Best setup for a 'new' rider in the snow?

Just a bit of background before I get to my question. Hope you don’t mind. I’ll mark the start and end so you can skip the history lesson if you like.

—Background Start—
I first learned to ride when I was a round 14 or 15 (if memory serves), I’m just shy of 32 now. My first uni was a cheap 20" Pashley with a terrible seat. I learned the basics and could ride about 100 meters after my first day. I never bothered to learn much in the way of tricks (I did a bit of hopping). Mainly I just cycled around on it, which seemed to amuse me enough at the time. At some point I decided I wanted to go faster and sold the Pashley to buy a 24" Semcycle. At some point my family moved and in the midst of this the Semcycle was lost or stolen and never replaced. Quite a few years later my mother saw a Pashley with a 29" wheel for sale at a Charity shop for £30 and bought if for me out of the blue. I tried this out a few times to see the difference in speed but never really took it it and it got left behind when I went to university and moved away from my parents home. Then a few years ago when picking up some of my stuff from my parents house I decided to take it with me. Again it sat around my flat for a few years … until a few months ago.

Somehow I stumbled across UDC and had a look at the various models of unicycle now available. Searching around I found other websites like this one and read up a bit on stuff like 36ers and Muni (both new to me). This re-sparked my interest and I started taking my old Pashley 29er to the nearest park (Battersea Park in London) and riding around for practice. At first I found it quite hard. I hadn’t completely forgotten what I had learned as a kid but I was certainly rusty. I found freemounting really difficult despite having no problem with this as a kid (though that may have been down to the difference in wheel size). After a while though I started to get better but was really bothered by the saddle. It was different than my original 20" but certainly no better. It was a cheap foamy-plastic thing and was the main obstacle putting me off from cycling more. Hence I was really only going to the park once a week at the most.

Eventually I got around to buying a new saddle on UDC and went with a KH Fusion Freeride. WOW … the difference was like night and day and I suddenly started going to the park almost every day.

Around this time ad unrelated event brought my unicycle practice to a stop. I moved country from London/UK to Oslo/Norway (that is another story in itself which I won’t go into here). It has taken a while for things to settle down here and hence I haven’t had too much time to think about unicycling but today after work I decided to go for a ride. My new problem however is the snow. I have never ridden in the snow and I must say it really is quite hard (for me). I tried letting down my tire quite a bit and this helps but it is still really tough. Where the snow is hard packed it isn’t bad but anywhere it is still fairly soft I’m immediately sliding all over the place.
—Background End–

My current skill level is:

On a road suffice or fairly flat dirt track I can ride pretty much as far as I want and at a fair speed, as long as it is not very steep. I can now freemount my 29er 7 times out of 10. I can’t really do anything in the way of tricks nor can I go backwards or idle.

Given that I don’t want to have to wait until the snow is gone, what are people’s thoughts on a good setup for a relatively inexperienced unicyclist wanting to practice in the snow. What size wheel? How wide a tire? What type of tire (e.g. with studs perhaps) etc.

Ideally I would like to keep expenses down to a minimum. The cost of moving country has been pretty hard and I have my savings are in the UK with a weak pound relative to the Norwegian Kroner (this means I don’t want to transfer too much right now). Yes at some point I’d love to get a new uni or two (maybe even a 36er for the added speed) but right now I’d in a position where I would like to achieve as much as I can with as little outlay as possible. Though to be fair I guess everyone is like that! :wink: Also I have no idea where to buy unicycle stuff in Norway. My best bet looks like UDC Denmark but perhaps someone knows somewhere better/cheaper.

All thoughts and suggestions would be gratefully received.

All you need is a new tyre. Tyres are just the same as bike tyres, so you shouldn’t need to import them, although you may find a wider range or better prices by importing them.

If you have snow and ice all the winter, and are sliding on the ice, you could try a studded tyre, which will help on ice. Nokian make loads of them.

In terms of riding in soft snow, maybe just try a more knobbly / wider tyre than you have already (are you riding with a slick tyre or something with knobblies?)


Thanks for the quick reply. The tire is a road tire yes with a fairly shallow tread. I have seen knobbly tires (with metal studs) for sale in local bike stores.

I should also mention that my cranks look pretty short. I didnt put these cranks on, I just have what was on there when I aquired the unicycle. I tried to measure just now. Assuming I am measuring correctly I would say they are 125mms. I guess something a bit longer would help as well??

Yeah, a set of 150mm cranks would be a pretty cheap thing to experiment with - gives you a bit more control, and more power if the tyre gets a bit stuck in deeper snow (once you’ve got a tyre with a tread, you can put more power through it before it slips in the snow).


One problem you’ll have is that the Pashley frame isn’t large enough to accept a really fat tire. You might be able to find a studded tire which isn’t very fat; that will help on icy surfaces, but not a whole lot in the snow. You could try a local bike shop; your rim is a standard 700c which will fit a wide variety of tires, as long as they fit within your frame. I assume that bike stores in Oslo have a decent selection of stuff designed for riding in the snow.

Longer cranks will definitely help, and also make it easier to freemount. has a Swedish outlet which might help you with shipping/importing longer cranks. Cranks are measured from center-to-center; the center of the hole for the crank bolt to the center of the hole for the pedal bolt.

I’ll have a look but I know what you mean, there isn’t that much clearance either side.

Well at least I know I am measuring correctly!

Is it better for you to buy from UDC Denmark than UDC Sweden?
Almost anything that could be on a bike (unusual tyres, studded tyres, unusual seatpost sizes…) can be ordered through your local bike shop if they don’t have it in stock. It’s the specialist unicycle parts that they’ll have problems with. For those it may be good to shop around as with the wildly fluctuating exchange rates it could possibly be better for you to order from the UK UDC or Germany or…

I’m probably at the same skill level with you.

–Short background start
I had just turned 42 two years ago in May when I bought my first unicycle (20’’ trainer) at UDC Sweden. That summer I practised with it and learned to ride straight and turn a bit on firm ground.
The 20’’ trainer was no good for commuting which was one of my goals. That’s why last August I bought a Qu-Ax 29’’ Cross at UDC Sweden. It has 170 mm cranks.
With that I have commuted 1-2 times a week for the last three-four months. As I live in Helsinki we also have occasionally some snow
–End of short background

I have Nokian Extreme 294 tyres on (should I say under?)my unicycle. They seem to work well on snow, ice, mud etc. If the snow is really soft it can be somewhat deep also. Naturally if the snow is hard the depth doesn’t matter. The difficult snow is hard enough to almost carry you. Then the tyre sort of get’s stuck into snow (for someone at my skill level at least). All in all I think that tyre should be good for your purposes.


A studded tire and some longer cranks are what you need. A wide tire would help you float better and not get bogged down in semi-solid snow but you can only go as wide as your frame allows.

I find a 26" MUni with a 3" studded tire is awesome in winter. I also really liked using my 36 in winter. Big wheels roll and float much better in snow than smaller ones.

Here is a tutorial I wrote up abut making studded tires. Hope it helps.

Last time I looked it seemed like UDC Denmark had a better selection of stuff and was slightly cheaper but I’m quite happy to shop at any of them.

Speaking of that. My cranks, anything special about them preventing me from going to a local bike shop? If I want longer ones what am I asking for besides being 150mm+?

Thanks!! My original plan was to commute to work as well, although it now turns out I only live 6 mins walk away. Of course I can still commute but it will be a pretty short commute! :slight_smile:

I’ll look out for the Nokian Extreme 294s. I haven’t actually gone looking at tires yet. I thought I would ask here first. By chance I was in a sports shop the other day looking at ski equipment and the shop had a small bike section, inlcuding some Schwalbe Winter tires with studs but perhaps the Nokian Extreme 294 are better?

If I had the money (and a convenient way of ordering) I had thought of the Surly Conundrum as a possibility, with an endomorph tire. But sadly that would be too much for me right now in terms of cost, even if it was a good option. Similarly I like the idea of a 36er one day, so you are saying all the things I want to hear!! :smiley:

I think I’ll try buying one first … but … I’m booking marking this page for the future! Thanks!

