Giraffe experiences, questions, and giraffe tech thread

What’s it like riding a basic just above the wheel giraffe unicycle, is it harder than riding a normal unicycle? Can you free mount a giraffe unicycle? Where can you buy giraffe unicycles in the USA, or if (your from another country somewhere else) These are some example questions and info to share and/or ask.

Hard because high, UDC has, freemount possible

Never ridden one, I only ride high giraffes (6ft). On smooth ground (gym) it’s not harder than any other unicycle. Offroad it’s really really hard.

Yes. The lower it is, the easier it gets.

UDC, Torker, Semcycle, Tom Miller, Paul Wyganowski, Amazon, eBay, Craiglist, …

Between a standard, 5 footer and 7 footer, I have found the taller it is, the easier.
As you ride a uni it responds like a pendulum, swinging under you to and fro. The longer the pendulum, the slower the response time. I find it more stable. Also, the higher up you are, if you do have a upd, you have time to get your feet under you for a more controlled landing.

Dangerous things to look out for: Pole-vaulting!
When you dismount, your body will drop straight down causing the uni to shoot forward, backward or sideways. If you happen to be close to a curb or wall on dismount, YOU will shoot out instead of the tire. Makes for an exciting ride!

Nice videos!

Just wanted to chime in here. My penguin (the yellow one from the other post) is set up specifically to match the gear ratio of a 36er with 125s, because I typically use that for around town. Jakob also helped design it with a 2.5" trials tire, which does raise the bottom bracket slightly over the penguin in the video above, but not by much.

It is harder to get comfortable for long distances. Like any geared unicycle, it takes more concentration. There is some slight play in the pedals that needs to be there for the chain to operate smoothly. The smaller wheel, even with the 2.5" tire, does not roll over bumps and obstacles as easily as a larger wheel. I haven’t installed a handlebar yet, but I do believe a long handlebar would be quite helpful in preventing the wheel from kicking out from under you while going over uneven terrain, but I also think if you dropped the wheel, it would immediately break most handlebars. Due to the gearing, it’s difficult to focus on getting all your weight on the seat, so when things get out of hand, and you put weight on the pedals, if you fall, it has the effect of SLAMMING the saddle down. I have only done this a handful of times while learning on it, but I’m certain it would break a handlebar. I bail out pretty early if I need to because of this.

Turning is tricky at speed. If you don’t lean in and commit to the turn, it tends to fling you pretty aggressively to the outside of the turn, which has caught me on more than one occasion. The wheel pivots quite a bit easier, so it doesn’t track as true as a larger wheel does. Still haven’t worked out high-speed turns yet.

All this contributes to being slower overall than my 36er. Not unreasonably so, but I would probably find a road 29er setup to be comparable. (short cranks) It is more effort to ride than any standard unicycle (-captain obvious), but it also packs up in a 28" roller suitcase for travel, and I can vary the crank size and gearing. That last bit leads me to the conclusion (and I haven’t done this yet) that you could use this as a very versatile wheel if you set it up right. Longer cranks and smaller gear ratios would make it easier to mount and ride for someone with a short inseam, and I plan on trying out a set of 165mm bicycle cranks at some point. For now, it’s a great wheel for mostly smooth terrain.

As a side note, I took it to IJA this past year and almost none of the recreational unicyclist would go near it. The one guy who did fell hard a few minutes after trying it and promptly gave up. The more avid 36er riders who were buddies of mine were able to handle it after a few minutes, with mounting being by far the most difficult thing to tackle. One of them hopped on it in 2 minutes and was off riding but said it felt sketch as hell, and the other guy took 45 minutes of persistence to mount on the thing against a wall, and was finally able to ride it around a bit… he thought it was awful and I was nuts. The geared up penguin appears to be VERY difficult to mount if you don’t use a running mount. Even I have trouble mounting it against a wall.

Do not, under any circumstances, forget to tuck in your shoe laces, or this will happen: We will be hearing about you in the hospital or worse. It does not at all feel like a toy, and the first time you’re on it, it seems to give you the impression that it WILL hurt you if you disrespect it or push it too hard. Having said that, it’s fun as heck and puts a smile on my face every time! : ) Very very happy with it.

I believe you were talking about a suspension earlier. I originally thought that I may put a suspension seatpost on it at some point, however, I believe I put enough lateral forces on the seat during normal riding, that this would probably damage/destroy a suspension post, even a high quality one. I also pretty much have to have the saddle in the perfect position for it to be remotely comfortable for rides more than a mile or two. Food for thought anyway.

Thanks juggleaddict, i will take your advice to mind. i didn’t know you actually need to keep the chain loose, i was under the opposite impression with unicycles, (with my motorcycle you need to keep it loose, though with just the right amount of slack), at least that’s what Tommy (from the unicycle factory) mentioned about what he had to do with this dual chain he built for this other lad

My ideal, consist of a chain arranged in a parallelogram set up like a diamond,i built it out of legos, and my biggest fear is the efficiency that i am loosing with the tightness of the chain, however if it was just a little bit looser than it could run more freely…however you did mention slack in the chain effecting balance so that’s something to consider as well…

I just have so many more ideals than my original now, the thing is to theory and at first glance to the inexperienced they look like they work but only time effort and experimentation will tell.

