High Speed, Long Distance

Hi Guys, I need some professional advice.

I very foolishly accepted the challenge to complete an Argus Cycle Tour on a unicycle. Now after little reasearch I have discovered I will have to be able maintain an average speed of 18.1km/h for 6 hours to finish within the cut-off time. (109km around Table Mountain in South Africa)

What sort of bike do you suggest. 28" might be a little large as there are some monster hills. Otherwise do you get big wheel giraffes?

I know some guy did it on one about as tall as a traffic light bout 10 years ago!!!

Makes, Models?

Dylan Eave

(for those of us hooked on the US system, thats about 11.25 mph)

IMHO, 28" or 700c is perfect for hilly long distance. I would recommend getting one (if you don’t have one already) and experimenting with different crank lengths to see what you are most comfortable with on the steeper inclines. For example, start with 150mm cranks, and if you can climb easily with those you might try going down to 125’s.

After some training, my 700c w/ 125’s was more than adequate for climbing the hills of Appalacia. During the MS150 Bike Tour, I was able to somewhat pace with a few bicyclists by passing them on the inclines, then being passed on the declines, then passing them again on the next one, etc. I never had to get off and walk it. 11-13 mph (sorry, I’m hooked too) should be fairly easy to maintain on flat ground; you might drop down to 7-9 on the steep hills.

I think 109 km (67.75 miles) in 6 hours is very do-able with training. You might even try using a Coker with longer cranks. Anyone else have experience with very hilly long distance on a Coker?

Good luck! Keep us posted.

I agree, a 28er or 29er would be perfect for long hilly rides. A coker would probably be pushing it, though.

Nathan Hoover or Aspenmike would probably just say Coker. And I know it would work for them.

For holding the minimum speed, it’s all about training. Back in my racing days, I did a one-hour race at an average of 11 mph on a 24" uni. That would not have worked for 6 hours though. So I also recommend the Coker. Just train on the hills. If you don’t like the Coker, try a 29". You can do it.

ive riden across usa and found coker to to be the best way to go.
the main problem i had with steep hills on a coker is its a good way to hurt your knees without a brake.

During the MS150, I averaged just over 11mph for 138 miles, over two days (on a coker). The first day around San Antonio was hillier and easier than the level (but windy) second day. I used (5 inch) 125 cranks and used a hand brake on the descents -it saves the knees.

Training is key, you can do it.

Coker with as short cranks as possible. Can you try out the course beforehand? Others might disagree, but I think that keeping up that speed on a Coker is just going to be easier than on a 29er. The Coker just rides nicer too.

GOOD LUCK and let us know how you do.


Re: High Speed, Long Distance

It is possible to maintain that pace for 100 km. Ken Looi averaged a little more than that for 160 km on a hilly course (1500 m of climbing). See Ken’s thread for the details: Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge '04; 100miles on a unicycle.

A Coker would probably be the best choice. You can climb any road grade with a Coker and appropriate fitness and appropriate cranks. With the Coker you can pedal about 20 to 30 rpm slower than with a 29er to maintain the same speed. On the 29er you’d have to maintain an average cadence of about 140 or faster to finish in under 6 hours. With the Coker you can get by with a slightly slower cadence which is easier to maintain.

A good choice would be a Coker with an upgraded wheel. A wheel with the Airfoil rim and unicycle.com super wide chromoly hub would be good. Even better would be to get some custom stainless steel spokes from Tom Miller here in the USA instead of the stock Coker spokes, but getting the custom spokes may be difficult for you in S.A. The stock Coker spokes will be adequate. A saddle with the carbon fiber seat base (available from unicycle.com) and a GB Handle would also be good. The carbon fiber base really stiffens up the saddle and makes it easier (and more efficient) to pull on the saddle while climbing. It makes a big difference.

The stock Coker frame is good enough if you aren’t going to use a brake. If you want to run a brake then a custom frame with brake mounts is much better. The custom frames are stiffer and that is important when using a brake. The stock Coker frame will flex and cause the brake pads to rub, especially when pedaling hard up a hill.

If you can’t get a Coker in S.A. then a 29er would work, but you’ll have to learn how to spin really fast to maintain the minimum necessary speed to finish in under 6 hours. If you’re a good spinner that might work OK. But most people can’t spin that fast for that long.

But most of all you’re going to have to train. You’re going to have to train a lot. You can’t just go out and do a 100 km ride with those hills in under 6 hours without training and without being in good shape. You have to train to be in shape and also so that you can ride efficiently and spin efficiently. If you’re not a very solid rider then you end up wasting a lot of excess energy for balance corrections and you cannot maintain the high cadences necessary to go fast for long distances.

From what I remember of the top of Table Mountain it is reletively flat so you should be able to really drop the crank size, whether it is a Coker or 29". That will increase you average speed (it may decrease your top speed though) and reduce the wear on your body.
Personnally I would say Coker is the better as it just feels better for me. You do need to be quite fit so build up to the event. You should be building up your training, maybe with only doing 10 miles rides every night up to doing 20 mile ones and trying to maintain or increase your average as the weeks go on.


Much as I love 29"/700c unicycles, I’d totally recommend trying to get hold of a coker for doing that sort of distance at speed. I think I could possibly just about do it on a 29er, whereas on a coker with 125s I could do it. I don’t have massive hills though.

On a coker, you could probably do that kind of average with 125 cranks, but it’d be easier with 110s. If it’s any time soon, you’re going to have to do some serious training and do anything you can to make it easier. I think I’d ridden about 1000 miles on my coker before I was anywhere near hitting that kind of average for that distance, and that’s without big hills.

Get hold of the height profile for the route. If it’s got long flat bits but a few sections too steep to go up on short cranks, then you might be best off taking a crank removal tool and a spare pair of longer cranks. That way you can ride stupid cranks (110s on a coker/shorter on a 29er) for the flats and then have a brief rest while changing cranks for the steep bit.

If you’re not used to short cranks, learn to use them now, bung some on your normal unicycle for practice.

Whatever you get, if you’re doing those distances in big hills, you need a brake. You’ll cane your knees otherwise. Having a brake means you can use short cranks and ride downhills and flats quicker. Even if you have to walk/run steep up hills, you should gain overall. You also need a good seat handle, most people would recommend a GB4 handle and they’ve seemed pretty good the couple of times I’ve played with them.

One other thing - in the actual race, if you’re riding uphills, be aware of how fast you’re going, if you could be faster for less effort by running, then get off and push. It’s about completing the distance not about stubbonly riding every metre. You can save the riding every bit for the second time you try it.


I think maintaining 11 mph for 6 hours on a 29"er would be very difficult. My average is usually 10 mph (with hills involved), and I can only keep that up for a little over an hour, then it drops in the 9 range. I think with a Coker I could maintain that speed. And definitely use a break, because even with a 29"er (with 125 cranks) my knees/legs experience pain with the long descents. Another thing: if you dont already have biker shorts and an airseat, I would higly recommend investing in them now.

I would have said cycle shorts, yes definately. Air seat for long distance at speed, no. That is not a standard bag style. They are great for Muni where you are in and out of the seat, but for long distance you need to control where the pressure points are on the seat, air can not do this. A combination air and foam seat works for me, although my favourate seat is one which is made up with differing densities of foam. Everyone is diffrent and you need to ride your seat to determine what is right for you.


Thanks alot Guys.

Gonna go do some reasearch on Coker parts and availability here in SA. – By The sounds of it a giraffe is not an option.

Coker wheel circumfrance must be far greater than that of a 29er to allow for such reduced rpm. Isn’t there only a 1" diameter difference. I haven’t done the calculations, but 40 rpm less than a 29er??

Also the inseam needed on a 30+ wheel will probably make things uncomfortable. With long cranks I may not be able to do a full extention. (I’m 1.8m tall, 70kg, marathon fit).

Thanks again.


A coker is a 36" diameter wheel. At 5ft 10, you’d easily be able to ride one with long cranks, remember that’s diameter, so you’re only talking 18" radius.


by the way, Gild (who posts on here - use the members button) posted something about getting Cokers into South Africa, it might be worth contacting him to see if he’s done any more about it.


Do exactly as John Childs said, that way you have a pretty good chance of finish ing this race and becoming a local legend. Good luck!

dylan, brother, how are u?
it’s good to meet u and it’s especially good to hear about another unicyclist in south africa
i’ve just accepted a (sponsored by Pick n Pay) opportunity to do the 94.7 next year
i’ve been thinking about doing the Argus as a warm-up :wink:

craig mullen reached the top of Suikerbossie with 2hours to go two years ago
that was the year they stopped the race because of the temperature
he missed the 94.7 cut-off by 20 minutes in that same year
last year he couldn’t really train as much as he wanted to and had to pull out halfway
he rides a COKER
his original Coker now belongs to a member of our club who posts here under the name JayneZA
he got the one with the Airfoil rim last year
i’m busy putting quotes together for Pick n Pay as they are still interested in sponsoring a team of riders and not just myself
this will depend on cost
i’m waiting for some responses (Roger, check your emails:p ) to get a price on an Airfoil Coker
i’m also talking to Dave Stockton (who posts here) who builds ‘The Strongest Coker Wheel in the World’
once these quotes come in, i’ll present them to PnP and see what happens

we must get in touch
email me direct on unigild@gmail.com
i hope u know of a couple of other riders in Cape Town
we’re having the first Interprovincial Unihoki Tournament at the Juggling and Unicycling Convention and we’re still looking for a team from your part of the world to enter

send word

ps. my girlfriend used to date a guy who did the Argus on a 24" about 12 years ago

here it is

Missing the email, I have checked back and can not find one, could you recend to:

contact at unicycle dot uk dot com