Lightweight Bigwheel

Greetings from Santa Monica.

On the morning Coker ride, I began wondering what it’s like to ride
a skinnytire bigwheel. I guess I mean a 28 or 29 inch skinny tire
lightweight uni.

How do they ride? Wouldn’t they be the ultimate
travelling machine, given short enough cranks? Light weight must
count with uni’s…it’s so seemingly important in bi’s.

Any input will be appreciated. Don’t get me wrong…I love shoving
off on the “Big Wheel”, but I’m curious about lo/mo (low momentum),
lightweight bigwheels. Thanks.


It is a totally different experience. I ride a 700c x 32 (that’s a 28 inch wheel with a road tyre) with the tyre pumped up good and hard. I have 110 mm cranks on it.

The lightness makes it nimble. The lack of rolling momentum makes it skittish on uneven surfaces. The short cranks mean you need more precise foot control - there’s more to it than simple percentages and leverage, because you are moving your foot less distance, and using less muscle - or even fewer muscles (I’m no physiologist).

If the Coker is a broadsword, then the 28/110 is a rapier.

Strangely, the 28 gets more respect form bicyclists. It’s less of a novelty item, and looks more like something they can recognise and relate to. It also intimidates pedestrians less. It is surprisingly capable off road, but you have to fence the trail, rather than hacking at it.

Yesterday’s ride on the Coker was 33 miles. I have done pretty much the same route on the 28. The Coker is faster over the distance.

A slim 28 is possibly the most elegant unicycle. The Coker isn’t elegant, it’s majestic.

Light weight, at least overall/frame weight isn’t as important in bikes as people think it is. It’s a big myth put about by manufacturers to sell very very expensive lightweight bikes.

Light weight rims, tyres and tubes might make a bit of a difference though.

I found I gained speed by going to a fatter tyre, as it rolled over things better and wasn’t affected by bumps. A skinny 700c wheel unicycle might make a great thing for riding on very smooth race tracks, but is never going to be so good on a less smooth surface.


That’s more or less what I meant. The extra momentum of a heavy wheel smooths out minor irregularities which would trip up a lighter wheel. Also, a fat soft tyre will smooth out the bumps, compared to a thin hard tyre.

BUT that doesn’t mean that the skinny hard lightweight option is bad, because nobody takes up unicycling because they are attracted by how easy it is!

Back to an old hobby horse of mine: the special beauty of the unicycle is its simplicity. I’d compare it to a simple 2 stroke motor. There are only a few variables, and once these have been selected, they are fixed until such time as the machine is retuned. With a 2 stroke, it’s bore, stroke, porting, timing. With a unicycle, it’s wheel diameter, crank length, tyre.

The performance of a unicycle will depend very much on which variables are chosen. There is no equivalent to variable valve timing, or automatic advance/retard, or electronic mapped ignition. You make your choice and live with it.

And the fun comes from this. You can either optimise the machine for a particular use, or you can try to find the most versatile settings. You can optimise for one use, but end up doing something else, in which case you get a fantastic sense of achievement. I once rode a 250cc 2 stroke single commuter motobike 550 miles in a day. I once rode about 15 miles off road on a 700c unincycle with 110mm cranks. The sense of achievement, and the sense of the ridiculous, was similar in each case. So much more of an achievement than doing 550 miles on a BMW 1000 cc tourer, or 15 miles off road on a 24x3 MUni.

Another argument for the lightweight skinny option is that it feels very “pure”. With all the softness taken out (no squidgy tyre, hardly any momentum) it forces you to focus on your riding in a very direct way. I wouldn’t want it to be my only uni, but I like riding my 700c x 32.

I have a feeling you asked the wrong question. You probably already know how to ride something smaller than a Coker, I wonder if you want to try MUNI or if you want to do some stunts? If you just want an excuse to get a 29er I am sure we can help you out!
I have a 29er and a Coker; the 29er is simply a large unicycle, the Coker is the bomb.
I would love to try some of those giant penny-farthing style wheels, I wonder how fast a 4+1/2 foot diameter wheel could go?

I found my 29" Yuni with Nanoraptor tire great for off road, and the Big Apple great for road.

What does this mean: Fence the trail, rather than hacking at it.
What’s the difference between fencing a trail and hacking at it.


It would follow then that you hack with broadsword (coker) and you fence with a rapier (20/110).


Re: Lightweight Bigwheel

On Wed, 4 Aug 2004 10:21:56 -0500, “Mikefule” wrote:

>A slim 28 is possibly the most elegant unicycle.

That’s right. The first uni I got from Roger was a fat and mean 24" x
3" MUni, probably setting expectations with my wife for everything
that came in a box.

The second was a 28" x 1.35" road machine. When I had assembled it, my
wife exclaimed “How… elegant she is!” Therefore I named that uni “De
dame” (the lady).

Now that that same uni has been retrofitted with a 29" x 2.35" Big
Apple, she’s called “Dikke dame” (fat lady). Less elegant maybe, but
imho much more pleasant to ride.

