Jack Wiley's "Unicycles and Artistic Bicycles"

I originally posted this to rec.juggling, and was directed here (the usenet group being full of spambots and little else, as far as I can tell).


A long time ago, I had a copy of Jack Wiley’s book “How to build
unicycles and artistic bicycles”. It appears to have got lost in one
of my many house moves, or been left out of the stuff we were able to
pack into the transit that carried all our stuff over to France.

Anyway, I can’t lay my hands on it for love nor money, and pretty much
all the online sources for buying a new copy seem to be out of stock.

Although my memory may have dimmed over the years, ISTR that there was a section on “restraightening” bicycle forks (mainly for use as unicycle forks, but I’m actually after building a trick bike - same deal). Is there any kind soul who has a copy who could a: confim that my memory isn’t totally shot, and possibly b: scan the relevant pages for me?



I can’t actually help you, but I’ve seen the book you’re talking about. I believe my dad has a copy of it hidden away in Arizona. A very rare treasure, indeed.

However, Jack’s books, as far as I can tell, are almost entirely hypothetical. His designs for tandem giraffe unicycles are as beautiful as they are improbable; clearly fro a pre-litigious America. I’d recommend finding another source for bike building advice.
Good luck!

Well Good luck with your project! :wink:

No your memory isn’t totally shot! There is indeed a section on straigtening out bicycle forks in order to adapt them to unicycle forks in Mr Wiley’s book. I once got this book out of the public library years ago but haven’t seen it since. Jack seems to repeat his material frequently, so this section may well appear in one or more of his other books! I have a copy of his ‘Complete Book of Unicycling’ and it might be in there. Now I just need to find it, after my most recent house move…

Does anyone know anything about this Jack Wiley guy? It seems like he would have been a fairly well known part of the unicycle community, but I’ve only heard of him by virtue of his books, which appeared to have been self published on an Apple 2. ANyone know if he’s still around?

Maybe rent it here?:

Ah, thought so, but the only unicycle photo I could find that used bicycle forks seems to have had a couple of other fork blades grafted on and a bearing mounted; not what I’m after for an artistic bike front end at all. 'course, I can’t find the photo again now…

As it happens, I got a PM regarding this from Grizoo, who has previously straightened forks, and checking my various bits of frame building documentation it looks like I should be OK simply cold setting the fork blades (it’s how they get bent in the first place, after all). I’ll document the entire project with photos, from searching the interwebs it seems like I’m the only one insane enough to even consider this.

From the “pre-litigious America” archives, though, there’s this, which, in part, documents exactly what I’m about to do to my donor fork :


Wish me luck!


Jack Wiley learned to ride a unicycle in 1948 at the age of 12, I think. In other words, he’s old. He came out with the original “The Unicycle Book” in 1973, right around the same time the Unicycling Society of America was formed. USA founder Bill Jenack was involved in the project and supplied lots of pictures, some of which appear in his later volumes.

Last I heard, he still lives in Lodi, CA. I really should look him up and meet him someday…

Yes, after being “burned” by publishing companies in the 70s, Jack got into self-publishing on the ground floor, when it first became feasible to do it. He even wrote a book about that, using his powerful, early Macintosh computer! :slight_smile:

Wow, I just found it in my local library online. I’ll have to grab it and take a look, I’m always wondering how I can fiddle with different parts.

BTW: IBN 091399913X


Jack Wiley may have passed on. When I got his Complete Book of Unicycling book back in 1988 I believe he was suffering from the beginnings of Parkinson’s. I would be very happy if I was corrected on this…

As far as I can tell, he was still alive in 2010, when, it appears, his wife sadly passed on. He’s probably in his late 70 or early 80s now.

So, I did it.

A slightly nerve-wracking experience, even working on what was a totally worthless frame to begin with.

Fork Bending by tufty tufty tufty, on Flickr

Fork Bending by tufty tufty tufty, on Flickr

Fork Bending by tufty tufty tufty, on Flickr

Fork Bending by tufty tufty tufty, on Flickr

Fork Bending by tufty tufty tufty, on Flickr

Fork Bending by tufty tufty tufty, on Flickr

Fork Bending by tufty tufty tufty, on Flickr

Next up, butchering the crankset (the chainrings are dead anyway, broken teeth all over the place) to fit a 32T or 24T sprocket in the place of the small ring, “modifying” (also pronounced “butchering”) a freewheel and hub for fixed usage, modding the rear dropouts for a motorcycle style axle retainer, and finding a way of mounting the bars with little or no extension. this latter will probably involve a steel quill, an angle grinder, and a welder.

There’s no pedal overlap, which was what I was worried about, but I may end up mounting 26" wheels anyway.

The man sounds like a relic. Someone aught make a history of unicycling book/documentary, talk with Jack Wiley, George Peck, and the other grandfathers of our sport.

Nice job.

If it wasn’t for that high tech jig though, you probably never would have suceeded. :roll_eyes:

I’d love to see pics of how the further butchering goes. Keep it up!

Even without pedal overlap, you may have to get used to riding without letting your feet hit the front wheel. Annoying at first, then effortless after a while. You’re going to want strong (or expendable junk) wheels for learning, esp. the font one. If you come down on it when it’s not pointed the right way, it’s an easy taco!

Yup. Part of why I never tried to meet with Dr. Wiley was because of my own lofty plans to do a book, which would presumably have made his obsolete…

Yeah, I know. Back in the day I had a slight “incident” where a car reversed out of a parking space as I went past at full chat (and a fraction of a second later, over his roof), resulting in a bent downtube and a pair of brake-lever spaced dents in his boot. The wheel just cleared the downtube after I ripped the mudguard off, so I rode it for another few weeks until it finally tacoed totally dropping off the pavement (which was, unsurprisingly, more painful than the initial crash).

Did you simply put the fork in the hole in the board and push to bend it?


It’s a 24mm hole at ~45°, with the top end chamfered into a curve using a rasp. Push the fork end into the hole, push gently to straighten out, moving up and down the fork to get a straight (and smooth) fork. It needs to be smooth - a “ripple” means you’ve totalled the fork.

As it happens, we do much the same thing to unbend the pistons on draglift poles at work (although there’s no plank involved, it’s between the bottom part of the jaws of a vice). Ghetto, baby.