Maine to California (step one)

So, my mom asked me what I was doing with my life the other day.

“Are you going to get back into school? (I dropped out for financial reasons) Are you going to move to New Hampshire? (My friend and his wife are renting a house) Are you going to stay here and work? (I work in a pharmacy and kind of hate it) Or is there some other option I don’t know about?”

“I was kind of thinking about riding a unicycle from Canada to Mexico, then writing a book about it,” I told her, only half serious. I’d been on a few rides on my 24" where I didn’t really want to turn back and go home, but, eventually, I had to. The fantasy of some 3500 mile uni-trek was lively in my mind.

“Better yet, you should ride from Maine to Mexico!”

“Well, I was going to take the long way to Mexico…”

“I think that’s a great idea, Max. If you’re ever going to do it, you hsould do it now.”

So, I have my maps, I’ve circled Eastport and Imperial Beach, but I don’t have a uni that can handle the journey. I’m sort of looking for recommendations here. My first thought was to build a 26" with an air saddle and a suspension seat post, but my brother said it would be foolish to do it on anything other than a Coker.

Now, I know there are tons of Coker enthusiast out there, and they are, without a doubt, the most road-worthy unicycle on the market. Myself, I’ve never even seen one up close, much less ride one, so I can only imagine the feel of one of those beasts. My reservations about getting a Coker for this trip are as follow:

  • A unicycle so purpose built for distance may seem like cheating.
  • I’d have to cross the Rockies and the Appalachians. Doesn’t seem like climbing would be it’s strong suit.
  • If the tire (probably) and tube (certainly, many times) are ruined, I think I’d be stranded somewhere for a few days until a replacement is delivered.
  • They’ve got cotterless cranks. Fine for commuting, but I think I’d feel more comfortable on the road with a splined set up.

I have similar feelings about a 29" or, really, anything larger than a 26. Of course, the trouble with a 26 is trying to cover as much ground as you can before your crotch gives out for the day, and you’re in a tent somewhere sitting on your instant cold pack.

I’m staring this down for 2006 if unicycling properly motivates me, or 2007 if I’m still committed to the cause. This is, in my mind, step one- equipping myself with the proper vehicle. After this comes the financing, but I’ll concern myself with that later. Your thoughts?


don’t forget the Sierra Nevadas

Go for it man. I know the feeling. I’ve always had this “wanting to escape” feeling in my bones… I’m still considering what I want to do with my life but everytime I try to there’s always this thought that pops up: “Wander, explore, learn, live”… I’m pumped for you man.

As far as unicycles go though I think you would get a much better “feel for the road” on a Coker… the slowness of a 26" (not much faster than a quick walk when riding comfortably… ok maybe a light jogg) might get you down. I’d deffinatly go for a Coker… I’ve ridden one and trust me it’s the sort of machine that you just FEEL could take you places. As far as tubes go there’s always the “going tubeless” option I’ve heard many people talk about… or patches. No matter what option you chose you WILL run into problems though, but then again… isin’t that what makes it so exiting? A real life experience…

There WAS this guy that rode across the states on a Coker to raise money for cancer research… I should search him up…

Owen (still trying to make up his mind about his future…)

Dude, your 16. You have at least another 15 years before you’re expected to have something accomplished. I wouldn’t worry too much about what you want to do with your life. Just learn everything you can for now. You have plenty of time to decide what comes after that.

I’d agree… but there seems to be constant pressure on me to make up my mind. Hell, I’m treated at least three times a week to a “so what do you want to do with your life” question from my parents. I’ve got to chose which path of studies I want to follow to acheive that goal also… Right now I’m in pure and applied sciences but that doesn’t seem to cut it for me… anyways yeah, I need to form some sort of idea atleast… well I do but it conflicts with alot of things. I guess you’re right though. I should deffinatly start thinking about it but I’m not in a rush to find the answer know what I mean?

