Historical 45' Giraffe; Photos

I was just in Grand Junction Colorado for a night this past weekend and was walking Main St. I walked into a bike shop I found because they had a bunch of funky bikes, tandems, and farthings.

I asked if they had unicycles. The sales clerk said “Wow, you’re like the third person in two weeks to ask about unicycles, the only one we have is right above me.” As she pointed up to the ceiling. I was confused as all I saw above her was (I thought) the fire sprinkler pipes.

It wasn’t a fire pipe, it was a 45 foot giraffe. It stretched from one end of the store to the other, hung by the ceiling.

Turns out there was a semi-famous circus-unicycling family that lived in Grand Junction and they built this unicycle to break the world record.
Here is a picture of that record setting ride:

The record held for two months I was told. A museum in Grand Junction held onto the unicycle in peices for many years and was going to throw it out when the bike shop saved it from the landfill and put it on display.

A cool piece of Unicycle history that I thought needed documenting here.

Some details;
The wheel assembly: (20" white wall!)

Wire guides along the length:

How 'bout this seat? Ouch!

The shop was pretty busy and the guy was trying to find the newspaper articles, but I told him don’t worry I would stop in some other day, and they should put it up on their wall. I gave him my email for when he had an electronic version available.

I don’t know the name of this family, or what year this may have happened. (Pic looks like 60-63?) I’d be curious to know if there is any other mention in any unicycle histories someone may have.

thanks for sharing. Looks great!

thats cool. thanks for the info, very interesting!

OMFG that is a tall uni and ouch is right!

Anybody know what the record now is?

That seat looks about as comfortable as a Torker Lx seat

115 feet give or take a few inches. Record by Sem Abrahams. See the link for pictures and video.

Coolest new RSU thread in a while, and absolutely forum appropriate. Thanks Bondo! Great job on the pictures!

Now we just need our esteemed historians to jump in with some details around the history of the actual ride. I wonder when it happened, and whether T. Miller had anything to do with the construction of the giraffe.

Interestingly the Seb Site lists his record progress, one of which was 45 feet. In 1976.

Might it be possible that the shop has his old record breaking unicycle. Or was the record held jointly by him and another?


Looking at the film on Sem’s site (which actually says 1977 when you click on the link) it doesn’t look like the one Bondo saw - no whitewall tyre, fork looks tubular rather than flat, chainwheels look much bigger.



:thinking: Well i did find this one quite tall and interesting. I wouldn’t even know how high this one is. :thinking:

22 feet, just like this one with Chaz Marquette. That photo looks like it’s Tom Miller on the unicycle. He’s the one who built it and the one that Chaz is riding. Tom Miller is The Unicycle Factory. My understanding is that there are two of those 22 footers. Chaz has one and Tom Miller has the other.

I agree, a good find on unicycle history.

One suggestion: Re-size the pics and attach them to a post(s) rather than hot-linking them from photobucket. If the photobucket pics ever go away we’ve lost the pics forever in RSU.

So…is it for sale?
( :

The unicycle in the photo above is actually Chaz’s 22-footer, being ridden by the builder, Tom Miller, just before handing it over to Chaz, at Unicon I. I took the picture. Chaz must have painted the unicycle a different color since then, but it definitely started life white, which was probably the color he ordered. Otherwise Tom made everything blue.

That year he also had a 16-footer (blue) along. Both of these giraffes could be assembled at 16’ or 22’. That 16-footer was the tallest unicycle I ever intend to ride. Later Tom made a third one, for Constance Cotter. She rode it in a big promotional event at the Mall of America to set the world record for the tallest unicycle ridden by a woman. I think this was part of a promotion for the release of the new Nintendo game, UniRacers, and I think this was in 1992.

I never heard of the unicycle and record in the thread title, and it doesn’t resemble any of Tom Miller’s work (plus he never mentioned it). Sem rode his in 1976 or 77, at 45’. That unicycle is probably still in Suriname, where it was ridden. Brett Shockley, from Minnesota, rode a unicycle of around 50’ in a similar timeframe, and I don’t think there were any more attempts until Sem’s next record, at 72’ in 1980.

The Guinness World Records museum that used to be in the Empire State Building in NY had Steve McPeak’s 41’ unicycle, also from the mid-70s. This one holds the record for highest unicycle ever ridden on a tightwire (40’ up!).

That’s an interesting record. How does the tightwire aspect affect the riding of such a tall unicycle? A unicycle that tall is going to have twist and sway. So if you’re riding it on the flat ground (with a tire on the rim) I’d think the wheel would wander a bit just due to the twist and sway in the unicycle frame. Now if you put it on a tightwire you constrain the wheel so it can no longer wander from side to side. Does that actually make it easier at that point since you know the wheel is always going to go straight? I’m assuming that on a 41’ unicycle you can’t use body english and action-reaction to turn or twist the thing like you can on a little 6’ Schwinn giraffe cause the frame is going to be flexing and the unicycle weighs so much.

I have never, and will never, ride a tall tall giraffe. I also have never, and will never, ride any sort of unicycle on a tightwire. So I’m unaware of the actual challenges and issues involved.

Would it have been easier for Sem to ride the 115’ unicycle if it was on a tightwire just 1’ off the ground?

Flash forward to 2018! I don’t know if John Childs is still around (we missed you at NAUCC 2017!), but it’s an interesting question. I’m not sure why John thought it would be easier to ride a tall unicycle on a wire; it would not! You can’t make any corrections for side-to-side drift. The main problem with flex on really-tall giraffes is the stresses caused by the chain pulling, which flexes the frame toward the front and rear. Side-to-side flex is not a known issue, at least with a well-made frame.

Why am I posting this? While trying to find something else, I came across a video clip of Steve McPeak riding his 41-footer on the 40’ wire (at Circus Circus Las Vegas) in the 1970s. Pretty amazing! I think he had a pair of safety wires on either side of him, but I do not believe he was tethered in any way. Plus he had a massive balance pole, but that’s probably necessary for something so tall on a wire…

It really would be interesting to learn more about that 40’ uni from Grand Junction. Now the photo links are gone, and I don’t even remember what it looked like. I do remember seeing the Steve McPeak uni as I mentioned earlier in this thread. That museum closed many years ago, and I don’t know what became of that unicycle afterward. I doubt it made its way to Colorado… :slight_smile: