Crankarm length debate

>Greeting from JUA Rules Committee,
>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 restrictions.
>The arguments against free crankarm length are:
>1. Past records would become meaningless.

     I've heard this same rant from the bicycling crowd and I don't agree.
     Should bicycle racers today be forced to ride 1905 era technology, ie,
     no titanium, aluminum or composite frames, no ovalized tubing, no metal
     (wood only) wheel rims, no bladed spokes, or disc wheels, no synthetic
     rubber or clincher tires, no derailleurs, rod actuated spoon brakes?
     Just to keep from "invalidating" the records of some dead guys? The
     records were definitely tied to the technology, so why not let
     technology advance?

     The UCI used the same excuse when they banned recumbents back in 1934
     An upstart nobody beat the current world champoin and broke the
     then-current hour record (which had stood unbroken for 15 years) by an
     amazing margin.

     The UCI promptly invalidated the new record and made recumbents illegal
     for racing. Where would bicycle design be now if the decision had gone
     the other way? Recumbents are safer, faster and way more comfortable
     than upright bicycles, yet few people in the general public have even
     heard of them, let alone seen one. A real shame.

>2. Unfair to those who can’t or won’t get shorter cranks.

     So create a new class for those who can and will.

>3. Only real enthusiastic unicyclists would bother changing cranks, putting
> everyone else at a disadvantage.

     Shame on them! ;^) Bailiff, whack their peepees!

>4. Crankarm length has a decisive effect on speed.

     Seems like it would.

>5. It is difficult or dangerous to ride with short cranks (not very
> convincing).

     Maybe it is difficult but the way I see it, if unicycling itself were
     easy, everyone would be doing it. And as for dangerous, I can see that
     shorter crankarms would make unicycles less wobbly at speed (ie, in a
     race) make them more controllable and therefore safer or at least as
     safe AND faster. Should we force people to race wobblier unicycles?

     Furthermore, it seems logical that there is a point of decreasing
     returns with shorter crankarms. Higher top speed, sure, but slower
     acceleration and decreased ability to change wheel speed for front-
     to-back balance. If crankarm length were unrestricted, competitive
     forces would stabilize them at some new shorter-but-not-too-short
     length anyway.

>The pro arguments are:

> 1. Bicycle racing doesn’t restrict crank length

     With bicycles crank arm lengths and gearing are adjusted to rider
     strength and leg measurements. There are a lot of variables to consider
     and the relationships (and their advantages or disadvantages) aren't
     really well defined.

     With unicycles the only practical way to effect a gearing change is to
     change the wheel size. Since that isn't allowed, there is only one
     variable, crank length, and its effect (shorter=higher top speed) seems
     to be generally agreed upon.

     Comparing bicycles to unicycles doesn't seem to be a valid argument.

> 2. It limits the potential speed (my answer is if that’s so then have free
> wheel size too).

     I favor creating a separate class or perhaps two. One crank length
     unrestricted, and one totally unrestricted. I'd love to see heads- up
     big wheel unicycle racing. Let the people who want to be faster, do so.

> 3. Guinness doesn’t care

     I don't care either.

> 4. UNICONS don’t really enforce it.

     If you say so.

> 5. One or two claimed (very unconvicncingly) that crankarm length doesn’t
> really affect speed.

     Even if it doesn't, and I believe it does, it would certainly reduce
     the wobbling and make the unis less wobbly at speed. This could be
     viewed as a safety issue--should we force people to ride wobblier

> 6. The yearly all-Japan marathon in Nagano does not restrict crank length.

     Obviously a progrssive and free-thinking crowd.

> 7. Riders want and should be allowed to choose a crankarm length most
> suited to their riding style.

     I agree, but I'm a techno freak and may be predjudiced.

> Stuff deleted…
>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 even asked what John Foss thinks about this

Today the International Human Powered Vehicle association tracks distance and
speed records for fully enclosed streamlined recumbent bicycles which make the
so called “real records” of upright cyclists look sick. The HPV hour record is
around 60 km, compared to something like 42km for the upright crowd. The HPV 24
hour distance record is now at about 700 miles, compared to about 500 for
upright bicycles. The HPV 200 meter flying start speed record is upwards of 75
miles per hour, compared to around 45 mph for the traditional upright bike.

Just recently the UCI invalidated a new hour record made by (check me on this,
someone) Chris Boardman riding a homemade bike with a radical
elbows-tucked-under-fists-on-chest riding position. Said it was too dangerous,
and banned it for racing (a knee jerk nay-saying to my way of thinking). What
they really meant was it was too much of an improvement over the tried and true
(and aged) handlebar designs of yore, and allowed an upstart nobody to break a
record made by a “real man”.

I would hate to see the same “technology freeze” and “brain freeze” happen in
the world of unicycling. While we’re killing time and having fun, why don’t we
also build a better unicycle?

I believe a special unrestricted racing class should be made, so those
enthusiastic unicyclists who can and want to experiment with crank length
may do so without causing undue stress to those who can't or won't. Or maybe
two new classes, one crank-length unrestricted but wheel-size restricted,
and a separate, totally unrestricted class. I'd love to see some heads up
racing on big wheel unis.

And there is another point to be made for people of a certain stature whose
leg lengths & proportions fall into an ergonomically ideal ratio to the
current "legal" crankarm lengths. It can be argued that these people have an
unfair advantage over taller (or way shorter) people whose longer legs fall
outside this ideal range of crank length to leg length & proportion ratio.

And finally, could it be that the forces seeking to freeze things like
wheel size and crankarm length are only doing so to make organizing
events simpler?

I realize this all gets very technoid. Maybe most people don’t race unicycles to
win, just to have fun. But what about the serious contenders? Let them have a
class of their own.

Dennis Kathrens