ANYWAYS :stuck_out_tongue: back to the unicycle question…

A coker with 175" cranks is very versatile. It’s very possible to do fairly technical muni on them (just look at TWNR). I wouldn’t worry about breaking them either you can get stronger square-tapers than the stock ones.

here: I searched up these websites for inspiration:

There was another one with an interesting picture of the guy’s set-up but I can’t seem to find it…

all you’d really need is to get an upgraded coker and buy a splined hub separately, then go and switch out the hubs and cranks.

or talk with the guys at UDC. i’m sure they’d help you as much as they could.

It’s been a while since I’ve checked the forums, but I remember reading some stuff about a prototype UNI.5 hub that could make a 26 perform like a hypothetical 39". What ever happened to that? Anyone have any information?

So if you go for it, best of luck. That’s an adventure I wish I could make.

To your questions above, here’s the scoop. Your brother is correct. Your ride should be a Coker. To the other points: Riding a friggin unicycle OF ANY SORT across the country is hardly “cheating”. You’d be joining a club of like 3 members. On the climbing, you will learn to do this, and the Coker will be superior. Search on threads by Aspenmike if you don’t believe. Yup, the tire/tube is a bit of a risk. Are you planning on being completely unsupported? If so, carry a spare tube, and make sure it’s a 29-er, not a Coker. Second, buy a spare Coker tire just in case, fold it into a Fed-X box, get a prepaid shipper, and leave it with your parents so all they have to do is fill out the address of whatever town you’re stranded in. But reality is, you probably won’t need an emergency replacement…you’ll be having them send it to some town that’s 300 miles in your future when your current tire starts getting bald. On the last point, there is no reason you need a splined setup for a cross country road journey. You’d be better with square-taper hup, and two sets of cranks one very short for the Great Plains, and some 140s or 150s for getting over the mountains.

If you pick your route correctly, you don’t have to do any high Rockies peaks. You might consider spending some time on old Route 66… That could be a kick.

also be sure to bring a camera, plenty of extra memory cards, and plenty of extra batteries.
oh, and underwear and about five million pairs of bike shorts.

You might be able to get away with just two pairs to alternate. More important than 5 million pairs of shorts is having one Visa or Mastercard. When your shorts get thin, stop at an LBS and buy a new pair. Don’t carry anything you don’t need to.

if you all havent noticed by now, when i exaggerate i tend to use terms such as “five million” or “thousands…”

that actually seems like a really good idea. i should learn to do that kind of thing…

Why is that dear? Is it your belief that the members of these fora can only comprehend numbers when they’re blown totally out of proportion? While I’m just one old lady, it’s been my observation that most people posting questions in RSU are actually looking for specific, accurate recommendations.


no ma’am… i only use it when appropriate (i hope) and it’s kind of a habit of mine…:stuck_out_tongue:

If we’re talking about the same guy, it wasn’t a Coker. JJuggle went to meet him when he got to New York, he should be able to give you more info about the guy.
EDIT: Found the thread.

Surely you remember this?

And this?

This thread carries links to both the Schlumpf option and the Dave Stockton produced version of Pete Perron’s geared Coker.
Some more reviews of the Schlumpf here.

Sockmonster- I can’t really help you with your uni technicalities. But I COMPLETELY know what you mean by you don’t really know what to do with your life. Like I had no idea on what college to go to and my parents weren’t too thrilled I ended up in Montana but I felt like it was the right place for me. But now I’m not too sure if it is anymore… and i really don’t know what to do next. I’m planning on a death ride from Missoula, MT to Pullman, WA in the spring, and 250 mile ride. Man, I really sympathize and emphasize with you. I’m thinking of leaving Montana and going to school back in Seattle, but my parents would be pissed if I don’t stick with the Engineering route here. Plus I miss my friends a TON but they are all over the globe, I just don’t know what to do. But if your planning a trip from Peru, ME to Mexico and your completely serious about it, you should do it, only given you really know what your getting yourself into(I mean that is an INTENSE ride), go for it, it would truly be an experience and adventure of a life time; just to get things squared away in your life. Best of luck i hope you make the right calls for yourself.

