Effectively Gearing Down

So I’ve been riding some of the trails in the foothills of the Rockies lately, and I feel like I’m getting a great feel for the downhills, and taking some knarly lines, but I’m a bit stymied by the uphills. The main problem is that these trails go up, up, up, up, up ,up, and then you turn around and go down, down, down, and the ups are giving me hell (they’re about a 1000’ rise in about 2.5 miles). It’s not all because of technique, because I can ride some pretty nasty ups, but since it just keeps going up and up, my legs and my lungs just won’t hold out. If I could get a break with a down or straight in between, I’d be OK, but it’s just up, up, up.

So I stopped to look at how the b*kers were getting up and realized that they’re using gear ratios less than 1:1, cause their cranks are turning like 3 times for each turn of the wheel, and I thought, hell, I would be OK if I could gear down like that. Well, I can’t until Harper gets his ass in gear on Redshift, but it made me wonder what I could do to effectively gear down. I know refining my technique will help, and I’m working on that and my leg strength and endurance, but a mechanical advantage would be a nice shortcut in the meantime. :wink:

Firstly, I’m on a 26”x3” wheel. I went with 26” cause I figured I’d be riding more for XC than trials, but now I wonder, how much of an advantage would I gain on the ups if I was using a 24” wheel. Not in terms of maneuverability, but in sheer climbing advantage.

Next I wondered about my cranks, which are 170s. I could try 175s. Would this give me much climbing advantage? How about a 24” with 175s vs. my 26” with 170s. Anybody have any experience climbing long, strenuous hills with some different setups?



hi andy.

I used to do a lot of hill work on my muni when i lived in new england. I would usually ride with 2 or more other muniers. It was great to have company because we could really push eachother. With the long and steep stuff we would usually just break it down into sections and take it one at a time and wait for the others to catch up. It was also very fun to pick different lines up the hill and even go back down a section just to come up it a different way. Its also nice to have only one person riding a really hard part so that you can give them encourageing words when they clear a big boulder or root or something.

I think patience is real important on the uphills. Before you know it you’ll be doing sections twice as long as you were doing before.

Some other things we would do to pass the time on the uphills would be to ride without a hand on the handle or no hopping allowed (try to roll all the obstacles that are possible). I think the no handle thing was really beneficial. It taught me to do alot more without the handle then when I couldn’t go any farther i would pull on the handle to give me even more torque. The handle was more like a fall back plan for when i couldnt go any farther.

I guess my post wasn’t really what you had in mind when you started the thread but those are some things that have helped me. Oh, going to the gym has helped too; it sounds like you’re on that already though.

And, btw, i have a 24x3 muni with 170 cranks.

Happy trails. -erik :slight_smile:

Practice will lead to improvement, partly through improving fitness, but, also you’ll improve at being able to go slow with small pauses without losing balance.

Concerning crank lengths, don’t assume that longer=better for climbing. Whilst longer cranks are better for downhill and also for climbing up extreme steep short hills, shorter ones can be better for sustained climbing on relatively smooth trails.

I ride a 24x3 muni with 150mm cranks and a 29-er with 125’s. It took a lot of practice to get the hang of hills with the 29-er, and I’ll never be able to tackle the extreme steep stuff possible on the muni, but, on normal steep roads I find the 29-er to use less energy because it gets up quicker and is very solid and straight with less of the constant adjustment necessary with the muni.

I guess you’ll not be into dropping down to 150’s as it’ll limit the downhilling, but it may be worth a try; if you do then remember that you’ll have to stick with it to make a true assessment as it takes a few weeks to adapt fully.

On Sunday I led a muni ride at the Sheffield juggling convention and my mate John who has 175’s on his muni came along.

It’s always interesting to compare how our respective munis handle, I personally find the 175’s to be unridable (though I’ve only had a few goes on them).

I think he gets the benefits in terms of the trialsy type stuff he’s working on (crank grabs etc), but he isn’t nearly as much into riding as I am, and I do wonder if that’s because the thing is so unpleasant to ride distances on.

I also noticed that on a particularly steep road uphill that I got up quicker and easier with the 150’s than he did with the 175’s.

You could always build yourself a Muni with a Sturmey Archer hub. I am looking at doing just that with a three-gear hub you can have the same advantage that bikes (oops) have.


And none of the disadvantages like that annoying other wheel that keeps getting on the way all the time.


Whilst claiming no particular expertise in the riding, I’ve probably ridden more crank/wheel size combinations than many of you.

My general impression is this:

Cranks are part of the engine. Change the cranks, and you change more than the leverage ratio. You change the efficiency and effectiveness of the pedalling action; you change which muscles you use; you change your comfortable cadence.

The wheel is the gearing system

So, get the engine right (choose some suitable cranks) THEN get the gears right (choose a suitable size of wheel and tyre).

Cranks that are too long can make the pedalling action so clumsy that you lose power and torque. The perfect crank length for you will be different from mine.

For comparion, I have a “personal Everest” which I assault on the uni a couple of times a year. My best ever ascent was on a 24 with 150s, NOT on a 26 with 170s.

Naturally, you have to decide first which part of the ride is more important to you. If the downhill is the more important, the cycle should be set up for that.

But for strictly uphill, I am reminded of a group ride in January, where I borrowed Andy Jennings’ 24" Miyata to ride part of the uphill, and let him try my 24 x3 with 170 cranks. I used to ride a Miyata on the trails before I built my first MUni. The skinny tire at high pressure makes easy trails more challenging.

But what I forgot was what a difference that lightweight wheel makes! The Miyata is so stiff, and so light, it makes the uphill very different from slogging up it on that heavy Gazz tire with Sun Doublewide rim. Try a lightweight “street” type unicycle and see what you think.

Re: Effectively Gearing Down

Is that an intentional pun? Someone mentioned gearing down a Coker to an effective 24" diameter which would make a cool unicycle tractor.

That gives me an idea. I only run 11 psi in my tire. Maybe I’ll pump it up for the uphill to reduce some resistance and then let it back out for the downhill.

Puns go over better if you don’t point them out, but it’s harder to take credit after the fact. :sunglasses:


Re: Effectively Gearing Down

On Wed, 17 Mar 2004 09:46:09 -0600, Huthwaite wrote:

>You could always build yourself a Muni with a Sturmey Archer hub.

S.A. hubs transmit only power in one direction, making them very
difficult to ride. Even if you ride only forward, you usually need to
be able to exert ‘back power’ for balance. Also, the S.A. internals
may not stand up to MUni abuse. Lastly, how are you going to shift
gears on the fly, i.e. where does the cable go?

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

“Heck, even my toes were aching from trying to grip the soles of my shoes! - Tommy Thompson”

Re: Re: Effectively Gearing Down

The SA hub he is talking about is direct drive, Klaas, so it would be okay for transmitting power both ways. However, you are correct that it would not take the stress.

Re: Re: Effectively Gearing Down

It’s not actually a pun. It was clever, though.



Re: Re: Re: Effectively Gearing Down

Harper is getting on in years, and no longer fights his own battles. I drew short straw on this one.

PUN:the humorous use of a word, or of words which are formed or sounded alike, but have different meanings, in such a way as to play on two or more of the possible applications; a play on words. (Webster’s NewWorld Dictionary, Second College Edition).

The sentence in reference here: “Well, I can’t until Harper gets his ass in gear on Redshift.” is a pun by that definition. In this case, the usage of “gear” differs between the thread topic (specific type/ratio of an actual gear system) and the sentence in reference (gear as metaphor for engaging, taking action, moving forward). While it may have been unintentional, it still works as a pun.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Effectively Gearing Down

Good job Tom! Can I employ you to fight my battles also? And how much extra would it be to have you place my votes in the age polls? That has become a full time job lately.:slight_smile:


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Effectively Gearing Down

To paraphrase Wimpy, one of my favorite icons of modern American culture:

I will gladly fight your battles on Tuesday for a carbon fiber seat handle today. :smiley: