My prediction on the future of unicycle touring.

In 2-4 years, serious unicycle touring will be done on Schlumpf based 36" unicycles. (Does anyone have one yet?)

This weekend, I did my first ride of any sort of distance on my harper-equipped, stockton-built 36/54 unicycle. My setup is pretty kloogey right now with the bolt for the torque arm running through the bottom V of my Hunter frame with a couple washers. It needs a more permanent setup (this one needs constant adjustment). I’m a little embarassed to admit that I really havn’t given this wheel the attention it deserves.

Yesterday, as part of the Berkeley Juggling and Unicycling festival, we had a group ride. It was 8 miles of mostly flat terrain; the longest I’ve done with this wheel to date. The ride was with a group of mostly 36" and 29" unicycles, and was at mostly relaxed pace.

Lets get the negatives out of the way.
Mounting is hard (but you get used to it). Low-speed handling sucks. It doesn’t like to go slower than about 7mph. The hub (and therefore the unicycle)is quite heavy (no I haven’t weighed it). Mild hills are hard, steep hills are very difficult to impossible. At stoplights I had to dismount and remount each time (I usually do a bunnyhop/standstill).

The Positive.
Once this thing is up to speed, the ride is SWEET!!! On the occassions I was riding next to a coker at its usual speed, I would be hardly pedaling while the other rider was spinning away. On minor downhills, I could scream without pedaling my rear off. In its element, the geared coker lets you ride faster with lower effort.

People who have ridden geared unicycles with smaller wheels (myself included) have complained about them being twichy and requiring lots of focus and mental energy to stay up. Not so on this beast. At cruising speed, the ride is fun and smooth (once you’re used to it). For long flat rides, it can’t be beat.

Because of its lack of shiftability and weight, I wouldn’t use this unicycle for serious touring. It just isn’t practical for anything that has any amount of climbing (and what tour doesn’t?).

But swap the Harper hub for a Schlumpf and the world changes (no offense Greg). I’m hearing that with a little bit of practice that the Schlumpf is on-the-fly shiftable. That means for long flats (with minor hills), you get to cruise at 1:1.5. See a hill comming up or riding in the city? …shift to 1:1 and have all the leverage and control you need. I used 170’s on my ride, but I think 160’s might be an ideal compromise. Touring with existing unicyles requires a compromise with crank length. Short cranks give you speed on the flats, but you suffer in the hills; too long and the flats aren’t much fun. Add a Schlumf hub with 160’s and even steep hills are managable while the long cranks will be perfectly suitable for cruising on the flats in 1:1.5

Once this catches on, I don’t think touring will ever be the same. Average speeds will increase by several mph without a notable increase in effort. Once one rider in a group gets one, all his friends will have to get them too so they can keep up. You heard it here first.

It seems like the current focus of geared unicycles is on the smaller wheels, and their portability is attractive, but I think the internally-geared hub really shines on the big wheel.

PS. I don’t currently have a cycle computer, so don’t ask for any numbers. Once I put one on, I’ll post more information, but don’t expect a detailed scientific trial.

Mike, thanks for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I can especially relate to your comments about pedaling easy while everyone else was spinning. I did a 20-miler on flat trail in early September with Pete Perron, who was on his Purple Phaze 36 geared to (I think) 54. I was spinning my A$$ off the whole ride just to keep pace with him and his annoyingly slow cadence. To make matters worse, he kept trying to strike up a conversation, which he could do easily since he was breathing normally, but I couldn’t do at all because I was panting from the full-time sprint.

Not sure I count as a “serious distance rider”, but I’m at 1000 miles for the year so it’s more than dabbling. The one thing that from my point of view might keep your prophecy from coming true is the “speed/injury” ratio. On a standard 36, it takes a decent spin to get the uni up above your top “run out” speed (assuming average running speed of 12-14 mph). Sustaining that over miles and miles is harder, and it seems like most stats I’ve seen from long riding days show average speeds well within “run out” ranges. With a virtual 54, it will be much easier to get (and sustain) the uni above run out speed. It’s also–at least based on my limited Schlumpf and Blueshift experience–harder to compensate when you hit a bump or dip you weren’t expecting. Those factors together imply more UPDs above run out speed, and corresponding increase in injuries.

