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


Tom, I’m not sure if I fit into the enthusiast category, or the curmudgeon category. Or perhaps a little from column A and a little from column B. Either way, I’ll take it as a compliment. Just hope the other high wheelers out their see it the same way and don’t mow you down with their 50+ inch wheels next time you cross paths. And for the record, I’m currently retrograding: lately i have been commuting more on my 54" penny than on my 36" schlumpf. :stuck_out_tongue:

I enjoy riding a unicycle because it is a different experience from riding a bicycle. It would therefore be missing the point to make it more like a bicycle.

Nothing matches the feeling of being perched high up on a big wheel, knowing that you have to negotiate with it to make it change speed or direction.

I enjoy the purity of choosing the 3 variables: wheel diameter, crank length and tyre section, then seeing what I can do with the result.

Good luck to those who want to use multiple gears, brakes and so on, but it isn’t for me.

Whatever gears you have, the 36 inch wheel will still roll differently over broken ground. Would you rather ride a 12 inch wheel with a 3x gear ratio? The reason why the answer is “no” is the reason why I like a 36 inch wheel.

Around 1984-ish my brother and sister both represented Great Britain in the European grass skiing championships. There was a thriving grass skiing sport in the UK at the time and they were at competitions and training meetings every week of the summer.

See these pictures for an idea of how it worked:


I’ll say this much… the only reason I’d get a 36er would be to cover ground faster.

If multi-geared hubs were cheap/commonplace I’d defintely say goodbye to the notion that I needed a uni in each size category. I’d have a 24 SS for rides where I want to do specific things like technical or trials and a geared 29er for everything else.

I see what your’re saying, but I’d find a wheel size I enjoy in 1:1 ratio to serve as the “base” uni. I mean you could always take it to extremes, why not a 2 inch unicycle with a 16x gear ratio instead of a 36. Maybe your favorite weel size in 1:1 is the 36, so that’s what you’d end up gearing.

Tom, I think you’re missing something in your comparisons between a unicycle and a bike/penny farthing: The inherent lack of stability with a unicycle.

To compensate for instability, unicyclists tend to favor bigger wheels which provide better obstacle bridging and are better able to maintain inertia. When I ride my 36er on trails it reminds me of riding a 29er mtb, whereas a 20" reminds me of a skateboard.

Looking back at the Cali Munifest, I remember riding some sections with you, watching you work through rocky outcropping by hopping, while others (me) were able to manage those same sections by rolling through them on a bigger wheel. If I added hopping to my repetoire, then I would have cleared more sections and ridden even faster.

I know you don’t believe in the big wheel advantage, part of me wishes I could show you how great a 36er can be on rough terrain, but I think it’s something you have to discover for yourself. I do think you are missing a great unicycle experience, but stubborn is, stubborn does.

Now there is a point you made about better gearing, which I agree would change things, for instance if I had smaller gearing steps on a 29er, then it would make my 29er more versatile, but then I would still choose the bigger wheel for anything but tech riding and “hike a bike”. So for me there are two wheel sizes that cover my riding needs (29, 36), adding gears doesn’t change my preferred wheel size for any given terrain, it only makes my wheels more versatile.

Last week I rode three days, all single track, all on the 36er. The week before I rode my 29er on a long distance mixed single and double track trail ride. Though the 29er is lighter weight and easier to manage, it is also rougher riding and more twitchy when riding trails, so by the end of my seven hour ride I was wasted from having to control the bobbling of the smaller wheel.

I could have ridden a 36er on my distance trail ride, but I would have walked more due to the tall gearing. If I could have downshifted my 36er to a ~26-27" wheel, then the 29er would have stayed at home. On my next Pinhoti section ride I am going to take the 36er.

Once you start riding a 36er you may find that going faster is only part of what makes the big wheel so much fun :slight_smile:

But what constitutes a ‘viable alternative’? And to whom?

For me, a bicycle is a viable alternative to a geared unicycle- it’s lighter, goes faster, can freewheel, and is a much nicer ride, and has better and more readily available parts. It’s not a viable alternative for an Unguni, because it rides completely different.

For others, a car is a viable alternative to a bicycle. Or a motorcycle.

You must be thinking of someone else. I don’t hop.

I’ve ridden 36ers on rough terrain. You don’t have to show me anything.

Safety bicycles are more practical than penny farthings. No one chooses to unicycle because it is “practical” - although in the end, you may find it becomes practical. People who “kept the faith” with penny farthings weren’t just riding for practicality either.

