Distance riding for newbies.

I ride a 20" unicycle and play in a hockey team.

My workplace a university is organising a sponsored bike ride of 37 miles along a wall known trail route which for a large part is paved or at least reasonably fine gravel.

I was thinking about doing it on my unicycle.

Now, the furthest I’ve ridden on my uni was about 6k which I did no problem. Now I’m wondering I know many of you will be thinking what on a 20" are you mad, get somthing with a bigger wheel and a miyata saddle.

But… is it possible, and what sort of training will I need to put in?

I’ve done about 5 miles in one go on my 20 inch. More than that might be a little crazy, depending on who you are. You would do much better buying a bigger unicycle if you have the money.

3 months after learning to ride I did a 20 mile charity ride on a 26". I think it’s less a case of training and more a case of realising the amount of time it’ll take you on a 20". On the 26" 20 miles took me 3 and a half hours, on a 36" you can cover twice the distance in the same amount of time. On a 20" however I think 20 miles would take at least 5-6 hours, and if you’re looking to do 37 you’re almost looking to double that time! For 37 miles you really should strongly consider getting something bigger, even if it’s just a 24".

screw that on a 20" :stuck_out_tongue:

I am just off to do 42 miles on a pretty flat trail on my 29er it takes about 5 hours so on my 36er maybe 4 hours if it was on the road I would probably do it in just over 3 hours.

On a 20" I would run out of daylight :stuck_out_tongue:

Also a 20" is massively effected by mups etc so you are having to put in a lot of body language to correc things, you also lack any real momentum with the tiny light wheel, a 36 wheel spins on it’s own almost once it is up to speed so the effort you have to put in is greatly reduced.

Having had all sizes of wheel now I would not want to do any real distance on anything less than a 29er

35 miles on a 20? 4 miles an hour? Sounds like an 8 or 9 hour day including rests, and very hard work.

I did 20 miles on a 20 once. The operative word is “once”. It was not fun.

35 miles is not impossible on a 20, but it would take grim determination, and you would need support with food, fluids, etc.

A good bicyclist will complete that distance in a couple of hours.

A few months after learning to ride I did 58 miles (London to Brighton) on a 26, but I don’t think I would have made even half way on a 20.

In those day (1992) a 26 was about the biggest that I could get. Given that now 26, 29 & 36 are common I would go for at least a 26 and probably a 36!

As for training, I trained for a month beforehand & my furthest distance during training was 8 miles.

That said, it would be a hell of an accomplishment if you did it on a 20.

Let us know what you decide to do & how you did.

Good luck,


I thought I remembered reading of a girl who rode 60 miles on a 20" around the Isle of Wight. After a bit of searching I found this thread: http://www.unicycle.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=587

Good luck.:slight_smile:

I am planning to do a lot of distance road-riding on my Yuni for charity this year (once I can ride it!) and I’ve been looking into the speeds of various unicycles.

To me, the best compromise would be a 29". The 36" achieves much higher speeds, but I’m not sure a UPD would be possible when cracking along at almost 20mph - sounds more like crash and bruise territory to me :smiley:

I have found various pages listing the speeds of unicycles in different ways, taking into account wheel sizes and cadences, which is what has me settling on a 29" for the job.

For example:




Hope some of this helps.

Just don’t fall off. :sunglasses:

I’ve never got anywhere near 20 mph on my 36. Riding hard and smooth on 150mm cranks, 12 - 13 mph is a good average, obviously peaking a bit higher when I go for it.

At sensible steady speeds, on decent surfaces, by the time you’re good enough to be considering riding 20 miles or more, UPDs should be a rarity, and injuries extremely unlikely.

I did 30 miles on a 20" once:

I wouldn’t do it again, mostly because I now have bigger wheels at my disposal.

Very interesting read thanks for your qualified opinions. :slight_smile:

My son and I are considering doing a charity ride in September. We’ve been looking at tires sizes as well. I’m still struggling with the learning so a 36 inch looks pretty intimidating. I hope by spring it won’t seem like a fantasy.

I would think that donors will be in awe no matter what you choose.

It’s all a matter of motivation. Last summer I had the pleasure to meet Thierry Bouché who cranked out 71.5 miles in 17 hours on his 20" back in the day, circumnavigating Tahiti. I’ve driven all those roads a few years before he did that ride and it’s rough, hilly, hot humid and has non-trivial navigation. Amazing rider, amazing ride:

(skip to about 6:10 for the 3rd section, the circumnavigation).

That being said, I am at the opposite end of the spectrum. If I had to give up my geared 36 and go back to a standard 36 for distance riding, I would be very disappointed and would probably choose a bike instead. That’s after over 10k miles on the 36 and over 5k miles on the geared 36. When I was learning to ride, I did ride a 20" for 3.9 miles a few times - that was NOT fun. The big wheel just feels so much better.


Then you are probably a little crazy.

Absolutely it’s possible. With enough determination, you can do just about any distance on a unicycle.

That said, it would take an obscene amount of time for a 20" to cover the mileage, far more than is likely alotted for the charity ride in your sights. You would be pushing a time of 8+ hours. That’s comparable to doing a century on a 36er.

Obviously it would be a tremendous accomplishment. By all means, if you think you can do it, go for it! I always love hearing about uni accomplishments (especially in distance, which is what I do :D)

Doing a long ride on a 20" wheel, when bigger wheels are easily available, is like driving cross country in a car, but staying in first gear. Just bad.

Also I found it interesting you mentioned Miyata saddle, presumably as an upgrade. What are you riding on now? Miyata had the best saddles in the 80s and 90s, but now we have more comfortable options. :slight_smile:

I recently rode 7 miles on a 24", and it was torture. My wife had to put a maxi-pad on my a*s for a few days so I could even sit down. Granted it was an old Semcycle, with an old Schwinn-style seat.

The problem with small wheels and distance, besides for being annoying, is that the high cadence leads to a lot of unnecessary lower-body movement, which in turn leads to more chafing where the sun don’t shine.

On my 29, I have no problem with twice that distance. A few inches, and a KH seat, apparently makes a big difference.

I just learned to ride about 2 months ago and so far my longest day was 15 miles, but that included quite a few stops while fooling around town on my dx 20" with some quality cycling bibs and eurostyle chamois cream I felt no discomfort except for sore ankles from some larger drops

I tend to disagree with the crowd saying that it’s crazy and all that. People have easily done 67 miles on a 36 inch unicycle. If you maintain the same cadence, you can do 37 miles in the same time on a 20 inch. It may be kind of boring to go somewhat slow, but mostly to people who already have experience with bigger wheels. If all you’ve ridden is that 20 inch, you won’t see it as a problem. It’s still much faster than walking. (Many 36" riders could do 12 mi/h for a long ride. That would be equivalent to 6.7 mi/h on a 20 inch, probably even 7 or perhaps 8 mi/h as it will be more natural to maintain a higher cadence on a smaller wheel. I’d say go for it!

Disclaimer: I have not done a large distance on a 20" myself. Perhaps I should…