Muni - how to start?

Hi All,

I am rather new to unicycle and in a pretty short period of about 2 months I have managed to get a pretty good control over the basics of unicycle riding, e.g. free mount, idling, jumps, some more small tricks and that’s about it.
My current unicycle is the qu-ax 20" luxus.

I hope I’m not jumping too fast, but I originally used to ride mountain bikes in the off-road areas. So it’s only natural I like very much to be able to ride off-road with a unicycle.

But where do I start? How to know when I’m ready for it?
Is there some sort of a “checklist” that I can go over to know that I’m doing it “by the book”?

I had a very light experience in off-road area with my 20" unicycle and it was completely unpleasant - would the right unicycle make the difference or I am just fooling myself?

Thanks a lot in advance for your answers guys!

In answer to your last question first, a god quality unicycle, designed for your preferred type of riding, makes a huge difference.

However, it is possible to challenge yourself on uneven surfaces on any size and quality of unicycle.

My first uni was a Pashley UMX: heavy steel wheel, awful seat, cottered cranks, general purpose cheap BMX tyre. I rode it many miles around the local nature reserve including short sections of single track and a few steep little hills.

I have a custom 700c unicycle with a narrow rim and a high pressure 23mm section road tyre. On 14mm cranks I enjoy riding it on dry uneven surfaces, fencing with the trail instead of bludgeoning it.

I also ride cross country on a purpose made KH24, a KH29 and a 36.

So don’t let your present uni stop you trying things, but do start to dream about owning a more suitable one.

As for how to make your first attempts at Muni:

Down hill is easier than uphill, but just as exciting.

Find easy paths with interesting bits at the side.

Ride for a bit until you feel comfortable, then divert along something “interesting” until you feel tired, then go back onto the easy tracks to get your breat back and reestablish a rhythm.

Do things like cutting corners by going over the raised grass at the side of the main path.

Look for small lumps and bumps you can ride over, everywhere you go.

Eventually, what you class as “easy” will be what you used to class as “interesting”, and you will gradually develop your skills almost without realising it.

I found it was a mistake to push myself too hard and to be too ambitous. It is a miserable feeling to be a mile from the nearest path, so tired you can barely freemount, and so bogged down in long grass or mud that you can’t ride more than a few feet at a time.

And whatever you do, there is no substitute for spending a lot of time doing it. Eventally, it becomes as natural as walking.

I think you’re already good enough to go for it. muni skills are hard to describe. I think you have to learn by doing. So find something that you can ride over, but not easily, and practice. I started by riding through the grass. For me, the hardest part was conditioning. I ran out of breath fast at the beginning. Muni really gets you in shape.

And yes a real muni with a bigger, fatter tire helps a lot, and it’s more fun. I can’t ride a 20" unicycle anywhere without being frustrated by how slow it is.

Probably repeating most of what’s been said above, but for a start you’re ready now. I’d been riding for less time than you and was less skilled than you when I got a 26" muni and had already been riding easy off-road for a while before that. A bigger wheel definitely helps, but if you’re finding it unpleasant with your 20" one then you’re just trying to ride stuff which is too hard. I’ve ridden a fair bit of off-road on a 20" wheel - to start with it was all I had, and nowadays I sometimes take my trials uni on trails I now find too easy on my muni (though they were originally hard on that). I definitely recommend having a go on the uni you’ve got first - just get yourself a cheap treaded BMX tyre if your current one is a slick (not that you can’t off-road even with a slick on hardpack).

Muni doesn’t have to be what you see in the KH videos - just start off with fairly flat hard packed surfaces and gradually find stuff with more bumps, mud rocks and hills as you get better. Soon you’ll be amazed at how easy you find it to ride stuff you originally thought impossible. There is some technique involved (KH’s book is recommended), but mostly it’s just time in the saddle teaching your reflexes to cope.

I’d recommend getting either a 24" muni with a 3" tyre (Nimbus are excellent quality and probably the cheapest of the good munis) or perhaps a 26" muni.

Very few people ride 20" unis for either muni, or going places. I’m not surprised you found off-roading with your 20" unpleasant- I can’t stand the things either, it’s like riding with your shoe laces tied together, and the slightest bump will tend to throw you off.

I think people are split into two groups, those who can enjoy riding 20" unis, and, those who can’t.

Certainly, a 24" uni with a nice fat tyre will make mincemeat of the kind of terrain that will trouble a 20".

I have also been riding unis for about 2 months. I currently have 24" quax luxus. I bought a new, bigger tire (, and even though it is on the heavy side, it works well on flat surfaces and on ungraveled roads. I haven’t had any troubles yet going offroad, even though I don’t really think it qualifies as mountain unicycling.
Longest workout: 22km in around 2h 45m.
Whenever the 29" oracle becomes available I will probably go for it.

The bigger tire will roll over the bumps easier than a 20" wheel which will get caught on almost anything. Not to mention the speed gain.

I did the same as you, I learned on a cheap 20" practicing outside of my office building at lunches. I got pretty good at it, freemounting, riding competently, even hopping around a little bit. Now I have a 26" Nimbus and love it. It effortlessly (after practice) rolls over bumps that the 20" wouldn’t make it over, and it’s moving faster than the walking speed of my 20". I tried getting on my 20" last week and now know I will be getting rid of it as I just won’t ride it.

Bumps that you won’t make it over on your 20" at the moment. As I mentioned above I sometimes ride stuff I now find too easy on the 26er on my 19er for the additional challenge - stuff that I wouldn’t have dreamed possible on a small wheel 6 months or so ago. It’s surprising just what you can ride on one once you improve your technique and learning to ride such terrain on a small wheel makes you a better rider on harder stuff on the bigger wheel. Not to mention that a small wheel is still very useful for learning trials stuff on - which you will eventually also learn to do on a bigger wheel in real terrain. The idea of a huge difference in speed between a 20 and a 26 is also a bit of a myth - I have shorter cranks on my 19 (150s would doubtless be a bit long on that size wheel, and that’s about as short as anybody uses for muni on a 26), hence doubtless spin a bit faster, so probably go at 10km/h against the ~12km/h I cruise at on the 26. I certainly go a lot faster than walking speed - a quick calc suggests a typical fastish walking speed of 5km/h would only be ~52rpm on a 20.

Not that I’m trying to put anybody off getting a 26 for muni, just pointing out that a 20 isn’t necessarily that useless for it, and certainly not something to discard.

very valid points aracer. Some of my post was exaggerated a bit, a 20" will definitely go faster than walking speed.
I plan on getting rid of mine because it is what it is, a learner unicycle. I would like to have a 20" to learn trials on, but this one would not take the abuse at all. I bought it used online for $40.
I don’t see myself doing much muni on a 20" because I like the speed the 26" gives me without having to spin like crazy. But who knows, I’ve been wrong before… (I think it was a Tuesday…)

On 110mm cranks or even a bit shorter, a 20" uni will scoot about pretty quickly, and because the wheel is so small, you still have enough leverage for sudden changes of speed and/or terrain.

However, a 26 inch wheel is 30" bigger, and nothing will change the fact that it will go 30% further per revolution, or 30% faster at any given cadence.

High speeds on a 20 may be achievable, but they are not as sustainable, even on the flat.

I agree, a 20" isn’t useless for muni- if a person only has access to a 20", then they should go for it. But if they’re considering a 24"/26" muni, it’ll work a lot better.

Sorry- but I totally disagree- the speed difference between a 20" and a 26" is night and day. While a 20" with super short cranks and a good rider, could match a 26" over a short stretch, there’s no way it could keep up on a ride of any length, even on a smooth path- once you’re into even mild off-road terrain, its inability to roll over stuff would hinder it even more.

I wasn’t suggesting a 20 would keep up with a 26. That’s the difference between 10km/h and 12km/h. But that difference is hardly night and day. I agree that a 20 feels a lot slower, but the reality is that the difference isn’t all that big - I shouldn’t think a bike rider overtaking (or a pedestrian you were overtaking) would notice. It’s the difference between a trip taking half an hour or taking 36 minutes, which isn’t really all that significant.

If you are serious about riding off road, you should get a bigger wheel or you will struggle.

The only person I know who rides a 20" on the trails is 8yo, but to him a 20" is a big wheel.

Like i say, i just disagree. IMO the difference is not between 10 and 12 km/hr- my experience is that riding a 20" outdoors for just covering distance is unbearably slow, whereas a 24x3 or 26" is fine.

I agree with you that a 20" feels slower- there’s no doubt about that- i also believe it actually is a lot slower: but I’ve never used a speedo so I’m not going to labour that point.

For me, the fact that a 20" feels a lot slower is sufficient reason for me to not want to ride one.

Now that’s a good use for a 20". A nice fat tyred trails unicycle is ideal for children to get into muni with.

Thanks for all your responses - one more important Q

Hi Guys,

Thanks for all your inputs - they really mean a lot to me and I have taken the time to dive in to each and every one of your replies in this thread.

Now, I wanted to ask for your help in understanding which unicycle type suits me best.
I intend to ride in off-road paths that are rather wide (more than singletrack for sure), but I also want to enjoy the benefit of a “trial” unicycle to be able to jump above obstacles, etc. Although I mainly aim for high speed through the off-road riding.
I got confused by the different classifications of unicycle riding: singletrack, trials, muni, cross…
I also don’t know which size of wheel is best for me - 24", 26", 28", etc.

I would really appreciate your help on this issue guys.
Thanks again!

As others have said start on your 20. I still like to ride mine, smaller bumps are challenging and less scary to roll over. Then when I get back to my Muni I can ride over bigger bumps and more easily.

24 x 3, best at hopping and Technical terrain.
26 x 3, rolls better, faster, still good at tech.
29 (2.5 the biggest tire, 3.0 on the way), rolls better, faster, most ride XC.
36, VERY few can ride anything other than XC.

Maybe it would help if you clarified a bit with respect to exactly what kind of off-road experience you’re looking for. The wider than singletrack comment makes me think you’re going for some light riding for distance/XC but the jump over obstacles comment makes me think you’re going for a more technical trail.

I’ve got a 26 nimbus and a 29 KH, each has their purpose. I recently got an opportunity to briefly test out a 24" KH muni and was really, really surprised at how effortless and how high I was hopping, one of those might be in my future.

Ok, I got off on a tangent. Just saying that it’s nice to have multiple sizes on hand. Build a collection over time. You may want to bomb out some distance in a light muni session on a 29er, or you may want to bust out the trials uni for jumping obstacles. I find it’s nice to switch it up, do one thing one day, something else on a different day, get it all out of your system.

I will say that most people that I know that hop over big obstacles while on muni rides are doing it on 24" unis. All depends on what you want out of your muni ride. Distance, conquering tech sections, etc. Multiple unis help. You can hit the same trial with different unis and get different things out of the ride.

I’ll try to clarify my aim


Just to put things in better focus, my primary use of the unicycle is to ride long distance.
I would like to have both off-road and pavements riding options.
I don’t intend to jump above obstacles regulary like in trials but I would like to have the option to cope with obstacles that may occur along the way. But nothing serious anyway.
It seems that the choise is down to one out of two options - 26" muni or 28" cross.

I hope this help to better understand my question.

Thanks again.