From novice to 40 mile bike tour in 7 months?

Hi all!

Very new to unicycling here. I’m loving it so far. I have a Club 24 inch freestyle uni. I’m 35, and I’ve been training consistently for about an hour a day for the past 3 weeks. I can ride as much as 450 ft(137 m) without support and without falling, though I’ve only done this a few times and very sloppily(alongside a fence, just in case). 50 feet is usually pretty easy for me, though I often struggle with 100 feet. I still can’t free mount or dismount, though I’m working on both. Still can’t turn. I’ve fallen many times, but no serious injuries. I know, I know, I really need to stop riding alongside the fence.

I’m very athletic. Before my knee injury(almost totally healed, and I got it from joggling), I could joggle 50 miles a week. I joggle marathons, and I’ve completed 4 so far, 3 of them in less than 4 hours. I can joggle as much as 40 miles(64 km). I don’t mean to brag, this is just to show you what kind of shape I’m in.

So the question is this: If I train every day for an hour, will I be ready for the 40 mile 5 Boro Bike Tour in May 2016? I haven’t made up my mind yet if I am going to do it or not, but I’m wondering if 7 months is enough time for someone to go from novice to being able to ride very long distances with proficiency. I will train for 1 hour a day, and more on weekends as I get better and can start measuring distance in miles.

Been lurking here for the past several weeks reading countless threads; so much useful advice here! Any advice would be appreciated. TIA.

I did a few long tours in the 20km-30km range on a 24 inch when i was a beginner. The problem is that once you get tired the energy spent on maintaining balance increases. So all is going well up to a certain point and then performance drops rapidly. Also a good saddle is absolutely essential. I used the standard saddle that came with my qu-ax uni and it took me a few days to recover and be able to walk normal again.:stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t think an hour a day will be enough training. I’d imagine a 40mile ride would take 6-8 hours (I average around 6 mph on my 24"). If you’re riding with bikes I think you’d need a 36, possibly geared, and you’ll still be relatively slow. I’m not in great shape but I’d expect to do 40miles in 3-4hrs on a bike.
I’d think if you put the hours into training the distance should be possible though. I found once I got to the stage of regularly managing 100-300 metres I improved quickly to rides of 2miles plus. Now most of my rides are off road and most of my dismounts are due to bumps, stones and holes hidden under leaf litter & puddles rather than lack of fitness or riding ability!
If you put the miles in I think it’s possible. Best of luck, and remember to post pictures after the event!

It’s Totally Doable. At our biggest race event ever, the fastest guy (Chuck Edwall) had been riding unicycles for less than a year.

Training a little bit each day is good early in your skill development, but it will be more important to train up to your distance once you can ride smoothly. At first, distance will be very tiring because you’ll be riding inefficiently, so you need to make your riding more efficient. You also need to be sold with freemounting and with either idling or hopping.

Here’s a training plan:

Month 1:
• Daily practice, mixing skill development and improving distance.
• Goal: Ride 1 mile

Month 2:
• Practice freemounting (if you don’t already have it)
• Practice hopping
• Focus on making pedaling smoother. Less pressure on the pedals
• Increasing distance by week
• Goals: Solid freemounting, some hopping, at least one 3-mile ride

Month 3:
• Practice hopping, idling
• Obtain 29"/36" unicycle (not 100% necessary but it will make the thing a lot easier and more fun)
• Continue to increase distance
• Goals: Solid hopping, some idling (on 24"), at least one 5-mile ride

Month 4:
• Practice idling
• Increase distance
• Start hill training
• Goals: Solid idling (on 24"), at least one 8-mile ride

Month 5:
• Increase distance
• More hill training
• Goals: Solid climbing and descending on hills, at least one 12-mile ride

Month 6:
• Increase distance
• More hill training
• Goals: At least one 25-mile ride

Once you’re solid with mounting, riding, and stopping, increasing distance is just a matter of saddle time. Saddle time is important, because you’ll be in the saddle a lot and a unicycle is less comfortable than a bike. But if you can do 25 miles, you can do 40. (And if you can do 15, you can do 25, and if you can do 10, you can do 15).

Your actual event will be a little easier than your training, because the roads will be closed so you won’t have to deal with stopping as much. (Though you will have to deal with traffic; big bike rides can get chaotic at pinch points).

Good luck!

I’d recommend that you learn to ride with handle bars. Riding with handle bars takes some of the pressure off your butt and will help you to ride more smoothly thus saving you a lot of energy.

