protection(including chest plate and chin guard) fall flat on your chest.
7.) Buy some different crank lengths(100, 125, 150, 175). I assume your unicycle came with 125’s.
You will find that the different crank length will “feel weird”. Throw off your pedal force, timing and dwell. Learn to master each, because that’s what you will feel when you change to different wheel size and crank.
Good luck, unless you already got the 36". In that case, be careful…slam…
If I may tag onto Slam’s post, you won’t have any issue riding a 36”. Likewise, the average person can fly a plane once the pilot gets you up in the air and hands the controls over to you.
It’s the landing that separates pilots from regular people.
In my limited 36” experience (mine is hanging up in the garage until I master some milestones), I (personally) have learned that the danger (if one exists) of a 36” unicycle rests in the following:
- Dismounting the unicycle. Dismounting incorrectly or haphazardly from your 19” will have relatively minor consequences, compared to the 36”. You mentioned your age. Please don’t take offense, but you probably don’t bounce as well as my 50 year old body, and my 50 year old body certainly doesn’t bounce as it used to. But, bouncing is not what I refer to in the dismount. It’s the ankles. One bad bail off the front of your new 36” unicycle could sprain, turn, or break your ankle. I realize that I’m being very conservative. However, if you dismount off the front of a 36” unicycle, your feet will (at some point) be as much as one foot higher than at any point they would have been if you dismounted to the rear. Rest assured, if you are in the initial stages of learning to ride/dismount a 36” unicycle, at some point you will lean too far forward, panic, and take both feet off the pedals while your butt is still on the saddle. It will most likely end well. But, you will know it if you land badly.
So, you mentioned that money is not an issue. I would recommend that you find a 29” unicycle to transition. During that transition, I would recommend practicing a controlled dismount in all conditions from the rear. When you do this, it is like stepping backwards/down off a ladder. When done incorrectly off the front, it can feel like you are jumping off a two-foot drop.
- And, that’s pretty much it. Yes, you can come off at speed, but that doesn’t normally happen (in my experience) until your brain tells your legs to speed up when you lean too far forward, instead of telling you to panic and bail off the front.
I’m not recommending to NOT buy a 36”. I bought a 29” and a 36” in the same month. But, after riding my 36”, I realized that I needed more (safe) time on the 29”, before I ride the 36”.
My ultimate goal in unicycling was to ride a 36”, and I definitely had some uphill battles to overcome before I could ever even THINK about riding one. Suffice to say, I definitely understand the potential ramifications of a bad UPD.
So, my recommendation? Is to buy two unicycles. Buy a 29”, and buy a 36” if you feel the need to have a 36” now. But, learn to dismount the 29” safely, every time, first. And then practice going fast on the 29”, while being able to stop and safely dismount.
Just my two cents.
Slamdance, thanks for the seasoned advice. You are right, steps one through five I cannot do, and my current unicycle will work.
I have mastered falling off in any direction and landing on my feet, every time. When I first started I took some bad falls without pads. One was so painful (backward), my wife, who had been doing it with me, instantly gave up the sport. She said she didn’t want to end up with a broken back.
Now I wear all the pads and never crash, just step off. I’m sure I’ll take some bad ones again if I get a 36. I can borrow a full face helmet from my son, a mountain biker.
I have no desire to get into Muni. A lot of my younger climbing friends mountain bike at a very high level…and the injuries…let’s just say they are not strangers to the Emergency Room. I do like to mess about in the mountains, but we use ropes:
There is no rush, and I have no long distance goal in mind. It’s just that the tiny pedals on my 19" uni will never carry me very far.
We’ve got some very nice paved bike paths around our beautiful Puget Sound where you can really get out and move. And those 36er’s look like they were built to cover ground. I won’t rush into it, but it sounds like there will be one in my future.
Uni2ONE2, excellent advice! I broke my ankle rock climbing in the eighties, and all these UPD’s on my little 19 have my old bad ankle pretty stiff these last few weeks. I have noticed that folks on youtube are covering ground on 29’s. I can keep an eye on Craigslist. I guess another option would be to only ride the 36 on grass for a while. I really appreciate your honesty and the warning.
Unicycling small wheels is generally very safe as you’re low to the ground and you can’t build up much speed. However a 36" you’re much higher and can go much faster then a 20" especially downhill. With small wheels you can exert little strength to force the wheel to slow down or stop any time you wish. On a 36" if you’re not prepared for it you cannot force the wheel to do what you want with your legs alone.
I went from a 20" to a 29" and that was a significant jump for me and then to a 36" and later geared 36". Unicycling to me is very safe under speeds of 20km/hr but once you go over that speed it can cause some very serious injuries if you’re unlucky.
29" is a great size. I’ve seen people faster on those than on 36". You’re also closer to the ground, easier on the ankles…
There are a couple of riders around Seattle. Melinda is one, I follow her on Strava but I don’t remember her user name here…
An LX Torker 26 for $60 is a bargain. The LX is a solid unicycle and would be a good step up between a 19 and and a 36.
If you’re only riding 100’ on the 19", then don’t jump right up to a 36er. Get any of the intermediate sizes, 26/27.5/29 first. The difference between freemounting, riding and dismounting a 19" and a 36" is huge and those intermediate sizes are more than capable enough of a 5 mile ride.
I’m near Seattle and I have a 36er, but I’ve also currently got Covid.
I would say that buying a 36er is a bad idea. Mostly for the same reason as the others.
I am a 29er (good) rider, and I feel that most of the time it is way enough.
If you go a bit off-road (not muni, just on earth), it becomes way harder to balance properly on bigger wheels.
If you go too fast, the fall happens really suddenly (it is when the speed required to balance is over your max speed). You just fall, most of the time on feet, but since it always happens at high speeds (27 km/h last time it happened to me), those falls are quite bad. And the bigger the wheel, the higher the max speed. So having a not too big wheel to learn this feeling is a really good thing.
And a big wheel is really good when you reach high speeds and have a good balance. With the level I saw on your video, I would say that a 36 wouldn’t be the good idea. I would recommend you to go on a 26er to 29er, spare parts are way easier to get, it is easier and the most important: the fall are less likely to cause injuries