How to Appreciate a 29er

Preface: I tend to overthink things to the point of paralysis when it’s something I am excited about. Also, I would have searched the forums about this if I could have figured how to phrase the search.

I learned on, and still ride, a 20" Torker CX. I acquired a 29" uni that is fun to ride. At present, these feel like two extremes around some elusive happy medium. The 20 feels like running on my tip-toes, and the 29 feels like taking six-foot strides for a walk around the block. The 20 feels too small by comparison to enjoy riding just for the sake of riding, and the 29 feels too big to actually be fun.

If I had gone from 20 to 36, I would likely have similar complaints, and would be thinking of the 29 as a happy medium, and jumping on the 29 after some time on a 36 would probably feel like an amazing compromise of stability, agility, and versatility, but I didn’t go to a 36, and so the 29 feels like I am beyond my capabilities. A 26 sounds like a nice compromise.

Is it all relative? I imagine if I rode a 26 tomorrow, I would be immensely pleased with the experience, relegating the 29 to a hook on the wall and filing the experience, to my detriment, as being just too much for me. It’s the knowledge that the appeal of the 26 right now is relative to the 29, and that the 29 holds a similar relationship to the 36 that makes me hesitate.

I am also aware that I have only been riding at all for a couple months, and that the 29er will grow on me as I continue to ride. I guess my question is how do I get that “amazing compromise” feeling about my 29er without going out and buying a 36 just to make me appreciate the 29 more? Or is it, like everything else unicycle, just a matter of time in the saddle?

I am completely open minded about this. Does anybody have a thought to share? I am happy to elaborate on anything I have not made clear.

I went from a 20" to a 36" when I first started out because I knew I wanted to road ride.

I would ask 2 questions before going into too much more detail: what size cranks do you have on the 29" and what are you using it for primarily?

I love my 29" for singletrack muni. I’ve been running 150s and could probably hop down to 125s if I so desired. The 29 is a quick uni to be sure, but that is part of what makes it fun. I have gravitated towards the larger wheels because I think the small wheels just don’t have the speed or ability to roll over rough terrain.

I definitely think riding a 36 would help you appreciate that you still have quite a bit of control on the 29, but that will come with time in the saddle. I wouldn’t expect to be doing too many tricks on a 29 though, and if that’s your thing, you’re better off with a 24" or smaller. There are exceptions of course, but a 29 doesn’t excel at tricks.

In short, the 29" should take you places you just can’t go on a 20". It should take you farther, faster, and over more obstacles. It’s a true “do it all” size, and I find it shines the brightest on moderately technical terrain.

Everybody is different though. I certainly wouldn’t regret your purchase. Ride it, develop new skills with it before letting it go. : )

if you do ever try a 36, just be ready for it. I rode a 36 nearly exclusively for 3 or 4 years before moving onto other sizes, and it’s a very different experience than you get with any other size. The amount of momentum makes it feel like no other size. Takes some getting used to.

I know how you feel. I am having trouble going from my equinox street trials to my 24” oracle muni. I think it is a combination of the bigger wheel, longer cranks massive tire, the additional weight and getting used to rough surface riding. I have followed some of the other threads about going from the Duro wildlife tire to something less aggressive and a bit lighter but I decided to just commit to it and ride.

I am getting much more comfortable although I am by no means tearing up the terrain. So I guess what I am telling you is just keep riding it will get better. This may not help much except to know you are not the only one. I feel your pain. Good luck and hang in there. :slight_smile:

Give it Time

I would imagine that in time you’ll find the 29er to be a great choice for lots of uses. It’s the biggest you can go, as you say, without going to a 36", and a 36" is just a whole different beast. A 29er can do anything – you can cruise the neighborhood at a decent speed, fast muni, technical muni.

Yes - it is a matter of time. Having been at this only a couple of months, you’re doing phenomenally well.

Whenever we meet up, I have a 26" wheel that you can play around with for an extended amount of time. It’s got a 26x3 knobby tire. It might give you an idea of what a “happy medium” is, if that exists at all. :slight_smile:

I went from a 20" to a 26" to a 29". I was told to completely skip the 24" because it’s a slower version of the 26". I ended up finding, however, that I love the 24" and it’s my absolute favorite size, especially for trail riding. As far as road riding goes, some days I preferred the 29" with medium cranks, some days I preferred the 26" with shorter cranks. I still haven’t tried the 36". The 29" was pretty tall for me as it was, so I don’t imagine that I would like being up that high. It’s all preference, and if you’re anything like me, you might find that your preferences evolve and revert continuously. :slight_smile:


I’ve been riding a 29er since mid November and I’m just now getting quite comfortable with it. It’s taken a littler longer than I thought it would. Camber and wind always seems to be a challenge. As I’ve gotten stronger I’ve gained more confidence. Just started riding with 110 crank arms last week.

Don’t give up. It might take a few months of constant riding to get comfortable.

I also have a 24" muni with a street tire and like that one for travel. It has a street tire and dual hole cranks. I can ride easy trails, roads and sidewalks with it.

IMHO. having a range of wheel sizes is very nice. One for every mood.:smiley:

About the 29er setup

I have 6 inch crancks, around 150mm ish, in the 29er. That’s how it came. I can freemount it with fair success; it’s just the… I am an out of shape person; I used to think I was “average”, but riding a unicycle has educated me otherwise. I am a long-fattened, easy living sort with much to recommend in a beef cow, and the 29er is physically exhausting to ride.

Knowing I have much building on my own to do, I am mostly interested in the question of:

How does one convert dissatisfaction with a 29 (for distance rides) into “looking forward to the ride”? Maybe its not a unicycle question at all. Maybe it’s just I am fat and lazy. On my goal board is a 26 mile ride with gentle hills and slopes on asphalt. Also there is world peace and a whisky that does not give hangovers. Mostly, I don’t want to buy a unicycle just to appreciate the one I already have.

I hear people ride 100 miles in a day, FOR FUN. I would rather try it on the 20 than the 29 just because 10 miles is rough, for me, on the 29.

Reaching too high?

I just don’t want to quit on this, like everything else.

I have a 29, but do 80% of my riding on a 20. If you want to learn a new skill, the 20 will give you a much smoother start than trying to learn it on the 29. Practicing a newly-acquired skill on the 29 will often make it seem ridiculously easy when you go back to your 20, though. In any case, if you are interested in long distances, you should definitely get a shorter set of cranks.

Please let me know when you learn the answer to that question! I have a 20", 26" and 29", and the 29" is getting very sad on the wall right now. Below are some factors which are making my 29" less popular:

  • The 29" is a road unicycle, and I prefer to ride on trails, which are plentiful in my neighborhood. Riding in traffic is scarier for me, perhaps because I haven't practiced it enough.
  • Riding a larger wheel with shorter cranks is less comfortable. The possibility of a face-plant increases, and a lot of sudden tension needs to be put on the cranks.
  • The current handlebar and brake setup on the 29" (Shadow) doesn't feel as good as the handlebar setup on my 26" mUni (KH t-bar).
  • My 29" feels like a tank compared to my 20" and 26".
  • Improvements to my 26" (which really has an effectively 27.5" diameter), make riding longer distances, including on roads, nicer.

Just today, I broke a spoke (for the first time) on my 20", so that one’s out of commission until I get repairs. And, it started raining in a sustained way (not common in SoCal); that kills mUni for the next few days. So, that leaves the 29".

Deke, don’t quit!!! It sounds like you have improved to the point at which you now recognize that your general fitness has caused you to plateau. Nevertheless, there may be a way around this issue. It’s called “good technique”. Right now you may feel you’re not strong enough, but improvements in technique can fill in the vacuum of your fitness issues. Keep practicing, and you will be able to achieve more with less effort, partly because of improvements in technique, and partly because you are continuing to get in shape.

Handlebars have changed my technique. They have increased my cadence and improved my climbing. They also saved the tendons in my forearms, which were being stressed out pulling on the normal seat handle.

Deke, I recall that you were very methodical charting your progress learning to ride. Perhaps it’s time to start experimenting with your setup. I am currently super-happy with my 26" mUni handlebar setup, but it took a lot of time and experiments to get it to this point (and the LBS had to lengthen the brake cable). I suppose the setup will continue to evolve. My 29", by contrast, is “not” dialed-in, but I suppose that is a function of the small amount of time I’ve spent riding on it. So, experiment!

Here’s my suggestion: work on getting your 29" off-road. There is something very satisfying about mUni. If you get tired, lie in the dirt and commune with the bugs. Seriously, mUni is a great antidote to our over-industrialized lifestyles. Go for longer cranks, 165mm. Get a t-bar setup short. You will be much more comfortable riding longer distances with a bar setup. The short setup is a good compromise between stability and clearance. Put a lightweight mUni tire on your 29", if you don’t have one, already.

Riding unicycle is a struggle when we are beginning. Going for too much distance, early in the game, could frustrate that struggle. Better to spend more time riding around the block, then making an adjustment to your setup.

Your brain is going to be your most powerful muscle…keep wearing a helmet!

-Ride with music.
-Get the saddle height right (knees straight but not locked when pedal is down. Your hips shouldn’t reach down. A few mm here can make a big difference.
-Get the saddle angle right, again a few degrees can make quite the difference.
-Wear bike shorts and put on chamois cream. Do it. (at least liners)
-A small crank will help with efficiency and prevent chaffing as well (legs aren’t moving as much on the sides of the saddle), on a 29, 110-125 should be just fine for road.
-Focus on sitting on the saddle and taking weight off of the pedals. Spin your legs with the pedal, but do not fight your other foot while it’s rotating around the back of the pedal stroke. This is pretty crucial to getting longer rides. you want to glide over smooth terrain effortlessly.
-you may want a handlebar to push down/forward on to get a more bicycle-like position on the saddle.
-Ride. Ride. Ride. Every day.

I don’t imagine 100 miles being fun. Maybe a sense of accomplishment achieving such a hard task but not really fun. At least not for me. I did a 20 mile ride last week, my biggest ever. After that, it’s hard to imagine going for a longer ride. I like 7 - 14 mile rides on my 29er. More than that, maybe not so much.

But hey, kudos to those who do ride 100 or more miles.

What’s the source of you dissatisfaction?

In general, the 29 fits perfect for that (or a 36 of course, but if you’re having trouble pushing the 29 then the 36 will be even harder).

150s for beginning on the 29 for road sounds about right: as JA noted above, experienced riders will use shorter cranks for road (I’m using 127s or shorter on my 36 on the road).

It doesn’t sound like you’re having technical control problems handling the bigger wheel, as you say mounting is not a problem. So what is the specific problem?

Is it fun for the first few minutes and then you’re tired and not enjoying it? Or are you not enjoying the 29er at all?

Is it uncomfortable? (size shouldn’t make much difference, rather setup and seat). If comfort is an issue, definitely all the stuff JA said, in particular bike shorts and/or compression shorts!

Are you simply too tired after riding? Are your muscles tired (which back, legs, etc.) Or are you just winded and exhausted?

If you are able to handle the wheel well, maybe shorter cranks would be an option? This would make less cardio effort for a given speed (in exchange for requiring more strength and more control).

Here’s a photo of my 29er. I have it set up for distance riding.I call it my long rider. :slight_smile:


Sometimes the fastest pathway from point a to point b is not a straight line

I think song’s comments, above, are the best medicine for treating general unicycle malaise. My practice regime has been similar to song’s. I typically practice the 20" during the work-week, and I go on longer mUni rides on the weekend.

At the expense of deviating from the original question, how to make the 29" more fun, the answer may be an indirect approach. Learn technique on the 20", then apply it later to the larger wheel. It is not so important whether or not you think a particular technique is cool or even necessary; techniques cross-over; learning one thing helps you with another.

Here is an example of something I practiced on the 20" which transformed my technique on the 26" and 29": Two-handed SIF. Learn to ride SIF on your 20" with both hands on the seat. I was already pretty good riding two-handed SIF before I got handlebars, and I was almost immediately able to ride with both hands continuously on the bars, once they were installed on my larger unicycles.

If your ultimate goal is to ride long distances on the 29", then bars are, imho, a necessity. Bars shift weight off your butt, they stabilize the unicycle, help you control road camber, increase your cadence and help you conserve energy. So, learn two-handed SIF on the 20", then get a bar setup on your 29". You will be happy!

That’s an interesting thread for sure.

I have a 29" too. A second hand KH setup for road riding (slick tire, handlebars, 125mm cranks). I’ve had it like that for a while. I ride once a week (usually) and do about 6/8 miles each time. I probably rode 300 or 400 miles with it so far. And I still don’t feel confortable with it. I find road riding (what I call road is more “in town”, so a combo of wide sidewalk and not too busy streets) very unforgiving. The slightest mistake makes me tense and not able to fully relax in the saddle. Which is key to success on smooth surface.
Also, I did a lot of off road with it (and with my 24"), which is actually much more forgiving than one would think. Mainly because off road, you end up transferring your weight all the time: on the feet to get through a rough part, then fully on the saddle for a few revolutions and so on. When you then get on tarmac, you just can’t ride like that. So it becomes cumbersome if you can’t just relax. Your body ends up twisting and you can’t seem to keep the uni on a straight line - and I’m not even talking about road camber. At least for me.
I’ve been working a lot on that, and I get better, but still, it’s not thoroughly enjoyable. But today, I went to a park and after 3 miles on the 29", I went back to the car and got the 36" out (another second hand uni I’ve had for a while and which I don’t use as often, waiting for the moment when I can graduate from the 29"). Well, it was a revelation, I had so much fun. The 36" has so much inertia that it’s pretty forgiving on tarmac. I ventured off road a bit (it has 140mm cranks), and it was doable too. I stopped for water and decided to point the saddle up a bit more (it was fairly flat), the ride became terrible! Ok, less chaffing between the legs, but I couldn’t just glide like before. So I put the saddle back to how it was (the most horizontal it would go, hence pointing just a tiny bit up), and it was good again. Went back to the van and adjusted the saddle on the 29" to make it more horizontal. It became a tiny bit more rideable (or was it because I had just covered 5 miles on the 36?), but all of a sudden I realised that pretty much all road setups I see on this forum have fairly (if not fully) horizontal saddle/bars. After 5 miles on the 36, the 29" felt like a 20", almost too zippy. I might try to put 110mm cranks to see if it gives it the inertia like on the 36".

All that to say, if you’ve been riding for only a few months, don’t give up on the 29". Those are not easy to ride, especially on tarmac. And riding fast is not easy altogether. If you end up getting a 26" for road riding, the 29" will find its use. Could be a faster xc uni for instance.

If you were thinking of getting another unicycle, I would actually recommend that you find a better 20 than your Torker CX, as it is not really suitable for hopping, and hopping is good for 29ing around town if you need to get up onto a sidewalk in a hurry. Also, if you are worried about not being in shape to ride a 29, a bit of “stair work” will definitely help get you there! In general, unicycling is light to moderate exercise, but if you hop up 100 steps, even just in sets of 20, it takes you to the next level in terms of strength, endurance, balance, lung capacity, focus and the grasping of your inner core. It’s also a lot of fun.

I can now hop up onto a curb on a 29, but am still a bit frightened of trying to go up or down the stairs on it. At first I was also afraid to do this on a 20, but eventually I discovered that it’s far safer than it looks.

Yes, like everything else uni-related, it’s a matter of time in the saddle. You’ve only been riding for a couple of months, some people can still barely ride at that point. Even though you’ve made very impressive progress, your riding is still in the learning phase. Longer rides will become more enjoyable as you become more accustomed to the whole riding experience. As others have mentioned, adding tour bars and shorter cranks will help with longer road rides, but riding with these will also take a fair amount of getting used to. (With unicycles, everything takes getting used to.)
Twenty miles is a long ride. I’m coming up on 3 years of riding, and 20 miles still takes it out of me. Ten miles is pretty much a walk in the park (especially if it’s flat). Thirty miles, I’m wasted. (This is on a 32", which is slightly larger than your 29, but not a big difference. I think they’re more or less comparable.) It would be great to think about doing a century, but I don’t think anyone will say they do it for “fun.” It’s more to be able to say they did it.
Good luck, and keep pedaling!

+1 on LanceB first and last sentences;)

Another great quote that I am tempted to use to replace the words of Bodfish! But he spoke those words directly to me, so I have so far been reluctant to take them down.

It definitely starts with shorter cranks. I assume by “distance” you mean paved? I don’t think I will ever accept “Distance” as the label for a category of riding anything, unless it’s something not meant to go places. Like a pogo stick. In unicycling they keep trying to label Road racing as “Distance”. Every race we do is of a certain distance. Silly.

But anyway, 150mm cranks are way too long, unless you live in downtown San Francisco and only ride on hills. And then they’re still too long. I would only use 125mm cranks on a 36" for the San Francisco Unicycle Tour, which has a couple of thousand feet of climbing built in. I would start with 102mm cranks and see how you like them, then decide whether you want to go shorter or longer. But give them some time to get used to; it’s a very different feeling from a Muni with lots of leverage.

I hear it too, but only from a very few people. Sam Wakeling and Roger Davies, who both just made attempts on the 100 mile world record, I’m pretty sure would not describe those rides as fun, even though Sam broke the record (by a lot!). I rode 100 miles once. I consider it fun to be able to tell people I’ve done that. :slight_smile:

I really like my 29er. I use mine for Muni because I have a couple of 36" unis. As a muni, it’s great for those trails that aren’t too technical, and are rolling or relatively easy. But if you don’t have a bigger wheel, a 29" is also a great cruising machine. Or even if you do have one, since a 29" is so much lighter!

johnfoss, I am confused by your answer. Are you recommending 102mm cranks to a relative beginner? My limited understanding of unicycling informs me that this is dangerous. I would like to run shorter cranks on my 29", but I would feel very uncomfortable using them in traffic, or on the steep-ish hills of my neighborhood.

Maybe my problem is that I haven’t practiced enough with shorter cranks, and, unsurprisingly, I suck at riding with them. The shortest cranks I have are 114mm. One day I put them on my 29", then took a ride around the neighborhood. It felt exhilarating riding with them, but I was at the same vibed-out by what I sensed was a loss of control in my feet.

Maybe your point is that 102mm cranks are optimum for riding long distances with decent cadence, on a 29". But starting with 102mm cranks? Seriously, I need clarification…I’m not trying to be sarcastic or anything (not this time). Thanks!