It took me a while to get use to the look of a (medium size) Giraffe, but i think i can get over the look a little if for some reason i can manage to manipulate the final drive medium (whether that be chain or something else) to install a fully suspended suspension system.

and if possible add a multi speed gearing system as well…

—and about that steering i wonder if counter steering (steering the opposite way) in order to initiate a turn would help make higher speed turning possible…i have no experience riding giraffes, it’s just a hunch i have…but i’ll definitely consider trying for myself

yeah, getting thrown off or slammed to the ground are 2 big dangerous risk involved with riding a giraffe i see, you made your point very clearly with that video of the Hulk bashing Loki around in the avengers movie

and now that you mention the laces thing, i will be wearing laceless shoes %99 of the time if i really get into riding giraffe unicycles now. scary.

by the way i didn’t know you were 27 and live in michigan…guess who is also 27 and lives in michigan—(southeastern michigan in Redford though)…

It’s idea, not ideal.

Just to elaborate a bit more about the chain. You usually have about 1 cm of back and forth play for a fixed gear bike. Otherwise the chain will bind and vibrate pretty bad, eventually weakening the chain. At the pedals, this is a very small movement, probably 1-3mm of play. It’s a very similar amount of play that a geared hub has.

Just tuck your laces under the tight laces across the top of the shoe and you should be fine. :slight_smile:

We won’t be here too much longer, I’m moving back to warmer climates where I can ride skinny tires all year round if I wish.

Pulled out the penguin for the first time this year. Very rusty riding, but gives you an idea of the difficulty of it. I still haven’t gotten more than maybe 10-20 hours total riding it since last year, and it shows. Turns are rusty. Anyway, it may be interesting to anybody who’s looking to build a geared giraffe/penguin style wheel.

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Try it again when you’re sober; I’m sure you will do better. :slight_smile:

Yes and yes. For something like a giraffe, which I think may have a higher likelyhood of drops, you would want to build a handlebar that’s built with dropping in mind. I think it would help a lot, based on my experiences riding geared 36ers with no handlebars. Pushing that extra torque makes things more squirrelly, and the leverage provided by a handlebar, even one that’s not long, makes a big difference.

Amen to that. Speaking as someone with a permanently “redesigned” collarbone, I will add that tucking in your shoelaces applies to any type of unicycling, but especially if you’ll be going fast. That video clip is hilarious; expect to be treated slightly more gently by a wrapped-up shoelace.

A lot less than for a motorcycle. It’s not really loose, more a matter of being able to push the chain side to side. You’ll know if it’s too tight, it will add a lot of friction to the drivetrain. Some giraffes add a bit of play if they use a one-piece crank (like the Schwinns) with a peg that’s a little smaller than the hole it goes through. You’ll feel the play as that peg moves back and forth.

Countersteering gets the turn started, but it’s the part after that where it’s harder to maintain. I think this effect is magnified by the smaller wheel, and possibly by the gearing as well. The natural “wobble” that the wheel does while you pedal creates a variance in the arc of your curve, and may literally make you go up and down as the wheel turns inward and outward along the curve. This is less noticeable as the wheel gets bigger.

Oh, so you probably have heard of the local uni club there. I don’t know how many “old timers” are around these days, but there used to be a lot of uni-metal around town; all sorts of different types of unicycle that you could potentially try out.

That was a great sample of what riding your geared giraffe looks like. It reminds me that I don’t want to go really fast on a little wheel. A long time ago, before I could afford to buy things (especially if they had to be handmade), I played around with geared-up Schwinn Giraffes. Did a lot of riding with a 48:26 gear ratio. Managed to ride it just under a mile in 4 minutes, learned to static freemount it, etc. But as a giraffe gets taller, the less friendly it is to bumps in the road. Give me a big wheel with a (reasonably) fat tire any day. Heavier, much less easy to travel with, but definitely less work to cruise on.

Maybe you should have built a 36" giraffe!
Actually, I have never seen a giraffe with a wheel bigger than 20", is there such a thing?

Thanks John, that’s a perfect explanation of what I’m feeling. Quick turns seem to be easy enough, but anything sustained is very unnerving. Perhaps knowing what’s going on will help me at least try and compensate for it.

Definitely! I’m trying to hunt down the video to post here, but I’ve seen a youtube video of a 36er giraffe at a juggling convention or something. It looked as dangerous as you may imagine. I imagine 24s are not all that uncommon. 16s are pretty popular for performers for travelling if selling a small wheel attachment is any indication of that.

Here’s a giraffe with a 24-inch wheel.

I have some facebook friends from Africa that ride giraffe unicycles with larger wheels. Here’s a 26’r:

Do you know what country that is? Judging by how the gutters are built, it looks like they get a lot of rain there.

He lives in Aba, Abia, Nigeria. I assume that’s where the photo was taken, but I can’t guarantee that.

Here is а 26" fat-giraffe!:slight_smile:

Is that you?

  1. Wow!
  2. Way to persist in getting the freemount!
  3. Way to go riding that thing on snow!
  4. Interesting frame design – who built it?
  5. Nice giraffe!
  6. Wow!

:slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile: