Learning to commute via unicycle

I just had the original 2" Schwalbe Big Apple tire on my Nimbus Oracle 29er replaced at my local bike shop with the same tire. I could have also ordered it online and change it myself. I don’t think it’s wise to put a smaller width tire on the Dominator rim. If you want a smaller rim width then you either have to get a custom wheel built at a bike shop or buy one of the cheaper 29ers that come with narrower rims.

This long-ish thread about 700c road unicycles might help shed some light on it:

The quick answer is that 29" unicycles tend to have pretty wide rims, like the 42 mm Dominator rim on the road version of the Nimbus Oracle. A 2" Big Apple is about the narrowest tire that won’t blow off there. My 700c uni has a more standard 26 mm mountain bike rim and I’ve used a couple of different tires in the 37-42 mm range on that.

There’s also the “bacon slicer” idea, which I’ll bring up because someone eventually would; using a standard 700c road bike tire, 25 mm wide or so. But that’s more of a novelty from what I can tell. I don’t know of anyone using a tire that narrow as their main day-to-day uni. Probably 90% of my career total unicycling mileage has been on the 700c with a tandem/touring/townie-width tire.

[Vertigo replied ahead of me. I agree.]

I was just reading Killian’s fat tire thread, thinking about how unicycling is “impractical”.

Here’s why commuting on the unicycle is impractical for me:

  • I wear a lot of pads, which take time to get on and off.
  • I sweat like a pig while unicycling, and I don't have access to a shower when I arrive to work.
  • Having a planned route to work, and giving myself a certain amount of time to make that commute...seems antithetical to the goof-off, stop-and-smell-the-flowers style of unicycle rides to which I've become accustomed.
  • Riding in traffic is stressful.
  • Riding long distances, in relatively straight lines and at a relatively even pace...is not my idea of fun.

No offense to any unicycle commuters. This is a matter of personal taste. I just hope that the OP doesn’t lose touch with the idea that unicycling is supposed to be fun, rather than a stressful chore.

I started uni-commuting pretty much right after I learned to ride 2 years ago and haven’t looked back. The only negative I’ve discovered so far is that because the uni is so damned fun, I’m almost totally neglecting my regular bike. The upsides are numerous:

  1. portability-- regular bikes are not permitted inside my fancy office building, but the receptionist never says a word as I walk to the elevator with a 36" unicycle under one arm. :smiley:

  2. easy in traffic-- OK, admittedly this takes some time, but I’ve been absolutely astounded at the seemingly endless, gradual learning curve. I thought it would eventually flatten out once I’d aquired basic skills, but it’s been two years now, and every time I get on the thing, it gets easier, less stressful, more fun, even in heavy downtown traffic. TIP: eventually, you’ll figure out a route to your destination that avoids most obstacles (traffic lights, horrible pavement sections, etc.).

  3. security-- go ahead, leave the thing unattended for a minute or so…it’s not like someone’s gonna throw a leg over it and ride away.

  4. great workout-- afer long weekend rides (50 miles+), I get spontaneous cramping in both thighs for up to 2 hours afterwards…FANTASTIC!

–just get on, spend as much time in the saddle as you can. You’ll see…it gets very easy and very fun!

Oh, and as far as lights go, I use a 550 lumen usb-chargeable job on top of my helmet. Lights up the road like a car’s headlight, and you don’t even notice the weight. Simple.

good luck!

29" is same 622mm size as 700c and touring 28". Just tire and rim widths used are different. All of them are popular in bike world, so no problem finding tubes or tires.
27.5" i.e. 650b is on the hype now, so there will be more and more tubes/tires as well.
Just remember about width as Eddie says:

I never say unicycle is “practical” but I commute on the uni for fun. I commute on bike, because I enjoy it much more than public transport or car (taking a tram from time to time easily reminds mi that ;)) and because it is faster. Then, from time to time I commute on my uni because I enjoy it even more than bike commute and I don’t mind bit more hassle and time spent (still it is faster than the public transport for me).

Yes, they can definitely break. I remember one summer when I went through three of them. And those were Semcycle hubs; the best you could get at the time. That was from practicing Freestyle tricks. It’s sure nice that we now have choices of much stronger ones. Most any ISIS hub will be very hard to break; and extremely unlikely from normal riding.

“…of the three you provided” perhaps. I’m lazy. Also I think the Nimbus Commuter is still a good choice, though a square taper (with non-Schwinn frame) would work well also.

BTW, I didn’t mean to disparage the Schwinn brand, just the frame design. It was a good and sensible design for a unicycle frame in the 60s and 70s, but no longer makes sense in a world where we want more performance and less weight from our unicycles. The Schwinn unicycle brand essentially belongs to Unicycle.com now. I’d love to see them do something innovative with it. Stop looking back and instead aim Schwinn into the future! :slight_smile:

Not so much a novelty but a high-performance wheel. Very high. Your wheel will be very light and responsive, but your ride will be really harsh! This is what you want if you’re trying to win a race, but probably not for a daily commute.

Use caution with that one; it’s dependent on where you are. I’ve had many unicycles stolen over the years, and I don’t think a single one of them was stolen by a unicyclist. They were taken by opportunists that noticed they weren’t nailed down.

As for your list.

  • When riding the 26 and 29 I only wear wrist guards and a helmet. When you’re just commuting on asphalt, the chance of landing on your knees is 0.001%, if you’ve had a bit (few months) of training.
  • The sweating is a problem. I have the same thing, but luckily we have showers at the office.
  • Riding in traffic is only stressful if you care about what others might think of you. I can free-mount easily when I’m on my own and on asphalt I don’t have UPDs anymore, so when I am in more busy traffic areas I try to imagine riding in silence on land roads, which is a good stress reliever :slight_smile:
  • Riding in straight lines might not be fun, but if I were to ride to work, which is 20km, with lots of hills, it would be a good challenge. ( I will try this next year in summer, don’t like riding in the rain, not even with a b#ke) Normally I take the car, so I can stay in my bed longer :slight_smile:

Harper, that’s fast 10 miles in 40m. It takes me about an hour to do 7 miles on my commute.

Welcome. Commuting is fun esp once you get better. You really feel like one with the machine. But you dont do this to be practical. Its just not unless you have to bring it on public transport. Though you do get more intense exersise than with a bike. Good free mounting is important and control of course. Practice other disciplines like freestyle muni trials etc that will bring your skills up. Good luck!

Sounds like you’ve got the right mindset (knowing that the uni will never be as fast or efficient as the bike).

Otherwise, your plan sounds great…

I think most of your points concerning advantages are spot-on, however some of them are kind of competing (i.e. trade-offs): A 20 or 24" uni will be totally portable and I’m pretty sure you can take it anywhere on campus… on the other extreme a 36" is a monster and while smaller than a bike it’s big. Then there’s a 29/26 in between.

And of course the trade-off is speed. 5-10 miles on anything smaller than a 26 is no fun… and really you want at least a 29 for any kind of distance.

So I think your idea of the 29 seems probably about right. It’s definitely more portable than a bike (although I don’t think you can take it in class with you). It’ll be fast enough for 5-10 mile rides and

As far as I know theft is much less of an issue with a unicycle as it’s just so different that it’s probably harder to resell. And yeah, on the bus should be easier than a bike and anything up to a 26 should be no issue (although a 29er you might check on)… transporting with the car and storing way easier.

Well, it’s all practice and again the trade-off between the wheel-size. I think even most beginners (I mean can ride and do some turns) on a 20" should be able to handle themselves on campus. But a 29er is bigger and it and the rider can go flying when you UPD… (With close to a year commuting 2-3 days a week of 15kmx2 on my 36 I am still not so confident in tight spaces with lots of pedestrians - actually with long cranks I am but them I’m slower, so I have short cranks.) But I’d say it’s doable even if it takes a while (maybe don’t cruise through the main drag of campus right at lunch time during the first few weeks).

Not sure what uni you’re riding now, and I’m sure b/c of expense this isn’t what you want to hear, but probably the ideal solution would be to have a 29er for moderate commuting and then a 20/24/26 for getting around campus. While slow for distance, I think the 20" with shortish cranks is still a lot faster than walking, and the 20" you can take with the everywhere (almost like a skateboard).

As to speed, I’ve never ridden a 29er on the road a lot, but I think you should expect a cruising speed of around 10mph (faster with shorter cranks, but at the expense of slow speed maneuverability). I cruise around 11-13mph on my 36er with shortish cranks between 127 and 100mm (100mm is way short so really hard and not good for slow-speed stuff with pedestrians). Oh just for reference, with lights and whatnot my commute takes me about 35-40 minutes on the bike, about 55-60 minutes on the 36 with long cranks and about 40-55 minutes on the 36 with short cranks (variable and improving as the 100mm cranks are still a challenge and I walk quite a few times which slows me down of course).

But as the sum total of the commute the lights slow you down less than a bike, I think you should easily make it on a 29 in less than twice the time it would take you on a bike (which matches about right with a cruising speed of 10mph when you say you ride your bike a little over 20mph).

Oh, as elpuebloUNIdo said, until you get really good, you should probably wear some pads (as you will fall) and this makes the commute a little longer. I really hat putting on my knee pads and wrist guards every day for my commute, but then when I UPD I really appreciate it (just last week, I waited for a break and traffic, mounted the 36 with 100m cranks on a downhill before a curb, rode 3 feet and then UPDed and sprawled out into the middle of a major road and with my pads on I was able to “plan” how to get myself up and out of the way of the fast-approaching cars instead of worrying about how to keep from scraping my knees and hands).
Sweating is just like bike commuting.
Riding in traffic: yeah, it can be stressful but it can also be fun (it’s definitely not boring)!

halve it

You had me amazed there for a bit… that would be an average of 15mph (24km/h)! And with lights and stops signs would mean a cruising average of close to 30mph…

But then I re-read Harper’s post: he said 40 minutes ONE WAY, where one way is 5 miles… so halve the values: average 7.5mph(12km/h) with cruising speed of something about 10mph(16km/h).

I do my approx. 9.5mi (15km) commute in around 50-60 minutes (although last week I made it in 47, 48, and 49 minutes with 100mm cranks). So the 47 minute commute is average just over 12mph (19.5km/h).

Thought I’d post an update: I’ve ordered the 29" Nimbus Road Unicycle to get a bit of practice, and possibly start regularly commuting before winter vacation rolls around. I’m pretty excited to start!

Thank you everyone who posted in this thread to educate me on unis!

Congrats. Good choice.

Sweet! So what crank length does it come with and/or do you have to start? I don’t have much road 29 experience, but probably something 125-137mm to start? Then go shorter when you get better…

I just tried to look and looks like the Nimbus Road Oracle and the basic Nimbus both comes with 125s. Sounds good.