Maximum distance

I tried to uncover some old thread for my question, but couldn’t find one, so here goes…

I’ve been wondering, how far a trip I could make at the moment.
I routinely ride 10 miles (KH27.5) with no side effects and can do 15 miles on a fat Hatchet. After the rides I never feel that I came close to any limit. My endurance is such that I can run for two hours without stopping, so the limitations should be unicycling-specific.
As I don’t like the idea of doing a small lap several times, I ask the experienced riders in the forum, what maximum distance I should be safely able to do. Is there in distance riding some suddenly appearing point of „I can’t go on“? Or is this a stupid question that can’t be answered?
What are the increments by which you increased your maximum distances?
Thx for your inputs,

Good question, I was kind of wondering the same thing. On my 36er I’ve went from being able to go about 2 miles before my legs were shot last fall, to 10 to 15 miles at one time with no ill effect now. Then last weekend I did a 50 mile ride with not much problem. On my 50 mile ride I made a point of not going at maximum speed and taking a break very 3 to 5 miles. At the end my legs (quads) were starting to feel the distance but still fully serviceable.


Just try it? Pack some water and food, look for a longer loop on a map (I don’t know, maybe pick 30-40 miles?) and start riding. Take your phone so you can call someone to pick you up should you be stranded for any reason. (Flat tire, bad fall, etc.) I attended a unicycle marathon this year, and was amazed how many relatively unfit riders finished. (I hope no one takes this personally)

I don’t think you will be limited by your fitness if you bring enough food and water. You will likely find your saddle very uncomfortable after a while, and might get bored though.

I ride about 20km at the most and if this is on off-road, it is too much and I have no energy anymore. Taking breaks helps a lot for getting more distance. When I just ride at a relaxing speed, I can go on until the seat starts hurting. The saddle on my 32" is very comfortable and with it I can ride a very long way, but on the 29" it always starts chafing.

Like Finnspin says, plan a long route and see how far you get, or take a bigger route every time.

Frequently, when attempting distance rides, fitness is not the end of ride factor. If you’re not in a hurry, determined, and your knees and arse complaints are not limiting your experience, you may with determination except to reach 500% of your normal activity. After learning to maximize efficiency and having worked through how to conquer the usual knee and arse plateaus plague issues I find 1000% to 2000% obtainable for myself under optimal external conditions.

I’ve found if fatigued, many unicyclist usually can continue on for a long time after thinking they are totally exhausted with a little encouragement after a two minute break. If they insist on a longer break usually it becomes overwhelming for them and the ride will end soon.


If I want to train for something “BIG” I’ll attempt to make a 10% to 15% steady stress gain goal. Then calculate backwards to reach 80% to 85% two weeks pior to event date to select training start date. This will usually result in an enjoyable adventure. If I attempt to exceed 15% stress loading long term I find my immunities suppessed and fight frequent sickness and illness issues.


1 Like

If you are fit enough to run for 2 hours without stopping, you are fit enough to ride 50 or more miles on a 27.5. I have never been fit enough to run for one hour, but I once did over 50 miles of mixed road and cross country on a skinny-tyred 28.

Don’t overthink it. Go for it.

Ride for at least 2 hours and then see how you feel (and how far that was). Then you can make your next estimate/leap. :slight_smile:

Yesterday I broke my record for longest ride. 23 miles. Not very impressive, I know. There is a dedicated bike path which runs from my neighborhood all the way to Saddleback Mountain. I had a beer and two granola bars at the turnaround point, a biker bar called Cook’s Corner. Did it on my G19. I don’t have any large wheels, so the G19 is the fastest thing I’ve got. At one point, I was able to chase down a runner in front of me. The G19 is fast enough to feel like I’m running at a decent clip, but not so fast that I’m going to do a face-plant. A G24 would be perfect for my tastes/risk-aversion.

I could have ridden further if necessary. Going on a longer ride exposes the “weak links” in my setup. My feet were hurting. I should have used my firmer shoes. I felt like the constant pedaling was shoving my toes into the front of my shoes. Saddle-wise, I held up all right, except for a little chafing where the edges of my bike shorts dig in. The weather was pretty hot. I was sweating a lot.

As the ride progressed, each time I had to down-shift, the experience of being in 1:1 felt weirder and weirder. My skill at mounting diminished somewhat over the course of the ride. Also, as the ride progressed, fighting camber seemed to be more of an issue. In a lot of ways, it felt like the skill-level of my riding took a hit as I got more tired.

