Is 35km Possible on a 20" Unicycle?

Hi everyone,

If anyone here lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia they’ll know about Bike Week. It’s a week dedicated to cycling including a big fun ride on a sunday. It’s coming up in about 2 weeks and there’s the option of 10km, 35km, or 55km. There is no restriction to the type of ‘cycle’ that you can ride, and there’ll definately be people there on ‘recumbent’ bikes and so on, but a friend and I are going to ride our unicycles.

I was wondering if 35km is possible on a 20" unicycle, keeping in mind that they have to end the ride at some point in time. If there are older women and so on riding the 35km ride, do you think I will be able to keep up with them?

Also, does anybody have any tips for doing long rides like this? I think I should probably try to develope a better general riding technique so I don’t wear myself out or ride too slowly. Any suggestions?

Finally, I remember reading somewhere that another organisation is trying to organise a group to unicycle at Bike Week. I know there’s not much chance because most of you are Americans but has anybody heard anything about this? It’d be great to join up with these people and help to show the public how fun unicycling really is!

I’d really appreciate any advice or comments on this, especially from anyone who has done any sort of long ride like this.

Thanks a lot,
Andrew Carter

35km on a 20"? Rather your knees than mine…

Phil, just me

Sure, I’ll be tired afterwards but do you think I’ll make it? I think I’m reasonably fit and I go mountain biking every weekend.

I’d think tiredness would be less of a problem than knackering your knees for quite a while. 35km on a 20" is a hell of a lot of revolutions very quickly, which I wouldn’t like to put my knees through. Your biking might prevent this, I dunno.

(And I think my rear would ache substantially too…)

Phil, just me

Thanks for the advice. I think I’ll go for the 35km but I don’t know yet. Anyone else haveany advice?

35 km on a 20? Yes, it’s possible. Earlier this year I did a 20 mile (32 km) ride on a 20, some of it at walking pace with a group of pedestrians, which makes it harder. 35km will be a long ride, and seat will become uncomfortable, but you can do it.

With any long ride, stop BEFORE you are desperate for a rest. Break the ride into mangeable sections. The manageable sections may get shorter as the ride progresses. Try to find a balance between having plenty of rests and keeping the rhythm going. A 5 minute stop here and there is OK. Stop for longer and you may start to sieze up. (I incorporated one long lunch stop and a couple of short pub stops into my ride.)

Make sure you have a plentiful supply of calories and liquid. Presumably on an organised ride there will be shops or chuck wagons along the way.

Wear padded shorts. Take a light warm top to put on during the stops as you will get very sweaty on the ride and will cool off quickly when you stop for food, drink or rest.

If you are riding alone, consider taking a Walkman or similar for the long boring sections, but don’t do this if there is a danger from traffic.

One last thing: if you can get some slightly shorter than standard cranks, you will keep up a slightly higher average speed for virtually no extra effort (except on the hills).

Have fun and tell us how you got on.

Wow, 35k on a 20. That seems long. With that many revolutions wouldnt there be a problem of chafing (spelling?) ? I guess cycling shorts would help that .


I concur on the taking breaks to make them less than 5. Longer the Amino Acids in your legs will make riding not so fun. (Something like that but its bad to do either way). If you need to take a break over 5 min make it over 20. This is a rule I have used for years when backpacking. And it works well. I think riding 35K is doable but its by no means gonna be easy. I have never attempted anything over 5K at once, but if your gonna do it I would try going on a 15K ride on the 20’’



Thanks everyone. Luckily, there are some really nice watermelon stops along the way! I think I’ll wear some cycling shorts. Is it better to have the seat up as high as it can comfortably go or will that become uncomfortable after a while? Finally, do you think I will be able to keep up with older women and so on? I’m worried about not finishing before the course closes.

I’ll tell you all about how I went afterwards.

Thanks for all the advice,
Andrew Carter

Seat height: for riding a long distance on flattish surfaces, put the seat in the best ergonomic position - as for a bicycle. That is, sit on the seat and put your heel on the pedal at its lowest point. Your leg should be straight but the knee should not be locked. Now, when you pedal with the balls of your feet, your leg will have a slight bend even at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

For rough ground, or doing lots of idling and reversing and so on, lowerin the seat a half inch or so helps.

Speed: a cadence of 100 rpm = 5.94 mph. 100 rpm for a long period takes some doing on 5 inch (125mm) cranks. Assume 5 mph = 8 kmh approx. For 35 km you’re looking at a good 4 hours 30 in the saddle. Add breaks and it will be getting on for a 6 hour day.

You won’t keep up with bicyclists on a 20 inch uni. On an organised ‘day out’ sort of ride, though, chances are that they’ll take it steady, stop at every stop, have picnics and so on. (35 km on a bicycle is nothng for a keen bicyclist, but a ‘challenging’ distance for an occasional rider or family group.) There will be a touch of hare and tortoise about it, and you won’t disgrace yourself.

Thanks, that’s really helpful. I might actually go for the 10km course…we’ll see.

Re: Is 35km Possible on a 20" Unicycle?

andrew_carter wondered:
> if 35km is possible on a 20" unicycle

That’s just under 22 miles. You should have no problems, as long as you’re
fit, your yike is well maintained, you wear decent cycling shorts, you keep
yourself well fed and hydrated and you’ve got a reasonably comfy saddle.

I did a 30 mile (48km) ride 8 years ago on a 20" DM Ringmaster, with a DM
contoured saddle. The ride took about 7 hours altogether and I suffered no
ill effects.

OTOH I rode half that distance a few months later with a loose crank and
have had a dodgy knee ever since.

Danny Colyer (remove safety to reply) ( )
Recumbent cycle page:
“He who dares not offend cannot be honest.” - Thomas Paine

Ok, thank Danny

Re: Is 35km Possible on a 20" Unicycle?

I rode 30 km to a party on a 20" once, it sucked hardcore. Do the 10 km.


I just skimmed this thread, but I didn’t notice this mentioned…

practice! That’s the best way to find out what you’re capable of. I would say (someone correct me if there is a better rule of thumb here) try riding 2/3 the total distance. Time how long it took, and gague how you feel. Then to (hopefully) be conservative, figure it’ll take you double that time to do the whole thing. Also gague how you feel – if you feel worn out, but not too warn to ride more, it probably won’t be a problem.

Since the practice will mainly be to test how sore you get more than anything, I would recomment trying this sooner, and not waiting until a few days before the event. If you can ride the whole distance in advance, even better (but a big commitment of time in this case)

Whatever length you choose, people will respect you. 10km, and people will look at you with awe. 30km, and they probably won’t believe you :wink: Whatever you do, make sure you’ve got a comfortable seat! Also, a reeder / barnes handle or similar is very useful in taking your weight off the seat.

Hope that helps… these are just rough ideas… I’ve done a few distance rides, but only on large-wheeled unicycles.

Practicing on a tread-mill would be cool. But painful if you fell…possibly.


You will be disappointed with yourself if you ‘only’ do the 10 km ride.

If you try for 35 and fail, it will be a different sort of disappointment - you will be proud of yourself for trying, and you’ll be ready to try again next year.

Go for it.

Options to consider: shorter cranks for more speed and smoothness; extra padding on seat (cut a dog bone shape out of closed cell foam (e.g. camping mat) and tape it on; buy or borrow a larger wheeled uni.

However, if I can do 20 miles on a 20 inch, with bells strapped to my legs, take part in parades at the start and finish,and then dance in a show at the end, all at the age of 39, surely you can do 22 miles as the day’s activity.

10 km = 6.25 miles. I often do 6 miles in an hour and a quarter on my 26, off road. 26 inch = 30 % bigger than a 20, so you should be able to do 10 km in well under 2 hours.

Rearrange the following words into a well known phrase or saying:
Man you mouse ? are a a or

Unfortunately I found out today that I’ll be doing the 10km course. I did want to try the 35km but the idea is for my friend (who owns a bike shop) and I to be the mechanics for the 10km course. Most of the people on the 10km will be little kids and we’ll be helping people out with bike problems and that sort of thing. It’ll still be great fun and I’ll tell you all about it in about a week. I’ve figured out that I think I’ll probably be riding at about 8km/h on average. This means that, allowing for watermelon stops and solving people’s mechanical problems, we could quite easily do the 10km in less than 2 hours.

Thanks to everyone for all your advice and ‘Mikefule’, I agree with you that it would’ve been great to do the 35km but I won’t be disappointed doing the 10km because it’s the first time I’ve done anything this long anyway apart from doing some MUni and then riding home one day (about 8-9km).

Thanks everyone, I’ll post some photos of the day in about a week,
Andrew Carter

Have fun :0)

Re: Is 35km Possible on a 20" Unicycle?

A tip: I occasionally have to run a 10K to keep my crazy triathlete
girlfriend happy. It’s a long way, about an hour of running (for big slow
guys like me. Serious runners finish in half an hour.) Considering a 20"
is both harder and SLOWER than running, I’d wouldn’t step up to damn near
marathon distance on my first long ride if I were you.

Maybe on a Coker, though…