Future of MUni riding and equipment

Yesterday during a short uni tour I thought about what the future of MUni will be and what equipment changes take place.

In my opinion the wheelsize will change more and more (and also the current trend shows that) to 26" wheels. According to some posts I read in the 24 vs. 26 comparison threads there isn’t a huge difference in control and maneuverability (you could also user longer cranks to gain control… 24" wheel + 150 ist nearly the same as 26" wheel and 165 cranks) but the 26" wheel rolls over rocks/bumps/roots easier. Moreover 26" is the standard for adult mountainbikes so there is easier access to spare parts which is a huge advantage.

An interesting thing that came to my mind was why don’t people use a hub with a fixed gear ration like the Schlumpf hub (or maybe a bit smaller) for technical downhill where you can still ride quite fast. You would not have to pedal that fast which means more control and you have a higher top speed. Such a fixed gear would be much easier to build than a Schlumpf hub an therefore a lot cheaper. I don’t own a Schlumpf hub yet (but it’s on the way :smiley: ) but I think when using a break it could be possible to ride over rocky terrain in high gear (experiences about that are appreciated).

So what do you think about that?

hmm… interesting
I have 24 muni
and i want to buy 26.

I think the fixed gear ratio idea is a great one. I also agree with you that 26" Munis are the future. Quite honestly i would like to see a freecoasting hub. Once we get one of those there will be no problem keeping up with b*kes. I would think balancing would be hard, but you would get used to it after awhile.

*might be hard

Strikes me that the best solution might be a continuously variable geared hub. I guess the mechanism for a unicycle hub might have to be invented, but some motor vehicles use continuously variable gears, and have mechanisms to sense the best gear ratio based on speed and work required of the engine. A skidoo (snowmobile) would be a good example. They can work their way over really steep and changing terrain, continuously varying the gear ratio, then whip up to really high speeds on the flat. A continuously variable gear would probably be difficult to ride, but it may be less so than a freewheeling hub.

I am a very inexperienced MUni rider, so take my thoughts with a generous pinch of salt. :o

The main problem with special geared hubs for unis is that they are very expensive because the market is so small. That’s why the idea of one fixed gear (mainly for downhill) came into my mind. Because there is no shifting mechanism required it will be a lot easier to build and therefore cheaper. So you would have the control and maneuverability of the smaller wheel and the speed of a larger wheel. And like mentioned in my first post you would not have to pedal that fast which makes downhill riding less exhausting and more controllable. But I may have missed something because it does not exist yet.

I’d try a fixed hub if the price was right and it was durable, same could be said for a reduction hub on a bigger wheel.

I don’t know about a free hub, sound sketchy, plus you can already glide if you have the skills (not me).

Honestly, I like my 26" as it is, I can peddle faster if I want, but then I have no interest in keeping up with mountain bikes.

It all depends what happens in the mtb scene. I think that generally unicycles will stick with the simpler gearing methods, namely different wheel and crank sizes.

Lets see if 27.5" (650B) wheels catch on for those who want something between a 26 and a 29.

With the increase of 29" wheels in mtbs I really think they will get more popular on unicycles as well.

I think the 24" ungeared MUni will remain the dominant setup for serious technical MUni. The combination of additional control, less weight, and lower center of gravity (along with less distance to fall) make this setup hard to beat for the most interesting trails.

I think as skills and equipment continue to improve, we’ll see more MUni being done on 26" and 29" setups, because most people don’t have local terrain that’s seriously technical. 26x3" MUnis can ride pretty much everything a 24x3" MUni can, and they’re a little more fun on easy trails; 29ers can ride most of what a 24x3" MUni can, and they’re a lot more fun on easy trails.

I rode a geared 29er for two days at California MUni Weekend this year. (I used my 24" for the Northstar downhills). On the 17-mile Downieville Downhill, the 29er was definitely more fun than a 24" would have been. There were maybe two short sections which I would have tried on a 24" that I didn’t try on the 29er, and maybe two or three sections which I would have made on a 24" that I didn’t make on the 29er, but the balance of the trail, which is mostly lightly technical singletrack, was more fun on the faster uni. I even did a little bit of high gear on one flowy section. The Hole In The Ground trail would have been more fun on a 24"; it was rideable on the 29er, but the rocks were consistent enough that Kevin (who was also on a 29er) and I couldn’t get into a flow. No high gear on that one.

