How many 36er "Purists" on this forum?

While Coker riders have been referred to as “purists”, I think the broader application of the term in the unicycling world applies to those who ride unicycles in their most basic form (no handlebars, no brakes). I’ve always been a purist and have never owned a unicycle with handlebars or brakes. When I eventually build a geared 36er, it will have brakes, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever use them. I figured it’s better to have them and not need them than the other way around. If, after I eventually get my geared 36er built, I were ever to decide to sell it, any potential buyer would likely want brakes, so that was another factor in my decision to purchase the disc along with the hub from Schlumpf.

I’m just curious as to how many 36er owners ride without handlebars and brakes?

Just for the record, I’m not against handlebars or brakes and I can see how they would be very useful in certain disciplines (racing, muni), they’re just not my thing. It’s one of my idiosyncrasies I suppose. I’m definitely not a luddite!

On a side note, I recently rode my airfoil rim Coker up and then down a decent size hill in my neighborhood that is closed off to cars. I had to traverse back and forth on the way up because my legs weren’t yet strong enough to make it straight up and I had to do the same thing on the way down to keep my speed in check. When I got to the bottom of the hill, the guy who I passed by on my way up the hill was still throwing a ball up the hill to his dog and he stopped me to let me know that everyone on the block was staring at me. He told me that my riding up and down the hill was quite a spectacle and pointed out some woman on a bench and told me her jaw dropped when she saw me, lol. I didn’t notice anyone as I was concentrating on just getting up and down the hill without experiencing a UPD. I was actually rather surprised because nothing seems to faze New Yorkers, especially these days. They’ve seen it all!

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I have two 36ers. One of mine (the fancier M4O) has a wheel issue right now, so I am riding my old/original UDC 36er at the moment (I am too lazy to do anything with the M4O for the time being).

The UDC has no handlebar and no brake. Not long ago (May 19th) I cycled 55km (34 miles) on it over the course of 4 hours with plenty of hills and stuff. For this and indeed most things I use a 36er for, it is actually fine. :person_shrugging:t3:

But… I still prefer the M4O with its brake. :wink:

P.S. I work in IT but (unlike you) I might consider myself a luddite. Or… maybe my job is why I consider myself a luddite? :thinking:


I’m quite surprised by this kind of debate about “purism”.

It reminds me that when I talk about unicycling to someone who hasn’t seen me and who hasn’t seen my unicycle, they always imagine that I’m waving my arms in the air to find my balance.
As soon as I show a photo, there’s often a reaction: “ah you’ve got handlebars”. Sometimes they seem disappointed, as if I were telling them I had a 2nd wheel.

I have the impression that the purist unicyclist is a circus artist. He matches the image that the uninitiated have of an unicyclist.


You forgot to mention the hangover, and that you blasted up the hills leaving your buddies in a cloud of dust. :joy:


@ruari That’s great that you have two 36ers! I’m down to one, but hoping to obtain another one at some point after I get some racks built to hang my recumbent bicycles and unicycles from my ceiling.

Wow, that is quite a ride! Very impressive!

There’s certainly nothing wrong with using a brake (or handlebars) once you get your M40 back on the road (and/or dirt), given that’s your preference. I am simply curious as to how many 36er owners ride without them. Thanks for telling me about your situation. Sounds like you’re a purist out of necessity… at least for the time being until your other 36er is repaired!

Is there some specific technology (such as AI, self-driving cars, or anything else that you may be concerned about) that compels you to consider being a Luddite? If so, would I be correct to assume that you would only consider yourself a Luddite with regard to that specific technology (or technologies) and not in general?

From my point of view, in order to have a debate there needs to be a point of contention. A debate requires the parties involved to be arguing for or against something. In my post, I clearly indicated that I have no position (for or against) unicyclists who are purists or not purists and I was simply inquiring as to how many 36er owners rode sans brakes and handlebars. For these reasons, I am rather perplexed as to why you would interpret this question/discussion as a “debate.”

