Muni trends

Reading through the archives it seems that in the past 24” was the preferred size for technical muni, with cranks between 140 and 170mm and tires running 2-3” wide.

These days it seems like 26” and 27.5” are the preferred sizes. Crank length is between 110 and 150mm and tires seem to be 3” wide or close to it and fat tires seem to have come and gone.

The crank lengths getting shorter makes sense considering that brakes became common equipment in that time. Same thing with tire width. Fat bikes and wide tires/plus size tires became common in that period. So people tried different things and some worked and developed new preferences.

Changing to the larger wheel makes a little less sense to me however. Obviously 26” and 27.5” have vastly larger selections of rims and tires, but it’s not like the 24” is an oddball size like the 32”. There is still a selection of good tires and rims available and in the past it seems that the consensus was that the 24” was superior for technical downhill. This makes good sense too considering, all else being equal, the smaller wheel will be lighter, stronger, lower to the ground, and cranks of the same length will provide more leverage.

Now there’s also obviously a point where smaller is not better. A 19” uni for example would lack the speed or roll over ability most would find necessary for muni.

Just wondering what the rest of you think of this. Are 26” or 27.5” really as good or better than 24” for technical muni, or is it just a matter of they now have the best parts available and the compromise of using a larger wheel is less than the compromise of using inferior parts? Or did riders in the past just ride 24” because that’s what the Schwinns and Torkers were and it took a decade or so to discard old habits?

Interesting question! A few of my thoughts:

Modern brakes have changed the game for sure - while in the past you would have to run long cranks to survive the downhills, now you don’t need to. So there, I think technology is the leading factor in change.

If I was slowly making my way through a rock garden that lasts for miles, with lot’s of trials-like hopping and super sharp turns, a 24" wins out on that. I think if you wanted to, you could still build a 24" that is “better” than most 26"/27.5" unicycles. But most trails aren’t like that (at least not where I live), and most riders don’t really like doing that style of riding for super long sections, so I don’t think most people want that 24".
I see a similar development in mountainbiking, where the “popular” style of riding has shifted away from the super technical, tricky riding toward more flowy, faster and “fun”. Trails and equipment have followed that trend, and I think Muni will always be lightly tied to Mountainbiking.

I guess my point is: it’s a mixture between the popular styles changing, technology changing and the realization that 26"/27.5" is a lot more capable than people used to think. All three pull in the same direction in this case - if they didn’t, I think the disciplines would split up into more sections.

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Your question seems to be predicated on a narrow definition of what muni is: Emphasis on speed, downhill, mostly flowy, performed by younger riders.

A couple years ago, on a group ride, another rider shared with me the story of riding with Kris Holm. Not the younger Kris Holm, but the approaching-middle-age, married with children Kris Holm. This rider told me that, instead of bombing down a trail, Kris took a deliberate line at slow speed.

I also watched another expert but middle-aged rider take a bumpy, steep rock formation, very slowly and deliberately. He was being safer, for sure, but in some ways, what he was doing was more technical than bombing down the trail and holding on for dear life.

My riding style doesn’t rely on speed or roll-over capability. I can ride on the same uneven conditions on my 19" trials uni that I ride on a 26" muni. For me, the important points are maintaining a rigid connection with the unicycle and having enough torque to pedal through changing resistance.

If I were riding on a larger wheel with shorter cranks, I’d probably rely more on roll-over and speed. Some younger, lighter, stronger riders are awesome at climbing with short cranks. Not my experience. I would burn out from the effort and end up with sore knees and hips if I used short cranks.

I love my 24" muni. A couple reasons why the larger sizes caught on, I think: Larger wheels started being made that were both stronger and lighter. In the past, a larger diameter wheel would carry a huge weight penalty in terms of rotating mass.

24" increases the chances of pedal strikes, but I don’t ride in that many conditions where this is an issue. Tire choices are not awesome, but IMO they are still okay. I have a tire that works for me.

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Muni evolution.

Products are better. Even the big ones are tough now.
Riders are better. Look at the skills being shown now vs. 20 years ago.
Disciplines are becoming further separated. Some of us like to hop and some of us like to roll.

Everything that can be done on a small wheel can be done on a large wheel too if you have the skills.
Not everything that can be done on a large wheel can be done on a small wheel

So my thoughts are that if I can do everything on a big wheel that I can on a small wheel, then bigger is better.


I don’t really think of muni as being a fast sport. IME, most of the time it’s about a 5 mph sport, with stretches of cross country somewhat faster and short, tricky portions often being attempted repeatedly. What does stand out reading old threads is that prior to about 2012 there were lots of comments about the most hard core riders using 24” unicycles.

These days I don’t see those same kinds of posts. Also, with riders on bigger wheels with shorter cranks faster speeds are just going to go hand in hand.

What doesn’t make as much sense to me is that people still like to ride and film and show off doing the same kinds of big drops and steep descents now as back then and the reasons for a 24” excelling at that kind of riding still sound compelling.

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I have a 24" old KH Muni and a 27.5" URC mini made by Mad4One.

