Freewheel Unicycling Megathread

Freewheeling unicycles - The future?

People have been building freewheel unicycles for many years now so it’s about time we had a proper thread for all of the useful information.

Please post below anything freewheel related, especially anything that’s missing from these initial posts so I can keep them up to date and relevant.

General FAQ

Terminology - What do we mean by a freewheel unicycle?

A freewheel (or freewheeling) unicycle, as the name suggests, is a unicycle that freewheels. These typically use a hub with a clutch, which only engages when you’re pedalling forwards.
This means that when you stop pedalling, the unicycle wheel continues to rotate.

Unlike a BC (impossible) wheel that freewheels in both directions and has no method of propulsion or seat, “freewheel unicycle” normally refers to a unicycle with a seat and pedals.

Some people have built freewheel unicycles without pedals rather BMX pegs to put your feet on, but they are even more uncommon than ones with pedals.

Why would someone want a freewheeling unicycle?

Like most questions about unicycling, the short answer is “why not?”

The longer answer is that it’s another skill to learn, and with practice provides rather a different experience and allows you to ride in a way that no other unicycles do.

Are they harder to ride than a fixed wheel unicycle?

Yes.

Where can I buy one?

Right now, complete freewheel unicycles are not available new. Unicycle.com briefly sold one some years ago but as of right now (March 2021), they have to be purchased either second hand, or built up from parts. Your favourite unicycle supplier may also be able to build up a complete unicycle for you if they have the parts in stock.

Build FAQ

What size?

People have built freewheels from 20" to 36" so go with whatever you think will work for you. Generally 24"-27.5" would be recommended if you’ve not got a specific size in mind already.

Which frame?

Any 100mm bearing spacing frame with disk brake mounts on the left (internal) side. Nimbus Oracle (up to 29"), Qu-Ax RGB, Qu-Ax QX Series, Mad4One Muni/URC Muni, Flansberrium etc.
Nimbus also have a 100mm dual disk 36" frame coming soon (expected to be available from July 2021).

KH frames are not compatible as the disk mount is on the wrong side (although you can weld a tab onto the appropriate size - UDC (UK) sells a kit for this use with the Schlumpf BrakeFast), and d’brake mounts are not generally recommended due to flex and vibration that is less than ideal on a freewheel.

Which hub?

Right now, ideally the JR P-Hub due to it having the best build quality, smaller engagement from a finer ratchet ring, and (currently) no complete failures.

Alternatively the Nimbus Drift Trike Disk Hub, or Madazz Trikes Freewheeling Pedal Hub. These are both the same hub, and although they’re not quite as good as the JR, plenty of riders use them with no issue. Hardcore riders do have a habit of splitting the hub shell in two though, especially when riding with long cranks, so be careful!

All of these hubs are square taper (cotterless) and as such require square taper cranks to go along with them.

Are there any better hubs? Square taper is old-school!

Not yet. Qu-Ax are planning to release a hub in 2021 but COVID-19 has caused many production delays across the industry. This hub uses a sprag clutch (which provides instant engagement), and the Qu-Ax Q-Axle interface for cranks - a vast improvement over our current square taper options.

Any other options? I already have a load of ISIS cranks, can I use those somehow?

Sadly not at present. Right now your options are square taper, or the future Q-Axle hub.

Can I just modify my existing unicycle/wheelset?

Yes, and many people have done exactly this. If going from a stock 100mm Nimbus Oracle or KH wheelset, the spoke lengths required are close enough that you can do a straight hub swap (to either the aforementioned Nimbus/Madazz or JR hubs). Other wheels may require new spokes depending on their original hub dimensions.

Can I build without a brake?

Yes, but the same hubs would be recommended if you can get them. Obviously then you have more frame options if you’re not considering adding a brake in the future. You could even use a frame designed for square taper hubs with 40mm bearings (see next question).

Do I need to do anything else to make this work?

Yes, if using a standard frame designed for 42mm bearings then you will either need bearing shims (sold by UDC), or replacement bearings (17x42x12 - often available on eBay).

What cranks, at what length?

For either the Nimbus/Madazz, JR P-hub, or other drift trike hubs, you will need square taper (cotterless) cranks.
For the future Qu-Ax hub you will need Q-Axle (or Shimano Hollowtech II) cranks.

As a general rule, go for one size shorter on the length than you would go with a fixed wheel. Extra length is only useful for uphill as if you want to slow down, your brake has to do all of the work.

Can I use x/y/z part or do x/y/z not mentioned in this FAQ?

Absolutely give it a try and let us know how it goes! Freewheel unicycling is very much a new part of our sport and we’re all learning all the time. There’s a wealth of information on this forum about weird and wonderful possibilities too - have a search and see if anyone’s had similar ideas.

