Is a 20" (versus a 24") better for learning to idle, free-mount, and ride backwards?

After about a year of unicycling, I can unicycle tolerably well (even though I end up in a UPD after about 500 meters or so because of being quite tired). I have been riding a 24" Club UDC. Till now I haven’t managed to learn how to idle, how to freemount and how to ride backwards. My question is: could I possibly be more successful in learning to do those things if I get a 20" unicycle? My LBS has a 20" QuAx standard model with 114mm cranks. Assuming it would help me more easily learn to idle, free-mount and ride backwards, would it also offer additional advantages over my Club 24" - advantages like tolerating hopping and jumping heights etc which I also would hope to do (but for which my unicycle is inappropriate)?

i learned all 3 on a 24.

i think a 20 would’ve been much easier though.

If you’re too tired to continue after riding 500 meters, it sounds like you are still putting too much weight on the pedals and not enough in the seat. I know once I became comfortable putting most of my weight on the seat it seemed as if I could suddenly ride for miles without tiring (on smooth surfaces at least).

To answer your question, I also learned to ride on a 24" Club and I found that I made faster progress learning to idle and ride backwards on a 20" wheel. A 20" Qu-Ax standard will not offer any other advantages over the Club as both use square taper hubs and cranks and are not suitable for a lot of hopping and dropping.

Wow, totally thought this was someone necroposting into my thread from a month ago!

I can’t directly answer your question, but I’m pretty sure the answer is a 20" is easier, but I would not say better…

I have a 29" Muni with a giant offroad tire. I’ve been riding that to and from work, and I’ve gotten to the point I can idle back and forth a couple times even when I’m tired. If I use a wall to get started and get all my weight on my saddle, I can do it with minimal difficulty, but never more than 3 times. (2 and rode away is my record, but I dream about practicing to idle so maybe it did not happen…)

I also have a 20" Torker I loaned to a friend and when I last tried it out for a half hour, I was able to idle back and forth a few times and ride away after about a minute of trying… and I rode backwards my first try further than I have managed on my 29"…

Free-mounting… I almost never have problem free-mounting my 29" unless I’m really tired, going up a steep hill, or it is windy… However, I feel like I’m just magically on the 20" and don’t even notice myself mounting it. So it definitely is easier to mount than my 29". My neighbor has a 24" I’ve tried a bit and I still have trouble free-mounting it… but I’ve only tried a handful of times, and the seat is like 6" too low for me. I’m sure with a properly adjusted seat it would be harder than the 20" but easier than the 29"… but I don’t know if it is significantly different than a 20".

I’ve decided to stick with the 29" since I really am more interested in stopping at cross walks than doing tricks, and knowing how to idle on the 20" does not seem to translate directly to the 29", where learning on the 29" seems to translate back to the 20".

Are you practicing on the grass? I get tired after 500 meters on the grass… there I tend to have a lot more weight on my feet than the saddle. I find I can go further and further over grass by getting more weight on the saddle since I’m not so tired, but I’m much more likely to get randomly bounced off.

it’s hard to answer your question because nobody has ever learned on both sizes. i do not believe buying a new uni will be worth it, though.

Wheel Size

It is well known that the larger the wheel size the harder it is to idle and change directions from riding forwards to backwards.

I however found it easier to learn to ride on a 24". I learned to idle, ride backwards and pedal one footed on a 24". The 24" is the ultimate all around machine. Unless you are planning to do heavy duty street and or trials there is no reason to get a 20".


I find that I am less likely to fall off when riding fast, and it’s easier to ride fast on a bigger wheel (so I am getting a 26" to test out this theory :))

However for indoor gym riding (and eventually juggling) I am planning to use a 20" wheel. 20" is just usefull to have around. It’s like juggling beanbags - useful for practicing something you really want to eventually learn with a different prop.

I’m riding a 24 and was in your position at one point. When I first started being able to ride in a fairly straight line, my legs would burn up from just 50m and there was no way I’d have been able to free mount. Today I did a 1.1 mile loop around the neighborhood with no dismount and was fine. By far, my biggest complaint was how uncomfortable I was getting in the saddle! So it goes to show, now that I’m putting less pressure on the pedals and more on the seat, distances are much easier. I’ve also fairly recently got idling and backwards riding down pretty well. While I imagine it definitely would’ve come faster on a 20, I’m glad I stuck with the 24. Just hang in there :smiley:

Thanks for all the answers and the advice.

Part of it has to do with the fact that I have almost given up practicing the free-mount and idling. I am content with just riding. So I thought that maybe a 20" will be easier and so motivate me more with the promise of a success nearer to realization.

To me riding the unicycle still comes as a kind of unnatural/extreme activity to be engaged in only when I absolutely miss it (which seems to be about every 2 weeks or so). I also ride it at night to be undisturbed by cars and curious onlookers and as a kind of extreme hobby or self-challenge or challenging my boundaries. Perhaps I am unconsciously doing it for attention and admiration - which comes with the sense of doing the impossible that the unicycle is bound to induce without fail - but am trying to convince myself otherwise by doing it at night (because I have been taught that humility is a virtue and that it’s wrong to deliberately aim for people’s attention admiration). In fact I have told only one friend that I unicycle! Anyone else who likes to keep their unicycling private/secret?

UekiTylor: No I don’t ride on grass. But due to fear/timidity (something I should overcome) I still put too much weight on the pedals. And sometimes my pedaling isn’t as smooth as I would like it to be, coming in abrupt revolutions. I guess this has to do with practice and the fact that I practice only about once per 2 weeks on average.

I bought a 20" after learning to ride on 24" and I don’t find the 20" to be that much easier to idle on. Yes the wheel is smaller, but so are the cranks. I rode the 20" with 125’s for the first few weeks and recently switched back to the 114’s it came with so I would have more ground clearance. Small cranks lend their own challenge to idling. In some ways the 24’ feels more stable, more forgiving of small mistakes in balance.

I find riding at night a bit more challenging. Take this as an example: close your eyes and stand on one foot for several seconds, then open your eyes. You should immediately notice that your balance is greatly improved with visual cues. Unless you have good lighting, your brain will have less information available to help you stay upright at night.

Yes, I realize it must be so. But I find 3 main advantages to riding at night:

a) Much fewer cars, especially in Lebanese roads which are so narrow, full of traffic and the drivers driving like crazy.

b) Much less car exhaust fumes, hence little pollution to breathe.

c) Much fewer onlookers, and hence less reason to become self-conscious (or feel like a performing clown).

It would be hard to replicate those advantages in daylight. But I think it would be possible to ride very early in the morning like at 5:00AM-6:00AM and enjoy the same advantages together with daylight. I hope to try that soon. I will then know how much easier balancing will become. I’ll then also know whether the added challenge at night was what was making me tire so quickly.