Okay, so everybody always says if you can ride a unicycle, then you can ride a giraffe unicycle. Well, this is true for the most part, but getting over the fear of being 9 feet off the ground is not easy for some of us ‘older’ riders. I have done several extreme sports in my life, including motocross racing which included jumping through the air 20 feet above the ground and double jumping over a 50-60 foot long gap. However, I have to admit that the older I’ve gotten, the more respect (fear) I have for heights.
Anyway, even with the ‘shorter’ 5 foot Torker, your head is going to be anywhere from 8-10 feet off the ground depending on how high your seat is and how tall your body is. When you get nervous, your body tenses up, and we all know that’s not good for any sport, especially unicycling. So, even though I’ve been riding Uni for 18 months (6 months of Muni), I found myself putting too much weight on the pedals when I first mounted the giraffe. Even so, I was able to ride about 15-20 feet my first try before I ran out of driveway and bailed off.
I haven’t tried to free mount yet. I’m using the bumper of my SUV to get up on it and then riding away. After the 3rd or 4th attempt, I rode about a mile around the neighborhood. I started to feel more comfortable with the height, but it is still a little intimidating. Coming down isn’t too bad, but it’s the worst part by far. As long as you land feet first, there isn’t any issue, but the impact is still far greater than coming off a standard Uni.
Anyway, I would recommend the Nimbus Performer if you can afford it, but I got the Torker because of the price and the fact that I had an Amazon gift certificate. It’s loads of fun and definitely an attention getter.
I guess it helps to have first ridden one at age 17, but back then I did it so much it still doesn’t bother me today. Probably the best way to conquer the fear of the height is to master it, but mastering the dismount. Practice falling off in all directions. That is, front, rear, sides, angles. Once you’re used to doing that, you will know you are ready to put your feet on the ground no matter which way things fall. That will help a lot.
As for the height - I started hang gliding in 1979, paragliding in 1991 am a senior coach and licensed to fly passengers, so you could say I am used to height.
BUT being that high on my giraffe still feels scary - and dismounting (planned or not) hurts!
I didn’t start riding a giraffe until I was 55, now at 58 I enjoy riding it but here in windy (& sometimes wet!) Wales it means opportunities are limited.
The attention I get riding it is fun - plus no-one asks WTOW!
I concur that the Nimbus performer twin chain is the best, I initially bought a ‘Reflex’ giraffe (£60 including shipping) and once I was happy that I wanted to continue to ride one, went for the Nimbus performer - awesome bit of kit. (although I don’t think I’ll ever extend it to the max!)
Keep giraffing and enjoy.
PS I know giraffing isn’t a word, can anyone think of a better one?
As far as Nimbus Performer, or any other you care to recommend, I am curious about how you arrive at this, bearing in mind that at this point you have nothing except a couple of rides on a torker.
I am willing to concede that there are situations more suited to a heavier affair. But IMO mostly they would be to do with things like moving it thru airport baggage handling, perhaps dong hundreds and hundreds of hours of tight riding inside big crows, idling, having total strangers pushing and shoving agaisnt it. Sorta what a performer might need? And obvioulsy if you need a taller unicycle then you don’t get a five foot one.
The name says it all. Performer.
A few years ago I bought myself a torker for my birthday (the family refused to) and I was for a time wondering if the single chain would be a problem - looseness. But it has not been a problem and I no longer anally check the tension. It has done a few hundred kms and been lent out a few times.
For the record a Nimbus is my regular daily commute and has logged more than 20,000km and a lot of parts and I am happy with it. A great piece of hardware. My Torker is my giraffe and I am happy with that too. Both fine machines built by credible companies.
And BTW congrats on finding your way onto the giraffe. Now you gotta work on your free mounts.
If you are falling off forward then you will have more trouble. Not too good for old backs either.
Just practice your rear dismounts a lot and bail out early rather than late for a while. Eventually front dismounts will almost never happen. Your control looked fine so I wouldn’t t hink you will have too many problems.
The thing about the giraffe, as you will have already experienced, is that when you are losing it you have all the time in the world then to actually plan your fall and then to use your knees to sink at the end of the drop. But forward drops can still be awkward.
My knees are not perfect - they are sixty years old! - but a controlled sinking at the end works well enough. And as I said I have all the time in the world to think about it.
I have a friend who makes his living juggling. He unicycles in his show, too. He has the Nimbus Performer. After looking at his, there are several advantages that you may or may not care about.
1- Build quality is better on the Nimbus. For example, my sprockets are not completely true on the Torker. The chain is tight through half of the pedal stroke and loose on the other half of the pedal stroke. I have checked wheel alignment, etc. and it is definitely the sprockets. This doesn’t affect the ride of the Torker much until you change directions. It makes it a little unpredictable when trying to idle or switch from forwards to backwards riding. Nothing that can’t be overcome, but just an observation…
2- The Nimbus Performer breaks down into pieces, and can easily fit in small spaces.
3- The Nimbus Performer seat is much more comfortable than the Torker. For anyone riding in a parade, the Torker would be torture IMO. The seat angle can not be adjusted at all.
4- The Nimbus Performer comes with an extension to convert to a 7 footer. My friends also bought the optional 9 foot extension.
5- The dual chains on the Nimbus Performer help prevent slack and create a smoother pedaling motion.
As I said, you may or may not care about some of these differences. For most people who just want to experience the thrill of a giraffe, the Torker will fit the bill. I plan on replacing the seat and seat post. As far as I know, there isn’t much I can do about the untrue sprockets. I guess I could try to file them down. Would the local bike shop be able to do anything?
I once tried to ride a giraffe but I didn’t have much luck. After about 10mins of struggling to mount I fell, twisted my ankle and got a nasty bite on my shin - then zoo security chucked me out!
Next time I think I’ll wear some pads and bring a step ladder.
I have put around 30 basically competent nothing-special unicyclists onto mine and, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, every one of them has successfully ridden it, under control, within three goes.
A giraffe is not more difficult to ride than a regular - just a fair bit different. But a little help can go a long way.
I have also come across a few who have bought their own and didn’t manage. I have no idea what they did but, in the way I will explain they also manage. You may care to try the same approach.
I put the giraffe up against a wall or post, facing it with the right (for right handers) pedal a little forward of 6 o’clock - say 4 or 5 o’clock.
I get the rider to grip the seat firmly with both hand and I hold the seat firmly pressed into the wall/post.
The rider then puts his right foot onto the pedal. By virtue of the position of the pedal at 5 o’clock, the giraffe wheel is now being driven forward into the wall. This keeps the wheel from moving underneath the rider.
The rider then climbs the rest of the way up while I maintain the stability of the giraffe. I may have to place my foot behind the wheel for some riders and use a little bit of muscle.
Once up I get the rider to do a little rocking (like an idle) of the pedal back and forth while I provide a steadying hand to keep it upright. Needs a little muscle. (Obviously I will have directed or helped to move the unicycle a little free of the wall/post.)
After a while I will direct the giraffe away from the wall and in a direction that is has a clear path in front and carry on with a little more rocking. At this point, other than the shoulder, it is all being done by the rider.
I then tell the rider to ride forward at a slow pace when they are ready. When they do we both continue with me tracking the direction of the rider. Whenever the rider feels OK he just takes his hand off my shoulder. I stay with him for a few metres so he can still use the shoulder if he needs to.
Sometimes they get it first time. (A week ago two riders out of two did so.) Some take another one or two tries. But they ALL manage.
(One slight qualification to the 100 percent success rate - One rider did try once, bailed out and was not interested in trying it again. His loss.)
I’ve been riding mine a few times a week since I got it and now I’m much less apprehensive about it. I’ve learned to dismount with the unicycle in front every time now and it allows me to hold the giraffe and prevent it from impacting the ground. I have still not convinced myself to try idling yet, even though I can idle proficiently on a regular Uni. Again, I’m sure it is just a mind block that I will eventually move past.
Assuming they’re both a bit out (rather than all the problem being down to one of them), then the obvious answer is to adjust their relative rotational position so that they both go up at the same time and both go down at the same time. You just need to skip the chain on one of the sprockets a bit.
Though it does occur to me that your diagnosis may be inaccurate - do you get this varying tightness when turning the wheel by pushing the uni, or just when pedalling? Surely a single chain giraffe will get varying tension in the chain due to frame flex?
They’re not both out of whack. I tried loosening the chain and rotating the wheel while keeping the pedals stationary. No matter how you do it, the chain is tight on half the rotation and loose on the other half. I have examined it quite a bit and I feel pretty sure about my diagnosis. It definitely isn’t frame flex because it happens when I have the giraffe updside down with no weight on it.
They don’t flex - the loads on them are nothing like on a bike where the forces are greater and change direction during the rotation of the pedal. On a uni you are limited to the maximum force you can apply and, besides, the forces on the frame are just a compression force who’s direction is pretty well fixed the whole time of a rotation. And the post is of guauge and diameter appropriate to what is is required to do.
My Torker TX was a little eccentric. I adjusted it as well as I could and reduced it to a minimum. I eventually got sick of retensioning the chain as it inevitably stretched and was surprised to find that it does not compromise what I do anyway.