Gear inch equivalent for muni climbing

Within the advice many of you have given me regarding muni hill climbing it has been suggested that if you can climb it on a mountainbike you can likely climb it on a muni. This is obviously dependent on equivalent gearing.

Does anybody know if a 1:1 ratio (or 26" gear inches) on a mountainbike is a fair comparison? While the technical calculation is equivalent, given the same crank length and tire size, it would seem that balance considerations and a lack of sustained momentum (spinning) on the muni would make some other gear combination more fair for this comparison.

I would like to have a better idea of which hills I should continue to work on and which ones are just not reasonable.

I say go for all of them. Even if you can’t ride all the way up, it will only make you a stronger rider in the end. Don’t feel bad about walking either, there are three types of riders: those who walk, those who lie, and Kris Holm.

Try to ride as much of the hill as you can and when you feel the next pedal stroke you’ll stall out, just turn sideways and peck (doing small sidehops) up the hill. As you try that hill more and more each time you will get a little farther up before you have to peck, and eventually you’ll make it up no problem.

Yes, keeping balance takes some of the power that you could put into climbing when on a bike. However, with more practice the portion of your power devoted to balance becomes less. Same for sustained momentum, because with more practice you can go quite slow on a muni and still keep your balance. On the plus side: what works in your favour is that a unicycle is lighter than a bicycle. In the end, with enough experience, a 1:1 bike and a 1:1 unicycle with the same size wheels can pretty much climb the same hills. If traction is an issue (steep hill and mud or loose sand), a unicycle may even have an advantage because it has all-wheel drive!

You could also take George Peck’s advice from Rough Terrain Unicycling and wheel walk up the steep hills. This will effectively lower the gear ratio. :wink:

Heck, I can ride up slopes on my cruiser bike (26" tires, 2:1 gearing) that I can’t ride up on my 20" unicycle. It oughtn’t be that different, but it is.

my jaw dropped and I had to laugh, when I saw that on George’s vid. “no way!..way!”

seriously, I rode my bike the other day which I haven’t done in years. I rode up the hill to my house and I was surprised how NOT easy it was. Or at least equally tiring as a uni–and not any faster. And I also didn’t like the pressure on the hands.

This is true, because when you’re going to ride very extreme hills, with parts having an angle near 100% (45 degrees). It will simply become impossible to ride them uphill, while it may be no problem riding it downhill.

It don’t have gears, but choose to be as fast as possible on the downhill parts, and therefore ride a 29"/125mm KH. It’s obvious that this will slightly limit my power for riding uphill.

I’d say, just try do most of the uphill parts, and walk the rest. Know your limits here, going too far will damage your knees.

I would say against this, now of course your level of skill is going to determine how steep an angle of a hill you can climb with a unicycle, but I believe a bike will almost always win. Not only do they have an increased surface area in contact with the ground increasing stability and traction but their riders have the ability to “stand up” and shift their center of gravity. Other added advantage of bicycles is a toeclip which uses more muscles in your thigh to pull the cranks around after pushing down.
Unicycle on the other hand can only shift their weight forward and do not get to influence the way they are pedaling the bike (i.e. the position relative to the pedals {center of gravity})

Is your 20" a MUni or Trials unicycle? If not, it’s at a disadvantage of tire. If it is, it may be a lack of skill on the unicycle compared to the bike.

It takes considerable skill to ride a bike up steep stuff as well. When you get to the point where the front wheel barely has any weight on it, it doesn’t steer or handle the way you expect.

Though a bike has a second wheel in contact with the ground, I wouldn’t call it much in the way of increased surface area if it’s a non-driving wheel. It does allow a limited amount of shifting around of the rider’s center of mass, but if the hill’s really steep you don’t have much choice in that area either. A unicycle still allows you to shift your center of mass. In fact, you have to or you fall off. It’s supposed to be harder. And toe clips/clipless pedals can be used as easily on unicycles as bikes.

At your peril.

I’ll stick with the original analogy, that if you can ride a bike on it, you can probably MUni it. This does not apply to stuff requiring momentum, which is unsustainable on a unicycle, such as coasting over a jump, around a loop, etc.

I have to agree with J. Foss and zfreak and others. Don’t overthink this…it will sap your strength! Just get on the uni and go try something slightly steeper than the last hill you were able to clean. Fall, and try it again. Soon it will be on your clean list. Then go for steeper still. I’ve seen this work, and soon you will be able to climb really steep stuff, without ever having to think about gear ratios. If you’re trying to compare it to a bike, you’re spending too much time on the bike. :slight_smile:

125mm cranks on downhill? You’re surely limiting yourself to pretty non-technical terrain with that?

I think you’re very unlikely to damage your knees on uphill, especially on a relatively small muni wheel. Where you damage knees is riding fast on downhills, and riding distance on big wheels.

The trick to getting better at riding uphills is just to always try until you can’t ride. If you fall off halfway up a hill, unless you are unable to mount, get back on and ride some more. Walking is a last resort for when you physically are unable to get anywhere on the hill each time you mount.

Particularly on proper muni slopes, there is also a big skill element in riding uphill over obstacles - again, the first time this will feel impossible, but in the end you’ll be going up things you’d never believe.

In terms of what hills you should try, you should just keep trying every one - I had one hill when I was learning that I tried twice a week for a year before I ever made it, and now it is a very easy hill compared to my current challenge hills.

One sort of obvious tip for uphills that people often miss, which makes things a lot easier, is to slow down on the easy bits and give yourself a rest. Any time the hill stops being super steep is a time to slow up a bit and give yourself some extra power for the steep section.

The other thing that really helps is going riding with other muni riders - you’ll be amazed at how steep things they can climb, and it improves your technique very fast to see good riders going up stuff, or at least it did for me. There are loads of little things that it’s hard to teach over the internet, but that are obvious in person.


The main thing though is being able to shift weight between wheels to get over obstacles like roots and rocks. It might not be a sustainable weight shift, but a quick weight shift (then shift back again straight away) can push the bike over an obstacle that would stop a unicyclist. Suspension also makes a huge difference to technical climbing by adding traction, as does having gears so that you can put the power down smoothly rather than having to mash the pedals. And momentum is useful very often in normal riding, like using quick bursts of power before aforementioned obstacles on hills.

How about “If you can ride a bike on it, it’s worth a go on a unicycle. You might fail, but it’ll be fun to try either way.”