But maybe that’s just scardey cat Tom. Either way, I’ll be staying tuned to the developments.

PS: It will also be interesting to see if this drives more of a division on uni tours, i.e. more of an exclusionary approach with the “gearheads” not wanting to ride with those that can’t or aren’t willing to ride at the higher pace. Not that such behavior is in our nature.

Yes, this certainly does raise the possibility of injuries, especially among those who want to see just how fast these things can go.

I think for the experienced tour rider who wishes to increase his average speed (without testing the upper limits) while reducing cadance, injuries won’t be a huge problem. The key is staying within your limitiations (and safety gear!)

It would be hard to mix geared an non-geared riders. Right now, we’re seeing some rides billing as “coker only”. Maybe some future rides will be “geared only”. Personally, I’d rather ride 1:1 with some company than geared and alone.

Two caveats:

  1. The Schlumpf hubs/cycles will probably stay prohibitively expensive unless production goes way, way up. That will be nice, but until then the tourers will have to make the $1500 investment (for the whole cycle at least).

  2. Shift-on-the-fly works, but takes a fair amount of practice and involves brief coasting. I’m sure it’s learnable on a 36" wheel, but might be risky, or take quite a while before it can be done regularly. This is less of an issue, as you can always dismount for the gear change. It’s not like you have to take the thing apart or otherwise spend any extra time.

I’ve done a little bit of riding on the 29" Schlumpf, and managed one successful shift in the few minutes’ practice time I had. I can’t wait to try one out on a 36" wheel.

In biking terms, $1500 is a fairly inexpensive touring cycle. Also, we know some people that already spend that much. …then again, a Schlumpf hub with a Stockton build and a Wallace seat will cost you over $2000. Still, not that expensive in biking terms.

Entry level coker riders won’t be buying them, but then again, they probably shouldn’t be riding them either.

I have no experience with shifting on the fly (or Schlumpf unicycles in general), but I hope I can learn to do it since I think stopping before and after each hill will be somewhat annoying.

Too bad you didn’t stick around for Sunday, you could have given it a go. Then again, it might not have been that exciting for someone who’s had a real 45" for years.

Mmmm… mebbe. I took a $600 Jamus Aurora xcountry - that’s an inexpensive touring cycle. If I put 4-500 more dollars into it I’d consider it better than anything I could really want, and that’s still less than 1500. 1500 is mid to high end. (maybe for a rockNride or something of that sort)

If your talking racing bikes vs bikes designed to haul weight/panniers/trailers that’s a whole different ball game.

(sorry for the thread derailment)

I’m just glad that something is commercially available. And it takes very little practice to shift the Schlumpf on the fly at low speeds. This surprised me. I also agree that the massive 36" Coker tire makes a geared unicycle more stable.

Fair enough. I also agree that $1500-$2000+ is an expensive unicycle, but it still keeps you in the realm of relatively cheap hobbies. Its also not much more than people are already spending on high-end touring unicycles.

Mike gave us his prediction yesterday at the festival. It was delivered as “In 2 years or so, all you YOU GUYS will be riding geared up 36” Schlumpf cycles". I don’t know if it’s true, but it sure was cool riding a 54" equivalent wheel. Not all that hard really either, except at slow speed.

As for shifting, the Schlumpf setup is great. I was able to shift up and down on a 20, 24 and 29 with a few tries for each. I think this could be routine with just a little practice. The amount of play in the Schlumpf hub is minimal which is very nice too.

We will start to see how the two cycles compare touring this January on the Laos Unicycle tour. We have a few Schlumpf cycles going, most notably the one that Florian Schlumpf himself will be riding. I think that will give us a really good comparison as riders who are all basically competent and in shape will be riding together day after day, on varying terrain from flat to mountainous. I’m not betting either way…


Will any of the Schlumpf hubs be on 36 wheels, or is that not yet feasible?

I believe the plan is to use 29" wheels. So the 1:1 mode is perfect for cruising around in towns and the 1.5:1 mode is for touring the open road. We’ll have to wait until Jan to see who shows up with what.


I am the former president of the “Mike, your an idiot” club. I pretty much thought Mike had orchestrated his own death by putting a geared hub on a coker. After hearing some good conversations, observing the machine in the field, and riding it myself, I have now changed my tune and I think he could be right about the geared cokers in the future.

