hill climbs and smaller wheels

I’ve determined to experiment and do my next hill climb race on a 24" wheel rather than slowly mashing in a “gear” (wheel size) I couldn’t spin.

The only such cycle I own is my first, my Torker LX 24".

Is there any good reason not to use this cycle on my next climb? Mt. Equinox “Climb for Lyme” is 5.2 miles, 3200’ vertical gain, 12% avg grade.

The tire has a good road pattern and things won’t just break from riding, right? The Torker is a bit heavier than my KH, but it’s still lighter than a bike so I can’t really use that excuse.


should work. I really don’t know though. I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to climb on a 20" , but they can’t get much momentum, so it’s actually easier, but not much, on a 24". I don’t know about 29ers , having never ridden one, but I would expect it to be a lot of the same thing. I think you’d probably have better luck on a 24", though.

You should try it out on some local hill and see what you think before the race. It’s always bad to do a race/event like that on new equipment.

Re: hill climbs and smaller wheels

A Torker LX should be fine for any road riding. Just slow.

Steve, you would hate doing that ride on the Torker! Too heavy and with the small wheel, It would take forever. You should switch the cranks (idk if they should be smaller or larger for hills) and put a better street tire on the KH. Just my $0.02

If you change the length of the cranks, you change the whole “engine” of the unicycle. Short cranks are best for spinning fast, but at low torque, and long cranks are best for plodding at high torque. There is a similarity here with internal comustion engines where the general rule is short crank throw = high revs, and a revvy, sporty engine, and long crank throw = low revs, and low down grunt.

But, as I said, you change the whole configuration of the engine. Your leg muscles are the “cylinder” and the muscle fibres are the combustion.

Your legs will have a natural cadence of their own - some peoplke are good at bursts of fast activity, others at slow but strong movements. Then there’s the biomechanics - long legs might be more suited to long cranks.

A simple illustration: we can all see how 6 inch cranks might be about 1/5 more torquey than 5 inch cranks. However, would 12 inch cranks be twice as torquey as 6 inch cranks? No, because they’d be clumsy and uncomfortable to use. And 24 inch cranks would be even worse, and so on.

Or, in the other direction, we can all see how 5 inch cranks might be about 1/6 faster than 6 inch cranks - but how fast would 1 inch cranks be? Not very. Would 1 mm cranks be really really fast? I don’t think so.

So where’s this going? Well, my view is that you choose cranks to work with your legs. I find that 110s work well with my legs if I want to ride fast and smooth, and 150s work well if I want to plod. 102s are too short, and 170s too long.

So, choose the size of cranks that fits your legs, for the type of riding you have in mind. You have now set up the “engine” of the unicycle.

NOW the gearing: that’s the wheel size. It’s the wheel that transmits the engine power to the road.

The long and short of it (ho ho) is that if you want to climb long steep hills, choose reasonably long cranks, but go for a small wheel rather than very very long cranks. If you want to go fast, go for a big wheel and reasonably short cranks, rather than very very short cranks.

I put this to the test a while ago on My Own Personal Everest:
On a 24 with 150s (24.6%) I did loads better than on a 26 with 170s (25.7%)

In theory, the higher percentage (crank:wheel ratio) should be better up hill. In practice, the right crank length and a smaller wheel was better.

Just ride the 24" uni that you have “as is.”
Focus on training rather than splitting hairs on equipment configuration.
You’ll do fine.

Are you assuming he was going to change his equipment RATHER than training?
I would assume he is going to do both, and finding the right equipment combination could make a big difference.

Re: hill climbs and smaller wheels

I find my 24x3 nimbus muni with 150mm cranks to be OK for climbing.

Certainly it seems better than my 26x3- though this could be clouded by the fact that I wasn’t riding the 26x3 with the same consistency as the 24x3 (so my fitness wasn’t as good).

I certainly felt that my 29-er (also 150mm cranks) was easier than the 26x3, due to the lighter wheel.

Then again, I’ve felt in the past that the 29-er may be easier than the 24x3 because, thought the leverage is harsher, you tend to get up the hill a little faster.

But, like I say, the 24x3 is fine for hills- best thing is for you to try it out for yourself.

Also, having read many, many posts on crank length over the years on this board, I can tell you that there are no set rules because people vary so much.

For example, I’ve come to suspect that it is mainly riders with relatively short legs who reap the full benefits of shorter cranks- those with longer legs seem more able to get longer cranks to work for them.

Another factor with short cranks has got to be consistency- to make them work well and not have excess UPDs you need to be riding fairly frequently.

Lastly, as mentioned above, and in another thread- don’t change your set-up immediately before an important race, even dropping down a crank size, or using a different seat, can mess things up if you’ve not spent some quality time adjusting to them.

Re: Re: hill climbs and smaller wheels

My point entirely: crank length is more to do with the “engine” than the “gears”.


I’ve found that people can spend a lot of time worrying about equipment and believe their strength comes from it. Bad equipment day means bad riding.

Contrarily, those that train with a more carefree attitude towards equipment seem to turn out to be better performers.

Riding the wheel “as is” has benefits as well.

The recent Discovery program on Lance Armstrong shows that the top rider in the world trains very hard and obsesses over technique and equipment. That is why he’s the top rider in the world.

The Armstrong team are concerned with 10s of grams and how much time penalty there is for them over many, many kilometers. They are concerned with less than 1/2 centimeters of equipment adjustment. They are concerned with elbow positioning and its effect on wind drag. They are concerned with power transfer to the pedals through the shoe base. They are concerned with the positioning of individual seams on his cycling jersey. The list goes on and on to every single aspect of the cycle, clothing, nutrition, technique…

A more technical approach to your question, Steve, might be roughly sketched something like this, but first rephrasing as: “How can I improve my performance for the same race next year?”

  1. You will need to improve conditioning both aerobically and anaerobically.

  2. You will need to improve your hill climbing technique - balance, spin, various macro forms (climbing, seated, arm movement, etc).

  3. You will need to improve your connection to the unicycle, based on #2. I’m thinking here about handle, seat type, seat height, crank length, Q factor, pedal type, footwear type.

  4. You will need to improve your unicycle for climbing. That includes tire type, tube type, tire pressure, unicycle weight, wheel type, frame characteristics.

A very different approach to planning your next race is to say: “How fast do I want to do the next race?” Pick a reasonable improvement; since you (were) a new rider, 50-100% might be reasonable, say 50%. This determines your ground speed. Now take your current unicycles, 24 and 29", and calculate the cadence required for that ground speed. This is how fast you will have to pedal uphill, on average, for the entire race. Now… take your existing unicycles to the race course, and try riding that cadence for a couple of miles uphill on each. Get a feel for that cadence on those configurations.

Now, think about how you might adjust each unicycle to achieve your goal. At the same time, think about how you might adjust your training to achieve your goal. The two work together.

Basically, if your legs are burning, this is an indication that you should: lengthen your cranks, work on leg strength, work on spinning.

If you are gasping for breath, this in an indication that you should: shorten your cranks, work on anaerobic conditioning, work on spinning.

By integrating this sort of steering into your workouts, you will basically steer in a controlled, stable way into a body and unicycle that are the best for you for that race. I imagine that a first-cut suitable unicycle configuration will make itself clear within three months of dedicated effort. Make small changes slowly, but inexorably, like the eye doctor swapping lenses for your glasses.

Since both unicycles are square taper, you are in luck in that you can have a variety of cranks around and swap them back and forth. By spending about $100 or so you can have a huge range of cranks that are suitable for both unicycles.

Although there’s no substitute for training and heart and guts, there’s also no substitute for good, properly configured equipment.

Anyhow, there’s something else to think about in addition to the august opinions above.

I can see you next time, reaching that cheering crowd, but you don’t see them, because you are tight, focused, leaning into the hill, sprinting for the best time possible.


So, if you take the carefree guy who has trained well, and put him on a lighter, properly thought out and set up unicycle, he won’t do any better?

I understand your point, but it isn’t logical to think that proper training negates the benefit of proper equipment selection for the task at hand.

Edit: I see U-turn just posted my point in much more detail

Thanks. I didn’t mean to split hairs, rather asking would the Torker hold up to its name and handle all the “torque”.

When I was a ski bum many of us hardcore skiers had mismatched, salvaged equipment.

And this way, I’ll taunt the bicyclists with “My rig cost $70 on eBay, new in box. How much was yours with the training wheel over there? Oh, six million dollars? Gee that’s too bad.”

The LX has super long cranks already. You should have plenty of torque.

After Whiteface, and just not having the “oomph” to keep the big wheel spinning, I think an easier to maintain cadence of the smaller wheel is worth a try.

Hey Steve, I have the answer! Tell your wife that your buying a KH 24". :smiley:

I don’t doubt you can do it on the 24" torker, I just think it’s a heavy uni. Have you tried any steep, distance climbs on it?

Do what Dave said and try a few different combinations long before the event, while training.

I like long cranks for long big climbs. Longer cranks mean you don’t have to push as hard on the pedals. It makes it feel like a lower gear.

When I go climbing with the Coker I put on 170’s. With the 170’s on the Coker I can manage 8% grades comfortably while staying sitting in the saddle. No need to stand up and crank. I haven’t tried any sustained climbs that are greater than 8% yet so I don’t know yet at what point the 170’s will get to feel too short for the grade.

If you can comfortably and efficiently pedal 170’s then they’re worth a try on a training ride to see how they do. If you can’t pedal the longer cranks in an efficient circle then they’ll start to work against you and you’ll be better off with shorter cranks on a smaller wheel.

I recall that you have the '05 blue KH 29er. KH has 165mm cranks for his new '05 line. You could get 165mm cranks to try on the 29er. You might be able to borrow some 165’s from someone who has a KH freeride just so you could try them. Otherwise you’d have to buy a fresh minty pair from UDC or Bedford.

Yebbutt, Dave, I’m just a carefree, non-equipment-obsessed, non-training-obsessed 42-yr-old dad. I just ride for fun.

Ride more! Get fitter!

Ride more! Get more skilled!

I’m lukewarm on this. What the heck is Q factor?

50%!?! You’re crazy dude! Whiteface took me 2 hrs, so you’re saying how fast? There’s just no way around the 3500 vertical part - it was one long hill with no let up. I might shoot for 1:45 next year, but it’s a hard climb.

This is a good idea.

Is this true? I could switch cranks back and forth between the Torker and the splined 2005 KH?

I was close to my limit to maintain balance on my 29er last hill climb, 8% avg and long 9+% stretches.
My upcoming Mt. Equinox climb is 12%, for 5.2 miles, and the guys doing Mt. Washington (BPS, Aspen Mike, Joe?) will face 12% for 8 miles.

Mmmm. Minty 165mm cranks. I’d love to give’em a try. Like you said, longer cranks make the pushing easier.

You’re tall, IIRC, and so better matched to your long cranks than a short man like me. I am 5’6", and my 150s are pretty comfy. Since I have short legs, and not much spare cash, I’m opting to experiment with the smaller wheel first.

I’ll add another data point on my Torker. I expect the same result.