Commuter Uni Vs Road Bike

Can a Unicyclist on a commuter uni go as fast as someone on a road bike?
About 18mph.

For most no.

And in practical conditions, no.

nope. i can do 18-19 when im absolutely sprinting, and have the wind at my back.

i cruise at 11-12.

oh and with 36ers, it about works out to each mph = 10rpm. so 18s roughly 180 rpm

on my coker i can keep up with cyclists when they are just riding for pleasure, on a hybrid bike. on my road bike, easy for me is riding about 16mph. dont expect to keep up with a real cyclist.

Absolutely not. I can do 30 up a hill on my road bike.:D:p

18mph? Yes. Keep up with a road bike? No. If you can go 18 on a unicycle, you can go a lot faster on a bike. A crappy bike.

And 18mph isn’t easy to maintain for any long distance unless you’re a pretty good athlete…


try extremely good cyclist. i’m a pretty good athlete and i cant even reach 15mph. but that may be my unicycle, not me.

A good unicyclist can keep up with a poor cyclist. With riders of equal ability the unicycle will not keep up. The exceptions are climbs of just the right gradient, and fairly technical off-road, where the bike’s top speed is less of an advantage.

Personally if I raced myself then unicyclist-me would be left standing by bicyclist-me.

It takes a pretty exceptional unicyclist to keep up 18mph over any distance on real-world roads. There are a few who could do it, but not many. I tend to average about 12 or 13mph on my coker, and I reckon I’m a pretty reasonable cyclist. For a decent bicyclist 18mph average is not that hard.


I’m slow compared to most of you (which is why I avoid riding in a group). I average about 8.5 mph on my 36" with 125 cranks and a little faster on my 26" Schlumpf with 150 cranks. I max out at 12 mph, which is a sprint for me. On my road bike I average between 12 and 14 mph. Even when I was in my 20s, I rode about the same speed. On my unicycle, I can outride my nephews (ages 3 and 4)–go me:D! I cannot outride my 8 year old granddaughter:o.

Hey mbalmer – we have a (fairly) new rider coming on our muni ride in Soquel Demo forest tomorrow. You should come join us – we won’t be blazingly fast. 10AM at Soquel Demo forest parking lot (off Highland), Santa Cruz, CA.


Go as fast? No, never – they have higher gearing, and can simply go faster downhill than a unicyclist could ever dream.

Maintain a pace with them? As others mentioned, good and fit unicycle riders can maintain a pace with a slow biker.

I can maintain 18mph for bits of time on flat, and fairly easily maintain 20 on slight downhills, and 22mph on a good downhill. I’m the current national and world champion for the marathon race. However, Chuck Edwall is definitely a stronger and faster rider than I am, and people like NatureQuack (Geoff) can easily outpace me on flats.


I can hit 18 mph on my 36", but not maintain it for long. Even during Ride The Lobster training I don’t think I could have maintained 18 mph for any real distance. I was happy if I could average 15 mph for several miles of unflat, Nova Scotia-like riding.

And yes, unireed and anyone else who needs clarification, a unicycle athlete. An Olympic luge gold-medalist would not be a candidate. :slight_smile:

I suspect that guni ratios have nowhere near been maxed out yet - still, you’d need to get 1:2.6 on a 36 to get up to top end race bike speeds assuming that’s even ridable. Racing unicycles in general are still in their infancy so we can certainly expect the gap to get smaller, but for every day commuting unicycles are unlikely to ever quite catch up and certainly never will on the downhill.

Wish I could make it. I did do the braille trail once. That was pretty scary even going slow. Fun though. I realized that day that most of you all are nuts. Is Louise going with you? I would love to see an aggressive female rider bomb down what I would consider to be a very technical trail.


The capacity of a bike can be measured by “gear inches”. The higher,the faster.

The low gear on a 12 or 15 speed will be around 40 gear inches and from there it climbs to as high as 120", sometimes more.

By definition, a 24" uni has 24 gear inches. A 36 inch has 36 gear inches.

