For the last few weeks, I have been riding only 2 of my unicycles regularly: the Coker (with 150mm cranks) and the 20 (with 110mm cranks). Occasionally, I’ve ridden my 24 (150mm) and my mate’s 24 (125mm).
So tonight, for a change, I went out on the 28. How did it really compare with the Coker? I was riding some of my regular training route - although I cut the ride very short due to a bizarre mid-May combination of March winds and April showers.
A comparison of the specifications:
Coker: 26 inch wheel, 2.5inch section tyre, 150mm cranks. Pinned platform pedals. Viscount seat. Approx. 18 Pounds.
28: 700c wheel and skinny (32mm) tyre. Nimbus I frame (very similar to the Coker), 125mm cranks, cheap plastic pedals, Velo seat. Approx. 10 pounds.
And a theoretical speed comparison:
The Coker has a crank:wheel radius ratio of 1:3 (33.3%)
The Nimbus has a ratio of 35.8% approx.
The Coker ‘should be’ around 6% faster.
As the 28’s lighter and narrower, there shouldn’t be a lot in it, really.
First things first: the 28 is much smaller and lighter. It’s a LOT easier to get down the stairs, out of the door, and into the car. It’s lighter to carry. It is not significantly different from a 24 in this respect. On portability, the 28 wins hands down.
Mounting: I expect to mount the Coker ‘almost’ 100% of the time, except on uneven ground, or in a confined space. However, it is always a task I undertake with a certain amount of care - I position the pedal ‘just so’, pause for a moment, then go for it. Each freemount of the Coker is an encounter with destiny. I just hopped up onto the 28 as if it were a 20 or 24. On ease of freemounting, the 28 wins comfortably.
Idling: I can idle the Coker on my ‘good side’ on the flat, as long as I concentrate. I can idle the 28 on my good side ‘almost casually’, and I can idle it on my weak side with concentration. This has a knock on effect in slow speed manoeuvres and ‘3 point turns’. The 28 acts like a big 24. On ‘fine control’, therefore, the 28 wins comfortably.
Riding: I can storm about on the Coker, averaging 10mph for 2 hours, and I’ve done 12.44 miles in an hour on it. Top recorded speed on this set up (150s) is a consistent 14mph. I hopped up on the 28 and span my legs like a cartoon character running off a cliff, and sort of dawdled away at around 12 mph. This soon started to wear thin, as did my shorts, and I slowed down.
Tonight, I recorded a top speed of 12mph on the 28. I didn’t do a long enough ride for average speed comparisons to be really useful, but I got the impression that I was going substantially slower than I would have been on the Coker. And impressions count, because I’m riding it for fun.
In fact, a 24 feels faster, although this is obviously an illusion.
What I dislike is the slightly frantic nature of the ride on the 28. As I may have mentioned (ahem!) I have ridden a 24 with cranks down to 89mm, ridden one off road on 102s, and I’m used to the feel of short cranks. To me, 125s are ‘quite long’ and yet, by comparison to the Coker, the 28 felt far too ‘revvy’. Sustaining a high speed for a long period requires more commitment on a small wheel with short cranks than it does on a large wheel with proportionately larger cranks.
Also, the 28 felt much more twitchy, fore and aft. Some of this might be the narrower harder tyre, and the lighter weight of the 28. However, I felt even at the end of the ride that I was having to concentrate more on the 28 than I would have been on the Coker, except at particular obstacles where the Coker would have been ‘a handful’.
So on general ridng enjoyment, speed, and smoothness, the Coker wins by a wide margin.
Pose factor: come on, who among us doesn’t like a few admiring glances when we’re riding? Who doesn’t cringe just a little bit when people poke fun? It’s not a scientific comparison, but I felt that those who were ‘impressed’ were less impressed by the 28, and those who were dismissive were more dismissive of the 28. On pose factor, the Coker wins.
And a general score? Making a comparison of these two specific unicycles, taking into account the cranks fitted at present, and the tyres fitted, and so on, the Coker wins by a country mile.
What would I use the 28 for in preference to the Coker? Er… um… it’s safer in traffic. It’s more controllable in parades. Er… that’s it. If I needed lower gearing for more serious off roading than I can handle on the Coker, I’d use a 26 or 24.
Now I normally have the 28 set up with 110mm cranks (30% ratio) and on this set up, it somehow feels less frantic than with the 125s (smaller pedalling circle, legs ‘flapping’ less) and it will go faster than the Coker for short bursts. Even with 110s, it’s easier to idle than the Coker.
Conclusion: the 28 is ‘only’ a big 24, not a small Coker.
Conclusion 2, I much prefer the Viscount seat to the Velo, and I have two witnesses who support me.