Jack Halpern wrote: We had a heated discussion lasting many hours concerning
crankarm length. Some top club leaders want to abolish restrictions. They
succeeded to get it voted for the expert class, but I was leading a group that
vehemently opposed it. We barely succeded in voting to keep crankarm length
The arguments against free crankarm length are:
- Past records would become meaningless.
- Unfair to those who can’t or won’t get shorter cranks.
- Only real enthusiastic unicyclists would bother changing cranks, putting
everyone else at a disadvantage.
- Crankarm length has a decisive effect on speed.
- It is difficult or dangerous to ride with short cranks (not very convincing).
The pro arguments are:
6. Bicycle racing doesn't restrict crank length 7. It limits the potential speed (my answer is if that's so then have free wheel size too). 8. Guinness doesn't care 9. UNICONS don't really enforce it. 10. One or two claimed (very unconvicncingly) that crankarm length doesn't really affect speed. 11. The yearly all-Japan marathon in Nagano does not restrict crank length. 12. Riders want and should be allowed to choose a crankarm length most suited to their riding style.
BTW, I did suggest that we could have a free crank class event on an
experimental basis, but the pro camp insists on going all the way.
I have no time to get involved in lengthy discussion, but I would like to get
some opinions. I think free crank length may be detrimental to our sport.
Stay on top,
Jack Halpern, IUF Vice President
P.S. I ewas asked what John Foss thinks about this
John Foss replies (hope Jack has time to at least READ our lengthy discussion on
this, or why did he bring it up?)
First of all, so far the JUA has not contacted the IUF Rules Committee to see
what we think. For all I know, they may not know we exist. In any case, the IUF
Rules Committee is probably not important to them at this time. If they decide
to remove their crank arm restriction for experts, it will be interesting for us
to watch and see how things turn out.
As for the IUF (and USA, most likely), we would be very unlikely to remove the
crank arm restriction in the near future, but not for the main reasons that have
been discussed. We use our current sizes almost exclusively for the reason that
they are crank arms that people can buy. Mind you, 5 inch or shorter crank arms
are not easy to find (in the US), but they can be bought.
Were we to allow any size, there would be a sudden division between average
riders, with access to parts that can be ordered through bike shops (and what
now passes for the average interest in unicycle racing), and serious riders who
are willing to make or find odd sized parts.
There is nothing wrong with being serious about unicycling. I feel that I take
it more seriously than most. At the same time, one of the great things about our
sport is that it is easy and inexpensive to participate. I like to think that a
person can walk out of a bike shop with a new unicycle, and come race with us
the same day. Even then, most of those people will have 5-1/2" cranks, but that
is not such a big difference. If their competitors have 3" cranks, there will be
Using an unlimited crank length would separate out an elite group of riders;
not the best ones, but the ones most interested and focused upon uni. design
I like the idea of the “unlimited” 100m race planned for this summer. It
embodies the spirit of our sport in that it seeks to find the fastest way to
go 100m from a standing start, on one wheel. What will it be? A big wheel? a
geared-up giraffe, or a simple 28" wheel? Without doing my own
experimenting, I don’t know, but I DO know it will be a combination of wheel
size AND crank arm length (and/or gear ratio) that determines the winner
(not to mention the engine).
As our rules experts already know, the IUF and USA rules already include
provision for an “unlimited” type race. One was used last summer at UNICON VII,
but there seemed to be only a small amount of adventurous riders on non-24"
wheels. I would have brought my own big wheel, but they are hard to bring on the
plane. . . .
There are not two, but three main controlling factors in unicycle speed (not
counting the engine, again): wheel size, crank arm length, and leg length. How
have we dealt with the issue of leg length? same as most sports, by ignoring it.
You are stuck with your own body. Most of our fastest unicyclists seem to be
tall and thin, but not all. Look at Amy Edwards, for the ladies, and Floyd
Crandall, for the men.
Wheel size is the most important factor. Why don’t we use a bigger size? Riding
1500 meters as fast as you can on a 24" wheel might seem like a big waste of
time because it’s so slow. The reason we use that size is because that’s how big
unicycles are. In Europe you can buy bigger sizes without ordering custom, but
these only make up a small part of the market, even there. Our wheel size
choices seem to be logical.
