If a multi geared hub were available, would that make the 36" wheel obsolete?

Tholub suggested in the General Schlumpf thread that he felt the 36" wheel was nothing more than a gimmick, that if unicycles could be geared more like a bicycle, that this wheel size would lose favor. Now these are not Tom’s exact words, it was the impression I got from reading his posts, but it does bring up an interesting question:

Why do people ride 36ers?

Is it a gimmick as Tom suggested or is there more to it?

I’ll start:

I ride a 36" wheel because it is more stable at speed than a smaller wheel.
I ride a 36" wheel because it smooths out rough terrain better than a smaller wheel.
I ride a 36" wheel because I feel safer due to having more time/distance to land from a UPD.
I ride a 36" wheel because it’s fun to ride big wheels!

The 36 is my favorite. I have slept in the saddle on it and woke up still in my lane. It’s my favorite uni for juggling. I like the ride. For me it’s the limousine.

The 36 is fast, and I think(I may be wrong) but riding a unicycle with to many gears, would be sketchy, almost like a free wheel. I don’t think the 36 will ever really be obsolete.

I think as you’ve stated there are a few reasons
For riding a 36er
For each rider each has different weightings

They are bigger and have a big visual impact. And from what I’ve read they’re also lots of fun to ride

(I’m right now in the process of ordering my first 36)

But for some riders the main reason for the 36 is to go faster. For these riders a more versatile gearing system and a smaller wheel would kill their need for a

I think even with the perfect gearing some 36ers would sell. Probably not as many as now. But some people would still want to try

I am buying a geared 36 to go further, and faster and for the challenge Of riding a big wheel

Some 36er bikes sell, but it’s an incredibly small proportion even of the high end bike market.

I’m fairly convinced the stability at speed thing is simply down to the weight at the rim. Make the rim/tyre of a geared smaller wheel just as heavy and it will be just as stable (there is no advantage to the weight being further away from the centre in a larger wheel, as that is exactly cancelled out by the larger wheel rotating slower). Strangely if you offer the option of a heavier wheel to users of smaller wheels I don’t think many will take it.

This is precisely why I’m a proponent of geared 36ers. Stability! Riding a 36er in high gear feels almost natural. Kris himself suggested “learning to Schlumpf” on a 36er and, having done just that, I can see why. It’s not that difficult. I’m far from a highly skilled rider but riding a 36er in 1:1 mode can get boring. The gear provides a much needed challenge. The downside is that a UPD at speed (plant your foot at 15mph) almost certainly results in a major injury.

Understanding that this thread was not intended for us crazy geared 36 folks, I can see a day, should my hub require spa time (perish the thought), I’d convert my 36er to fixed and put the geared hub in my beloved KH29. The only problem is, the mountain bike trails around here are far from XC and I’m never in a hurry when I’m in the woods. Then again, I’m still too slow to participate in mountain bike “races” but every time they have a “bring your kids mountain biking day” you can bet I’m there.

On the topic of a multi geared hub, there are no hills (and I live in Kentucky) that I cannot climb on my 36er with 137mm cranks so (mind you this is just for road riding) I would have little use for a stepped down gear. And, given the stability of a 36er, the 1:1.5 is not “too big” of a step up for me. Also, heel shifting is fine. I don’t need a thumb shifter. The thing is darn near perfect as is. I know I love mine!

Knock on wood, I don’t break my leg tomorrow.
Knock twice, (and add another vial of grease) my hub does not fail any time soon.

The 36 momentum rules. Love the banked circles, and zig-zaging along the rail trail. You can ride a unicycle, but I prefer flying a 36.

Also the is height is cool. I’m short, 5 foot 7 inches. So being what, 6-7? feet tall on that 36 wheel is a trip.

And yeah, cruising along at a slow canter is way cooler than spinning by on a little wheel.

Had a Geared 24" (36" equivalent) , hardly gave it a chance, I was so quickly drawn back to the 36". The real deal.

Bigger is better.

I don’t think gearing will make the 36" wheel obsolete. In fact, I think that the desire for a 40" or 44" wheel with a pneumatic tire is probably much greater, although less easy to realize, than a multi-geared unicycle.

You have to ask why it would be a gimmick?

700c or 26" or other wheel size- why are they not gimmicks? You can gear them down or up just the same as a 36" wheelsize. Did gears make the 700c wheel obsolete?

I think the ‘gimmick’ tag is there because of the variety of (or lack of) wheels/tyres available. People thought 29" mountainbikes were gimmicks not that long ago…there used to be only one or two companies that made them, and there was only a handful of rims/tyre combinations.

If we had more types of 36" wheels and tyres, to suit different types of riders or terrain…then I think it’s a perfectly good wheelsize. Bigger wheels roll over things better- they smooth out little bumps. They have more angular momentum, so feels more stable.

No, because the 700c wheel size (or something near it like 26" or 650b) is something near an ideal compromise of weight, rolling resistance, and manageability. Bikes could have settled on 20" wheels, or 24", or 36", or 44"; when you have good gearing the wheel size is very flexible. They settled on 26-27" because that’s what works best. If unicycles had the luxury of good gearing, we would find the same thing.

