Commuting in traffic techniques

Commuting in Alkmaar, the Netherlands

I find that commuting has its own special problems,

  • I usually carry a backpack with a laptop and some other stuff which may get quite heavy. This tends to mess with balance, turning and increases sensitivity to gusts of wind. Nevertheless with practice a heavy backpack is possible.

  • At traffic lights, if possible press button for the bicycle light as well as the pedestrian light, this increases the time.

  • Beware of traffic lights, which are low enough to hit your head when on a 36"".

  • Mount your lights low, the top of your backpack is out of view.

  • Cyclist tend to underestimate the distance the wheel travels backward when dismounting forward.

  • Uncontrolled dismounts leave your unicycle flat on the ground. Be aware that cars may hit your wheel.

  • I find that on a 36" speed is the best way to deal with obstacles such as bumps in the road. The slower, the more likely you are to crash.

  • Some fences such as backyard fences seem solid but bend inward quite a lot when you lean against them waiting for someone. You do not want to end up knocking a fence over and ending up in a back yard. :slight_smile:

  • Making frantic balancing gestures is a good way to make room when groups of pedestrians are blocking your route.

  • Your trousers may get into contact with the wheel so it is best to avoid the sticky brown stuff left behind by horses (and cows).

Nevertheless i do enjoy the daily ride, even when it is raining.

keithb26 Check out YooNeeNoob’s video.

I think a lot of these tips in this thread are good for us unicyclist who do not commute but use the walking/cycling trails or parks available to many of us.

Being courtious and polite to the non-unicyclist is the best way to promote our sport.

Yep…just echoing what many contributers to the thread have already pointed out.
My own commute is a 28-mile round trip on a 36er, departing at noon, returning at 10:30 at night, happily avoiding both rush hour traffic surges.
You definitely ‘learn’ a regular route to a degree not necessary with a bike; all the potholes, pavement undulations, tricky intersections, cheating opportunities, etc. become familiar very quickly, and you modify your riding accordingly. I never brace myself against anyone’s vehicle (too timid), but I have learned the timing necessary to arrive at controlled intersections with a green light. If a red light absolutely can’t be avoided, I’ll often just take the free right turn, wait for a lull in traffic, then do a quick u-turn back to the same intersection, follow-up with a quick right and I’m on my way.
An important technique I use when I need to cross multiple, busy downtown streets without dismounts is to start crossing several blocks in advance of my actual turn, giving myself extra opportunities to cross when traffic is down. For instance, if I need to make a left turn one mile ahead, I’ll start looking for ways to move left several blocks before the anticipated turn, maximizing the chance of hitting a lull in traffic.
I look upon my commute as a challenge, and have established the following classification scheme:

Diamond Run = door to door without a dismount of any kind.
Gold Run = A single forced* or planned dismount–no UPDs.
Silver run = Two dismounts, planned or forced.

*a forced dismount is anything out of your control but anticipated, i.e. traffic problems

I can usually manage a Diamond Run, unless I need coffee really badly. :wink:

Love this idea. I’m implementing it immediately. Thanks!

Hey I just came across the show today. Wow! You guys that commute are hard core. Nice job Shannon. Very inspirational. Keep safe out there.

Slight edit - you guys who commute on a G36 with clippy pedals are hardcore! :smiley:

I’m always scared of crashing like he did in the video - on the side of the road with a car right behind me! :astonished:

Scary crash indeed, as Shannon just can’t get out of the handle bar and falls flat!

Like the motion with the gentle left-righ bobbing as he pedals.

Looks like he couldn’t get his feet out either. I’ve always wanted to try clipless on a uni, but the thought of that makes me reconsider… No wonder he wears the full body-armour suit! :smiley:

I thought that was a bit of a weird crash, thought he was riding fine.

Just normal flat pedals for me when commuting. Safety first, gotta be able to bail and jump out on a UPD and I’m pretty good at that.

My fastest ungeared speed is 19mph (but mostly go around 12-16) and I’ve yet to try geared. Ungeared is not so fun when you’re trying to go fast cause you’re pedaling your brains out and not moving that impressively fast.

I’m able to commute pretty well now but still get nervous around bumpy roads I’m not familiar with as some holes are deeper than they look. Most of the time it’s purely for fun and exercise. For traffic lights I bunny hop or stand still in place for about a minute or two, no dismounts, everything I do on the unicycle is to get the most exercise out of it. It is quite a workout especially encountering multiple consecutive traffic lights. Then there are lights that are goofy and refuse to turn even after a minute or two, those I just dismount because one time there’s this light that took 4-5 minutes just to change and my leg just cramped up from trying to stay up for so long lol.