The reaction of non-unicyclists to your photo of a unicycle with handlebars is not at all surprising to me. I believe the reason they respond the way you described is likely due to their (incorrect) assumption that you are somehow cheating in some sense by using handlebars. They don’t realize that, unlike on a bicycle, handlebars on a unicycle do not make riding the vehicle any easier. Beyond that, a unicycle, in its most basic form (and often defined similarly), is a one-wheeled vehicle, consisting of a wheel, cranks, pedals, frame, seat post, seat post clamp, and a saddle. Anything beyond that is really an add-on or extra-equipment. So in that sense, it is also not too surprising that most people aren’t accustomed to seeing unicycles that are equipped beyond their basic form.

While I don’t agree with your impression of a “purist unicyclist”, I very much appreciate your kind words. Circus unicyclists are among the most skilled unicyclists in the world, so I am happy to be thought of being in the same category as a circus artist. While I realize that I don’t have anywhere near the skill level of circus unicyclists, when I was 12 and 13 years old, I was a member of the training group of the King Charles Troupe (a famous unicycle basketball act that originated from a group of riders from the Bronx), who were then a part of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I took the train from Long Island to Madison Square Garden and trained with them backstage every weekend for two summers. It was an experience of a lifetime! But that’s another story.

“Wow!” some kid said to me while I was riding my 36. “But can you ride hands free?”


If I wasn’t speeding away from him, I would have replied, “Holding the handlebar is actually a more advanced skill. Be impressed! Be very impressed!”

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I would disagree with that statement, I believe that most everyone that uses a handlebar on a 36er, including myself would say that a handlebar does make it easier. When I learned to ride about 65 years ago handlebars were not used but when I started on a 36er a few years ago one of the first things I did was add a handlebar on my Coker. They are a little “weird” at first but once you get used to it, they are a valuable addition.

Some of the benefits include:
• Makes the uni more stable and has the effect of raising the center of gravity because it reduces the bending at the waist.
• Takes some of the load off the saddle.
• Reduces the body friction on the saddle because it reduces the movement on the saddle.
• Can steer with your hands and not your butt.
• Reduces wheel wobble.
• Easier on the back because you can lean on the handlebar.
• May provide a more aerodynamic position.
• Provides someplace to mount a brake, speedo and miscellaneous cargo.

Not all 36er riders use a handlebar but is seems that most do.


I find the kid’s comment rather amusing, but the response you thought of… now that is hilarious! :rofl: When an ignorant kid doesn’t display the proper level of respect for your obvious display of talent, you should most certainly demand that he be impressed!

Thanks for your feedback @JimT, however, the point I was attempting to make (but perhaps didn’t use the clearest language) is that handlebars on a unicycle do not provide the same type of critical functionality as they do on a bicycle. As you stated, you learned to ride a unicycle without handlebars. Try asking someone to learn how to ride a bicycle without handlebars. It’s a world of difference. And that is the point I was trying to make, but it’s good to know the various ways you feel like you’re benefitting from using the handlebars. I always enjoy hearing stuff like that so I can learn more about equipment I haven’t tried.


So a “purist” is one who rides a brakeless and handlebarless Coker?

I think your use of the word purist should be swapped with “no frills” or “bare bones”.

If you want my title of a purist then you should mount a hard rubber wheel, swap that cushy seat for solid leather one (with no handle to grab), use blocks of wood for pedals, and finally, use a leather beanie cap for a brain bucket.
Then I would call you a purist, (Please post a picture of that if it happens!)

Look how bicycles started… penny farthings, then we changed the equipment (which worked as is) to suit our riding needs.
Most people would never consider going without gears now even though they’re not really needed all of the time.

So now a unicycle… they never had handles on the seat before but now it’s a must.
Maybe it’s time to start learning to ride with a handlebar right from scratch.
Why learn in two stages when you could reap the benefits of complimentary equipment in the beginning and never know anything else?

Side note… I think a bicycle with no handlebars should be compared to a unicycle with no cranks. You couldn’t learn either without a complete unit. (keeping it apples to apples)

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@Canoeheadted Taking my proposition (that a person who rides a unicyclist in its most basic form is a “purist”) to the extreme and then attempting to debunk that argument that you’ve now modified is a logical fallacy referred to as “an Appeal to Extremes.” You are erroneously attempting to make a reasonable argument into an absurd one, by taking the argument to the extremes.

In Logical Form, your fallacious argument is:

If X is true, then Y must also be true (where Y is the extreme of X).

I appreciate your input, but I won’t engage in debating fallacious arguments.

Yet, the suggestion that using an alternate expression may carry the point as well with less risks of loaded bias stands… :slight_smile:
(“Minimalists” could be another candidate)

The main goal of this thread was simply to get some idea how many 36er owners ride without handlebars or brakes. I have no preference as to what you call such riders, though I believe a pretty strong argument could be made for “purists.” If you look at Wikipedia, one of the Internet’s most popular sources for such information, you will see that brakes and handlebars are not listed as “key components”, “brakes” don’t appear until way down the page in the “Mountain unicycles” section, and “handlebars” don’t appear at all in the text. Many other sources of information on unicycles are similar. However, if other riders feel slighted by the term “purists” or just don’t think it’s the most accurate description, by all means they are free to use another word. I actually like the term “minimalist.” Both unicycles and electric unicycles appeal to me precisely because of their minimalist qualities.

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But it’s a learnt skill that does not come naturally or even easily for most riders. Once learnt, then yes, handlebars make riding the larger wheels a more pleasant activity, but not necessarily easier. However, using the handelbars on a bicycle is purely instinctive and makes riding easier from the very beginning.


Suprisingly, I received a used 36 this week and I was thinking about this thread and your messages assembling it. I have no prior 36 experience (and am waiting for a short seatpost for the first ride).
It is a frame without brake mounts (and I am not a brake person on unis). But I was thinking about carrying over my habits of riding road with my 29 and handlebars. Yet, I realized that your message was beyond equipment and how to name those setups and more about the riding style: without handlebars (no matter the wheel size), you leisurely ride around. OTOH, with handlebars, you ride at a more sustained pace and experience things differently.
You made me wish I had a 4-bolts seatpost short enough to try at least once my 36 in chill mode (even if when I ride with handlebars, I am breaking no records).

I rode the New York City Five Boro Bike Tour recently on my 36" that has a handlebar but no brakes. I could’ve used brakes for the 59th Street bridge and Verrazano bridge decent especially as it is a 4-6% grade and after riding 35 miles and I was quite tired.
I have a short handlebar on it (close to the seat), as well, and I use/need the handlebar for steep ascents.


I am a 36er purist.

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@Siddhartha_Valmont While I could see how generally speaking, a 36er without brakes or handlebars could lend itself to more leisurely riding, that surely isn’t always the case. My favorite kind of riding is at skateparks and indoor MTB parks. I wouldn’t classify that sort of riding as leisurely. Even when just riding on the street on minimally-equipped 36ers, unicyclists’ riding style can range from leisurely to aggressive. An analogy in the biking world might be fixed-gear riders. One might think that since fixed-gear bikes generally don’t have brakes, that they might be ridden more cautiously, or leisurely, than bikes with brakes. However, the opposite is true. The fixed gear riders (in NYC at least) seem to be among the most aggressive bike riders in the City. Also, I don’t think there is anything stopping someone from riding a handlebar-and-brakes-equipped 36er in chill mode. Simply take your hands off the handlebars and refrain from using your brakes. Just because you have handlebars and brakes doesn’t meant you have to use them at all times. Put your brain in chill mode, sit up, and experience away, my friend!

@petchon Wow! That is an impressive accomplishment. If I were a distance rider, I would definitely want to ride the New York City Five Boro Bike Tour. I thought about it a few times, despite distance riding not being my cup of tea because I just think it would be really cool to do something like that and a lot of fun. I can definitely appreciate your desire for brakes on that kind of a descent, especially when the bike path isn’t wide enough to allow for traversing back and forth to keep your speed in check!

@harper I had a feeling you were a 36er purist. That means I’m in very good company! Seems like there aren’t too many of us left.


That is true my comparison between with and without handlebar riders was on the simplistic side.
And I totally agree that all my unis over time (including my learner) have seen all type of riding and terrains without considering their setup :stuck_out_tongue:

I agree that “having” on the uni does not make it “mandatory”. But for the handlebar, I feel that it is not the same pleasure to right sit up with a long handlebar because of the bar’s motion. And I have never tried on KH Fusion Zero saddles for a while to see if the feeling is the same.

Overall, my “desert island” uni (or the 1 uni thread) is my beloved 26 fat that never had brakes nor handlebar :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

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