Here are some brief, uncoalesced thoughts.

  1. You’ll get all the advice you could possibly use wrt uni kit.

  2. It would help GREATLY if you contacted publishers BEFORE you left on your fabu adventure. Perhaps (likely) you won’t get a contract/advance$, but you would be well armed with cluefulness. Crazy ideas can be turned into books, i know someone (ex of NYT) who landed on the NYT best seller list for many months.

  3. it would help if you had a unifying theme – little baby ducks, ugly children, Amurka of yesterday-- to your trip. Even if it’s “finding yourself”… anything you want to sell to a publisher should “say” something.

  4. A travelogue book really wants pictures. You will need a NICE digital camera. And flash memory and something to upload to remote storage and soemthing to write with every night. I have friends who do this for a living.
    (one is a former Chicago Sun Times columnist). They have NICE cameras and know how to use them.

  5. It helps to be a people person. People don['t want to read 250+ pages of how the pavement looks. They will want to read about your interactions with the rest of the world, which usu. means people. It would be nice if you like to chat up odd and interesting people.

  6. ADVANCE ROUTE PLANNING AND COORDINATION. It’s a long trip you contemplate, and you should have a plan for where you’re going to stay, and with whom for some fraction of the ride. Several reasons – to keep to a track/schedule, support and flavor/color for your book, and so your loving family will know what’s up.

  7. planning needs to recognize your human limits – you’re not going to be able to write much of a book if you Coker 100 miles/day because you’ll be too tired. If you only ride 30 miles/day you’ll be on the road for years.

  8. perhaps you could dictate your thoughts into an MP3 machine for later transcription.

  9. perhaps you could combine your book idea with a film. You’d probably need an indie film crew to help w/ that

  10. $$. It’s going to cost a lot more than you think. Food, laundry, electronics, LODGING, anti-itch cream…

  11. Go back to school and get a degree in Asian languages, business and finance and forget about all this nonsense. :slight_smile:

Stream of conciousness stuff to be sure, but food for thought. What you suggest sounds like great fun, but would take a lot of work to really do right. If my atom smoosher ever closes, maybe i’ll try it myself.

Bon Chance,


Some wicked suggestions in there.
Would you recommend that he reads other travellogues to get a feel for the genre or do you think that could cloud his abillity to do something fresh?

I’m thinking something like this, this and this.

Your idea is great, and your mom is right, go for it.

For some people, the vast organization, computer support, insta-web-casting approach is the right one.

For others, all that extra stuff would get in the way and dominate, control, and ruin a good adventure.

It’s up to you to decide which you are. To me, from this brief thread, it sounds like you’d be the second kind. In that case, you might just do well to hop on your uni and get going, and figure things out as you go. Throw a notebook and a pen in your backpack, and take a bunch of notes as you go. Keep your eyes open each day, and forget about the next day until it comes. If you write a book, great, if not, so what? The important thing about writing is to be there, seeing.

For adventure like that, the uni you ride, the camera you use or not, the route you take, are all simply background issues, almost not relevant. The idea is to see things that are not part of you now, to learn, and grow, and adapt.

I’ve done a lot of travelling, quit my job and went around the world, and the fullest, richest most interesting people were that second type. I’ve seen backpackers with sponsorship, full of GPS mapping, webcasting, uploading at every resupply point, etc etc etc, sitting in a room, overburdened with all the stuff and all the demands on them. On the same trail, were guys that were scrounging for the food for their next trail leg, but were on their way and full of energy, with tons of stories to tell about Mexico, or Alaska. And isn’t writing a book just telling a story?

Oh, and Youth Hostels are great ways to meet other people that have that same itch.

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I say go for the KH 29" splined, good for touring… all the above


While you figure out the unicycle, start circling the towns along the way. Figure out a route that will take you past interesting things, but keep you away from heavy traffic as much as possible.