I don’t think there’s a weight saving with the 24", for what it is, its solid and pretty heavy. It has a KH Moment hub. But I rather use it on a single track path close to home than the 27.5, because it’s rather twisty and I feel more comfortable on it for the twists and turns. Any short uphill sections is still really hard for me, challenges my cardio. The path has rocks and tree roots, but my 24" muni has a 2.8" fat tyre so it does absorb a lot of the unevenness.

The 27.5" is my go to uni for offroad more flowy riding. It’s also fun on road too. It has 3 hole cranks - 110/129/148. I tend to prefer the 129mm hole, because 1. I don’t think I ride any faster with the 110mm setting, but I notice it is no where near as forgiving balance wise
2. The 148mm setting has my knees and legs doing very big circles. But super easy to mount once you dial yourself in :slight_smile:

The 24" is the one I got good at hopping after doing it on a trials comfortably. I can hop on my 27.5", :), but it took quite a bit longer to achieve after I had it working well on my 24". Also, for riding down steps/curb like steps, I really learnt it on the 24", it’s just that bit lower to the ground. Anyway, doing lots of practice on the 24" for riding down steps/curbs means that I got comfortable and can also do it on my 29er. But I probably would still not want to try it on the 29er if i hadn’t done a lot of practice on my 24" muni.

I do want to ride down consecutive steps in a row (ie. 2 steps)… one of these days I’ll give it a go. And of course, it won’t be on anything bigger than my 24er to start. :slight_smile:

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I’m lucky enough to have ridden with a lot of what I would consider the better riders that you would see in videos and probably even consider myself one of them. Even on a day in a Bikepark, the sections that make it into a video are 15%-20% of the time spent riding (at the very most). I’m not giving up speed and fun in the other 80-85% of the riding for doing those slightly better.

It would be very rare that I come across a section and think: “this would be noticeably easier on a smaller wheel.” It’s only rare situations where it would even make a difference. We are talking about 2-3" of wheel diameter, which of course are not completely irrelevant, but it’s also usually not the deciding factor - if you have the skill to do it on a 24", you probably have the skill to do it on a 27.5". (Plus there are probably equally as many situations where I think “a 29” would make this easier", especially with my love for taking kickers shaped for bikes recently.)

Also, I think if you look really closely, you will find that most newer videos have faster riding, and a lot more (and bigger) gaps. Might not be noticeable to everyone, but I think there is a subtle shift there.


Sounds like we’re on about the same level skill wise. I can hop up and down or over small obstacles, but haven’t worked my way up to multiple steps yet and have yet to hop up a curb on a 36er.

Thanks for the detailed explanation. That was exactly the kind of answer I was looking for.

I’m not a good rider. I’m even worse when muni. But I’m a middle-aged rider who spent a lot of time testing and swapping and retesting and modding. I’ve ridder for months: 19" - 20" - 26" - g26 fat-road - 27"x3" - g27"x3" - 29"x2.3" - g29"x3" - 29"x3" - 36"normal - 36"carbon.
Now I’ve decided that:

  • WHEN I’M EXCITED AND READY TO RISK: XC, fast trail and light muni are great on a 36".
    -WHEN I THINK ABOUT MY MIDDLE-AGE: 29" is the best uni for my style. I can slow down quickly, hop around, monouver at slow speed or gain speed and fast flow. Minimizing the risk of killing/seriously injuring myself frontUPDing in a steep descent (with the 36" I cannot still try: I stop myself just in front of the risk and than decided to take a less steep route)

@louis floating on a 26" with 75mm cranks

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same for me. Though I often use the fatty 26"… with the 24" with 140mm cranks I can withstand fatigue (Il was young a long time ago) and fear (yep! that happens sometime). I had two 24" with Gazz tires but one was stolen (too bad).

That was really fast and smooth. It must be those tiny cranks, because the first time I watched it I thought you had a freewheel.

haha i know. It’s actually not me, it’s Louis Stevens. he did it without a brake too :open_mouth:

Omg I couldn’t imagine cranks that short!

I use a 24" with 110mm cranks and a 3" tyre for muni. I keep up with people on 27.5"s fine and have got through to the elite downhill finals at UNICON with this setup. I actually got better at climbing when I changed to 110mm cranks too.

You can’t beat the 24" for manouverability but I have been thinking about getting a 27.5" with 125s so I can ride easy trails at the same speed with a slower cadence. The tyre choice is also really limited on 24", although luckily my favourite (Duro Wildlife) seems to be one of the only tyres still easily available.


I think these factors were driving the change:

  1. Lack of availability of 24" Muni tires. The Gazz and the Duro were the two main tires at the time, and they stopped the production of the Gazz a long time ago. Not sure of the current availability of tires now. This was driven mainly by the Downhill Bicycle tire market, as they had moved away from 24".

  2. Kris Holm. He had moved away from 24" Muni, and a lot of people followed him.

  3. A sense that 24" wheels were too slow.

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So, what will be the next muni trend? Clipless pedals? That’d be great :grin:

Honestly, I’m kinda hoping that people will do gravel-unicycles. I think for the type of riding a lot of people do, a thinner tire that can handle both mild offroad but is still good on the road, some on unicycle storage bags and a good tourable bar setup would be very neat.


Such a thing already exists - it’s called a 36er :slightly_smiling_face: