Hand-Driven Unicycles?

Please tell me if someone’s already done this, and I’m sure that they already have but here’s my idea…

In the next year or so when I’ve saved up a bit of money, I’m going to get the guy who built my new frame to build me a hand-driven unicycle. The idea I’ve got is that the rider could sit upright and pedal with his or her hands out in front. This chainring would be linked to the wheel the same way as a giraffe. It’s very similar to a giraffe but the frame shape is different so that the rider can use their hands to pedal.

Saddle - I’ll probably use a bike seat. This way I’ll be able to get a nice soft gel seat easily and will also be able to easily use a bike seatpost and seat combination with rails for more adjustments. You can get some really nice wide gel seats. Maybe later if it suits I could upgrade to a fully padded and full-sized chair (without the legs).

Foot Rests - I’ll use footrests with an adjustable position so that the rider can have it set up so they take the stress off their backsides.

Wheel Sizes - I’ll go for a 26" wheel. Although this thing may be a little tricky to learn to ride, I think it’ll be worth it to have a big wheel to cruize along on. Try to picture this thign in action and how great it’d look.

Although I’m sure it isn’t, I really hope this is an original idea. I’ll try to come up with a quick design tonight and post it. Please tell me what you think and if you have any comments.


I’ve done a little search for hand-driven unicycles and I’ve only found two things. One of them isn’t the same as mine and the other could be. There’s a photo of the one that isn’t and something I read about the other.

“The first tricycle ever made to the design of the Rev. Mr. Charsley, who has given great attention to designing tricycles for the use of the lame, was made in 1869, and was hand-driven by cranks.” - Possibly the same



Guy Hansen for the hand cranked unicycle. Dustin Kelm for the hand cranked giraffe.

This thing’s going to be pretty tricky to ride. The main problem will be turning. I think the way to get over this is to make the frame as close together as possible (no big distances forwards and backwards).

I’ve done a little drawing of it on Paint. Any suggestions?

Check out:

(hand cranking wooden giraffe)

(Dustin Kelm)

Have fun,


Here´s another photo of a hand pedaled giraffe with removed seat. It´s Arne Tolgen from germany performing in a juggling jam session.


Don’t you just hate that? When you come up with an idea all by yourself that you think is original and then find out that someone’s already done it?

It still seems to me that mine’s different. In all of these other ones the rider is standing up and in mine the rider is sitting down. Mine’s aimed at riding longer distances and cruizing along footpaths and so on. Are there any that are the same style as mine (seated)?

Yep, that drives me mad! I gave up having ideas after the shocking discovery that I’d been beaten to the internal combustion engine, the printing press and sliced bread - and don’t get me started on the wheel, talk about patent infringement! :wink:

Don’t get too put off though, it looks like nobody has built one anywhere near similar to your design. They all seem seatless (or are at least ridden unseated). Give your design a shot, you might want to move your footrests further forward, perhaps in front of the wheel, to get better balance.

Even if somebody has done something vaguely similar, you’ll at least have something that is totally your design, and that’s what counts!

Have fun!


Re: Hand-Driven Unicycles?

On Fri, 20 Dec 2002 02:16:49 -0600, andrew_carter
<andrew_carter.fyarz@timelimit.unicyclist.com> wrote:

>Don’t you just hate that? When you come up with an idea all by yourself
>that you think is original and then find out that someone’s already done

I Know…!

Greg Harper finished and published his geared uni.5 about two days
before I rode my ‘uni.6’ for the first time. Years of ‘Isn´t it
possible to…’ and then within one week… :wink:



Thanks for the advice, I can see how that would make balancing easier. Then the chain would go between the legs wouldn’t it?


That’s terrible news for you. I know how you must feel. It seems to be looking good for my idea so far, but I’m sure someone will come along and tell me it’s been done. That doesn’t mean I don’t want them to tell me, I do want to know if someone’s already made a seated hand-driven unicycle.


But did you notice that all the pictures of hand-cranking a unicycle area ALL regular unicycles meant to be ridden on the seat? As in people are just riding a regular uni using their hands. Youre the first one to think of a machine specially made for hand cranking.

Just a thought


Re: Re: Hand-Driven Unicycles?

If you provide me witha Uni.6, together we can hunt down Harper like a dog and make sure he never steals somebody’s invention again. Then, you’ll have complete control over the geared uni industry.

I think we can do it. With that .1 extra speed, catching him should be no problem.

I’d fit a chain guard to it if I were you, or you could end up singing the high part in next year’s carol concert.

ages ago i put bmx pegs on my 5ft girrafe, i never realy got the hang of it because the seat kept hitting me in the face, i might put some kind of handle on the seat post,

once in a sheer act of blind luck i managed to coast for about a meter.

Andrew, if you’re seated and doing distance then your project is far different from the others mentioned above. Go for it! You may be able to find a handicapped cyclist to help you out.

Thanks everyone, this is sounding great!


The framebuilder is handicapped. He’s in a wheelchair and his company specialises in building wheelchairs. He’s made himself a hand-powered three wheeler. Maybe I’ll convince him to take a ride in this thing of mine. Or maybe not considering the fact hat it’ll be harder to ride tha a unicycle.

I’ll have heaps of time to think of a design for this on my holiday on Christmas Day. I’ll be away for 4 weeks and I’ll be on a few long plane flights. I’ll see what I can do.

Can anyone suggest a name? How about a huni :slight_smile: (hand-powered uni!)


Re: Hand-Driven Unicycles?

Andrew, I think it’s a cool idea! Somewhat similarly to hand-cranked
wheelchairs, if you pardon the analogy, your idea might also give
certain handicapped people who otherwise were excluded the chance to
ride a unicycle.

Klaas Bil

Left-handed people could not become knights because it was thought that they were descendants of the devil.


Thanks for the support. I actually got the idea from hand-driven three-wheelers (or handcycles). Is this what you were takling about with the hand-cranked wheelchairs?


Great news! I told my friend (and boss at the bike shop) Gary about my idea and he liked it. He’s going to build this thing for me and I’ll help out where I can. He’s also a unicyclist and after building the hand-driven unicycle, we’re going to build a recumbent unicycle. We’ll both own both of these and then later on maybe build another hand-driven unicycle.

This is really turning out great! I’m really thrilled that as far as I know, nobody has ever done this before. Now I just hope that in the time it takes to finish this project, nobody steals the idea (ie. people who just happen to read this thread but aren’t frequent visitors…I don’t mean any of you:)). It’s good that the thread will have the date attached to it. This is going to be really fun. I think it’ll be finished some time early next year. Maybe february or so…maybe it can be my birthday present (19th of Feb.).

This is great!


I’ve come up with the second stage of the design. The idea is to use part of an old bike frame. That way, we can use the part that holds the bottom bracket and save heaps of time and effort. Only part of the bike frame will be used. The rest will be cut away and then extra bits will be welded together. Is there a problem with welding two different metals together? I’m not sure about either of the materials we’ll use yet. All I know is that the bike frame will probably be an old one so you may be able to guess the metal…I don’t know.

I’ll post another picture in a minute of the frame only and highlight the bit that comes from a bike frame. This design will surely change. I think it’ll take a bit of fiddling around to get the geometry right so that it’s easy enough to turn and not a strain to ride. As I said before, an adjustable and comfy seat will be very necessary.

Any comments?

p.s. This is fun!

Alright, here it is. You can see in the picture that the part of the bike that will be used is in red. The blue lines indicate the rest of the bike to give you an idea of what parts of the bike are used (the bits running from the seat to the bottom bracket and from the front end to the bottom bracket). In the picture, the front end of the bike frame would be at the bottom. You can also see the parts of the unicycle frame towards the bottom where the frame breaks into two to go either side of the wheel. Naturally this is a very rough drawing just to get an idea of the shape of this thing.