Commuting comparison

A bit of an experiment. Due to changes in car parking rules, I now have to park about 15-20 minutes’ walk away from the office. Since the Friday before Christmas, I have experimented with making this short commute by unicycle.

My background is 30 years of riding, but only a few years of that have been “serious”. My usual riding is either bridlepaths, footpaths and bike trails or country lanes. I’m 54 but fit for my age. I don’t have time to change or shower at the end of my commute, and I need to arrive looking reasonably smart, but it’s only an office job.

The route is mainly mixed cyclepath/footpath, with dozy pedestrians texting, and arrogant bicyclists treating them as slalom poles. As a pedestrian, I have been hit by cyclists 3 times in the last year - and I haven’t been texting! However, the route also includes a short stretch of busy 30 mph road and some crossings, with kerbs to negotiate. I do not do hops or drops.

KH29 muni with 150mm cranks. Easy to mount, safe to stop or idle for short periods in a crowded situation. Moves at a decent speed. Bumps up and down low kerbs safely. Fairly easy to get in the boot (US = trunk) of the car. Big enough and fast enough that on the whole it doesn’t provoke daft comments from passing kids.

28" skinny with 114mm cranks. Easy to mount, stop or idle, but a bit more twitchy when the path gets crowded. OK bumping down small kerbs but not up them. Good smooth ride. Fits easily in the boot. Big enough and fast enough not to provoke daft comments. A nice ride on the smooth.

26"x 2.3" Holy Roller with 125mm cranks. Good all round size. Very easy to mount, stop, idle. A bit slower. Copes better with low kerbs. Fits easily in the car boot. Doesn’t provoke comments.

KH24" muni with 150mm cranks. This is the one I chose when there was ice around. Dead easy to mount, ride, idle, or stop. Feels safe. Only disadvantage is that it is slow, and being smaller, is slightly more likely to provoke clown comments. Copes with kerbs etc. better than all the others.

24" Nimbus old-style uni with a hard smooth-ish tyre. 125mm cranks. Comparable to the 26 in all respects but a tad slower. I would not want to ride it far on a busy road. Provokes a few silly comments.

KH36 with 150s. Every stop means another mount, and that takes energy and time compared to a smaller uni. I can do a short still stand and idle it, but not safely in a crowd. This is the only uni I had to do an emergency dismount from to avoid a melee of and cyclists. When it’s cruising, it is lovely to ride, and it feels safe in the flow of traffic as long as you don’t have to stop. Transport is a bit of a bind as I have to put the car seats down. Also, it is very obtrusive when I park it next to my desk. Although it’s peak and cruising speeds are highest, I’m not sure its journey speed matched the 29.

Best all round for this particular rider, on this particular route: the KH29. With a less knobbly tyre and with the pedals in the shorter position on the cranks, it may be even better. A good general purpose uni. However, I’ve always felt that it’s general purpose nature means it has less character.

Tomorrow, just to say I’ve done it: the 20" with 125s. I think we can guess its strengths and weaknesses!

Hey! I resemble that statement :stuck_out_tongue:

The 29 is undoubtedly the best size for short jaunts in a mixed commute. It’s reasonably quick, and very portable. The 36er is always my preferred wheel of choice on the road, but a 20 minute walk is a really really short ride on a 36er.

Obligatory mention of the 32 should be here I suppose, which could also be a good choice. I still take my fiance’s 32 to the store sometimes that’s only about a half mile away and it’s great for those runs. Easy to mount with groceries in each hand, unlike the 36 that I keep 110s on. :slight_smile:

Couldn’t agree more. For me the KH 29 is also my main winter uni, because it’s the biggest wheel I can get a studded tyre for. It’s also great for walking the dog as our speed matches perfectly.

20 minutes’ walk from the office AFTER driving there? How far is your commute, can you just not 36er the whole thing? :smiley:

I commute one way for 8.5 miles on an Oracle with a 700cc tire/rim, 110 cranks and no brake and easily dodge tourist on the waterfront. I’ve been nearly hit by bicyclist four times. Three while crossing with my unicycle in a crosswalk with the green light (they were turning right on red without stopping) and once with a woman swirving at me head on while I was staying on my side.

