Muni Climbing Technique

As I have gotten out to some legitimate mountain biking trails this past week, I have found my climbing technique is lacking.

These trails I am very familiar with from mountain biking but the climbs are just brutal on a 29er uni.
I had been riding the steepest paved hills I could find in town to work on my technique but it doesn’t seem to translate well to dirt.

These climbs are fairly sandy, range in grade from 10-14%, some short pitches are probably steeper. What is the basic technique that should be used? Just sit and grunt it out? Is standing and pedaling a better option? I find many videos on downhill muni, but not much on how anyone got to the top!

While sitting and with even and steady torque, hit it with speed in the beginning, when that fails then stand up and start pumping as fast as possible, and when that fails stay standing and develop a rest/pedal/rest/pedal… cadence till you reach the top.

Learning where to exert your energy on a hard climb is half the battle too
Being explosive with small obstacles, very steep inclines, and sharp uphill corners and then being able to recover on the not so hard terrain in preparation for the next lung buster.

I’m also not a fan of pulling up on the seat so hard. Save that energy and put it towards your legs by stepping down on that pedal and rolling up to the next step and so forth. Stay upright and balanced and the tire will not slip. (do not bend over or lean forward too much)

Others like to turn sideways and hop when they can’t ride anymore but that’s cheating.

I like to further my rolling distance by trying again on the next ride with more efficiency and determination to make it.

I think the trick is to stay well balanced so you can use all the available energy to climb and not waste it on corrective actions.
I believe listening to Kid Rock helps too.


I try to sit steady and pedal smoothly for as long as possible - and stand up if I run out of momentum on steep parts. If you are racing up a hill, you will have to pull on the seat. If you are not trying to go as fast as possible, you can get up surprisingly steep stuff with just standing up.

And most Muni riders (at least that I know), will get up on the easiest way possible (gravel roads etc.), and go down on interesting trails. :wink:


Ha yes, I am all for the easiest ways up. Unfortunately, everything is steep around here. I actually have to drive across town to find trails that are more modest/intermediate biking trails.
Appreciate the tips, I will keep working at it. When all else fails I just hike to the top and continue.

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Getting up on hard trails can be a great challenge, too :smiley:

If you have done some mountain biking, you probably already know the benefits of clipless pedals. If you’re feeling great about UPD (always on your feet), you should try them on a uni. It’ll make the climbs easier.

I agree with Finnspin, try to sit as long as you can and keep that wheel rolling.

When needed (for steepness or as a recovery) stand up but as soon as conditions allow try to sit hard again. It really saves your legs and lungs :slight_smile:

Hills are a major feature of the trails on my neighborhood. The steeper ones are quite rutted, not flowy, and require I maintain a lot of leverage with the handle. I burn out quickly when applying explosive force. When I approach a difficult uphill, I take it slowly. My climbing posture is the intersection of sitting on the seat and SIF, allowing leverage by applying forward/back/up/down force on the handlebars.

One obvious solution for climbing is to use longer cranks. They work well for me. I am a bigger, taller rider, I keep my tire pressure higher, and my trail conditions, as I said, are not flowy. If you are thinking of switching to longer cranks, you might want to keep that information private, because as we all know, al the good riders are using shorter cranks.

Being able to switch between slogging and spinning, sitting down and standing up, that’s helpful. It is easy to panic, getting to a hill and overdoing the exertion. Don’t look up, towards the end of the hill! It will happen, eventually.

The most helpful thing for me was practicing on impossible hills, being forced to adapt my climbing style to make it up even a few pedal strokes.

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Great tips, I am currently using 165mm cranks which feel pretty good. I will probably pick up a shorter set soon but I am pretty happy with them currently.

Oh, yeah I ride Crankbrothers pedals on my MTB and there is zero chance I will be making that transition to a unicycle. I am pretty good about landing on my feet, I think I have only hit dirt once honestly but there’s just no way I am going clipless of any type on a uni. Ha.

There is some good info and advice in this thread from not that long ago if you want to give it a peruse.

I use 165s because they’re easier on my knees. I like them better for technical climbs where you can’t rely on momentum. When you have to grind your way up half a rev at a time, the extra leverage really makes a difference.

Shorter cranks work better for steep sections, especially if you can get a run up, because it’s easier to pedal smoothly and maintain momentum. You can climb some surprisingly steep hills by riding at them fast and trying to keep the momentum going all the way up. Weight way forward, pull hard on the seat, and keep the wheel turning.

I found that I have to lean pretty far forward to stay upright on steep hills. In other words, I’m upright or slightly forward, but it feels like I’m leaning very far forward - especially when I first started going up steeper slopes. It helps to have a friend take a video so you can see what you are doing.


Glad I’m a beginner so I can make my own choices :smiley:

A follow-up question: when I inevitably come off the unicycle part way up aslope, I find it very hard to mount on an uphill and start riding from zero momentum. Do you have any tips on mounting uphill so I don’t just have to walk up the rest of the hill (or start again from the bottom)?

I typically mount facing sideways then rotate on my first pedal stroke if it’s too steep or I’m tired.

I practiced a strange method with some success:

Start standing behind the seat but in front of the pedals. The beginning of the mount is SIF with hands on the seat, but you should be able to hoist yourself up on the seat pretty quickly. Place the first foot on the forward-most pedal. Then bring the second foot back onto the rearward-facing pedal. That way, the mount starts off with the weight being placed on the uphill pedal. This mount relies on some requisite skills, and requires a fairly steep grade to achieve a static mount. It may not be practical for the OP, but I bring it up because, to my knowledge, it has not been discussed on the forum.

I suggest you don’t kill yourself trying to learn uphill mounting, and rather mount perpendicular to the hill, then turning or hopping into place, as mentioned by @saskatchewanian

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I have to try this, it’s something I’ve never come across before.

I’m sure it’ll depend on the amount of steepness, but I had some lines in the woods here which I wanted to ride and could only mount on an upslope, and I realized that a walking / running mount was the easiest thing for me to do. It took a few tries to get the speed right, but after that I could consistently repeat it on the same slope many times in a row.
But for downslope’s I tend to lock my brake and simply step on the pedals. That should work on an upslope as well…

But if it’s really steep I would mount it 90 degrees to the slope and even try to ride up it on an angle (kind of a Z-shape) to make it easier to climb. This of course only works if the slope is wide enough, but going straight up requires more strength or speed than going up it at an angle (talking from MTB experience here :wink: )

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I practiced it yesterday on flat ground. Works there, but you have to push down hard with the arms at the beginning. There is also a jump version of the same mount I succeed at less than 1/2 the time, but with practice, I could improve those numbers.

Not very well. Despite locking the brake, the unicycle will still pivot on the contact patch - on a downhill that results in “leveraging” you and the unicycle forward (nice for mounting), on an uphill the opposite. Plus on any decently steep hill, you stand “under” the uni quite a bit, which makes it relatively tricky to mount that way.
Running/walking mount gives you the extra momentum to get up (or as mentioned mounting sideways allows you to ignore the gradient during the mount).

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