Choosing my second unicycle

Now that I’m getting a bit more confident on my 20" Club, I’m starting to plan my next purchase. I envisage riding for short distances (say 20 km max) on paved roads. I’m worried about freemounting a bigger wheel, and even more worried about falling a few more inches, but hope I could eventually manage as much as a 26". I’m 6’1" (185 cm) tall, weigh 200 lb (90 kg), and I’m a slow learner with dodgy knees.

Looking at UDC, it seems my options are:

  • 26" Nimbus II Road
  • 26" Nimbus Muni
  • 27.5" Qu-Ax Muni

I’m not too price sensitive, but these all seem like good value to me. Would it make sense to get a Muni and put a road tire on it for road riding? I can’t imagine going off road, but a while back just riding and freemounting seemed impossible. And can I use any bike tire of the appropriate size?

20km is a fair distance. Yes you want a bigger wheel! Though, I think you are being overly cautious. It is harder to mount bigger wheels (you can basically step onto a 20") but like any skill, it get’s easier over time, and the drop even from a 36" isn’t that bad IMHO (unless you are going at high speed).

I would say, go for a 29" for the road if you really feel uncomfortable about bigger stuff (32"/36"). The 29" also has a fantastic selection of tyres.

However, if you are set on 26" you can make that work. I have commuted on one for a little while now. Interchanging it with my 36" depending on mood (sometimes it is nice just to vary things) and conditions (I always switch to 26" with a spiked tyre for winter commutes).

Make sense? I don’t know, but you certainly could because I have “been there and done (exactly) that”

Don’t be too sure, interests change! :wink: I also bought a Nimbus Muni and unlike you I imagined I would end up using it for Muni eventually but I have actually used it much more for distance riding. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yes, you could use almost any 26" tyre (maybe not something super skinny, but you don’t see those too often tbh).

That is kinda the beauty of the 26" wheel size in my opinion. There are so many tyres you could potentially use. Any store that sells bike tyres will pretty much always have 26" tyres alongside everything else.

Now granted, some of the latest and greatest, off-road style tyres increasingly tend to be 27.5" and 29" but there is still a great wealth of interesting 26" inch tyres and I suspect this is likely to remain true for years to come. And for odd stuff, like oversized road/slicks, the 26" selection is actually better AFAICT.

As I said before, that you can make a 26" work for distance, road riding. I do this by running a big, road style tyre (at relatively high pressure) and shorter cranks. The bigger size obviously translates to more distance per revolution and hence speed. You can get tyres big enough that you are actually up an effective wheel size or two. I use a big “road style” tyre (rather than a knobbly off-road) because it is also smoother it has lower rolling resistance.

Here is my 26" Nimbus Muni with a (559-70) road tyre, next to my 28x1½ (635-40) Pashley. The total wheel size is almost identical, as you can see visually.

Since that picture I am now running with a fractionally bigger tire. An Innova City Tire (Code: IA-2236), a.k.a. “Super Brick”, with an ETRTO size of 76-559.

Of course it does not run exactly like a 28" because these big tyres increase the weight significantly (compared to a similar uni with a bigger wheel and a thinner tyre). It spins up slower and going up hills, you are carrying more weight. But there are up sides as well. The increased weight means more angular momentum and hence it is less affected by unexpected bumps in the road that might otherwise throw you off, hence it feels more stable and less twitchy at speed (at least to me!). Combined with shorter cranks (I run VCX+, typically set at 100mm), it is fairly quick for road use. Certainly I am quicker on this than my Pashley (granted I may also be faster because of familiarity with the Nimbus and how it moves).

So a 26" would allow a nice speed/comfort upgrade from the 20" right of the bat and by using a bigger tyre and shorter cranks you could upgrade the speed, as you feel more comfortable.

All that said I still think you should go for a 29" or more if you really are only interested in road use. It will just be better suited out of the box.

I am probably not much help for a decision because my suggestion wouldn’t be which “one”. I have lot of unis because they are each suited to particular purposes. I have 20, 24, 26 27.5 29 and 36.

26 is a bit small on the road. 29 is better and not such a challenge like a 36. Still a big step from a 20.

I quite like 26ers because of where I ride. The biggest of the small unis and the smallest of the large. Small enough not to need brakes. Though some say, “not quite right for anything”.

I originally bought my 26 as a muni and put on a road tyre. Eventually I decided to build a dedicated road wheel on a narrower rim. I wanted a fast road wheel that was easily controlled and not too high for the overhanging vegetation where I ride on footpaths.

The wheel was a bit small for muni anyway though it was a nice muni starter. Not worth having two frames.

So my 26 inch has two complete wheels and cranks and I swapped between them until I got the 27.5. Only took a few minutes to swap.

The road wheel is a Nimbus Dominator rim (sleek, black, no cutouts) with a Maxxis DTH 26 x 2.15 folding bead tyre and 114 mm Venture cranks. The muni wheel is a wider KH drilled rim with an Ardent 26 x 2.5 and 125/150 KH Moment cranks.

As you can see they are quite different. If you want a road wheel you are better to buy a road uni in the first place.

Thanks ruari and OneTrackMind for really helpful, informative replies. Lots of food for thought. I’ve adjusted to the idea of eventually having several unis when I’ve figured out what I can handle, at least they’ll take up less space than my 4 bikes.

Yes, caution is my sole reason for contemplating 26" as my next step, though of course I have no idea what it will be like until I try it. I’m slightly regretting having spent my first learning curve on a 20" rather than a 24". From reading around, it seems like the tire grab method will work for me if I fail at the static mount, so that may be the way forward if I go bigger.

Thanks! The option of getting an extra wheel (which I now realise I would have to build) hadn’t occurred to me.

Unicycles have poor resale value. I bought mine as they came along on Gumtree and ebay. If you are patient, you can get whole unis for the price of one new component so it can be hard to justify spending too much on parts for your own builds unless you want something really specific.

I was lucky that the right progression of unis came along at the right time. Mostly the new parts I bought were seat posts because they were always cut too short for me.

You don’t have to build it (though that would be cheapest). You can also have someone build it for you, e.g. UDC UK has a wheel building service. Alternatively, at least one of the UDC sites (Germany perhaps?) offers pre-built wheels.

Another thing to keep in mind is frame clearance. So if you want to have say 26" and 29" wheelsets with one frame, a frame designed for 29" would be better since it would have the clearance for both of them.

Yes. Any frame can take a smaller wheel (ISIS/cotterless bearing sizes considered). The seat height relates only to the crank length.

BTW My old 29 road KH has almost the same frame leg length as the new 27.5 (with a fatter tyre).

I’d say long term, you should go 29" or bigger for the riding you are planning. If you are absolutely set on a 26" as an intermediate, I’d choose a Nimbus Road, or even a club, but definetely upgrade to a 29" (or bigger) later. I don’t see a point in changing a Muni into a road unicycle, if you can get it directly the way you want it. Getting a 26" wheelset in a 29" frame is an option, but you should do the math and decide if the prices line up. It will probably be a lot easier to sell a complete 26" Unicycle if you upgrade and don’t need your old one anymore.

I recommend a walking mount. You walk a few steps while pushing your uni, put your foot on the back pedal at the right time, and you are up. I wouldn’t use any other method for a “big” unicycle. Might be a bit intimidating as a beginner, but really isn’t that hard.

Forget about what you want for the moment. What is the optimum type of riding in your neighborhood? It may be road riding, after all. I live next to a bunch of single track and hills. Balancing your own riding preferences with those of your local environment…that is going to put you into the zone.

I am 6’2". I am pretty confident mounting my 26". As the wheel size gets larger, it gets difficult to get your center of gravity over the hub while mounting, it’s no longer possible to do a proper static mount, you have to roll forward or jump, and things at that point feel more dicey. I don’t fall that often, but I found the falls on my 29" to be much more awkward than those on my 26".

and I’m a slow learner with dodgy knees.

Riding distance on roads doesn’t seem like the best recipe for dodgy knees. Short cranks, unless you really know how to use them, are going to put extra stress on the hips, knees, ankles. Long cranks exercise a range of motion without putting too much load on the knees. I suggest, whatever setup you choose, you avoid going below 150mm crank length, at least for the time being. Riding muni, as well as practicing general skills on my 20" did a lot to strengthen my knees.

If you really want it for paved road riding I’d suggest nothing smaller then a 29". I went from a mediocre 24" rider to a 36" and have never regretted it. Free mounting will take a little time to learn but a rolling/walking mount is a very low energy mount. With proper timing, it is quite easy.

Thanks all! Walking mount (or rolling mount?) sounds promising, I’ve found a video by UniMyra about that. I definitely need a low energy method!

Good question. It’s the Cotswolds – hilly, with rural roads and some off road that I think would be very technical for Muni. I’m still not really clear on what kind of riding I want to do, and I expect it will get clearer as I get more experience. I don’t bike off road at all, so Muni is attractive to me for a change of scene, if I can handle it.

Good advice, thanks. I have good quad strength from lots of 2 wheel riding, but damaged joints that don’t like UPDs. Caution is going to keep me from going too fast, so longer cranks will be fine for me.

I hesitate to make suggestions, because every rider’s style and experience is unique. However, my progress sounds a lot like yours, so perhaps I might venture.
I think a 26" is a great size for a variety of riding. The thing is to pick the right tire. I tried several before the one I use now, a Maxxis Holy Roller. It’s smooth enough for road riding, and burly enough for off-road. I use it for a variety of mixed-use riding. (Like if I have to ride on a road to the trail.) I find it good for most muni situations, and I’ve done 5- to 10-mile road rides with it, and it does fine. Having multi-hole cranks would be helpful here, but I just run 138s, and they work for most applications. Good luck!