For crank arms, we have done the same thing, making changes through the years as
shorter crank arms became more common. I believe the place for unlimited crank
arm length remains only in select events. The last thing we need is more
divisions or age groups, or additional racing events, especially at the USA
level. I think the number of heats is holding our sport back. At the same time,
having many heats makes our sport accessible to newer riders, so they’re not
afraid to join in.
I’ve made my point. If you haven’t read enough, you can also read my responses
to the list of pro’s and con’s from Jack’s oringinal post:
Past records would become meaningless. No, they would only become past
records. In the last 10 years we have changed from yards to meters, from a
big obstacle course to a small one, and changed the length of some of our
races. The world did not end.
Unfair to those who can’t or won’t get shorter cranks. For those who can’t,
agreed. For this reason, it would be a bad idea if we are trying to spread
our sport. For people who WON’T get them, that would be their own choice.
Only real enthusiastic unicyclists would bother changing cranks, putting
everyone else at a disadvantage. Same as #2. There is no disadvantage, as
long as the parts are available. Does the rider who trains daily have an
unfair advantage over the lazy, untrained, out of shape one? (some parents
would say yes)
Crankarm length has a decisive effect on speed. How much effect has not been
generally agreed upon. I already carry two different racing unicycles to each
convention. One has a skinny tire, 5" cranks, and is lightweight and fragile.
The other has 5-1/2" cranks, a regular tire and is stronger. It is used for
wheel walk, obstacle, maybe one foot (I haven’t decided), and UMX. I also
bring a 20" for artistic. Life was simple when I only needed a single 24"
unicycle for everything . . . .
It is difficult or dangerous to ride with short cranks (not very convincing).
Not very convincing? Wrong. The question is HOW difficult or dangerous. I
once rode Sem Abrahams’ 42" big wheel with 4-1/2" crank arms. It was fun once
I got going, but it took me about 10 tries to get on (which is a lot for
me), and I would be scared to death of either going downhill, or mixing with
other traffic where I might have to make a sudden turn or speed change. Of
course it’s more dangerous, and in a race with very short cranks, you are
going to see more crashes. This is not necessarily bad for our sport, though.
As long as they don’t get injured and can walk away, crashes are probably
>The pro arguments are:
1. Bicycle racing doesn't restrict crank length Bicycles have gears and we don't, so there is no comparison. 2. It limits the potential speed (my answer is if that's so then have free wheel size too). I kind of like the idea of keeping our speed below one's ability to run. This makes a big difference if you lean too far forward when going full speed, doesn't it, racers? I agree with the parenthesis; for maximum everything, remove all limitations (and wear a helmet!). 3. Guinness doesn't care Our job is not to please Guinness, and their job is not to be accurate. They are in business to sell books and they make a lot of mistakes. Sure, it's great prestige and publicity to be listed in the Guinness Book, but right now, I don't think any of the people listed under unicycles are USA or IUF people. Think about that. 4. UNICONS don't really enforce it. This is kind of irrelevant to the issue, isn't it? In real life, not all rules get enforced, but they are when they are noticed. Last summer, for the first time, there was strict enforcement of safety equipment (though not until the last days of the convention). People crossing the finish line in the marathon without kneepads and gloves were removed from eligibility to win awards (disqualified). :-( 5. One or two claimed (very unconvicncingly) that crankarm length doesn't really affect speed. In some events it makes less of a difference than others, but if one believes there is no difference, they should not have read this far. Dennis Kathrens mentioned wobbly unicycles. Yes, the wobble is a natural function of the pedaling action, and shorter cranks should make for less wobble. Believe it or not, the guy who won the 100m sprint at UNICONs V and VII is one of the most wobbly riders there is (Javier Ruiz). In any case, the wobble will not go away, and is not dangerous. 6. The yearly all-Japan marathon in Nagano does not restrict crank length. The longer the race, the more advantage to be gotten from long cranks. Do they limit wheel size? 7. Riders want and should be allowed to choose a crankarm length most suited to their riding style. Is this true in Japan? If it's true in the US or Europe, how come I don't know about it? The idea is to compare riders, not machines, so the major dimensions of the machines are kept consistent.
That’s my long-winded opinion on the subject. I welcome your opinions and
feedback, and also welcome people interested in involving themselves with the
IUF Skill Levels and Rules Committee.
John Foss, Chairman IUF Skill Levels and Rules Committee email@example.com