Hill climbing, lower gear wanted?

I ride muni. But no mountains, just my local trails. I suspect some hills are sloped like those on mountains, but obviously much much shorter.

I’ve been making progress getting up some of these hills, but many are just too much for me. Not because of cardio as much as strength and technique, I think. I suspect I have a lot of room for growth. I’m not really coming out of my seat yet, which I gather is a technique I should be working towards.

I would love to see more hill climbing video, especially if they demonstrate good techniques.

In my moments of failure and frustration, I often wish I had a lower gear. Is that just crazy talk? Do other muni riders wish there was a Shlumpf that offered a lower gear instead of higher?

And in all honesty, if I knew with practice I WILL make it up some of these hills, I’d rather just keep working on it. Getting up the hill by buying a new gear would be cool, but the hills would still be laughing at me.

And of course, right after I posted I found this thread called Searching for UPHILL uni videos, which is helpful for viewing technique.

A mountain biker would probably tell you that your gear is pretty low already. Only the granniest of granny gears is lower than the 24" or 26" equivalent of most MUni tires. Basically I guess I’m saying buck up and work on the technique! :slight_smile:

One way to do this is to practice on steep pavement, if you have any you can find. Once you work it out on the smooth, the same techniques will work on the bumpy. Only harder.

Personally I’d only want a lower gear if I were riding a bigger wheel on trails. My MUni of choice is a 24". Has worked very well for me on a huge variety of terrain and mileages. But climbing takes a lot of practice. For better or worse, to ride any of the trails in my local trail system you quickly learn to be a good climber, else you’ll walk quite a bit! The main thing is to learn when to finesse and when to take it slowly and methodically. Sharpening my trials hopping skills really opened the door for me on climbing technique. You just have to learn how to ride slow and in control. On sustained or more technical hills you learn how to pause between pedal strokes to get a little “break” and to set up for the next pedal stroke. So if you’re on the outside looking in, somebody climbing on a MUni can look a bit more choppy than on a mountain bike (who can just gear way down and keep spinning). At least that has been my experience learning to climb and I consider myself a pretty good climber now. Good luck!

Is that right? If so, at least for MY uni and bike, the feeling is much different. (well of course it does… but still)
I fear I might be getting into difficult math territory by asking this, but…
How do I compare my uni to my mountain bike granny gear?

I could mark a chalk line on the driveway, roll the uni on revolution and mark again. Then start my bike on the line, in granny gear, move one crank revolution and mark.
If they went the same distance, they’re equal?
Wait, no… I need to account for crank arms somehow, right?
I’m suddenly remembering a thread some heavy thread I skipped over. My brain is starting to hurt again.

If you want to factor in crank length into your equation use a gain ratio.

I will let Captain Bike explain

I’ve experienced a good amount of that stalling and cranking. I must be doing something right.

For all I know, some of the hills I’m wanting to get up would be near impossible for even the best climber. Maybe I should take my mountain bike out and try them, for comparison.

He explains things well, and that helps. With his “New Standard”, you end up with a ratio of pedal travel to wheel travel.
Can that ratio be used to tell how easy it would be to climb a hill?

The bigger the result, the more you moved your feet to go the distance. Given the same distance, if you move your feet more then you must have distributed that distance over more pedaling. Meaning each moment of pedaling must be easier. (Sorry if I’m thinking out loud here)
Makes sense.

I did this. I was climbing off road on a really steep trail. The trail is not technical but the steepness is tough for me. I took my mountain bike to compare. I was surprised that it was almost as hard on my mountain bike. It was always a push but in the last few years I’ve noticed a decline in my overall performance. I think it’s my age. I hate getting older because you can’t do anything to change your age. I am in better shape but get winded faster.

On the unicycle I’m pretty good with the pausing during pedal rotation for rest. I’m starting to stand up out of my seat and that is very helpful. I just can’t seem to get my 30-year-old cardio ability back. I tire much more quickly and need more breaks than I used to. I too wish for a lower gear sometimes.

I’m finding some inclines @ my local woods to be a bit tricky on a 24", but I haven’t been riding long so I’m guessing that would be my technique, balance and strength at this point.