Bike shop cranks will have a spider on the right hand crank for fitting a chainring on. Unicycle cranks don’t. You can grind these off, but it’s usually easier to buy a unicycle specific set of cranks. Bike cranks also usually only come in 175mm or longer, which means they’re a bit long for a unicycle.

In terms of what cranks - you’ll need square taper cranks (square hole in the middle).


Thanks Joe!

A skinny tire can work really well too. Studs are good for ice, but hardpack snow on a sidewalk or dirtroad is fine with a skinny tire. I even had a friend who preferred the skinny over my muni tire because the skinny would go through the snowbanks on the sidewalk from when people plowed their driveways :wink:

And as always, practice, practice, practice :wink:

Extreme 294 is quite aggressively patterned. I am riding Nokian 240’s that have more surface and are skinnier (40mm vs. 54mm). They roll better on smooth surfaces but get clogged in loose snow. Last winter I rode 106’s but they are mostly for clear pavement. Even the 106’s work great on ice though, especially skating rinks!

Take a look at Note that not all tires are available in 622.

I haven’t used the Schwalbes. The Winter Marathon looks too smooth to be useful except on occasional icy patches on clear pavement. Ice Spiker and Pro look bettter.

Happy commuting!

Ok, since I can’t have a very wide tire anyway and I’ll be mainly riding on the road / sidewalk where the snow is usually fairly compacted (but occasionally icy) I decided to go with the Nokian 240 as suggested by petri. I’ll also see how this skinny tire ‘plough through’ idea (as highlighted by evil-nick) works.

Since it was lunch a short while ago (here in Norway at least) I have already been out and found a nearby bike shop with a good range of tires, including the Nokian 240. So I have bought one and I am all ready to give it a go. It is just a shame I have to work for a few more hours!!

At some point I guess I’ll probably want to try longer cranks but I’ll give this setup a fair run first to see if I can get on with it.

Thanks once again to everyone for your helpful suggestions!! I might post back in this thread at some point to let people know how I got on.

Ok, now I have a problem. Since my Unicycle is 29" I have always thought of it as being 700c. So I bought a Nokian 240 tire in that size. However after struggling for some time to get the tire on the rim I did a bit more investigation and looked more carefully at the markings on old tire and the rim itself.

The old tire and rim both reference the number 635, whilst the new Nokian tire has the number 622 on it. A bit of searching on the internet lead me to Sheldon Brown’s tire sizing page. Sure enough, my rim is fraction too big for the Nokian. :frowning:

Now what? I have a tire I can’t use and more worryingly I’m wondering if I can even get a studded snow tire in this size. Thoughts and suggestions would once again be gratefully received!!

Weird, that’s an old size that used to be on dutch & German bikes, and pretty much obsolete. Semcycle used to sell a unicycle in that size.

That is a bummer. If you want, you could rebuild the wheel with a 700c rim, it’d need new spokes and a new rim though. It might give you a little bit more clearance too. The bike shop could probably do it, although unicycle places may have a wider range of 29er rims. I’d find out how much it’ll cost though, compared to buying a cheap new 29er from a unicycle site.


I don’t know much about the history of the bike so have no idea if the wheel is original or a previous owner put it on but I have seen references to English Roadsters using this size and indeed Pashley do still make classic style roadsters, so perhaps they considered this a ‘normal size’.

What kind of tire is the stock? I used to ride a cyclepro with a street tire on it on the snow, and aside from pure ice it was fine… In fact, my friend who used to plow through snowbanks used that unicycle AND the tire after I gave it to him… he actually wore holes in the tire, and that was in the winter :wink:

wha, a 635mm! I have never seen one of those before, ever. I had a 630mm wheel on a uni once and I thought that was a screwy obsolete size.

A skinny tire will work better than a wide one in slush or on perfect ice, and can be fun for trying to navigate the melt water channels in spring. But for anything else I would prefer a big wide tire to float over the snow and grip in loose conditions.

I don’t know what is available in 635mm but it can’t me much. I would either re-build your wheel with a 700C rim or build up a second wheel with a 26" rim (or get a second uni) for winter rides and light Muni and keep your 635mm for summer road rides and commutes.