It seems we are at the same risk taking level and the same age! I will very probably be getting a G24 for my 50 birthday at the end of the year. I, too, am scared of riding speeds that exceed my former running pace.

Uhm why would you make a faceplant, going faster? You would only have that if the wheel suddenly stops, of which the chance is bigger when you don’t go so fast. I’ve had one with a freewheel uni on the pavement where a section all of a sudden went up and I wasn’t paying attention. The 19" trials has a fatter tire is is very nice for a few kilometers.

I like what you say about the skill-level getting a hit when you’re tired. I don’t have problems mounting up to 29" even when I’m tired, but the 32" inch becomes more of a problem, because you have to step up higher. Always keep telling myself to sit up straight and put weight in the saddle. Road camber is always annoying. When possible I ride to the highest point of the road. If in the middle, then I hope there aren’t many cars or other traffic.
But just keep riding distances and the technique will become better and soon you can go on for ever :slight_smile:

To paraphrase a quote I once heard… “It’s not the 10 mile hike that will get you; it’s the pebble in your shoe”.

I certainly don’t know most of the riders on these forums but I do know that BungeeJoe is as accomplished of a rider as I could ever dream to be. He does rides many folks would not do on two wheels.

For starters, re-read his post…

In that post he brings up a good point… Your true fitness level is secondary to your ability to manage your pain points. For him it seems to be knee(s) and butt. For me, it’s butt, foot pain and road camber. A little later things start adding up, like shoulder tiredness (if the conditions are too rough and both hands are not on the bar ends) and low back from fighting camber.

Another point made that helps with staying in the saddle is efficiency. That term may have different meanings to all of us but mine include:

  • Maintaining an upright posture
  • Minimizing pedal back pressure, especially on down hills
  • Using the brake to neutralize hills
  • Pointing the toes down when going up hill or accelerating
  • Point the toes up, heel down, when descending a hill
  • Keeping a light grip on the bar ends
  • Maintaining a sub-maximal cadence

Professional instructors will have a longer list but those are my key thoughts when trying to stay in the saddle.

I’ll be doing a 24 hour ride at the end of July. My goal is always 100 miles. I’m doing it on a 32 with 127mm cranks. I can take as many breaks as I want, there’s food, drinks and showers onsite, and a place to rest. My strategy for this event this year is to:


  • Train steeper hills than on the actual course
  • Have at least two 80 mile weeks before the event
  • Drop a few pounds of body weight [/LIST]

    There are some downsides at the actual event that I don’t have to deal with when training:


  • I don't have to share the road with other riders; I can pick my lines better when training
  • I don't have other bike riders "buzzing" me
  • I seldom ride at night; depth perception is an issue. As are the police blue lights at night. They can be blinding
  • Spectators along the course love to cheer on the unicycle nut case. Their support is welcome at first, but when the pain starts setting in you just want to get in a zone and stay there
  • The ride starts at 7PM; a time of day when I'm usually resting. Also, I spend the earlier part of the day in the sun setting up camp for the event and coordinating the rest of the team. [/LIST]

    I guess my take away is there is no formula I can think of that will predict how far I will be able to ride; both comfortably and not so comfortably. There are too many external factors… pebbles in the shoes… that we don’t have control over.

    I do know that over the years, my skills have ever so slowly improved, and my ability to ride increased distance and steeper hills have also improved. There’s no substitute for skill to counteract the effects of external negative factors.

  • Faceplant is the wrong term. Sorry. More like a superman where I lean too far forward, try unsuccessfully to pedal faster, then don’t land on my feet.

    How fast do you ride on your 32". I think the shorter cranks only give some extra speed on sprints, but otherwise also take more energy when riding uphill. Yesterday I rode with 140mm cranks and when I wanted to dismount from the back of the uni, it almost shot away from me. I changed back to 150mm for the rest of my ride and decided that speed is not so important for me.

    Good luck on your 100 mile ride, Biped.

    Short cranks, subject your experience and ability to use them, will give you higher cruising and average speed on the flat.

    On a shallow uphill gradient, they may even make you faster, but as soon as the hill gets steep, they will slow you down.

    They make steep descents more difficult. I find the effects of shorter cranks more noticeable on the way down rather than up.

