I just finished having my unicycle’s punctured tube replaced at the bike shop. They asked how much air I wanted in the tire and I told them 55 PSI. (Tire is rated for 45 - 60 PSI.) When I got home and started practicing again, I immediately noticed the difference. Rolling resistance had been drastically reduced. Although I had an easier time moving while I was balanced, it was also much easier to lose my balance. Unicycle was much more responsive to my every movement.
I had it at about 45 PSI before I had the flat because that was as much air as I could put it with my weak little pump. I got used to that pressure and was occasionally able to ride ~300 feet that way when I was really doing well. Now I’m back to UPD-ing every 10-20 feet. What would you recommend I do–let out some air and go back to what I was doing before, or persist at the current pressure? I’m definitely going to want to ride at a higher pressure once I’m cruising around town so I don’t burn up so much energy, so I’m thinking I should probably just suck it up and keep riding at 55 PSI, but I’m open to all suggestions.
Sometimes that resistance helps people learn because they don’t have to finesse the wheel so much, but you’re right, in the end, the wheel has a lot less rolling resistance and will turn easier with a higher pressure.
Eventually you may want a pump that can bring the wheel up to that pressure, then you can play around and see what’s best for you. For now, I would stick it out unless you really feel like you’re going backwards in progress after a few days. Your body will adapt.
I would lower it back to where you were and raise it a a couple of psi at a time as you get used to the increased pressure.
Aside from the “twitchiness” you will also find higher pressures tends to throw you off over bumps. As you skills develop you will learn to increasingly disconnect your body’s inertia from the uni and the higher pressure will be more appreciated.
When I was learning and I was to scarred to go away from my railing I found it helpfull to change it around. I had it at the max, I think 55 for that tire, lowered it to 30 untill that felt as confident. When I raised it back to 55 now that was much more difficult. I kept changing it untill I was equally confident no mater what psi it was. Then I put it back at 55 and I had the confidence to ride all over.
I learned on a torker cx 20". I was more comfortable with a low tire pressure, around 35 psi. The wheel wasn’t as jumpy and the unicycle itself was easier to turn. With a lower psi, bumps in the road seemed to be less noticeable too.
Get a decent pump with a built in pressure gauge and experiment. I tend to go as low as possible without risking rim damage, but low pressure is more prone to autosteer on side slopes and cambered roads. Just play about until you find what works for you, on your regular riding areas. It’s all a compromise really, better at something usually means worse at something else. It’s just a case of finding your own best compromise.
Looks like my last practice session answered my question. I kept it at 55 PSI and within an hour, was almost comfortable riding at that pressure as I’d been riding at 45 PSI. Rode about 400 feet a couple of times.
In general, your ideal tire pressure will depend on how fat you are, how fat your tire is and what style of riding you do- low pressure is good for trials and muni, high pressure for freestyle and commuting. When I was first learning, I liked high pressure- up to 110 psi. Nowadays I like 28 to 30 psi.
Remember, though, that the pressure ratings printed on bicycle tires are calculated based on the assumption that you will be riding on two wheels. Unless you have a fat tire and hop a lot, you may want to lean toward the upper end of a bike tire’s pressure rating, or even go a bit over.
If it i proves an issue just raise it a bit at a time.
Keep in mind though that for many newer unicyclists, the initial few minutes of riding on a day can lack confidence compared to where you were in the previous session, even without any setup changes. If you have a portable pump, it might be better to raise the pressure after riding long enough to warm up to comfort, rather than before.
I think that’s oversimplifying it and you are overthinking this too. Tire pressure has different effects in different situations and you can’t say one is better or easier than the other. E.g. When i have low pressure on my 29" it absorbs bumps much easier and smoother. But on the downside very tight turns become a chore since the tire grips so well that it just wants to track straight.
Choosing the right tire pressure depends on terrain, size of the tire (diameter and width), type of tire and your weight and your skills. There really is no easy answer for this. You just have to play around with it and find what is right for you and your unicyle where you are riding.
Your preferred tire pressure may change as you are learning or it may not. And depending on what is most challenging for you, higher or lower pressure may be easier. For me personally, lower tire pressure was helpful in the beginning and is still important for challenging terrain. For my daily commute though, I can deal with bumps and drop offs now and prefer a bit higher tire pressure to make tight turns easier.
The limiting factor of high pressure is not always the tire. A guy at my LBS said a lot of times its the rim.
I found this out when I was regularly filling my mtb tires to 70 psi, because I was just commuting on it. One day I filled it up at a gas station, checked the pressure and rode away. When I rode down the driveway ramp and my rear tire hit the flat gutter, my tire exploded, through the rim.