Choosing a 20" for skill practice

I’ve been riding my 26" and 36" unicycles for a few years, but I never learned some of the foundational skills like hopping and idling.

My current unis are decked out with brakes, bars and spiky pedals for the sort of riding they usually see. Plus, I’m no longer a kid so I learn slowly and don’t want to get hurt. So I don’t have a lot of confidence trying new things on these wheels.

I’m considering picking up a 20" for learning this stuff but I’m a bit torn between a freestyle vs trials wheel. A freestyle is a bit cheaper, more tyre options and one day it can become a cruiser for my kids. On the other hand, a trials rim/tyre might inspire a bit more confidence while learning.

Whatever I get needs to be cheap, since I’m only going to use it for practice, and fairly rugged, ie ISIS cranks and double wall rim. If I go freestyle I would probably choose a Nimbus II. If trials then maybe the Nimbus “standard” trials. I like the gold rim but the saddle doesn’t look very comfortable.

Unfortunately the secondhand market is more-or-less nonexistent around these parts or that would be my first choice…

A good idea for sure, I think.

I’d go for the freestyle, for pretty much the reasons you described. I don’t think a trials tire does much for general riding tricks and basics, I’d only recommend it for well… trials. I think the smaller wheel will be enough to give you the confidence you are looking for. A freestyle will also come with shorter (100mm-ish) cranks, which I’d recommend for your purposes.

Pretty good choices. I personally love (or loved, since I threw a few different parts at it now) the qu-ax profi as a reasonably priced freestyle uni, that will survive anything. If it’s still ISIS, not q-axle, I’d consider that.

I’d say, if you are under 70 kg (and probably a few more too), you probably could go square taper too. I’ve seen multiple people learn unispins etc. with square taper hubs, and using those wheels for years after. Cheap brand unicycles give square taper a bad reputation, but a qu-ax, Nimbus/UDC or Miyata square taper hub is actually quite robust. Nothing wrong with qu-ax luxus or UDC whatever-they-call-their-basic-20". Doesn’t have the “you can throw anything at it”-feel, but for a lightweight-ish guy doing freestyle basics it will be absolutely fine.

I’m going to stick with ISIS. I decided a few years ago that life is too short for square taper cranks (on my bikes too). Plus I have a collection of spare ISIS cranks to play with.

Interesting food for thought, thanks. I was halfway sold on getting an Athmos actually (Cheap. Nice wheel. Shame about the bearing holders.). Now I’ll need to ponder it some more. :slight_smile:

Why am I killing myself on my 24" mtn?

9 out of 10 “professional” unicycler’s on youtube who do those crazy tricks or even basic tricks are all using high performance 19/20" otherwise known as “trials”.

Super light(some are aluminum) and sturdy frames with fat tires that cost $300+. Hmmm…I would rather spend that on a 26" mtn, but then I would be scared to do tricks on bigger stuff.

So, I always feel like my 24" nimbus mtn is holding me back. Especially, when I can’t ride everyday like I used to. Hmmm…I’m thinking maybe I should get a trials. It would be nice to try somebody else’s unicycle, first, but as you know unicycler’s tend to be lone wolves that ride in solitude.

In an ideal scenario, you would have more time for practice after getting a 19/20". All of the technical possibilities of the smaller wheel come with the necessity of practice time. So, yes, get a 20", but try to find more time to practice.

Maybe one day I’ll get a true freestyle unicycle with short cranks. The ability to ride on short cranks is totally absent in my technique, and there are likely some holes in my technique as a result.

But practice spaces for a 20" can be way more conveniently located. You can practice on a quiet sidewalk or parking lot, a dead shopping mall, possibly even in your own garage or driveway. You wouldn’t ride a 26" muni in places like that, you have to take it out in the woods somewhere!

That’s part of my thinking. I can easily practice in my (gravel) driveway with a 20".

That bit of information changes my advice. On gravel, I’d choose 19" too. When I think of skill practice, I automatically think flat bit of concrete/tarmac or gym. If you don’t really have that, and will be on gravel for a decent amount of the time, the wide tire will be more of an advantage there, than it will be a disadvantage on concrete/tarmac. (If that makes sense).

Yeah, makes sense and I’ve been thinking the same. While there are nearby hard surfaces to practice on, realistically if I have the time and inclination to do that then I would actually just take my 36er for a spin instead.

I think I’m going to go for the Athmos. I’m still not a fan of the bearing holders, but it’s a small detail when everything else about it suits my needs. And it’s significantly cheaper than other options.

Still got my “learning” uni

Somebody mentioned wanting to try a shorter crank.
I still have my unicycle from learning my 20" torker(super heavy and skinny wheels) and I have 125 cranks for it(cheap cotterless…you know…square shafted cranks).
My main ride is my 24" nimbus mountain with fat tires and 150.