Does anyone sell an off-the-shelf freewheel unicycle/wheelset that I can buy?

No, but Qu-Ax may do in 2021 and others may follow. Your local bike shop should also have no issue doing the build/modification for you if you’re not keen on DIY.
Your favourite unicycle supplier may also be able to build up a complete unicycle for you if they have the parts in stock.

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[Work in progress post - Learning and Techniques]

Learning and riding without a brake
AJ has done some great tutorial videos on getting started without a brake:

Learning and riding with a brake
Learning to ride with a brake is easier than without, however this is potentially done at the expense of improving your balance as quickly and may slow your progress later on.

Brake Control

Brake control is the biggest part of the learning process when coasting with a brake, and this is something that you can learn without even owning a freewheel!
If you’re already confident with a brake then you may find that your progression to actually riding a freewheel is pretty straightforward.
Whatever your unicycle, if you have a brake then by using it regularly you can be improving your braking skills with a goal of progressing to a freewheel in the future.

Learning without a freewheel - Brake Coasting

One thing you can practice without a freewheel to improve your braking skills is brake coasting. This is when you take your feet off the pedals entirely, and use your brake to balance.
To start, try using your brake heavily when getting off the unicycle, allowing the unicycle wheel to do a number of revolutions without your feet on the pedals, before putting your feet down on the ground. From that point you can start pulling harder on the brake at the end of this coasting period to bring the unicycle back upright and continue riding.
This is easiest when going downhill on smooth terrain, but with sufficient speed and/or braking skill this can be practised almost anywhere.

Brake Coasting on a Unicycle - Corbin Dunn Brake Coasting in 2011 [YouTube]
A Coasting Dream - David Weichenberger Brake Coasting in 2014 [YouTube]

Practising on flat
@toutestbon made a great video in 2017 showing a variety of different mounts and tricks:

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[Work in progress post - Hubs/Ideas/DIY/Oddities]
In this post, freewheel parts, DIY parts, and anything that isn’t quite a freewheel unicycle, but could be…

Drift Trike Hubs - the best options right now:

Nimbus/Madazz Drift Trike Hub

NimbusDriftTrikeHub
Summary
This hub has 100mm bearing spacing, with a square taper axle, and optionally a standard 6 bolt disk brake mount. It comes in black (Nimbus/Madazz) or Orange (Madazz only).
UDC lists a weight of 618g.

Usage
This hub has been frequently used for building freewheel unicycles due to its reasonable availability from unicycle.com and other suppliers. It also has close enough hub flange dimensions to be used interchangeably in stock Nimbus/KH wheelsets without requiring new spokes.
To use this in a frame designed for ISIS hubs with 42mm bearing holders, you require 1mm shims, or replacement bearings (17x42x12)

Issues

  • The clutch in this hub has only 18 points of engagement, which can mean that a moderate amount of pedalling is required before engagement.
  • The hub shell is not very thick, and under hard pedalling has been known to crack in half on numerous occasions. Therefore this hub is not generally recommended for use off-road, especially with long cranks and uphill usage.
  • The axle is square taper which means a limited number of strong cranks are available and it may not hold up very well over time, especially off-road. This has however not yet been an issue - the hub shell cracks first!

Maintenance

  • Bearings don’t last forever - they should be always coated in a light coat of oil or grease to reduce surface corrosion, and they may need replacing every few years depending on riding conditions and distance.
    To remove the bearings, both circlips must be removed. Circlip pliers are highly recommended to avoid damage.
  • The hub should ideally be checked for wear, and cleaned and re-greased regularly to ensure a long and reliable life. This should probably be done every 500-1000 miles with the amount of abuse that unicycling can give to these hubs that were not designed for it. To do this, the non-clutch (disk) side circlip is removed, and the axle can then be lightly knocked out from that side.
    To re-install, spin the axle in the freewheel direction while re-inserting and the pawls should automatically retract and slide into the hub shell, then reinstall the circlip.
JR Drift Trikes P-Hub

Internals:


Summary
This hub has 100mm bearing spacing, with a square taper axle, and a standard 6 bolt disk brake mount. It comes in black or purple.
This hub has been weighed at 690g.

Usage
This hub is commonly used for building freewheel unicycles due to its general superiority over the aforementioned Nimbus/Madazz hub. It has close enough flange dimensions to be used interchangeably in stock Nimbus/KH wheelsets without requiring new spokes.
To use this in a frame designed for ISIS hubs with 42mm bearing holders, you require 1mm shims, or replacement bearings (17x42x12)

Issues

  • The clutch in this hub has only 24 points of engagement, which although better than other hubs, can mean that a moderate amount of pedalling is required before engagement.
  • The hub flanges are very close together, which means that larger wheels especially have limited strength compared to a standard unicycle wheel. So far this has not been an issue even on wheels up to 32" (ridden on road), but is something to bear in mind.

Maintenance

  • Bearings don’t last forever - they should be always coated in a light coat of oil or grease to reduce surface corrosion, and they may need replacing every few years depending on riding conditions and distance.
    To remove the bearings, both nuts must first be removed. The disk side nut is right hand thread, and the clutch side nut is a left hand thread (reverse thread).
  • The hub should ideally be checked for wear, and cleaned and re-greased regularly to ensure a long and reliable life. This should probably be done every 500-1000 miles with the amount of abuse that unicycling can give to these hubs that were not designed for it. To do this, the non-clutch (disk) side nut is removed, and the axle can then be lightly knocked out from that side.
    To re-install, spin the axle in the freewheel direction while re-inserting and the pawls should automatically retract and slide into the hub shell, then tighten up the disk side nut (a spanner can be used carefully on the square taper axle as something to tighten up against).

Unicycle Specific Hubs - soon:

Qu-Ax Sprag Clutch Freewheel Hub


Summary
This is a prototype hub made by Qu-Ax being tested by Becky Wiedener and Florian Kaiser. This is the first freewheel hub that has been designed from the ground up for unicycling.
This hub has 100mm bearing spacing and 42x12mm bearings to fit into standard ISIS/Q-Axle frames.
It uses the Qu-Ax Q-Axle crank interface, an instant engagement sprag clutch, and has a standard 6 bolt disk pattern.

Usage
This is expected to be the most popular hub for freewheel unicycle usage once released and should be a drop in replacement for non-freewheel hubs (although new spokes may be required).

DIY Hubs/unusual freewheel unicycles:

DIY Freewheel Hub - AWS

@aws has made his own ISIS freewheel hub with two sprag clutch bearings:
Freewheel Unicycling Megathread - #40 by aws

Not a unicycle:

MC² Transformer Bike


This is an interesting bike that first appeared in 2014 as crowdfunding campaign, went on to full production, then the company went quiet more recently.
Most interesting to us unicyclists is the front wheel, complete with of a two speed geared freewheeling hub.
The bearing spacing is unknown, but it’s presumed to be close to 100mm, and it appears to use standard 17x40x12 square taper axle bearings.

The shifting appears to work by means of a free-spinning planetary gear set (for 1:1), with an outer ring gear that’s locked in place to go to the high gear. In the prototypes this locking mechanism was a secondary disk brake, but the finished products appear to possibly use some kind of drum brake or enclosed disk arrangement.
With some imagination one can see how this same idea could be used to create a freewheeling/fixed hub complete with hand controlled shifter.

https://www.mc2bike.com/store/p11/MC²_DRIVING_WHEELSET.html (website working Jan 2021)

Bellcycle

This is another crowd funded product that went on to full production, but it was only ever sold as a kit of parts.


It utilises an extra wide square taper axle complete with chain drive in a similar manner to some DIY geared unicycles but with a freewheeling sprocket connected to the driving wheel.

http://bellcycles.com/ (website working Jan 2021)

Kervelo Bicycle Hub

This was a hub designed for a recumbent bicycle by the company Kervelo.
It consisted of a Pinion P-line gearbox with single sided mount and a huge custom cage hub and wheel surrounding it.
This never looked like it would be the strongest design around, but it was a fascinating concept and it presumably worked on a recumbent!

It used ISIS cranks, would have been at least 2.7KG (the weight of a Pinion gearbox), and due to the single sided mount, almost certainly not strong or stiff enough to ride as part of a unicycle.

Kervelo kernel-hub

Following the apparent success of their previous hub prototype with a Pinion gearbox, Kervelo then went on to create the Kernel Hub, a 6/12 speed internally geared hub complete with ISIS cranks and pretty normal looking spacing, but with a somewhat unusual looking mounting setup.


Sadly despite apparently going into production, this disappeared as fast as it appeared and it never seems to have actually been sold.
https://www.kervelo.com/transmissions/gearhub-kernel-hub/ (web-page no longer exists - 2021)

Bicymple

Another front wheel drive bicycle that went into production, this one with a two speed Schlumpf road (square taper) hub.


They also sell a single speed version as well as a rear wheel drive Bicymple Play however this appears to be using a standard square taper hub, very similar looking to the Nimbus/Madazz Drift Trike hubs.

https://shop.bicymple.com/products/bicymple-penny-farthing (Website working Jan 2021)

Unibike

A number of BMX riders over the years have removed the rear of a bike with front stunt pegs to create a “unibike”.
This is what we’d call a peg freewheel now, but with handlebars instead of a seat.
Robin Eriksson Unbike - YouTube

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[Work in progress post - History, notable, and showcase]

Historical discussion threads:

Freewheel Unicycle - 2006
26" freewheeling unicycle - 2007
Freewheeling KH24 - 2007
Freewheel hub design - 2008
Freewheel 36er - 2013
Adventures in Freewheeling - 2013

Riding Videos:

Offroad/Downhill

Freewheeling the Anza Trail, 36" Edition - Carl Hunt - February 2013 [YouTube]
Downhill Dream - Carl Hunt - April 2014 [YouTube]
Unicycle Freewheel - Tibo Waza - June 2016 [YouTube]
Ben Soja - Jan 2018 [YouTube]
Coasting Duthie Hill - AJ Kinsella-Johnson - Jan 2018 [YouTube]
Almaty Trail 2019 - Dmitry Bibichkov - Aug 2020 [Instagram]
Freewheel Revolution - Rebekka Wiedener - Jan 2021 (Qu-Ax prototype hub) [YouTube]

Jumps/rollers

Small Jump Practice - Carl Hunt - May 2014 [YouTube]
No pedalling - AJ Kinsella-Johnson - July 2019 [YouTube]
Big jumps - AJ - Feb 2020 [Instagram]
Landing jumps - AJ - March 2020 [Instagram]
Progress on the freewheel - Samuel Mößner - October 2020 [Facebook]

Urban/Skatepark

Tibo Waza - January 2018 [YouTube]

Road/Distance

32" à roue libre au Grand Roquet - Simon Jan Du Voyage - Nov 2016 [YouTube]
Freewheel unicycle training in my street - Simon Jan Du Voyage - Dec 2017 [YouTube]
J’ai croisé le Père Noël à Saint-Malo - Simon Jan Du Voyage - Jan 2021 [YouTube]

Other

3.8x Geared Freewheel - Carl Hunt - March 2015 (JR Game Changer Drift Trike Hub) [YouTube]
Peg Unicycling - Carl Hunt [YouTube Playlist]
Freewheel Unicycling - General - Carl Hunt - [Youtube Playlist]

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Not totally true, Romain from the CDK shop, France, still has a few new Nimbus hubs. If you’re in Europe you can purchase one there :slight_smile:

That was meant to be regarding complete unicycles rather than just the hubs - I’ll update to make it clearer.

It’d be impossible to keep up to date with hub stock.

Sure. However he can build a complete unicycle with this hub - he’s done one for me two months ago :smiley:
But, yes, I see what you meant. BTW, great thread. Thanks for your involvment in this discipline!

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Absolutely - that’s that the Build FAQ is for! :grin:

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I’ll add a note to say that suppliers will often be able to build up from parts if they have hubs in stock.

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Thanks for starting this thread @mowcius

Great work, @mowcius! Let me contribute something related to the JR P-hub: disc side nut is right-hand threaded, non-disc side nut is left-hand threaded. (I just needed that haha)

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I have the following, but it could probably do with being rearranged somehow:

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Adventures in Freewheeling - 2013

Too bad waalrus’ Youtube channel is shut down. There was a lot of great freewheel videos there. Anyone knows him and can ask?

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He reuploaded some of them here.

I linked some of them in the Riding Videos section.

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Today, I converted my 26" freewheel muni, which I had been using for more than 3 years, to 29"! First ride went pretty well, the 29er fits my local terrain very well (trails with lots of roots and mud, dirt roads in between). I kept the 125 mm cranks.

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When I went off social media a few years ago I deleted the videos that were in my old YouTube account. As you discovered I reuploaded some of them into my regular Google account. I purposefully didn’t upload all of them but I’ll look through and see what I else I can find. They could stand as a “what not to do” in terms of freewheel unicycling since I spent years and thousands of miles on techniques that were not so good.

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Happy to have you back with us!

Do you ride freewheel much these days?

Whatever you think of your techniques, your videos definitely helped to inspire many of the current generation of riders!
Just seeing you ride off-road got my mind obsessed with the possibilities.

If I remember correctly you had a video with you riding a 36" freewheel. I’d be interested in seeing the free mount.

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There used to be a video somewhere of someone (possibly in China?) riding a 36" freewheel too, but I can’t find it now.

There’s are two great 32" mounts in this video at 0:33 and 0:49:

And two videos from the freewheel 36" thread with brakeless mounting:

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There are two different angles of the mount at the beginning of this video in addition to those interspersed throughout.

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