Direct drive bicycle

I was just recently thinking of diffrent ways to help teach people to unicycle, and I came up with the direct drive bicycle, and was just wondering if anyone had tried this, and if it worked well?

A “super trick cycle” is a direct drive bicycle (pedals attached to rear axle). Not sure if it would be useful for learning unicycling though… the few times I’ve had a go on one I’ve found it pretty weird to ride, more like a freaky bike than a unicycle.

The first bicycles (excluding the hobby horse and the MacMillan treadle driven bicycle) were direct driven - usually but not always via the front wheel.

The need for speed led to the development of ever larger driven wheels, and as the rider had to sit above the pedals, for the most efficient position, the trailing wheel became smaller and smaller - hence the name “penny farthing” , properly called the “ordinary bicycle”.

(In the USA, there was something similar, with the “penny” at the back, and the “farthing” at the front, steered with handlebars.)

I have ridden penny farthings. At speed, the tiny back wheel almost hovers. It is only really useful at low speeds, or when riding up hill.

This is why the more sporting type of late Victorian gentlemen developed unicycles - using the front wheel of a penny farthing, and keeping the pedals, forks and handlebars - but no back wheel or seat.

Photographs of such machines were recently posted in this forum on a thread about Victorian unicycles.

So, in a way, your idea is a good one, because it is the story of the development of the unicycle from two wheeled machine, to a unicycle with (almost literally) a “training wheel”, to a unicycle with handlebars, and ultimately to the unicycle as we know it, with a seat and no handlebars.

On a more modern note, you will find unicycles with handlebars and no seats for sale on ebay from time to time, sold as novelty items. Also, at, I think you will find a “circus bicycle” which is almost like two unicycles, connected by a cross bar. One has handlebars and no pedals, the other has a seat and pedals. They are a novelty item, and quite fun to play on.

Also, there is some dreadful thing called something like a “skate cycle” which is a unicycle with one or more skateboard trucks on outriggers.

As it only takes a keen rider a few days to learn to unicycle, and those who aren’t keen will almost certainly never learn, maybe we should stick to what we have: the 20 or 24 with about a 50% crank:wheel radius ratio, a wall, and determination.

The only modern direct drive bikes are track bikes (for velodrome racing, and a fair amount of messangers use them). I’ve ridden a friends, and its kinda natural after unicycling. the on;y downside to your idea is that clipless pedals (ones that your foot clips in-- don’t ask) is a must, and they can be expensive and they take time to learn to use.

Why are clipless pedals a must? I know those who traditionally use direct drive, single geared bikes tend to use them in high-performance scenarios (track racing or courier work), but there’s no reason the same machines couldn’t be used with normal pedals for less extreme riding.

Terminology alert!

Direct drive is like a conventional unicycle, or penny farthing, where the cranks are attached directly to ends of the hub spindle/axle.

Track race bikes are “fixed wheel” which is where there is no freewheel mechanism, and the rider has to pedal all the time, but can use back pressure to slow down.

“Direct gearing” might be used to describe a machine where the gear ratio is 1:1 - i.e. front and back cogs are the smae size.

So, a unicycle, penny farthing or circus bike 9as sold by is direct drive.

A giraffe unicycle or a track bike is usually fixed wheel.

Some giraffe unicycles and some rare bicycles are “direct geared”.

I guess you wouldn’t need them if you were just riding in a flat place, but to go down any hill or have some speed, its just for safety.

We have a direct drive bicycle hanging in the garage. It was built simply by welding the rear sprocket to the hub. We built it after watching Guy Hanson ride one in the Seattle Torchlight parade at UNICON in 2002.

Problem is we kept the original drive ring and sprocket so the ratio is way off and it’s nearly impossible to ride. The drive ring and rear sprocket probably need to be both larger and the same size as each other for better control. We just haven’t gone back to play with adjustments, so it collects dust.