Giraffe Wheel from 20" to 26"

I have a 6 foot Savage giraffe with a 20" wheel.
I bought it about 2 months ago and I like it so far,
but I am also interested in something with a larger wheel so I purchased a
26" wheel that I have to weld a sprocket to. I will still have the 20"
wheel to use when I want.

Dumb move?

What size sprocket should I use?

What results can I expect?


Please post your findings. I have wondered what differences would be experienced with different sized wheels on a giraffe. I have only had opportunities to ride giraffes with 20" wheels. A 26" wheel would make a fairly dramatic difference. Photos of the two versions would be nice.

I think you should try to get in contact with Scot Cooper, He’s the giraffe muni guy. I believe he has a 26" wheel.


I’ve had both 20" and 24" wheels for my Schwinn Giraffe for almost 20 years. Since I have spent 99% of my unicycling life on a 24" I prefer the speed and smoothness of the larger wheel for just riding around.

The 20" will give you much better control in slow speed situations. I would never do it now but in my post college days I used to ride in festival crowds (early 80’s Bumbershoot for you Northwesterners) and didn’t have problems with the 20 but the 24 would have been to quick.

I have also geared my 5’ giraffe with a 20" wheel to a 40" equivalent, the problem with that is the rotational mass (or whatever its called) of a 20" is much less than a true 40" wheel. The first time I tried to launch with it the front wheel shot out and I landed on the chain ring. No permanent chain ring tattoos. I practiced along a fence until I got the hang of it and took off like a bat out of H-E-Double Hockey Sticks!

I would imagine a true 26" wheel on a giraffe would be little different from a 26" standard uni. If you’re brain is trained for only a 20" you will find the wheel shoots forward at first. (Not unlike the uni.5).

Harper, or anybody else in the Puget Sound area, you’re welcome to try the Schwinn Giraffe with the 24" any time you want to borrow it. Send me a PM or my personal e-mail is dekoekkoeks5 at msn dot com.

Surely the simple answer is to have the same size sprocket as before - then the conversion from 20 - 26 is ‘exact’. If you change the sprocket as well as the wheel, you are changing two variables. This is bad science.

Why do you want the bigger wheel?
If it is simply to go faster, then why not simply ‘gear up’ the 20?

If it is for more ‘rollover factor’ because you are riding on uneven surfaces, then gearing up will tend to give you less control.

If you intend to perform, you need to be able to idle with 100% certainty, and gearing up will be risky.

If it’s for visual effect, then the wheel size alone will do the trick.

If it’s because you’re crazy, then jus’ go for it!:smiley:

As per Harper’s request in the 2nd reply, here is a picture of my Giraffes. The Schwinn Giraffe was retro-fitted with a 26" wheel (& a snazzy white mountain bike tire circa 1989 or so). The other giraffe was built by Tom Miller of Unicycle Factory fame. I did the red & blue striped paint job.


picture 015.jpg

And yes, the toe clips on both uni’s are fully functional.


Hey, those are cool looking. Nice photos, Mike. The paint job is really spiffy.

Do you really use the toe clips? How is the ride of the 5 foot, 26" compared to the 6 foot, 20"? It looks like they’re both geared about one to one so you should be able to distinguish some differences in ride, speed, and control even though there is some height difference.

I got a chance to ride Steve DeKoekkoek’s 6 foot, 24" which I found to be much faster than a 6 foot, 20" and pretty easy to ride. I would even say it’s adequate as transportation. As Steve mentioned, it would be dicey in a parade because of the diminished control which I would expect to be even somewhat worse with the 26" wheel.

I also got to ride his 2:1 geared up 4.5 foot giraffe with a 20" wheel geared to 40" wheel equivalent. That was really neat.

The paint job was achieved by spray painting the frame blue, then after it dried I used electrical tape to cover the frame with 1" gaps. A coat of red was next, and its lasted for 13 years.

The 26" rides much faster, and I’ve said the 20" is for show (juggling, jumping rope) & the 26" is for “go”. It is pretty fast, and is more twitchy that the 20" when trying to maneuver.

I’ve found over the years that I can’t ride without toe clips. I was at the warehouse when I picked up my Coker, and fell off several times until I went ahead & installed the pedals & clips I had brought with me.


I wish I hadn’t seen that, now I have to add another wheel to my collection :sunglasses: Nice uni’s, steep driveway though.

Did the 26" wheel fit the Schwinn’s frame without modification? I knew there was room in there for a 24" wheel, but didn’t know about a 26". The same should be considered for the 26" wheel on the Savage. Make sure you have enough clearance!

The 26" wheel fit the old Schwinn frame with no modification & about 3/4" to spare.