In a world where mountainbikes and roadbikes now have 27 or more gears, carbon fibre and titanium components, hydraulic disc brakes and adjustable front and rear suspension, a lot of people are starting to miss the simplicity and the challenge of riding for the simple fun of riding.

That’s why fixies and single speeds have become increasingly popular, why Pashley brought out the “Guv’nor” and why - at the extreme end of retro - we have people like Rideable Replicas, and UDC making penny farthings.

And Surly brought out the first fat tired 29er as a single speed hard tail without a suspension fork; Surly has fallen behind the times :roll_eyes:

It’s okay if Tom doesn’t like 36ers, I was never under the impression that he liked them, so that’s why I put it to the community to call him out. As can be clearly seen from this thread, 36ers are not a gimmick, though unicycling all told might be a little on the fringe :roll_eyes:

As my wife said, when I told her about Tom’s comment: Unicycles are a stupidly inefficent form of transportation, so how is the size of the wheel make it any more or less stupid?

She’s an engineer, so you can’t really expect her to see unicycling as sensical :wink:

You can’t be serious. That’s why you started this thread? How petty.

To be fair, the first post on the thread mentions Tom by name, and asks for opinions about a subject. There was nothing underhand or oblique about it. I don’t think that it was hostile or “petty”. Maybe the expression “call him out” was more light hearted than you interpreted it. I’ve read this thread as robust but good natured debate.

Again I think it still boils down to how you ride and where you ride. There is no “one fit” wheel size or solution for everybody. In my own case if all I did was ride on pavement and had abundant access to hundreds of miles of bike paths and greenways then I’d probably only have a geared 36er with perhaps a smaller unicycle to do trials on. For me though I mostly ride trails with a good mix of paved and gravel approaches to those trails so yes a geared unicycle is the way to go for me. However, the terrain I ride is more akin to old beaten up, narrow hiking trails with not a lot of head height clearance so having a tall profiled unicycle wouldn’t be a good fit (for me at least). I’m also not overly concerned about maximizing my top end speed. If I can average better than a hiking pace on trails and fast running pace on pavement I’m perfectly happy with that. I identify with a runner mentality much more than a cyclist so perhaps that explains my rational. Often on my rides I’ll break from the route to explore interesting natural and man made trial opportunities; something that would be very difficult to do with a 36er. I also have to concern myself with ease of transportability of my unicycle; a wheel size smaller than a 36" is much easier to haul around; less cumbersome. So that’s why I’ve committed to riding my 24" GUni just about everywhere and doing everything with it from trials riding, to 12 hour trail races to 100 miles on pavement; it’s all good! I am migrating now to a 26" GUni simply because of more tire choices and I the slight increase in terrain roll over ability and slightly higher top end speed. I’ll always love riding my 36er but I’ve ridden it enough to know its and my own limitations that keep it from being my all around, “go to” unicycle. But too each their own…

No, not petty, it has made for an interesting discussion, which is one purpose of this forum, right?

Yes, it was Tom who suggested that 36ers were a gimmick and would cease to be “viable” if a multi geared hub were available.

I disagree and apparently others do as well.

Just as I have been critical of Schlumpf hubs and got a “tarring” for my opinions, Tom is not above the same examination for condemning 36ers on a public forum.

It’s been a nice thread overall, provides a good cross section of opinions on riding 36ers, we might even bring a couple new riders into the fold.

I find it incomprehensible that an experienced unicyclist could regard 36-ers as ‘a gimmick’- having followed this thread, I still do.

The boundaries of unicycling have been pushed as much by 36-er riders, as any other style/size of unicycles.

The big reason. IMO, why there will always be 36-ers, is that no smaller wheel can be used to achieve the speed and distance capability of the 36-er, unless it is geared.

And, the stark fact is that there will always be unicyclists for who, geared hubs are just that one step too far from their ideal of the unicycle as a simple device.

“There will always be” 36er riders. Yes. And there will always be high-wheeler bike riders. And chopper bikes, and so on. There are people who go to the Renaissance Faire, too. But if we had a practical gearing system, the vast majority of the kinds of riding currently done on 36ers would be done on smaller, geared wheels. The history of cycling is pretty clear on this; if you can lose two pounds of rotating weight, you do.

It’s a fairly esoteric discussion, since we are many years away from having a practical gearing system for unicycles (if we ever have one).