We probably wouldn’t settle on the same wheel size because stability on a unicycle is so much different than on a bike, especially when a gearing system on a unicycle pulls on the frame.

Since we’re talking about having the luxury of good gearing here, meaning that we could have many up or down gears, the best wheel size is going to be the one where you are most comfortable riding it in 1 to 1 mode on most of the trail you ride, since 1 to 1 is the most stable.

But settled and compromised according to whom? Did they test rolling resistance on a road bikes before settling on an industry standard? and why should it be a different size to cars or motorbikes? You’d want low rolling resistance on other vehicles too. Why is it the same ‘industry standard’ when materials are vastly different to 100yrs ago? Surely you could argue for a bigger wheel size on a road bike, now that we have more advanced materials and better production techniques?

Why is 700c an ‘ideal compromise’ for road bikes and 26" for mountainbikes, and 20" for BMX? A unicycle is at least as different to a road bike, as a BMX/Mountainbike is to a road bike. Why should the ‘ideal’ for a unicycle be 700c? I’m not arguing whether it is or isn’t, but it seems that we have an anchoring bias.

I think the idea of what is ‘ideal’ has more to do with what we are accustomed to. 700c wheels were around as a road bike standard before I was born, before you were born, and it’s what we’re used to. But I doubt it was anything more than a something plucked out of thin air when the bicycle industry decided on making a ‘standard’.

The 36" wheel will never be obsolete. Neither will any other wheel size. In unicycling, at least. Only a tiny fraction of unicycles are ridden as “practical” machines. Everyone else rides them for fun.

If I understand the history correctly, Coker Tire, the originator of today’s 36" spec., originally made them for the Coker Monster bike. It was a cruiser bike with 36" wheels. They didn’t sell well and are long gone now, but the unicycles live on.

Again, most buyers of 36" unicycles are probably using them as novelty cycles, I think. That’s why they come with heavy, super-durable tires. If the majority of the 36" market were road riders, we’d have had a lighter wheel years ago.

That’s an assumption. What works best on a two-wheeler is not necessarily the same on a one-wheeler. Where we don’t have that second wheel for stability, perhaps some rotational mass helps instead. But not too much. :slight_smile:

You said trail. The requirements for trail riding are going to be different than for pavement so the end result of wheel size might also be different.

Unlike bikes, I don’t think unicycling is going to settle on a solid set of “best” wheel sizes. The best size might vary with each application. Like Road riding for fun might have a different “best” wheel size than Road Racing.


With bicycles, 29-ers are getting more and more common. BMX is massive, with 20" wheels.

I’ve never owned a 36" uni, and don’t plan to: but I have been on this forum for over a decade, and, from what I’ve read on it, 36-ers will always be around.

Fact is, and that’s clear from some of the posts on this thread, not all 36" riders have the big wheel just for the speed: the stability, extra height, looks and ‘feel’ of the 36-er are the appeal for many, and none of those can be replicated by a geared hub.

Then you have to factor in those riders who, like me, have zero interest in getting a geared hub, because they ride unicycles in the first place because of the purity and mechanical simplicity, and don’t want such gadgets on their unis, and, don’t want the hassle of dealing with them if/when they fail and need expensive repairs.


It’s very apparent from many posts on this board that many 36" unicycle riders do not view them as ‘novelty cycles’- specifically those from riders keeping logs of their many weekly hours on cokers, pushing the limits of their endurance and fitness.

Also, the many posts of riders who have broken bones in UPDs who, when healed, immediately get on their 36-ers and continue riding.

And then there are the cross-continental rides on 36-ers… (many of which are now done on geared 36-ers, but, in the past, were on standard 36-ers)

Nothing will ever beat the visual impact of a 36er :slight_smile:

But apart from that they roll better. I have a coupke of schlumpfs on a 29 and 36 but for very long rides especially on undulating terrain I go back to a fixed 36 as I find my average speed is faster and I ride much smoother :slight_smile:

Alan, imagine your fixed 36 with your current cranks and just a upgear (ratio 1:1.37) and a downgear (ratio 1:0.73); don’t you think it will be better and that the concern with current Schlumpf is the huge gap between the 2 gears and the fact that you need to ride your 36 Schlumpf with quite long cranks ?

Yes… that would be feasable … for the 36 the 1:1.5 is a huge jump which results in rediculouly long cranks for when your in 1:1 and its hard to go up hill in high gear.

I am starting to become convinced that a down gear may be a good idea :smiley:

Here is my project , just on paper at the moment

3 gears hub by Didier RECORD.bmp (563 KB)

If that hub were built and it was at least as strong and reliable as the Schlumpf, I would buy two (29, 36) and I would be willing to pay more than I’d pay for chlumpf, say 50% more.

Would it be any easier/better if you designed it around a 125mm spacing, then you could add a brake rotor mount and slim down the casing. Flat profile cranks and 125mm hub spacing has about the same overall Q Factor as the current Schlumpf with Moments.

So on a 29" you would be able to sit and spin up steep hills and still have some nice top end, a perfect compromise for off road use. On a 36" it would make touring so much nicer, spinning the hills, then having a little more top end without being excessive to maintain over long distances.

If only I had the resources…