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

I like the idea of not having to balance when out on a ride - joe

Take a typical forest track or riverbank, or any other piece of rough trail. It will present a number of obstacles such as sudden bumps or hollows, tree roots, puddles, patches of mud and so on.

On a Coker, I will tend to take a fairly direct route, or even go looking for the obstacles to make the ride more interesting. Generally, the idea is to keep the speed reasonably high (but with a bit in reserve) and to use momentum and the size of the wheel to carry me over the obstacles. This means I have to make few concessions to the trail - I just “hack at it”.

On the 28, with its narrow higher pressure road tyre, complete lack of grip, tiny momentum, and the short cranks, this approach would soon lead to me falling off. Every sudden bump could trip me; every sudden dip could become a wheel trap; every patch of mud or slime could cause a side slip.

Suddenly, the trail looks very different. Instead of it being an uneven surface to be crossed, it becomes a maze of small obstacles to be avoided, or selected. My exact choice of route becomes critical. If I go to the left of this puddle, will I be in a good position to get past that deep rut? Should I ride the edge of the rut, or drop into it? If I do, how will I get out of it? What’s the best way round that tree root?

On the 28, the trail becomes a puzzle to be solved. I have to think ahead, avoid being trapped in a blind alley. Small changes in height matter - even a few inches of gravity karma gained here could carry me past the obstacle 10 metres further on.

I use the fencing metaphor because I do fencing. I can see huge similarities between cross country unicycling and fencing, and these similarities are more obvious on the 28 than the Coker.

I’m not saying it’s for everybody, or even that I would like all my riding to be like this. However, there is a lot to be said for selecting a unicycle that adds value to what might otherwise be an easy and boring trail.


i was thinking about this sort of uni also but with all the expirance im hearing, i think i may have to re-think my idea for a new commuter uni. ive done the 29er fat tyre thingy twice already so im not going to back track and make another one.

this may not be the droid im looking for.

Try a 24 x 1.95 with 102 mm cranks. That’s fun, and surprisingly versatile. Portable, easy to store. I once did a 24 mile day on this set up. And the advantage of the 102 mm cranks is that an opportunist thief is unlikely to ride it away.:wink:

Re: Lightweight Bigwheel

Yoiks! 102’s!
Just got 120’s to replace the stock 150’s.
The first 30 feet was amazing.
Noticeably tiny little circles with the feet.
Pleasingly better speed.
Wonderfully less jerkiness for a RA (rank amateur).
So…102’s sound good.

Thanks for the great comments to my original question.
I think I’m lusting after a 28 or 29 incher.
Shorter cranks to be sure.
Thanks for all the good and helpful comments…
Any more will be appreciated as well.

Is Mike “Aspen Mike” as in, visit to Colorado…?

By the way, Lars with his rearmounted handlebars is coming
through Santa Monica next weekend. Gotta go meet him and
check out the rear bars. They seemed to work just fine on
the Cokering of all the States.

Being unable to freemount the Coker makes a tour alongside the
Great Wall of China possible for me, but Mongolia…no.

Santa Monica

Re: Re: Lightweight Bigwheel

Not sure I understand the question. The Mike (Mikefule) who has responded on this thread (i.e., me) is not the same as Aspen Mike.

Mikefule is from Carlton, Nottingham, England, and isn’t 1/10 the rider that Aspen Mike is.

i was thinking more along the lines of a two-sixer.

Try some really short cranks on the 700C- they work really well on smooth ground and are great fun to ride.

I had a chance to ride Yuta Ando’s 700c racing machine with 65mm cranks (Yuta won the Unicon12 10km race). Boy- it’s glides along with just the faintest ankle movements. It’s really weird at first but I had so much fun I think I’ll try some 65’s on my 29’er. The wheel is so light that it is no effort to pedal at all. Much less energy for about the same speed as my Coker/102’s. I don’t think it will work well on rough ground but it seems to climb OK.


Now that I’m totally jazzed about getting onto
a 29er…I need help on which one?
lists a Yuni and a Sem and a Sun. Sun’s cheap, but
I’ve read some discouraging comments. So…
Yuni, Sem…other??
Any comments will be much appreciated.
90% road, 10% easy trail.
Schwalbe Big Apple?
Short cranks for sure.
Riding over to the “little store” drives me crazy on the
24 (120 cranks), and the Coker seems excessive for
such a practical trip. A 29 with short cranks seems perfect.

Santa Monica


I can loan you my 29er for kicks if you want for a week or two. I also have some short cranks that you can swap out if you want to try it with a short crank set up. I live in West Hills in the Valley.
I even have a narrow tire sitting gathering dust.

It’s got 140s on it right now, but I have some 110’s in the parts bin and I think some 102’s, also.

Email me at teachndad(at)aol(dot)com

Re: Lightweight Bigwheel

They are harder to control if it comes to speed (accerate AND braking). Steering goes better with this narrow tire. But I think one of the good things -for long travels- about a coker is its lazy response on steering actions.

me on a big wheel
picture by Arno de Kock.


I thought of this thread, but couldn’t find it- cheers to Matt for helping to locate it: -

On it there’s a good pic of ‘hell-on-wheels’ super lightweight 700c road uni