In extremes, adding a schlumph hub gear could bring a 36" uni to 54 gear inches, which, aside from being not to practical for riding, is still a very low gear.

On top of that, even on my 24 gear inches, a slight hill climb requires far more effort and strength than riding up that same hill in a geared bike running at something like 70 gear inches.

Then there is the issue of coasting down hills. Or, in our case, NOT coasting down hills.

And the constant risk of falling off forward, not an issue with bikes.

That being said, even if I could, I would not have any desire to swap my uni for a bike. I’ve had far too many good kilometers out of it and ride it far more often than I did the bike.

(Numbers - 24 gear inches will travel pi times 24" per rotation, or around 6 foot, 40 gear inches will travel around 10 foot, 120 gear inches will travel around 31 foot.)

btw, be wary of anecdotal strengthening arguments in favour of high ride speed claims. We unicyclists are a bit like casual skiers - we tend to bump up our numbers.

I ride a 24". I ride it every day. Excluding my giraffe, I have this year so far ridden a little over 3,500km (2200 miles) and will finish up around 5000km or over 3000 miles. So I consider myself to be about as capable of riding in the manner of a cyclist as anyone. Getting to-and-from in as short a time as practicable.

Mt trip meter tells me, when I bother to look, that I have maxed out during whatever trip at around 16kph. Almost NEVER get to 17kph and I don’t think it has ever shown 18kph.

Bearing in mind that the meter is simply showing a peak one or two revs. Those max readings reflect the moment that I had to sprint to get the wheel to catch up after hitting a bump or depression. The REAL max will be much less.

New Zealander Ken Looi claimed a world speed record, of nearly 30kph on a 36" ally uni with 1:1.5 schlumph gearing. He ride it in New South Wales, Australia. And that was for an hour long trial. So amazing things can be done by amazing people.

But generally claim of, say, 24kph on an ungeared 36" does not impress me. Rather I am more likely to think a little less of the claimant.

Pretty much what everyone else said…a good unicyclist would be able to keep up with a not as good bicyclist.

For comparison, I hold the current Unicycle Geared Hour record at 29.993km. I’m not particularly fast on the flat as I’m more of a climber. A top time trialist like Chuck or Corbin would probably get closer to 32-33km if they attempted the record.

I haven’t done the equivalent on a bike, but I’d guesstimate that I would do about 40km on my road bike.

On hilly terrain, the best comparison I can give is a 160km race I do every year. My fastest time is 7hrs43min on an Unguni (36", 110mm), whereas I did one lap on my road bike in about 5hrs (however it was the first night lap out of 2 laps). In these races, it’s partly depended on the peleton you are with anyway.

Another race I do is the Karapoti Classic, which is 50km off-road. My best Bike time is about 3hrs, my best Uni time is 4hrs11min.

Mr. Old n’ Cranky

I tend to think that most speeds and distances posted here are fairly accurate. Sure it seems amazing what someone can do with a 36 when you mostly ride a 24. with the bigger wheel the smoothness actually allow you to spin quite fast.

I haven’t ridden 36 for a while but I could hold 20 km/h pretty well but if I was on a bike the same effort would probably have me going 30 km/h.

I am sure that Ken has gone faster than 30 km/h, my highest speed recorded was 32 km/h and I am not a particularly fast rider (~60th in both time trials and criterium out of 104 riders at RTL)

EDIT: Ken thanks for posting, I guess Colin was right about the 30 km/h for your speed record, I was just thinking maximum speed attained, not average over an hour which is obviously a lot tougher.

GizmoDuck (aka the Ken Looi I referred to earlier) I promise to make an exception for your when thinking less of those making outrageous clams to speed. Awesome effort. Or stupid. Or both. lol.

I note that the Oz 100m record averages at 22.7kph though I have no idea of the equipment used. But it is certainly not a touch on the speed of any recreational/commuting bicyclist. (Though it is way more fun imho.)

a shlumpf closes the gap, but it still wouldn’t be as fast as a road bike. :confused:

if you want speed/functionality get a bike, if you want fun, get a uni.