For what its worth

I have been riding for about 8 months. I’m 62, only ride 2 or 3 hours a week, and am only reasonably fit for my age. I could make 40 miles although riding a 36er is a big help.


Handle bars have been a real game changer for me. They allow me to ride much more straight and smooth, they help my upper body to relax, and they allow me to sit farther back, on the wider part of the seat, avoiding a butt wedgie. Also, it’s easier to change position on the seat while holding onto handle bars.

I became comfortable with handlebars as a result of first practicing two-handed SIF (seat-in-front) riding with a 20" unicycle. While goals (your 40 mile ride) are a good way to improve, I encourage you to practice any and all skills within your zone of proximal development. Sometimes a seemingly unrelated skill can help us achieve another goal (learning SIF made handle bars easy).

Keep us posted.

It’s not about fitness so much as getting the basics- being proficient enough that you don’t waste energy trying to balance, and nailing the freemount so you don’t waste energy mounting/dismounting.

My girlfriend did a 80km race (on a 24"/114mm) after only 8 months riding.

I agree that it’s doable, but it’s different than training for running…

You don’t just need to be fit (sounds like you already are), but you need to be skilled enough to be efficient enough to do the distance quickly and without wasting too much energy in extra motions or UPDs… There’s so much skill/balance to be learned.

I think it’s probably doable with your current setup, but ideally for that distance you would want to do one or both of the following: learn to ride on shorter cranks (as it’s faster and more efficient) and get/learn to ride a bigger wheel. i.e. riding a 29er with <125s would be ideal. If a second unicycle is doable then this would still be lots of training as you would need to not only learn how to unicycle but also shorter cranks and a larger wheel are both harder to control. First learn on the 24 and then transition to shorter cranks and/or bigger wheel as you get better. But the 24 is doable, it’ll just be slower and take you much longer.

While I think Tom’s (tholub) training plan looks good, I think the 1 hour a day is actually good too, as the only reason you really need long rides would be to condition your butt, because you are really needing to build technique more than fitness. That being said, there are lots of new muscles, particularly in your back, that you will have to train and build up for that long of a ride (I remember my first few 3+ hour rides and it felt like my back was on fire)

I agree with Tholub, after 20 miles, 40 miles is not that much bigger deal. I did 26 miles the other day and it is only that I ran out of trails, rather than being tired. If it’s going to be mostly flat then it’s relatively easy.

I would say train with the 24" for the first 2 weeks , for one hour at least. Graduate to the 29" by the 2/3 month, train for minimum 2 hours, yes, you are fit, at least 2 hours. By the 4/5th month grab yourself a 36er. The 29er will do, but if you really are insistent on distance on this one wheel thing (by now you should know if youre good for it or not ), the most efficient is the 36er, for the roads and not too terribly steep stuffs. Start off with 165s, then 150’s, then with 125s (still with good control). First one hour, then 2, then 3hr training, after 3, 4 and 5 hours is cinch.
Be sure you get a saddle thats kind to your butt, most importantly. But the only way you can tell is by taking it on long rides. So far, the Qx 11 works for me :slight_smile:

I believe you can do it!

If you do some intervals occasionally, you will really notice the difference once you are near the end of your longer rides. Something like 5 minute on, 2 minute recovery would only take 30 minutes if you were to do five of them, plus your warmup and cooldown. That could be a good option for days where you still want to get a ride in but don’t have a ton of time.

Wow, thanks for the advice and training plan, Tholub! For the first time ever, I rode around in circles yesterday and did the same today. I’m almost totally free of walls and fences except for mounting and sometimes dismounting.

I’m not certain if I will do this bike tour, but it’s good enough for me to know that I can do it if I want to and if it doesn’t interfere with any marathons or other races I have planned. I just hope it doesn’t snow too much this winter since this could really slow my progress.

Thanks again, Tholub, and everyone else for your advice.

They have sag support, so go ahead and register now. It’s not just a ride, it’s an amazing experience. The biggest group of cyclists you’ll probably ever ride with! I did it several times in the 80s/early 90s when it was 36 miles.

You’re going to need a bigger wheel by than, though. 24" unis can’t keep up and will eventually be passed by the buses and sag trucks (been there). Just keep working with your 24" for now, you’ll be fine. By then you may have friends with bigger wheels that you can try out or maybe even borrow for the ride.