Alternating between both of them took a little getting used to.
Riding the 24 w/150 crank requires more slower/confident patient footwork + more upper body “throw”.
Riding the 20 w/125 crank requires quicker footwork + more rapid but shorter upper body response.

It’s definitely easier going from big to smaller wheel, than small to big.
However, I also matched the cranks with the 20" at one point.
That also changed things up, and you really feel your knees/legs going around/working and overall the unicycle responds slower.

Anyways, my 20" torker is not a “trials” which is much lighter plus fat bouncy tires. I am still not ready to splurge for it, yet.

I’m no expert, but as I read this thread I was thinking either the 20" Nimbus II or the 19" Impact Athmos would be worthy of your serious consideration. But after I read that your driveway is gravel, I’d say go for the Athmos. The 19 x 2.5 trials tire has almost the identical diameter to a standard 20" wheel, but the added tire width and tire tread will work far better for your purpose at your location. It will also be a great unicycle for your kids to learn with when the time comes. I think the Athmos comes with 140mm cranks which is great for trials, but you might be better off swapping them for something in the 114mm to 125mm range for your skills practice. The 140mm might be okay for your kids to learn with though. I also recommend setting the saddle height slightly low for your skills practice. It makes freemounts easier and UPD’s easier to manage! Just my thoughts. Good luck!

Well, my local UDC currently has the Athmos on sale. Decision made and ordered :sunglasses: .

Nice! I say, try to be careful and wear protective gear too. Things happen faster on small wheels. I picked up some wrist braces made by Ace at my local pharmacy store after I landed hard on my hands when my feet got tangled up while practicing freemounts :astonished:

Oh, never fear, I have plenty of experience falling flat on my face :smiley:

How is the Athmos ? Have you learned any cool tricks without breaking anything ?

That got me wondering what most “actual” professional unicyclists are using these days. Actual professional means getting paid, while not necessarily doing unicycling for a living, which is extremely rare. People posting videos might be super-experts, but not necessarily pros, even if they are sponsored by cycling companies.

Back in the day, most people who performed on non-giraffe or “odd” unicycles used the more common (for the time) skinny wheels at 1.75" or so. These work well on hard surfaces like floors, stages, etc. But more and more performers are probably also using wider, drop-absorbing Trials-type tires, which requires wider frames. Most professional performers aren’t bothered by a heavy unicycle; it’s more important to have something that won’t break. Not missing shows is a lot more important than winning a competition, which is where one is normally very concerned about weight.

Anyway, in Lightbulbjim’s case, he definitely made a good decision going with a wider tire, for his riding environment. Freestyle-type unicycles are best on a gym floor, or otherwise smooth, consistent surface. They’re much harsher on bumps & things. Though they are lighter, they can be less forgiving to learn on, depending on the type of tricks you are practicing.

That is also a common feature of serious Freestyle unicycles; very short cranks. It depends on the type of tricks that are most important to you. The short cranks allow for much smoother motion while pedaling fast, because your feet are making smaller circles. Top Japanese riders (and others) commonly use 89mm cranks. I would recommend starting with 110 or more though, and working your way down. I learned most of my tricks on 125s, and it even took me a while to get used to 114s!

This is true. Extreme example: In 1982 I got my first Big Wheel, at 45" with 165mm cranks (6.5"). Then, in 1984 I got a Unicycle Factory custom-made 12" mini-uni. That is, with the seat really, really low. The idea is for it to look ridiculous when you ride it. I got more banged and scraped up with that 12" than with the 45", because falls happened instantly. BAM! You’re down. Not as hard, but little time to react!

I get nervous around small wheels because of how fast everything happens. My 36er doesn’t intimidate me at all. Go figure.

The Athmos arrived yesterday but I haven’t had a chance to unbox it yet.

Just finished putting the Athmos together. First impressions are much as expected. Wheel and cranks are nice. Frame is ok. Bearing holders are not that great. Saddle looks nice but comfort is TBD. Pedals are cheap and not that nice, but I guess they’re considered consumables in the trials world.

As for riding - well, for the past few years all I’ve had are a 36" and a 26". And the 26" has probably had at most 5% of my riding time.

In other words, it’s been a long time since I’ve ridden a small wheel. It’s going to take some practice before I can freemount it. Also the cranks feel ridiculously long (138mm) for this wheel.

Riders doing street type tricks usually go for 125mm or even 110/100mm on their trial based unis, as John pointed out earlier.

On a 20" or 19" trials size wheel, I feel most comfortable riding 125mm cranks and I’m usually on pavement. I’m 6 feet tall with about a 34 1/2" inseam.

114mm = smooth pedaling, but feels almost a little too short for me
125mm = most comfortable overall and pretty versatile
140mm = best torque for obstacles, but feels a little overly long and requires more attention to keep from wobbling