I slow down for stop signs but I try not to stop. If I see a car ahead of me, I slow down and wave them so they can go. Then I just go. If there’s a car that quickly speeds up to the stop sign, I make a forward signal in my way of saying “I’m going to go forward, thanks”. I can stop and go but usually try to avoid it.

I do not hold poles or lean against other people’s cars either. Usually the light poles are too far for me to reach and someone also mentioned about being too timid to use someone else’s car, I’m also like that.

So it’s all about learning to ride really slow and timing the lights and/or bunny hopping / standing still to wait for the lights. I don’t ride too fast because I still feel that unicycling is not very practical for commuting. It’s fun and great exercise, but not practical especially when dealing with uneven roads, moderate traffic, tight traffic roads, etc.

A good thing though is now I’m able to ride fast enough and safe enough to hit lights before they change. Traffic lights that don’t have the flashing hand or a number countdown usually makes me nervous because then I don’t really know how much time I have before it changes and don’t want to get there and hop the whole duration of the red light.

Hope everyone’s doing well.

There are a couple of lights/signs I can grab onto (and even a fence on one road) but most of them are too far away.

I’m STILL struggling to hop/stand on the spot! :smiley: Just as I were starting to sort-of get it on the 29er, I bought a 36er, so everything I learned went out the window…

Some lights are timeable, especially those that only change when pedestrians push the button.

Most lights round here don’t have a timeout thing, in fact I’ve never seen one in the UK, they just have the amber flashing light! :smiley:

One predicament that’s really become a pain for me recently (Winter-time, where 99% of my riding is on the road) is this particular set of lights that are: #1 at the bottom of a hill, so hopping on the spot would be REALLY hard even if I could do it at all), #2 have the world’s thinnest cycle lane and no ASL box, so the only thing to do is move in front of the cars to give yourself enough space, otherwise you’re cramped up against the pavement with no space (As drivers round here generally only sort-of try to ride outside the cycle lanes).

As a bit of a silver lining - on the 36er I have zero issue with potholes at all. I can usually power over them easily, and those that take a bit more effort I just steer round. On the 29er it was a bit tougher.

For the potholes, my issue with it is that sometimes I’m just cycling around sort of relax and there’s suddenly a big bump that makes me feel like I’m about to be thrown out of my seat. That scares the crap out of me. I’m okay dealing with them, but it’s the one that I don’t see that gets me.

Probably helps lowering the PSI. Mines is at 45 PSI and I mostly go road. It’s my preferred tire pressure, but I’ll see how I feel when I lower it back down as opinions change over time due to experience.

Some roads are just not very cycle friendly. Maybe those roads that you have problems with, maybe plan a different route? If that’s possible. There are certain streets that I’d never travel in, narrow road with some maniacs going 20+ over the speed limit…

I find hopping in place on a 36 to be hard at first due to the weight of the whole wheel, but after you get that in, I find it easier than on my smaller unicycles.

I’m running a TA tyre and run it anywhere between 45 and 60PSI (despite its 32PSI rating), I do bounce about a bit too much at the higher end of my pressure spectrum, lower definitely helps on some roads!

It is 100% possible to plan a different route, as I’m not commuting to work right now (Jobless :frowning: ) but it’s just a road I ride on a lot as it makes for a nice long route with some great up-and-downhills :smiley:

My problem with hopping is that I seem to lean backwards too far. Even if I do manage a couple of hops, I’m often leaning too far back to continue riding forward after. My other problem is that I rarely actually practice it - I tend to just go outside, hop a couple of times, quit and go for a proper ride :smiley:

Ahhhh this. Had this issue.

What I do is hop and keep my back straight. When the light changes, I hold down on the handle, stop and lean forward so my body falls a bit forward and push down on the pedal. Works very nicely. The key is using the handle to help give you more power to push on the pedal, as you would on steep hill.

So this week I had my first “perfect” ride with 125mm pedals on my 16km commute to work on Tuesday (i.e. no dismounts, not even to change my jacket). The return direction is harder b/c of one steep uphill and 2 street crossings that are harder, one on a steep uphill with no bike lane. Thursday evening I almost had a perfect commute home, including the hill AND I got lucky and timed the one light pretty well at the top of the hill. I was getting excited about a perfect ride and I just knew I was going to mess it up (I was also a little exhausted after a full day of work and I could feel my concentration reaching its end). Sure enough, less than 1km from home, after about 55 minutes in the seat I stressed myself and had a UPD on a small pothole in a construction area :frowning: but the ride was otherwise great!

In general I don’t have problems with potholes on the 36er (I was just tired and lost my concentration).

I do grab onto poles for a few lights that are really long. Here in Germany, the signal lights are before the intersection and right next to the road/sidewalk, so pretty easy and convenient to grab, so the only problem with holding a pole is that you usually have to hop down the curb about 1m after re-starting when you have no momentum, which used to give me problems. Now that is usually not a problem for me, unless it’s uphill, but intersections are usallly pretty flat.

I’m learning to idle and can do it pretty well on the 19" trials, a little on the 24", but I’m still not very good on the 36, so I basically don’t try it in traffic where a dismount where the 36er goes flying could be a problem. I can consistently hop at light with the 36er only for maybe 10 seconds or so, then it gets really strenuous (I also have a commuting backpack with a laptop and changing clothes, so maybe 6-8 kilos). One of my reasons for getting the 19" trials is to practice such things, so I think in 6 months or so I may be able to idle well enough to try it on the street with the 36.

The one uphill light I was talking about is kind of challenging. It is a pretty steep sustained uphill of maybe 12% for about 200m. The hill itself is no problem for me. The difficulty is that it’s a heavily used road and car traffic in rush hour can get bad. It’s a typical annoying German road “design” where there are no lane markers until about 10-15m before the intersection (where it is then 2 really narrow lanes, where 2 cars barely fit next to each other). Going up the hill it is then 1 1/2 “lanes” with no bike lane and no shoulder (there’s a stone wall to the right). So near the bottom the cars zoom past hoping to make the light. As they approach a red light the cars start to line up side-by-side and most of them do not have any concern for the unicyclist the just passed but want to get as close to the light as possible, so they squeeze forward as far as possible and so usually there’s almost no space, so I either have to weave in and around the “standing” cars waiting for the light or dismount, as I cannot idle/hop/remount at the 12+% grade (more precisely I cannot restart going straight up the steep hille with no lateral space, as there are cars all around). Usually I am somehow able to make it around the cars, picking my way here and there, all the way to the right, then the middle, then the left, but then if I time the light wrong I arrive at the red light where I have to go very slow (soas not to overrun the red light) uphill (hard to go so slow) and I have very little space as the cars as side-by-side. Sometimes I feel confident and I pedal really slowly through a gap around cars just wide enough for my to pass, but it’s pretty challenging as if I have to dismount I will probably have some lateral movement and “land” on one of the cars (fortunately this has never happened, although one time I really though I was going to land across the hood of a sports car to my left but I managed to save it and keep pedalling). Thus, I usually dismount when approaching a “just barely wide enough” gap. Then I have to walk up to the light, which is also not so easy (the road is officially closed to pedestrians b/c there is no sidewalk or shoulder). Without traffic the hill is easy, and I just time myself and go really slow, almost weaving near the top of the hill. But in rush traffic where the cars are sometimes side-by-side all the way down the hill, it is very challenging and/or almost impossible for me to ride.

I’ve been commuting now consistently on average about 2 times/week for about 10 months now, the last few months with 125mm pedals and I’m becoming way more proficient and confident. My control is now really good and my steep uphills and steep downhills and sharp corners no problem. I think I need to work on 1) going faster and 2) idling.

On Tuesday after having the perfect commute in the morning, I was feeling pretty good on the commute home and tried picking up the speed some. About half-way home I roughly estimated that I was on track for my fastest time ever. I can remember consciously thinking to myself, “what could go wrong going fast?” and “Why do I feel like this commute is going to take longer when I go fast now?” I reasoned that going fast was strenuous but shouldn’t make me much slower, falsely thinking like on a bicycle (i.e. on a bike if you push it really hard and tire yourself out then you’re a little slower, BUT you can still ride). Sure enough I got going too fast and out of control and dismounted runnig off the front. It was no problem and I landed on my feet. However, I was then somehow “scared” and then somehow subconsciously braking the whole time, so I couldn’t maintain a fast or even nornal speed again. In the end I ended up dismounting 11 times!! and instead of being faster my commute took like 15 minutes LONGER than usuall. However, the “spook” is now gone again and I think my “speed training” is paying off, albeit slowly and only in small increments.

pothole on 36 less bad than on bicycle?

I am really surprized how well the 36er handles potholes. I became aware of this this Wednesday when I had to take the bike instead of the unicycle b/c I needed to be fast after work and pick up my daughter at the day care. Last week I commuted the whole week on the unicycle and then Monday and Tuesday. So I Wednesday I hadn’t been on the bike in a while. I have a “speed bike” with no suspension fork and semi-small tires, actually for winter I have fatter 1.25" studded snow tires. Anyway, I wasn’t thinking and rode right over one semi-large poothole and jolted mysef really bad. Actually, I was almost sure I have pinch-flatted the back tire, but then I didn’t. I have hit the same pothole on the 36er and it was not nearly so uncomfortable and I wasn’t scared of flatting. Anyway, I guess it is partly the larger diameter and partly the larger width/volume that makes the difference, but I’m almost thinking that on the unicycle I am able to absorb the jolt more easily as you’re used to doing that in normal riding (whereas on the bike you just pedal and ride over stuff). OK, on the bike I run like 70-100psi (100 for the summer tires and 70 for the winter tires) and on the unicycle 50-60 psi but it’s not that significant, or is it?

I also have some bumpy gravel sections as wel as cobblestone passages. These are basically no problem for the 36. When I switch back to the bike I feel like my teeth are going to be shaken out!! Anyone else noticed this?

Yepp, all that stuff about the 36" being better on cobbles/potholes is basically echoing my experiences! the large-diameter wheel is the main thing that helps I think, as on my 29" uni I run a similar-width tyre and find I get bounced about a lot more (though obviously the big tyre does help!)

Cobbles are a strange one. On the 29er, they are the worst thing for me. Buck me off all over the place. Yet on the 36", it just feels like a bit of a bumpy road! :smiley:

That uphill on your ride home sounds deadly! I don’t think I would ever even attempt it, I’d just jump on the pavement before the pinch-section comes up ;D

The crash in the video was because my right foot slipped off of the pedal while trying to clip in. It had rained the night before. It was misting during the video shoot. I have crank brothers mallet dh pedals. I mount and dismount un clipped. I also unclip when there is a lot of traffic either be it pedestrian or cars. I have Bontroger mountain shoes. They are good when it is dry but they have terrible traction on wet concrete and my pedals. I used to have some 5 ten Helcats. They had great grip in the rain but I wore them out.
As far as releasing from the pedals, it is fairly successful. It is less successful than on a bike though. Have hit the ground on my bike with feet still attached. My worst geared upd was with normal pedals.
My safety gear has slowly improved to what I have now. The hard shell elbow, knee, and wrist guards are the only way to go for high speed. They help dissipate energy by sliding. I have destroyed 2 sets of hill billy gloves. I like my current wrist guards better than the hill billys. I don’t crash that often. Michael King was lucky enough to catch one. It does suck wearing all the crash pads,especially in the summer but I don’t heal very quickly. I have gotten used to wearing all the safety gear. I won’t ride without safety gear.

So those pedals allow you to ride unclipped? That’s interesting. I always assumed the second you put your feet on them, they’d click in and you’d be stuck until you twist out… I’ve always wanted to try a clipped-in setup, but I’m a bit of a wimp. Being able to unclip and ride given the choice is awesome! :smiley:

I agree that G36ering should definitely be done with the body armour. While I like to think that if I were good enough to commute on a G36 in traffic, I probably wouldn’t UPD too often, I know that ‘not too often’ doesn’t mean ‘never’, and so it’d be nice to have the protection when it does happen!

I have been commuting for a while now and also go shopping with my unicycle. I have UPD’d on occasion but nothing serious.

I have had on two occasions where other people were at risk because they were watching me.

On one occasion a two year old girl was walking on the street with a mom pushing a stroller with a second younger kid. The mother was looking at me and the kid looked at me in wonder and just stepped on the road close to a roundabout directly in the in the path of a car. I was able to alert the mother in time but had a scare. On the other occasion a woman was looking at me when she passed me and drove het bike straight into a pole which prevents cars from riding on the bicycle lane. She fell over it and hurt her hip.

so when i may not be responsible i may be the cause which is also an aspect to consider when going into traffic. I still ride my unicycle regardless of this risk but if the little girl was hit by the car i would be in doubt.