Giraffe alignment and free mounting

After last week’s embarrassment of only being able to freemount the camelopard a couple of times, I did some analyzing of my freemount technique and looked over the Lutkucycle (a giraffe that one purchases from Jeff Lutkus). It is harder to freemount a giraffe with other unicyclists watching you.

The Sem 6 foot has a double seatpost. The larger diameter tube fits into the seatpost tube right above the crank housing. On mine, it was bent slightly from failed freemounts and falls. Obviously it had landed on the back of the seat many times. I removed it and tried to bend it without success (my basement doesn’t have quite the complement of equipment that my lab has). I reversed the tube instead. Now, the seat is slightly behind the line drawn from the wheel axle to the crank axle rather than the other way around. I also raised the seat an inch. It’s much more comfortable to ride this way both from the seat position and the increase in height. Tehn I had to learn to freemount with a higher seat.

To make the freemounts consistent I find that I stand directly behind the uni and lean it back slightly. I have the down pedal set forward of the frame about an inch and a half. When I start the upward motion I also start leaning the uni forward. When I step on the down pedal, the rotation compensates for this now forward lean with a slight forward pedal rotation which brings the wheel back under the center of gravity. When I do the leg swing over I am at a stable point and can go directly to idling, riding backwards, or riding forwards (or falling).

The Sem seat is the same as a Schwinn. It has a rubber cover over a formed steel base with an innertube as a cushion. It’s really pretty comfortable. The rubber cover has a high coefficient of friction. It makes it difficult to drag the crotch of your pants over when you freemount a giraffe (IF or WHEN you can freemount a giraffe). I put a white athletic sock over the back of my seat to give me a less sticky surface. I got even more clever last night and found a black, unmated nylon stocking left by my daughter. It stretches completely over the seat, is sheer, and makes the seat look like it has no additional cover (it’s essentially invisible). It’s very slippery. I was pumped.

I went out to try it today, tired, with sore knees, to try this new seat cover out. I sucked!! I sucked so badly, I cleaned up all of the remaining leaves in my front yard. On the rare occassions when I could freemount, the seat cover (nylon stocking) worked like I expected it to. I invented an errand and went to a convenience store. I sucked there, too!! Even worse. I couldn’t freemount at all. I had to use a wall.

Recommendation: Learn to freemount a giraffe before you’re 50 and get tired and sore from landing failed mounts.

I’m planning on taking that advice in the near future, but am torn between whether to dish out the bucks for the Sem or go the less expensive Savage route. What is your esteemed position on this quandry?

“I’m planning on taking that advice in the near future, but am torn between whether to dish out the bucks for the Sem or go the less expensive Savage route. What is your esteemed position on this quandry?”"

buy what u can afford
unless u r a pro performer or plan on using the giraffe extensively, it might very easily become a ‘nice to have’ in your uni collection, brought out at parties but not all that often inbetween
if u want one to have one and mess about on it a bit, i’d suggest u buy the cheaper one

let’s hear from his harperness

I bought the Sem used from the ever-trustworthy Jeff Lutkus and got a great deal on it. Otherwise, the Sem would have been a bit steep. I have never tried one of the Savages but I have seen one in a bikeshop and they look OK but somewhat less sturdy than the Sem. The Savage giraffes that I saw did not have the tortuous Savage seat on them. I have seen and ridden Schwinns and they are stout cycles like the Sem. I have neither ridden nor seen one of the Miyata skycycles.

If I were to buy a new, stock giraffe (as opposed to a DM or one of Tommy Miller’s customs), the sticker price of the Savage being less than half of the Sem would be very attractive indeed. Hopefully, an owner or rider of a Savage will respond and give you their first hand impressions. I have not yet seen a review of one here. I know that I have smashed the Sem to the ground (pavement) hard on several occassions and have not yet been able to break anything on it but one of the pedals.

I have a Savage 5’ giraffe with the seat post and viscount saddle upgrade. I purchased it from I have no complaints to report. It is sturdy enough for the riding I do which includes frequent failed attempts to freemount accompanied by slamming the unicycle to the ground. I have yet to bend the frame or even break a pedal. I am not terribly mechanically inclined but was able to get the chain tension right when originally assembling it and have not had any problems since.

All in all for the extra $200+ dollars, I’d have to assume that you’re getting something extra with the Sem or SkyCycle, but if money is an issue, I think the Savage is a very fine and satisfactory alternative.

My first actual ride on a giraffe was a SkyCycle which belonged to someone I met at Drew University. It was too long ago for me to really comment on the unicycle itself, but it’s what made me want to buy my own giraffe.

Raphael Lasar
Matwan, NJ

Re: Giraffe alignment and free mounting

If you are struggling to learn the freemount and using a different bunch of “settings,” stick with whatever works. The fact is, all that frame and crank angle stuff is hype and superstition.