I guess you could consider the 137mm cranks on my geared 36er as “quite long” in comparison to the 110mm hole that I favored on my ungeared Impulse. I prefer short cranks. The 100 mile Louisville Loop (95% funded, 40% complete rails-to-trails greenways) was engineered to be mostly flat by design.

I “learned to Schlumpf” on a 36er with 150mm cranks but ended up (1 year later) switching to 137mm so the heel of my 5.10’s (a respectable size 10 US) could reach the shifting button without readjusting my feet on grippy pedals. I adapted fairly quickly and found the vastly increased ability to shift on demand far outweighs the loss of high gear leverage of the 150s (and perhaps even the 165s off one of my MUni’s) and I hate spinning long cranks in 1:1 mode.

I don’t ride up many hills in high gear. There are a few slow rolling hills on my wife’s (out-the-door-and-up-the-street) run that I can ride up in high gear but the vast majority of our normal 8 mile route is done in 1:1 mode. There are three 1 mile stretches where I shift into high gear every time. One perfect gradual downhill, one slow rolling up and down, and one that drops so steep it’s brake mandatory (usually accompanied by a downshift) toward the end.

Yes, you keep mentioning high-wheeler bikes, and, yes, I know there are people still riding them: the fact remains they are an eccentric niche product when compared to the rest of the bicycle market.

36-ers, relative to the whole unicycle market, are not an eccentric niche product- certainly not at this time, nor, IMO, will they be so in the future. 36-ers are as valid a category of unicycle as 24x3/26" munis, 19" trials unis or 20" performer unis, and, the 36-er is no more eccentric than any of those categories.

i.e. I, and others on the thread are just plain disagreeing with your comparison :slight_smile:

Just out of interest though- how do you square your conclusion with the fact that, to a significant portion of unicyclists, geared hubs, whether the current expensive/impossible to self-repair variety, or, the possible future ‘practical gearing system’, are a no-no, due to not fitting in with the ideals of mechanical simplicity that they associate with unicyclists?

Or, are you in denial about the existence of such unicyclists?

I have a friend who’s a unicyclist who is semi-famous for writing a blog post about how the then-upcoming Apple tablet was going to be a failure. (I won’t out him here but you can find it on the interwebs). Lots of people make all kinds of assertions about what they will or won’t use in the future; most of them are based on their current experience and their inability to envision a different experience.

In this case, we already know how it will go, because it’s happened before. High-wheelers weren’t esoteric in 1880; they were what everyone rode. To such an extent that the new-fangled thing with the chain had to have a different name (the “safety bicycle”). The new design turned out to be so much better than the old one that not only did the old one almost immediately die out as a primary option, the new design brought millions of people into the sport who had never ridden before. Yes, some people still rode the old high-wheelers (then referred to as “ordinaries,” before later being dubbed “penny-farthings” long after they were no longer ordinary), and I’m sure some still extolled their benefits (such as that the long spokes smoothed out the ride).

So, no, I don’t discount the idea that there are some current unicyclists who insist that they will always ride 36" unicycles. Some of them may even be correct. But a practical geared hub for unicycles (practical meaning: reasonably light weight, reasonably reliable, reasonably inexpensive, easy to shift, good range of gearing) would be a disruptive innovation that would change the sport.

I think you’re still missing the point: you say that the vast majority of unicycling, like biking, would be done on smaller wheels if decent gearing systems existed, but this is not exactly the case in the biking world. The reality is that many people ride bikes that are designed to be gearless, just as some are designed to be suspensionless. In the same way, unicyclists choose wheels and tires that best suit their riding preferences, so just because there can be a greater degree of efficency, does not necessitate a choice for efficiency.

Does this not speak to unicyclists as a whole?

Strictly speaking for myself, I owned a KH 36 and a KH 26guni concurrently for six months. I was a proficent rider on both unicycles. I rode both unicycles for similar uses, each one held a certain advantage over the other depending on the terrain. At one point I find myself reaching for the 36er and the 29er far more often than the 26guni, which was contrary to my original intention; that the 26guni would replace my other unis for the majority of my riding.

I sold the guni and have never missed it for anything more than the novelty of having a geared unicycle.

And if I was king, I’d have a titanium hub for my 36er and run an Ardent styled tire weighing 1000gm, which would result in a overall weight loss of some two pounds, much of it rotational. Now that would be some 36er!

just a quirk…

I still own and ride a 50 inch ordinary…
…and no I don’t own a safety bike with a chain and gears…
…I do have a giraffe unicycle…
… must just be a unique quirk!