Brakes for muni

How neccessary are they, really? There are high-end munis that are sold both with and without them.

Certainly not necessary, but they can sure be nice in certain situations, especially longer downhills.

It’s generally advised not to use brakes when learning to ride offroad, then add them later as your skills advance.

For my riding, absolutely necessary, I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of the trails I do without a brake (or at least not with the same speed and comfortability). On steep and slippery trails, they increase your control massively over just using your legs to brake. It allows you to ride shorter cranks (meaning you can go faster), while still having control. There isn’t a single top Muni rider that doesn’t run brakes.

With that being said, not everyone is aiming to be the best, or ride the toughest terrain. Where I ride, it’s a few hills and flat area around it, so on my way to and from the hills, I sometimes don’t touch my brake at all. (I wouldn’t consider any Muni without a brake high-end though.)

Still newish to unicycling and almost been riding a full year and only just got a uni with a brake a few weeks ago (36"). What I’ve found is you don’t really need a brake if you’re just starting out just slowly get used to low gradient hills and slowly progress to steeper ones. Now I’ve only tackled basic off road areas so I’m not an expert muni rider but I can handle any off road areas around where I live.

After a while I found I didn’t need to slow myself down as much on most hills around here after I got comfortable with the speed. Now that I have a brake I find the best use for it so far is to gracefully rear dismount as you have a lot of speed and height when coming off the 36".

You can have fun and ride quite a lot of terrain without brakes.

However, the addition of brakes adds a lot of advantages and potential to do more:

  • makes riding steep descents smoother and more relaxing
  • allow the use of shorter cranks
  • save muscle strain from braking with the legs
  • adds confidence descending

For muni with steep descents without brakes you need to run long cranks to be able to apply the needed backpressure. For example, riding “downhill” on a 26-29" you probably need 140-170mm cranks. With brakes you can instead ride 110-125mm cranks and thus ride faster and much more confidently.

I ride my 36" off-road with 125mm and sometimes 100mm cranks on descents that I would not be able to ride with 150mm cranks if I didn’t have a strong brake (I have a powerful brake with a 200mm disc on my 36).

On the other hand, when beginning to unicycle and ride off road, I don’t think a brake is necessary or even advantageous. I actually think it may have advantages to learn to ride muni without brakes and first learn how to control the uni downhill without brakes. Then add a brake first when you notice there are descents that stress your legs or make you uncomfortable; then you will really notice and appreciate the benefit but still have developed the control without brakes.

Having a strong reliable brake makes riding downhill much easier!

If you’re a beginner and looking to buy a new muni, I would say that the ability to easily upgrade to a disc brake would be a wise choice but that for beginning a brake is not necessary. In the initial muni learning you will hardly use the brake at all. Although many people are happy wth rim brakes, disc brakes have significant advantages. While you can retrofit most unicycles with a D’Brake (I have 2 unicycles with them), the large majority of mid- to high-end munis today have disc brake mounts on the frame and is what I would aim for in buying something new (used is probaby less significant),

just to add

+1 MUCFreerider,
and saves old knees.

Whenever cranks go vertical you lose the ability to brake with your legs. This means on steep downhills that you get a jerking motion as your wheel rotates through sections of being able to brake with your legs and not being able to. A rim or disc brake smooths out that transition (depending on how much pressure you apply to it) making it easier to descend and allows you to go faster on downhills because you’re no longer limited by your legs ability to keep up with braking. It was really amazing for me the first time I ever rode downhill with a disc brake, it increased the fun level by 1000%. It is a skill to learn in itself, and is not a way of skipping learning how to brake with your legs, as you will still need that in certain situations.