I try to give a warning if possible by loudly saying excuse me and thank you.

Children and their parents are the hardest to anticipate. Many children have the opposite reaction from adults and will go the wrong way. This weekend I came up behind a five year old riding a small bike well behind his dad. The dad stopped and just when I thought I could safely get past the kid he swerved unexpectedly in front of me so both dad and child left no room for others to pass. I couldn’t help but yell, “watch out” as I nearly hit the kid. That made the dad very mad which in turn frustrated me. I don’t understand why the dad had to ride so far in front of the kid and not be around to help guide him. Then he gets mad at me. Kids are ok. Parents on the other hand … Ok, rant over.

I just re-rebuilt my old KH29 for a similar last-mile commute… have yet to try it. I used to do this ride on an electric wheel (I think I’ve said hi to Vertigo a few times). Anyway it was fun reading about your trials. I wasn’t at all sure which wheel size would be best.

I have commuted with a pretty wide variety of unicycles over the years and agree that a 29 with 125 mm cranks and a smoothish tire would probably be the best fit, but then we are talking unicycles. Why not just let your morning mood dictate which wheel you throw in the boot?

It would take about 2.5 hours each way and I’d die on the dual carriageway. :astonished:

My around-town commute uni is a 29x2.0 with 110mm cranks (Zippy). It’s my most satisfying uni, for what it is. No brakes, no gears, no knobs, nothing fancy, but it’s very good at being exactly what it is.

I mainly commute on a KH26x2,75 with 137mm cranks.
Distance varies from 2km to 8 km.
As I am rather short (1,69m) I feel more confident on this uni than on my 28x2. The real difference in diameter ist only 1inch which results in a difference of 10% in cruising speed. When riding in town on quiet roads, bike lanes and side walks with traffic lights and crossings the overall difference in speed is much less than 10% and the commute takes only a few minutes longer on the KH26. On the KH26 I am able to ride between pedestrians as slow as them. The wider tire makes dealing with curbs easier.

Al in all ist a matter of taste again.

+1 - I think if I was doing that every day I’d go for a bit of variety. I’m with the crowd though - my do it all uni is a 29er muni, which is what I usually use on the half mile each way school run (or for similar trips to the nearby village hall). Pedals normally in the 150 position as that’s what I use for muni, though occasionally I bother to switch them to 127 if I’m doing lots of easy riding. I sometimes do that run on my 29er Schlumpf with slick tyre, but only when it’s quiet, and because it’s nice to get the practice rather than because it’s faster (overall it’s probably not, though if my kids are on bikes it’s nice to be able to keep up on the downhill bits). Very occasionally I’ll use the 19er for transport, but only because I’m wanting to have a play whilst on the journey, though that’s mainly hoppy stuff which you say you don’t do. I also happily hop up and down kerbs on the 29er muni though, so that’s not really a consideration for me.

On longer trips I would normally use the Schlumpf - the local town is about a 4 mile ride. Though on my last trip out to the pub there I had the muni as I wasn’t wanting to ride the Schlumpf when drunk (as it turned out the muni was quite enough of a challenge).

36" for now

For almost 3 years now I’ve been commuting most days (probably about 3.5 times/week) with my 36" Oracle. My commute was 16km (10 miles) and now is 14km (9 miles) and I started with 150mm cranks, then 125s, then tried 100s for a while and have been with 114s for the last 6 months or so. Although my top cruising speed is a little higher with 100s I think my true commute time if virtually the same as with 114s. It seems to give a good balance between pretty good speed and moderately good slow-speed maneuverability: my free-mounting with the 114s has finally reached around 70% or so :-).

Prior to that I had a commute of about a 3km commute and did that with a 26" and often took a longer route and played around for fun.

Starting in March I will be changing jobs and will have a commute of only 1.2km (3/4 mile), so I will then again have all the options: 36" (probably with 125s/137s), 26" or 19"… and I’m now considering adding a 29+ or 26+…

Just for a laugh, I commuted the same route on the 20 today. It was humiliatingly slow, required enormous concentration on uneven pavements, provoked daft comments from kids, and I even had one UPD (it was dark, alright?) and the whole experience was very little fun at all.

However, just as I was at my lowest ebb, a chap on a bike said, “You are one cool dude” without apparent irony.

To think, many years ago, I did 20 miles on a 20.

I’ve never quite worked out why a 20 seems so slow compared to a 29. Given I usually use 150s on my 29 and have 125s on the 20 I should be spinning faster on the 20, so the difference is likely to be around 25%, but it feels way more than that.

For me the 26" is the ideal size. Combined with 100mm cranks its easy to mount/dismount and can be maneuvered easily. I can take it on a bus, train or in a car without taking it apart and i can keep up with slow moving bicycles in traffic. When walking it takes me about half an hour to 40 min to reach work which is reduced to 10 - 15 min unicycling. For shorter tracks a 24 inch will also work

After trying all 7 unis, I have more or less standardised on the KH29 with the pedals in the shorter crank holes. Slight disadvantage is that with the seat about an inch higher to allow for the shorter cranks, it is more difficult to fit it in the back of the car and I need to put the seats down. Is now an enjoyable ride to work - just a few minutes, but easy and fun. If I were to do this full time, I would get a road tyre.

You’ve got to stop letting random comments from strangers be about you. They aren’t. They are about the person uttering them and have nothing to do with you.

I think the ideal cycle for your situation would be in the 26-29" range, with cranks on the short size (125 still being a bit long), and a tyre in the 2" range. Good up the kerbs and on the bumps, and good speed.

Add a bell.

Or vice-versa. My experience on our big, long bike path here is that usually the kids are more predictable than the parents that brought them. But not always. What you need is a bell. A normal bike bell that you can ring to let people know something is coming. The idea is that they don’t have to look; if they hear it they will usually make room without looking, which makes them more predictable.

But small children are never going to be predictable, so always expect random movements, or parents making bad choices while trying to direct the kids. :slight_smile:

I think most of the problem is knowing that you have a 29" and you’re on a 20". Plus, tires being equal, they are generally lousy on bumps.

Back in the day, before I got my first Coker, I sometimes commuted to work (8 miles each way) on my old Miyata TripleCross bike. A Cross, or Hybrid bike, it’s a cross between a mountain bike with skinny tires and a Road bike that’s not a Road bike. Basically a little of both, lousy at both, but perfect for commuting. The unicycle version of that would have tires (tyres) that are not too skinny, a comfy seat, and cranks that allow for speed but also enough maneuverability to avoid the small kids and cyclists.

Narrow rim = more crashes ?

For 9 months now I’ve been riding on a 24mm wide 700c rim with a Marathon 2" tire. Last weekend I had my third serious crash while riding this wheel. My second face-plant. Never has such a problem with the Dominator rim so I’m thinking that I just can’t handle such a narrow rim. Just before the first crash I was riding as fast as possible and couldn’t run it out. With the next two I was riding slowly and some how lost control on uneven ground. My knee is messed up because I wasn’t wearing pads during the second crash. I also hit my head just above one eyebrow during the third crash. Needless to say, I haven’t ridden for a week. Itching to get back on but not sure my knee or head can take another hit. When I’m better I think I’ll switch back to the dominator rim.

Anyone else have problems like this with narrow rims?

Hi Coyote29er. Just saw this post. I’ve seen a couple of electric wheels around. Glad to find out about another rider in town. See you on the trails and streets.:smiley:

Honest answer to an honest question: no.

I have many years of experience but I do not consider myself an especially skilled rider.

I have a skinny 700c road rim with a road tyre and have ridden tyres down to 20mm width, and did many miles on a 23mm tyre on and off road. I did my longest ever day on a 28mm tyre.

I don’t remember any particular problem with sudden faceplants. However, a lighter wheel and tyre combination has less momentum, and a hard skinny tyre is more susceptible to small bumps, so you do have to ride a little more “within your limits”