Keeping up on one wheel

There’s a group of folks I go to school with who do a weekly bicycle ride around town (about 14 miles or so). So the thought occurred to me that it would be fun to get into distance uni and ride along with them. However, to do that, I’m going to need to at least come close to keeping up. I currently generally ride the Nimbus 26" mUni from, and returned there to look at Cokers, but it appears they no longer sell them. Any thoughts on picking up some speed and being able to hang with some semi-serious bicyclers? (if it’s possible).

Oh…and as mentioned I’m a student, hence the dinero is limited. :slight_smile:

If you’re with a group of dedicated cyclists, you won’t be able to keep up. If they saunter and go at a nice recreational pace, you can keep up on a 36" with short cranks.

There’s some rumours going around about UDC releasing a new 36" model, so I’m assuming their lack of product on the page has to do with that, though for any concrete information you can always email them.

geared 36…

riding with bikers

No way you’ll be able to keep up. Our ski club hosts rides every Monday night at various places in the state of Connecticut. The riders have options of short, medium, or long rides (generally 10, 20, and 30 miles). On nights with comparatively flat grades I’ll do the short ride on my 28" Sun. I get passed by everybody but I get in about the same time as the folks on the long rides. Those hammerheads average close to 20 mph. Last Monday I did 7.7 miles on the uni averaging only 6.8 mph.

I did manage to get 5.2 miles before my first UPD. That’s a new personal best!

ive ridden my 24" with friends riding their bikes. i couldnt really keep up but we were mostly riding from bike jumps to skate bowls, so we were in the same spot for a while. i want to get a coker to keep up but dont really want to pay for one for a while.

is it possible to get a geared coker? like 2:1, that would fly but im guessing you would have minimal control.

First thing to do is find out how long the rides take them. If they’re super sporty fast riders who do it in 45 minutes, then don’t bother.

However, if they’re just social riders, they’ll probably only average something around 10mph including stops and the like.

Or it might be something like Critical Mass, where they go slower than that usually and you’d have no problems keeping up on your normal uni.

If they’re social riders, you need either a 29er with short cranks, or a 36" of some kind, like a coker or a Nimbus 36" (which I don’t think is out yet but will be some time soon). The 36" is probably easier to ride at bike speeds.

Don’t expect to be able to get onto either a 29er or a 36" and just be able to average 10mph right away. It does take practice. But a fit person who is a good rider can average 10mph on either wheel size with a bit of practice, and if you practice more, averages of 12mph on the coker aren’t too hard, and are achievable on the 29er. You’re a student, so you’ve got the time to practice, so it shouldn’t take too long to get used to the new wheel size.

The other possible thing is that if you’re pretty fit and they’re only riding at 10mph or so, you could bung short cranks on the 26, and a smooth fat tyre (110s would be my choice for cranks, and a Big Apple tyre) and probably be able to keep up with a bit of practice. Would save you having to buy a new uni, although it would be hassle swapping bits over when you wanted to ride muni again.


In the UNICON marathon, the top few riders averaged at around 26km/h for 43km (Or 16mph for 26.7 miles). They were knackered afterwards though, but I guess if you shortened the amount of time you could keep it up. You have to be very fit though!

Oh yeah, and aside from being fit, use short cranks on the 36". None of the top riders in the marathon rode with cranks longer then about 110mm. The shortest cranks on a 36" in use at the 10k were 80mm!

If they’re slow riders or don’t mind waiting for you then you’d be OK on a 29er on 36er.

I occasionally ride with 2 wheeled friends and they don’t find me painfully slow, but they do have to slow down for me. They’re not exactly the fittest / most enthusiatic cyclists though, so if they bunch you’re with are moderately keen it might be difficult to keep up.

I really like distance unicycling regardless. It’s also fun to enter bicycle time trials with a staggered start where you don’t need to stay part of a group.

A 29er like the Nimbus is a reasonably cheap way to get into longer distance riding, and works quite well for generally pootling around town. It can also be good for XC muni.

As always, though, I’d recommend you look at shorter cranks on your existing uni before getting a bigger wheel - cranks are much cheaper :slight_smile:

Sorry it’s been so long, but I’ve been a bit busy. I may be a student, but I’m at veterinary school, doing 18 credit hours of grad work. Pretty crazy sched.

Thanks for all your replies! Couple more questions:

First, I did notice that has gotten their 36" back, though at near $500. (I’ll probably opt for cranks, as many of you have recommended.) Still, just curious about recommendations on brake and spoke options. If I were to go with this thing, I’d definitely do the shortest cranks avail with it (125), which makes a brake seem rather useful (though there aren’t all too many hills out here in KS). Thoughts? And what recommendations on the 12- vs 14-gauge spokes?

As mentioned, I’ll probably go ahead and go with cranks for the sake of expense. My Nimbus, I guess, has the cotterless hubs/cranks right now, so I’ll look at going back with those. Looks like I can get $67 Doteks or $12 Uniteds…is the quality worth the cost? …and unless there’s reason not to (on my 26" wheel), I’d probably look at going as short as possible (89mm). Thoughts?

Finally, someone mentioned a geared hub. Where can I get something like that? …and are there other places to look for these other parts?

Thanks tons for the help!

From what i’ve read, geared hubs are spendy as heck. A 29" Schlumpf is in the low four digits; some people find it worth the expense to have a smaller wheel that gears up for touring or down for hills and xc. There are those who have put that type of hub - generally a 1.5:1 gear - on a 36" wheel, but really, an ungeared Coker has been said to be able to get as fast as you’re ever going to want to go - the gear on the coker wheel just means you can maintain that speed at a lower cadence. It’s not a good idea to exceed your run-out speed for safety reasons, and that’s quite reachable on a 36".
It seems from what little i’ve seen that the quality mostly matters for stunts, or for goliaths like me who twist their stock cranks practicing idling and standing mounts somehow. I have been told that a narrower crank is better for speed, but I cannot confirm or deny that from personal experience.
There was a thread about brakes on Cokers recently as I recall. Appeared from that that brakes mostly were only useful when steep hills are involved; if you don’t have hills, you’re unlikely to use the brakes much.

Unicycle feel changes with shorter cranks

Just keep in mind that when you switch to shorter cranks, the stability of your unicycle’s ride will also change. This may have an impact on how soon you will be able to try to ride with bicyclists because you will be starting another learning curve.

I changed the cranks from 152s to 127s on my 24-inch and immediately noticed that it was more difficult to freemount until I got used to it. Now I can easily freemount, but I still notice turns are not as tight as with the longer cranks. Also, because the feet are closer together I am not as stable going over road surface irregularities. When I got my 29er with 127 cranks, the road stability improved with the bigger wheel, but I had to get used to the increased torque all over again.

In terms of riding with others on bikes, they will quickly notice that you have a very different riding pattern. For example, people on bikes can freewheel speedily downhills without thinking - you’ll be deep in concentration and going slow in comparison. On the uphill, it is quite possible that you will even pass some bike riders - they will have to give you the right of way. For me this difference in riding characteristics presented some difficulties for me during the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure for NC in June. I was able to start ahead of the group but in some ways this was a problem because all 300+ riders had to ride around me at some point in the ride. My skill level is better now and I think I’d do better, but there were times when it was a bit un-nerving.

I’m interested in getting a 36er so that my wife and I can ride. She rides her bike at around 10-12 mph and is only interested in rides of less than 10 miles. Still, it’s just slightly more than I can do with the 29er. I keep practicing and I keep saving my money. One way or another, we’ll work it out.

Good luck