    However, shorter cranks will make the unicycle less responsive when you need to make big changes of speed: setting off, stopping, slowing for obstacles, giving way to pedestrians.

    Therefore, although you’re going faster on flat or gently undulating smooth surfaces, your average speed over a mixed journey can be slower.

    As always, context is important: what I now call “shorter” cranks may be average or long for some riders, and impossibly short for others.

    For the past month or so I’ve been training with 110 cranks. After riding the 110s I just switched to the 127s and saw my average speed go up from about 8.3 (typical) to 9.0. The course I’ve been riding on has a couple of challenging UP and DOWN sections. Going up I pedal as fast as I can… going DOWN on steep sections is more difficult… go to fast and you can fly off.

    The “longer” 127s felt like I suddenly have added control.

    I do agree with Mike… long and short are relative to the skill level of the rider. I am not a great rider… I started too late in life… but with lots of practice the 127s feel as smooth as butter on a 32er.

    On a 36er 127s would feel more like 110s on a 32.

    Many years ago, I did a lot of work on different crank lengths on different wheel sizes. It isn’t simply a matter of ratios.

    125mm = 5 inches, which is 25% of the wheel diameter of a 20.
    150mm = 6 inches, which is 25% of the wheel diameter of a 24.

    These two unicycles would feel “broadly similar” although you’d probably be faster on the 24 because it rolls over things better and has more “flywheel effect”.

    However, 25% of a 36 inch wheel is 9" which is 229mm, but a 36 with 229mm cranks would be almost unrideable for most of us.

    Applying what I learned from that period of experimentation, I found that I have an ideal crank length for my leg length and riding style. I am pretty much as happy riding road and easy trails on a 20, 29 or 36 on 125s (or 127s which is basically the same length) and equally happy riding cross country/muni on a 24, 29 or 36 on 150s. The only exception is the 114s on my skinny 28.

    Remember that with shorter cranks, you do not use the full range of movement of your leg muscles, so you are not generating power as efficiently. Road bicyclists, who can adjust their ratios using gears, tend to ride with cranks around 165 to 175 mm.

    I was 37 years old and had been unicycling for a few months

    I decided I wanted to do the London to Brighton bike ride 58 miles on a unicycle

    I bought a 26" Semcycle and did some training a few times a week for about a month before the event. Prior to the day, the maximum distance I had done was 8 miles

    Come the day, I did the 58 miles

    This was before the internet, so there was no information on crank length, training regimes, saddle types etc. I just had a standard 26" Semcycle with the standard Sem saddle and and just rode it. At the time I was an office jockey, so not particularly fit

    I think the issue we have today (& I’m guilty of it as well) is that we overthink & over research everything instead of just doing it !!

    This was brought home to me last year, I had been thinking about doing a ten mile ride on my giraffe (I was 62 years old at the time) I discussed with friends about having a backup crew, what time of year was best to avoid over hanging branches, etc. and over thought it.

    However, one Sunday morning (having had a few drinks the night before) for no reason that I can think of I decided I’d do the 10 miles on my giraffe. A few hours later - job done. No backup crew & I ducked under branches

    Nike have it right - just do it

    As pic shows, I was knackered at the end of the London to Brighton bike ride!

    And so often, the “research” means asking in a forum and reading lots of comments from people repeating what they’ve heard or read elsewhere.

    Distance unicycling is essentially a very simple sport. If you sit on the unicycle and pedal it for long enough, you will do the distance.

    It is generally wise to build up your stamina, but for a one off long ride, most of us have surprising depths of reserves.

    In the days of heavy steel penny farthings, they wore heavy tweed and rode long and fast on unmade roads. Most of them survived.

    Basically, just to try it would also be my favorite technique. But as I have a wife who is always afraid I could harm by doing something silly, I have to make sure she believes I will survive.
    Strange thing she gave me my first unicycle for my 47th birthday…

    Great story, Nasher! Congrats on your long ride from 28 years ago on a smallish wheel with normal-sized cranks! Also doing the long giraffe ride. It made me think of my first really long ride, a charity ride for the March of Dimes in 1980. 75km on a Schwinn Giraffe. My friend and I, who both rode geared-up Schwinn Giraffes, were the first to start, and the last to finish. I think they spotted one or both of us a 5-mile lap at the end, and I didn’t mind a bit. :slight_smile:

    Saddle Sore? YES!! But we did it.