High gear for MUni seems mostly useful for riding easy trails or fire roads. It’s nice to have that option, especially if your trail system has a lot of fire road leading to or from the interesting trails. Riding fire roads on an ungeared 24" sucks. Corbin’s been doing some work on riding technical downhills in high gear on his 24", and he’s able to do some surprisingly difficult stuff, but he also crashes spectacularly a lot. I don’t see that kind of riding becoming common, although it might be something that someone like David Weichenberger takes up to push the envelope further on his downhill speed. KH is riding a geared 26x2.3" for “all-mountain” riding, but even he reports that he uses the high gear mostly for easy trails.

I like the fixed high gear idea… I think it would be cheaper… or the same price to have a regular fixed gear 26" set-up and a higher fixed gear set-up to swap out for those days where it’s all downhill or fast speeds. IMO, it would be more reliable than the schlumpf GUni hub too

I recently built up a 26" conundrum with an XC large marge wheelset and compared to my 24" conundrum with the regular large marge wheelset, the weight is not much different and amazingly, while not as uber controllable as the 24" with 165mm/137mm cranks, the 26" with 150mm cranks was great, in fact, I fell less even though I came off the uni a couple of times more, the UPDs were all controllable and on my feet where as, it’s a 50/50 chance that I eat it a little harder when I come off the 24"

Granted, I am still relatively new to MUni but I was suprised at how even a height difference of a couple of inches meant me landing on my feet.

I’m not ready to sell the 24" set-up but I may just get a Triton with the 3 brake mounts so I can build a GUni 29" set-up :slight_smile:

I like the fixed gear idea but on a 26 it would be hard to climb. I would try it on a 20" so it could roll like a 30" but be super maneuverable.

I am currently getting by on a 24" street uni with BMX-ish tires but when I buy an official muni I think it will be 26".

As many people (I think) I ride my 24" Muni with 150mm cranks, this length seems to be the best compromise between speed and control. In the German Forum someone posted that for a 26" Muni you will need 165mm cranks to get the same leverage. Sure a 26x3 weighs more than der 24x3 but I think weight is one of the least important things for Muni especially downhill. And the center of gravity is only 1" higher so I don’t think this isn’t much of an issue. But maybe someone who has tried both, 24 and 26, can tell more about that.

But I agree on all those other things you said (and which I didn’t quote).

Exactly what I mean, having more wheels with different gear ratios (for uphill-only races/rides I could also imagine lower gear unis).

But I don’t think the latest Schlumpf Hubs are bad. They seem to have increased a lot in quality (and I hope this is true because I ordered one :smiley: ). Moreover a GUni still would be more versatile. But like there are dual hole cranks there could also be fixed gear hubs where you can adjust the ratio by changing the gearwheels.

Yes, I did. I rode a 26" MUni with 170mm cranks for two years, and a 24" MUni with (usually) 150mm cranks for four years. I still have both and I never ride the 26".

Sounds like you guys want a harper hub. Maybe you could convince him to make a few more.

A jackshaft design would be cheeper though.

Before looking forward I will start with a look back. Historically, MUni began with 20" and 24" wheels. Probably for no reason other than that’s how unicycles came. The 20" riders were mostly in Europe, with the guys in the UK in the Polaris Challenge and Thierry Bouche riding down the Alps. Over here, most of us discovered the trails on 24". I never had any interest in riding a 20" on trails; they’re slow and get stuck on all the bumps! My 24" Miyata was nimble, fast and lightweight, but the 1.75" tire had its limitations. I had to keep the pressure high to prevent flats.

When we started building our own MUnis, we went immediately to mountain bike wheels (26"). I still have my old Roger Davies carbon fiber frame, which is a featherlight work of art, but only fits tires up to about 2.2". Then Bruce Bundy and David Poznanter discovered 3" downhill tires: the Gazzalodi. These rode so much better than the skinny stuff that riders on technical stuff immediately gravitated to the fatter tires. They made the really technical stuff easy, and the impossible stuff rideable.