Smart brother! Before there were Cokers, people rode cross-country (and around the world) on hard-tire big wheels, where you feel every nuance of the pavement beneath you. Believe me, I have a 45" big wheel (from nearby Kokomo), and I would never consider it for a long ride now that I also have a Coker. The big wheel is good for medium rides, or better yet, parades and shows.

You could also ride a Schlumpf. Coker gearing with the option of the 29" gear for the uphills. But those are relatively new, so it might be a bit of a risk to see how the hub holds up. Impossible to fix if something went wrong mid-trip.

Other than a Coker or a Schlumpf, the only other thing I’d consider is some other unicycle with an air tire that’s at least 36".

Uh, you’d be riding it for distance. Isn’t that what it’s for? I’d like to hear from you where the cheating part comes in. Better yet, do a little math and calculate the number of wheel turns you’d need to make in 3000 miles on a 24", a 26", 29" and a 36". I think you’ll find the 36" will still require plenty of pedal turns!

Downhill is always easier than up. But by the time you got to the really big mountains, you’d be ready for them. Like someone else mentioned, read posts by Aspenmike. I rode up Mt. Diablo last year with a group of Cokers and 29ers. My conclusion at the end of that ride? The Coker is better. Once you get down to your minimum sustainable pedaling speed, the Coker is automatically faster. Just have some long cranks for that part.

The FedEx suggestion was a great one. You could also carry a spare with you, though you’ll want to keep weight to a minimum. Best would be to use a rack system. You don’t want any extra weight on your crotch, so no backpacks! Search on Unibago to read about Scot Cooper’s old road machine.

There is nothing wrong with cotterless cranks. You only need splined if you plan on doing Trials with your Coker, which would be a bad idea in any case.

Yah, that sure sounds like fun. So explain again why you think a unicycle with a not-small wheel would be cheating? Certainly not to the general public? They would most likely consider a bigger wheel harder to ride.

I’m sure you know who Lars Clausen is. If not, you might want to learn now because he’s already ridden around the country and written one book, with another possibly in the works. When he originally contacted this forum for advice, he didn’t know about Cokers either. But he figured out pretty fast! It worked very well for him.

Equipment advice (In invite others to join in on this):

  • Deluxe Coker rim (Airfoil) with wide hub. The wide hub makes the wheel stronger and might also make it possible to store some of your stuff inside there. But that would be rotating mass. Better to have it on a rear rack or elsewhere in a non-rotating place. You could also get a Dave Stockton wheel, which is super-strong but a lot more expensive.

  • Frame type is optional. You could use a regular Coker frame, but I’d highly recommend getting a handlebar and rack setup for it. This might make it easier to just order a custom frame from Hunter or one of the other guys who has already built some for the Coker Tourers. I’d opt for an adjustable handlebar setup, which would offer you a choice of multiple hand positions. You’ll want handlebars. Like a bike, this will allow you to keep some of your weight off the seat.

  • Instead of a rear rack, which might make the cycle sluggish in handling, you could also try designing a pannier setup. This would be a pair of bags that hang down below the pedals. I’m not sure how much room there would be down there. You’d have to allow for some angle of turning, and curve them on the bottom so they wouldn’t scrape the ground in mounts and dismounts. Then they could just be a lower extension of your frame.

  • A good pair of adjustable cranks if you can find them. There are a few kinds out there. Nathan Hoover has a pair that seem to work for him. If not those, then a few different sizes, like 110 for the flats, 125 or 140 for mixed terrain, and some 170s for the big climbs.

  • And you may as well get it with a brake, which will make the downhills a lot more pleasant.

I can think of at least ten people who have ridden across North America between 1933 and 2003. One of the most recent was a school teacher from San Francisco who rode a plain old Schwinn 24". I think he finally made it, but he didn’t seek much publicity so we didn’t hear much about him. I still recommend a Coker or similar wheel!