That said, like many superstitions, if it works for you, use it! But all you really need to do is hoist your body up to a point that’s somewhere directly above the wheel, and then ride accordingly to stay up there.

I learned to mount from a little to the left side, because my feet would sometimes jam in the Schwinn’s A-frame. Doesn’t matter. I also toyed with this amount of cycle angle, and that amount of crank position, which changes when you put your foot on, etc. But after some thousands of mounts I’ve figured out a few things:

  1. Start with the cranks vertical. As soon as you step on the bottom pedal, that’s where they’re going to be anyway. Then the cycle stays still for that part.

  2. Concentrate not on where you start from, as in frame angle. Rather think about where you need to be when you get up there. That spot is always the same, in relation to the bottom of the wheel.

  3. If you’re using a grippy Schwinn or Semcycle seat, don’t try to slide it between your legs. This will just cause problems. I learned on one of those seats, so I learned to lift my leg over the seat before sitting down.

  4. Don’t wear baggy pants.

  5. Do get comfortable with dismounts in every direction of the compass.

Harper, I remember having sore ankles from practicing this at the age of 17. I can fully understand why you were raking leaves! Stick with it, and aim for that spot in the sky. It will come.

Re: Re: Giraffe alignment and free mounting

The annoying thing is that it came and went. Last year I was landing 75% of my attempts. Now, I’m getting worse. It takes alot of effort to hoist my weight up that single legged ladder repeatedly and it’s too easy to get tired, now. I probably need to practice for shorter time periods and more frequently. I always succeed within three tries when I first start out and am not tired.

I also own the Savage 5 footer.

No real complaints except:

I bought the stock saddle because I figured I’d tear it up learning. Riding is no problem. (mounting takes some practice). There’s not enough OOOOOOOOOhs in torture to describe that seat. I now switch out a Miyata whenever I plan to spend more than 30 seconds on the Giraffe.

But, as someone earlier stated: its a curiosity brought out on occasion. Have a bit of fun…impress your friends…

Spend the real money on something you’ll punish (MUni, Trials).

I’d be more likely to spend the $$$ on a Coker…but I see your point.

Harper, sounds like perhaps you’ll need to pass the old cameleopard on to a new owner…(just kidding)

The only reason I would go w/the Sem is for the appeal of the 24 in. wheel. With a 20 incher, the giraffe probably WOULD come out solely to entertain friends. However, the larger wheel diameter facilitates covering a bit more ground (neighborhood riding, etc.).

Finally, I once again revert to the idea of a 20 incher since I’ve been told it is far superior when trying to jugging, pass juggling, et cetera, while riding. My brother and I would eventually like to be able to pass juggle torches and knives while riding giraffes, so whichever route we decide to go, we’ll be getting two of the same.

That all make sense? Hope so. Thanks for the help!

The correct spelling is camelopard, although the meaning is spotted camel and you would think cameleopard would be more appropriate. Go figure. If you look at the etymology, you will see that the leopard part is the Greek pardalis and the camel part is kamelos so the lopard is the end of the camel half and the beginning of the leopard half. Much dicier than one expects.

My SemCycle came with a 20" wheel. On all of the giraffe frames I have seen, a 24" or even 26" wheel could easily be mounted. I rode Steve DeKoekkoek’s Schwinn with a 24", relatively thin tire. As you predicted, it covers ground much more quickly and is better suited for transportation than the 20" and bumps are absorbed better by the large diameter wheel even though his tire is thin and at a fairly high pressure. His 4-1/2 foot, 20" geared to 40" giraffe is even faster and is a gas to ride.

Look closely at the Savage frame. I’ll bet it will accommodate a 24" wheel if you want one.

Some years ago I gave away this giraffe to Doc “Flat George” Pendergast because it was hurting my old knees too much when I fell off of it onto pavement. Doc “Flat George” got his nickname by notoriously not showing up for group rides. We took to bringing a photo of him along with us and then including the “Flat” version of Doc in all of our group ride photos. Other renditions have been “Flat GILD” and “Flat Irene” and I fear that, too soon, there will be a “Flat Harper” ride organized.

Doc is moving soon and needed to cull his herd a bit. I gladly took back the LutkusCycle yesterday and got to see one of his gorgeous, hand made ukeleles. Today I took the camelopard for a short spin in the lab’s back parking lot. There is an ideal mount/dismount structure there, it’s flat, visibility is perfect, it was a sunny day, and I was unlikely to fall. It was a gas riding it again.

That’s great to hear harper. It’s always great to get something like that back after its been gone so you can enjoy it once again.

And a side note, I’m happy these forums have been around for so long and that people are still here from earlier times. I always seem to get to the end of a thread like this before I realize how old it is… I get the whole back story, than I get brought sharply back to the future with today updates, which usually just make realize how much I enjoy our little community here.