Pause for a couple of years while unicycle technology caught up; now we have many choices of splined axles and cranks. And more choices of tires. And brakes, which opened up more new possibilities of riding the steeps (and trail-coasting!).

So now we’re in a place where brakes are almost a must-have for steep technical riding (they sure were for Unicon!). Also I think 26" rims and tires have been getting to where they work better for unicycling? Or are people just rediscovering what the MTBers have been on all this time? It was thought the 24" wheels were sturdier, and the really wide tires were what people wanted. 26 x 3" tires were pretty huge and heavy, at least a few years ago.

Now you can get a better, stronger 26" wheel with a tire that will handle the terrain. It seems like a logical size for today’s equipment, with all the choices of the mountain bike tire market available. Inn 29" it’s still hard to find the right combination of rim and tire (though KH has done a lot in the rim department). 29" seems to be getting gradually more viable for more difficult trails.

I have a 29" MUni, which I don’t ride much (since I now have a MUni Coker). Part of this is because I’ve been through several rim/tire combinations and still haven’t got something that’s great on the technical stuff. It’s much better than the skinny rim and medium tire I started with, but I still struggle with the tire flopping from side to side and generally feeling like my wheel’s in danger of folding.

Fixed gear hub? Only useful for one-way riding or relatively flat stuff. It would suck if you didn’t have a ride up the hill. But there’s a market for downhill bikes, so this is a possibility for unicycles as well.

CVT hub? We can hope so, for all unicycles. Someday. Cha-ching!

Handlebars? Corbin has been pioneering in this area and it seems to show promise. I see MUni handlebars has having more consideration for dirt and rock-smashing (bash guards).

Brakes? Definitely. Maybe someone can come up with better ways to modulate the braking force. My problem, as an inexperienced uni-brake user, is keeping the brake tension steady while banging down the bumps. It would be nice to be able to click it into a certain position and then maybe let go of the lever to get through some nasty stuff. Maybe a lever with notched settings, or like a car’s parking brake?

And in the future I’d like to see more helicopters! :smiley:

You can use something like a bar-end shifter as a brake lever to set the brake to a specific tension. Tandem bike riders used to do this with their drum brakes.

I’ve been using this common friction shifter for my 36er brake for some time now, and I love it. I can set it as a “drag brake” for steep dh, with exactly the amount of braking force I want. It also serves double-duty as a kind of “kick stand”, and holds the uni upright by locking the wheel, so it won’t tip over. :sunglasses:

Being that the majority of MUni riders can “push the limit” on a brake-equipped KH24 or equivalent, I’d say the future of MUni is now. The number of riders with gearing, suspension or any other “advanced technology” is very very small, and as Tom mentioned, the technology is advancing the degree of crashes and wipeouts more than anything else.

FWIW, the coolest “MUni” riding I’ve seen was when a group of street riders took their 20ers on a MUni trail a couple CMWs ago. Seeing people throw street tricks in the middle of a technical MUni ride was eye-opening and mind-blowing.

If anything, the best advancements in MUni are seen in the riders taking bigger wheels on MUni trails. Tom and Phlegm are two locals who are pushing the limits on 29ers, showing us that the 24x3+ is not the be-all, end-all of technical MUni, as was thought in the past (or claimed by some of our SoCal bretheren). The upswing in popularity of the 26er gives some merit to this claim.

Really? A lot?

Did you see how much effort went into Harper’s “fixed gear” hub? This doesn’t seem like something I’d call easy in any regard, even in comparison to a Schlumpf.

As Sask mentioned, a jackshaft design would be “much easier” and “a lot cheaper”… very little machining would be required for such a build, in comparison to any internally-geared hub.

My only concern is having external machinery on a muni. This might be a bit of a safety or maintenance issue. On the upside, it may allow for interchangeable gearing if designed well.

A few interesting ideas in this thread- and some pretty silly ones too. Fixed gearing on a Muni? Fine as long as you walk all your proper hill climbs. I really do think the future for high end all around muni is a geared one. I have been riding a 24" schlumpf for around 5 months and the idea is sold on me for all types of off roading except super duper tech DH where riding in any gearing mode except for 1:1 on a 24 with the brake jammed on is not plausible. But to be honest, the amount of people doing this type of riding is limited in the pool of muni riders out there anywhow.

With my setup i can ride fireroads to trail heads in high gear with 125mm cranks, When i get to flowing singletrack it is high gear time in the 150mm hole and when things get really tough its 1:1 time on the 150mms. The more time i spend in high gear the more confident i am to tackle the harder stuff in high gear (sure it makes for some nasty bails every now and then) but the feeling of clearing a tech rock garden or series of drops at 1:1.55 is just phenomenal.

I have a little bit of an issue with brake usage on Munis. I love a brake on my set up but for every person with a brake on their Muni who uses it to its full potential there is probably 10 who don’t. Learning to brake using a rim brake is a skill that is invaluable. It does take quite a while (as john foss pointed to in his post) to separate the big forces of holding onto the front bumper and the small ones of articulating the brake lever- and not just jamming the lever down when you grip onto your front bumper. When you can co-ordinate these things it all comes together and results in much better riding. I think the idea of a friction brake for muni is a stupid one. It works for road riding because you can pick the gradient of a road and set the brake for that and not have constantly modulate it. For muni where braking occurs in constantly variable terrain and thus requires constantly varied braking pressure, setting the lever to one setting and just making do is a bad solution to bad braking technique in the first place.

As for those riders who are not keen to go geared i think 26" will probably end up taking over the market (more like 24" dying in the bike world). I actually think that saskatchewanian made a good point about new wheel sizes such as the 27.5 giving unicyclists more options for an all round wheel size.


Very nice looking setup. I see you also have the bell on there. I can’t overstate the usefulness of those in places like the bike path.

I was originally thinking the same thing. Having been around when it was just developing, our perspective on the current situation might be that it’s pretty futuristic. But guys like KH don’t let that stop them from innovating. :slight_smile:

That reminds me of being there the day Dan Heaton landed his first “riding” 360. Off a little jump-like hill along the Mailboxes trail, while there for filming Universe 1. Yes, it took him a few tries.

While the larger wheels are working their way into gradually more technical terrain, I think some places, like the cool trails of Santa Barbara, are still best suited to a burly 24x3" tire.

Yes, a non-shifting Schlumpf hub, for instance, in today’s market would probably only cost a little bit less than the shiftable version. If it could be mass-produced it would help, but I think it would have the same problems as mass-producing the shiftable hubs, which Schlumpf gave up on. The Jackshaft approach would be much cheaper, as well as easier to repair and service. But it would indeed open you up to the same chain problems experienced by MTBers. Maybe not so much “chain suck” though…

The same applies to mountain bikes. I once read that 98% of them never go off road. And how about computer users? Brain users? :slight_smile:

You’re probably right; none of my MUnis have brakes except the Coker. I was thinking in terms of short sections of technical stuff where you could set a level of resistance and then get through it with all fingers on the handle.

John that’s a limited view of the use of high gear off road, which might be applicable to GUni 26" upwards but certainly isn’t applicable to 24" Geared MUni.

A 24 GUni can be ridden off road like a 2 speed MTB where there’s often a lot of gear changing throughout the ride, just as a natural part of whatever is going on. All it takes is the commitment and mindset that you’re going to ride like a GUni like that (vs the easier but far less fun ‘commute to the ride in high gear’ mentality), and the time and practice to let it develop. 4 months into the 24" GUni (after having the hub in a 29 and 36 for MUni) I’m loving it more and more. The wheel size combined with the geared hub, big fat tire and my home grown MUni/GUni handlebar - you get to use that high gear you paid all that $$$ for a LOT, it’s a blast! :stuck_out_tongue:

I guess a part of this discussion is that non geared vs geared MUni can be quite different experiences, especially when you commit to ride the GUni off road like a MTB (vs a two single speed uni’s in one). For me that’s part of the now and future of MUni.