(Forgot to mention, this was my second uni, after learning on a 20", and the transition was pretty easy.)

I would also think a 29" would be the best long-term choice, but as everyone has said, each rider is different…

I now personally find my 26" excruciatingly slow on the road even with short 117 cranks… but a few years ago I was quite content to ride my first unicycle, a 24" with 140mm cranks, on the road.

At your height, starting on the 29" with long-ish cranks for road (say 150?) it shouldn’t be too intimidating to free mount. Although I mastered it quickly, free mounting the 36" really was intimidating at first - I’m 6’1" and for me the classes are 20" (zero fear as you just step off), then 24-29" (some potential to fall) and then 36" is super sketch (after a few years I still have to concentrate on anything less than 125mm on the 36"). Maybe start with a 29" with 150/127 dual cranks and later when you get more proficient switch down to 117? or you could just get the Nimbus VCX triple 150/125/100 and be all set! (all right, that’s too far in the future)

On the other hand, getting the 26" wouldn’t be wrong and will be a HUGE step up in speed compared to the 20". But I would see it more as a training uni for the road (although 26" off-road is quite good). So if you get the 26" for road now, then I would expect you would later upgrade to a 29/32 and then either the 26 would sit around or you could use it for muni or sell it (but the used market for 26 is already not good for sellers and will probably get worse as fewer and fewer good tires are available).

Oh, didn’t see your further info:

So sounds like 26" with 150 cranks for learning on the road and then later for muni would also work.

I agree that 150s are probably easier on the knees, but for the road just way too long after you gain from experience… but following this line of thinking, then a 29" with 150s would be much less slow than a 26 with 150s on the road…

No, that is always a good idea. I love my VCX+ cranks! :slight_smile:

Thanks LanceB and MUCFreeRider for great advice.

I’ve just taken my 20" beyond my house for the first time, to a nearby park with great paved trails. I can stay up for a few hundred metres, but turning is problematic (hip jerk, and much better going left than right). I now understand with my body as well as my brain why I need a bigger wheel! I don’t mind the slow speed too much at this stage, but the instability of the small wheel takes constant concentration and correction which is tiring. Not doubt this will improve with time, and I suspect I need to put more weight on the seat.

Plan on falling

Seriously, have you had your worst fall yet? It doesn’t tend to happen during learning, but when you “haven’t fallen” awhile and you get comfortable feeling “invincible”. However, it will happen. So, wouldn’t you rather get through that phase with a “middle” unicycle size? I know many riders who “sized up” too quickly and ended up buying something in the middle after the “big wheel” purchase.

Safety first, do not try to be efficient by thinking you only need one more big wheel and that’s it. Plus, you are still learning. I would work up to it. Plus, have you seen the cost of new tires larger than 26"?

Keep on.

I’m pretty sure everyone has had their worst fall. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yes, if I stop unicycling now. So no. I didn’t really fall until I started attempting freemounts, then I’ve had a couple (feet tangled in pedals, feet slipping when trying to power out of a bad mount). I’ve got much better at bailing out of a mount that’s going wrong. I’m nursing a sprained wrist, now I wear wrist guards. And those falls were at zero speed from 20". My concern about speed is running out of a UPD – bad knees stop me running at all. So I’m looking for comfort rather than speed.

That makes a lot of sense to me. If I end up with an extra uni that was an essential step in my progress, so be it.

Well as I and others have said, you can make a 26" work for the kinds of distances you put forward. It won’t be ideal but it is doable and certainly vastly better than a 20" for this kind of usage.

P.S. In terms of speed on a 26" for road riding, here is one reference point for me (a “semi-fit”, 42 year old, who is not particularly talented on a unicycle, despite having learned as a kid). I commuted today on my 26" and averaged a speed of 15.7 km/h (9.8mph) over my chosen route of (only) 5.5km/3.4 miles (according to a rough mapping of it on Google maps, so the distance would be a little off). This route is primarily downhill and flat. Also as mentioned previously, I have a pretty big road tyre and 100m cranks. On the flip side, it is not my full, potential pace. I didn’t push it too hard (because I have no shower at the office and cannot be soaked in sweat), plus I have to negotiate several crossing points, including waiting for some traffic lights.

EDIT: Ok, I more accurately re-traced that route on Google Maps, which now estimates it as 5.7km/3.5 miles, thus making my 21 minute journey around 16.3 km/h (10.1 mph). Google also tells me that in the course of that route I am only ascending 10m but descending 102m. As I said before, a lot of downhill on the way in.

P.S. As a side note, Google claims that a bike would do this commute in 22 mins. So, I am… faster than a bike! (or more likely Google is assuming the average cyclist is very slow and/or likely to be held up by traffic)