Also, how silly is it to be using my low end club freestyle 24" with a skinny tire, short cranks and plastic pedals for ‘mountain unicycling’? I need it to stay alive for at least like 4 or 5 months to have any chance of getting enough money for a nimbus muni :roll_eyes:

What size cranks are you using? I use 150 mm cranks on my KH 24" and it is OK. I assume I would get a “lower gear” if I switched to 170 mm cranks. On my normal road unicycle I ride 125 mm cranks, so the 150 mm cranks already feel like a luxury.

That being said, technique makes a big difference.

I ride an 24" Onza with 165mm crank arms.
I bought it used, and that’s what was on it.

I think 24 or 26 with 150s is nearing the lowest usable muni gear anyway. I don’t find a smaller wheel is that much easier to ride uphill. It is 99% likely that it’s just about technique and practice.

I think bikes do have lower gears mind, I seem to think mine has 22x32 lowest gear, which even with 180mm cranks is lower than a 150mm cranked direct drive unicycle isn’t it?


That’s a great length for cranking, but a lousy length for spinning. Good for the uphill stuff but the large circle will limit speed and smoothness. I used 170s for years on my Wilder.

Not silly, I would call it “old school”. That’s what we used before the other equipment existed. It makes medium trails hard, and easy trails medium. Great practice.

I recommend keeping it simple and just comparing gear inch. That is, like you described. For best results have someone ride your bike in front of you, while you ride behind on the MUni and compare pedaling speed. For a more precise answer, do the math on the teeth count. Your unicycle’s gear inch is based on the tire diameter (not the marked size; a 24x3" tire is closer to 26").

At Unicon last year, we had the steepest uphill race ever (at a Unicon or USA convention). These pictures do a poor job of showing how steep, but in the first shot, the riders are angled like that because it was easier than facing straight up the hill and standing on the pedals. It was steep enough that about half the competitors, if I remember accurately, hopped at least part of it, and a great many riders didn’t even complete it. Steeper stuff can be ridden, but usually not very far!

Actually the 180mm cranks make it effectively even a lower gear. So imagine a 26" unicycle with 170mm cranks with an effective wheel size of 18". That’s pretty dang low compared to what we normally run.

But in the end, it’s a lot more about the rider than it is the gearing. There’s a hill in our local favorite park that the bikers call “Two Dollar Hill”; it’s steep and technical enough that if you’re with someone who makes it up the hill in one shot (on a bike), you’re supposed to give him $2. Beau Hoover has made it up on a 24" with 150mm cranks (I think it was 150mm–Beau rides 125mm a lot, too). So almost anything that’s doable on bike is doable on uni with the proper combination of strength, cardio, and technique.

Oh yeah, so it is, I obviously did that calculation in a hurry without thinking!


With heart rate comparison

If you both could wear a heart rate monitor will doing John’s comparison you may be surprised by the difference in effort between unicycle and bicycle at the same speed on the same hill climb.

You would have to switch places and do both for those results to be meaningful. Unless you’re identical twins with identical unicycling skills at identical fitness levels :slight_smile:

This morning I made it up one of the hills that’s been standing in my way! I didn’t make it at first, so I rested and tried again and again. On the 5th try I did it! I kind of wanted to try it again, but it way more appealing to just ride on.
Further down the trail I came to the second hill that I wondered if even bikers could get up. I made very significant progress on it. And there is a little break in the incline that was just within reach. If I can make it to that, I might just be able to regain my composure and finish the remainder, which is steeper but not very long. I bet these hills are nothing to some of you, but it’s where I’m at.

I think the key for me is just keeping my weight forward. Holding onto the seat with my left hand and reaching out with my right hand to keep the weight forward helped significantly. I not feeling the need for a lower gear. It’s definitely not the gear as much as the technique.

I’m so excited. And I just can’t hide it.

Every serious post needs someone to make a totally ridiculous suggestion.
I was reading this thread and wondering how to reduce the gearing further when I realised I did not know what would happen if the seat were reversed on a geared uni. I know that pedals would probably unscrew, but could you ride a Shlumph uni in reverse and thereby get a 3rd, lower gear? ( in principle at least?) .

Would the mechanism allow you to do so? Not seen a Guni myself yet.