'Ere, you're 'avin a girarffe

Well, what a purchase!

I’ve been in Devon (south west England) for a few days. Last night, I was looking in the local ‘free ads’ paper and I saw a unicycle for sale: “Very tall. £35.”

So I had to go and look. The owner told me he’d “inherited it”. I guess the previous owner died suddenly in a fall. It is, er… distinctive.

It has a 12 inch (x 2.125) knobbly tyre. It’s 14.5 inches from the axle to the centre of the bottom bracket spindle. That puts the seat at about chest height for me. (Why do they measure giraffes in total height? Surely the height to the bottom braket spindle matters; the seat height varies from rider to rider, and from crank size to crank size.)

The cranks are that horrible sort where there is no retaining nut or cotter pin. They look like solid metal extensions of the spindle, bent until they are at the correct angle. The pedals are cheap and look like they have a different sized thread from normal. In short, it’s made from components which would fit a child’s cycle.

The forks are even drilled to take a brake. I pause mometarily in respect for all those people who have met a sticky end, applying brakes to the rim of a giraffe wheel at high speed.

The bottom sprocket is 18 teeth, and the chainwheel (not ‘ring’!) is 36 teeth, giving a 2:1 ratio and an effective wheel diameter of around 24 inches.

Adjustment of the chain tension is by two rotating cams which swivel around the axle and push up against a flat surface on the end of the fork tubes. I say ‘fork tubes’ because the forks are two cylindrical metal tubes with flat metal plates welded to the bottom for the axle drop outs.

The seat? Yes, it has a seat.

The seat has rails like a bicycle seat. It is as wide as it is long, so mounting is difficult, even against a fence. It consists of a metal base plate with soft foam and then a leatherette cover held on with a draw string!

The tyre is blue, and the frame is painted yellow. Then there’s the sticker which says, “God, it’s so big!”. Oooer, Matron!

It was advertised at £35. (I guess that’s 50 US$, give or take.)

I looked sceptical and made a few technical observations: “I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s not actually a very good one,” that sort of thing… The man said he’d had a lot of interest, and three phone calls that day about it. I asked how much he was hoping for, £35? He said yes, but he’d accept £20. Was this the world’s worst haggler?

So, for £20, who could say no? Not I!

So I got the machine home, took it out of the car and had a proper look at it. Hmmmm. I mounted it against the fence. I tried to ride it without success. I’ve ridden 5 foot and 6 foot giraffes several times, and once had a similar sized home made one. This one, I couldn’t ride more than 2 pedal stroke. I UPDd, picked it up and saw that the frame was bent above the bottom bracket. Gentle pressure straightened it.

This is NOT my dream machine! Sooner or later, I will have a proper giraffe, and spend £250 or more. This beast is ‘one for the collection’, though, along with the 1959 ‘vintage’ machine with the leather bicycle seat.

For non UK readers, the £20 purchase price is the cost of about 9 beers. (London readers - about 2 beers!)


I hate to be repetitious but could we please see a photo of this new acquisition? Your words are valuable indeed but, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand of them.

(And it is chain “ring” which is a macho term, not chain “wheel” which is a sissie term.)

Re: 'Ere, you’re 'avin a girarffe

So, erm, did the guy say what the previous owner had fallen from? Did you check for blood-stains on the seat? :smiley:


  1. Photos: I am possibly the only person in the western world who does not own a camera. My ex wife has a lovely Nikon with a 28 - 210mm zoom lens, but I’m not bitter. A cheap digital camera is on the ‘to do’ list. Until then, my word pictures will have to suffice.

  2. Chain ring/wheel. I wasn’t referring to the relative degrees of manliness. In my day, a chain ring was a toothed ring attached to a crank and spider by approximately 5 Allen bolts. Chain wheels were toothed disks, permanently attached to the right side crank. Thus, a chain ring is a much better quality, more versatile device, and a chain wheel might be found on a cheap bike. I was being derogatory about the quality of the componentry. That said, I guess (without checking) that even good quality giraffes have chainwheels rather than chain rings.

Probably these days, the pendulum of fashion has swung back and chain wheels are preferred by the cognoscenti. I guess they’re stronger. I was a road cyclist and appreciated the lightness and verstility of the chain ring system.

Re: 'Ere, you’re 'avin a girarffe

Sound like BMX style cranks which would have 1/2" thread on the pedals instead of the 9/16" that most bikes/Unis seem to have.

sounds like it’s got 1 piece cranks…yeah they put them on all bicycles 20" and under(unless it’s a nice BMX bike with 3 piece cranks) you see most of you uni riders are spoiled on 3 piece cranks…i used to think of them as a luxury…

Schwinn giraffes have 1 piece cranks. My Schwinn giraffe still has the original 1 piece crank and bottom bracket. One of these days I may upgrade it to three piece cranks, but I don’t consider it a priority.

We’ll have to go for a ride Mike and I’ll bring my digital camera, you bring your uni collection and I’ll take some snaps so you can post them when people ask. Of course we’ll still expect your explanations to go with them :wink:


Seems a lot of effort just to save a few lazy colonials the laboUr of reading a few inches of equisitely crafted text. Also, they won’t all fit in the car. But yes, we must go for a ride some time. What are you doing on Monday evening?