Even if you don’t feel ready for the 40 miles, go ahead and sign up. I highly recommend it.

How much time do they allow?

Thanks for the advice johnfoss. Will definitely get a 29 or 36 inch wheel at some point. A big thanks to everyone for your advice, it’s invaluable.

I can finally ride in circles. I’m getting closer to riding as far as 1/2 a mile. I find it easy to turn left but not right; I suspect it’s because my left leg is dominant, though I also suspect a problem with the unicycle. I just feel so unstable when leaning and turning right and usually fall or I’m forced to dismount before I can make a full turn. Turning left is almost second nature to me by comparison.

It’s so super that you did that as a beginner! Will keep this in mind while training; even after doing a bunch of circles getting close to 1/2 a mile my legs feel a little spent, and I run marathons. Though I don’t think my saddle is defective, there are times when training with my uni that I wish I was a girl.

I appreciate the support. So cool all that distance you regularly cover! Leaning on a 36 inch, though I do like those 29 inch hybrid unis that can be used for distance or trails.

Hmmm. Think it’s easier with female equipment? Maybe, but I’ve had days when my saddle is my worst enemy. And monthly there’s a female specific challenge that has to be tolerated.

Good luck on your training. I’d love to do that ride some day.

To be honest, I have no idea if it’s easier in general with female equipment, but I know that certain very painful, embarrassing things wouldn’t have happened if I was a girl or if I had been castrated.

Good luck with your riding too! I hope you get to ride the 5 Boro Bike Tour some day.

Imagine 20,000+ cyclists all in one place. They don’t fit in one place. They use about a mile of road just to get packed in before the start. But at some point, not sure how they determine the start, the sag support starts along the route, at a speed of 10mph. Behind the trucks and buses the street is open to regular traffic. One year there was a group of riders that included some kids on 24" wheels. 36 miles is an awfully long way to maintain a speed of 10mph or better. My friends and I traded with them and rode their 24’s back up past the trucks and buses a couple of times, but it was inevitable that they weren’t going to be able to stay ahead. Not saying it can’t be done, especially with short cranks, but it would take a lot of fun out.

(DISCLAIMER: The last time I did the ride was, I think, in 1993. We cut out part of Brooklyn and all of Staten Island (and the ferry ride) by taking a shortcut over the Brooklyn Bridge. As seen in Vertigo’s avatar. Actually, they had changed the route to 42 miles several years before that, but we usually took a short diversion in Queens that cut off most of the “added” section and kept our ride around 36 miles.

It’s NYC streets, so you’re going to want to get comfortable riding on random pavement, some of which is pretty bad. Even some bricks or other unusual textures.

Dominant leg could be a factor; the equipment being at fault is unlikely. You just need to practice more on the other side. Everybody starts out with an easier direction of turning. At least you’re not Zoolander. Just practice making circles to the right. If your body knows how to do it one way, it can teach the other side how to duplicate that.

A 29" wheel should be able to do the ride without too much trouble. You’ll just have to keep moving, and not take any long breaks. In a crowd of 20,000, most of the riders are not super fit, and some are very ill-equipped to complete the ride. You’ll see every kind of person riding every kind of human-powered conveyance. If they do it like they did back when I was doing the ride, people with unusual cycles were invited to come to the front of the lineup, to get seen and to have a bit of a head start on the larger pack. After our first year (1985) we always made our way to the front, got to see some really interesting bikes/cycles, and got to start right at the front of the pack. The front was also limited to about 10mph by a bunch of ride marshals up there as well.

My ride of choice was my 45" Big Wheel. Cokers didn’t exist yet. 36 miles on a hard rubber tire? That’s a long way. :slight_smile:

I got curious about what the ride is like today. It has gone through some changes over the years; for us it started out as being sponsored by American Youth Hostels, then there was a gap with a new route that included the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. This website shows a map of the route. The route looks about the same as what my friends and I rode back in the day. You get to cross the 59th St. Bridge and the Varezzano Narrows Bridge, which are both big and pretty spectacular. And they list the ride size at 36,000 riders, and say it’s the biggest charity bike ride on Earth!

I found a scanned image from our first ride, in 1985. We’re riding down the FDR Drive toward the 59th St. Bridge. Notice that there is some climbing on the ride; from sea level up onto that and the even higher Verazzano Bridge. Oh, and look close. Note that the bridge in the picture is packed with bikes on top!