The idea with the geared coker is not to go faster than you ever could on a coker. The idea is to be able to maintain comfortably fast speeds with fewer pedal strokes. I think the general speed limit* has been reached with normal cokers. Now the idea is to maintain those speeds with less effort. I look forward to trying a schlumpf 36. Mastering the on-the-fly shifting is a challenge I’d like to tackle.

*I’m defining speed limit as the speed people are generally comfortable to go on a unicycle without fear of dying upon UPD.

LOL!!! Thanks for the laugh Nick!

On the “general speed limit has been reached” comment, I can guarantee you that if the right teenager got his hand on a geared 36er, you’d be proven wrong. For us more sane individuals, you’re probably about right.

I’m glad, Mike, that you’re having fun with the wheel I had the privilege to build for you, and that you’re learning great things about it. Perhaps someday I’ll have the chance to put a Harper-hubbed wheel into a full unicycle for someone!

All the best to you on your rides.

Geared for speed


Who will be first to beat the train in the Iron Horse from Durango to Silverton?

You’ll need to cover the 6 hour ride AspenMike did in about 4 hours to do it.

My guess is that it will happen someday.


Perhaps you are right, although 2 hours is a lot of time to cut from a ride like that, and given how much of it is steep climbing, I’m not sure a geared unicycle is going to add value to the equation.

But since we’re predicting the future, I’ll predict this: AspenMike’s current record WILL be broken, and it will be a rider in the photograph below that does it.

Re: My prediction on the future of unicycle touring.

On Mon, 10 Oct 2005 17:28:20 -0500, mscalisi wrote:

…that geared 36" unicycles are the future of uni touring…

>You heard it here first.

Although based on limited knowledge, I agree to all of your story with
the possible exception of above quoted line. If “here” means “on”, then fine. However, if “here” means “in this
thread”, then I contend that. I’m quite sure I’ve read it before.

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

“dit dit diddle diddle dit dit did-it, dit dit diddle diddle dit dit did-it, dit diddle dit dit dit diddle dit dit, diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-dit dit diddle diddle dit dit did-it,… - Spudman”

Re: My prediction on the future of unicycle touring.

On Mon, 10 Oct 2005 23:35:12 -0500, tomblackwood wrote:

>Will any of the Schlumpf hubs be on 36 wheels, or is that not yet

Schlumpf doesn’t (yet?) sell larger frames than 29", and they claim
that only their frames are suitable for the hub. Or words to that

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

“dit dit diddle diddle dit dit did-it, dit dit diddle diddle dit dit did-it, dit diddle dit dit dit diddle dit dit, diddle-diddle-diddle-diddle-dit dit diddle diddle dit dit did-it,… - Spudman”

I have so often issued predictions that proved to go wrong that I am shy at that exercise.
nonetheless my feeling is that for various reasons the future of geared unicycles lies outside geared hubs and with lower sizes of wheels (I love the Coker but I do not want to kill myself).
the real argument against this prediction is about the “twitchiness” of smaller wheels. could there be a technical solution to that? crazy and near to impossible things pop in my inventive mind :roll_eyes:
please do not misunderstand me: geared hubs are glorious engineering feats… but they are simply not going to make it to the massmarket (or so they call it).

The future is here!

What will you be riding for the LUT Mike? At last count we will have about 5 Schlumpfs, or roughly 29%, of riders will be Schlumpfed out on The Laos Unitour. Granted, I think everyone’s using 29" Schlumpfs, but I think for most purposes that is a more practical gear although I’ve yet to try a 36" version.

My Unicycle Tour prediction for 2007 is:
About 66% of people will be Schlumpfed, 33% will be on Cokers. 1% will have some miscellanious type unicycle which will be phenominally difficult to ride (?first giraffe on a Unitour) for which they will ride it for 100km, then decide that they’ve had enough and swap over to a Schlumpf or a Coker.

Of the Schlumpfs- the most common wheel size will be 29"
The advantage is that a 29" Shlumpf is compact and easy to transport, and gives you a high cruising gear, as well as having a low gear for climbing and urban exploring. There were numerous times on the AUT when I would have liked to ride around town (Chamonix for instance) on a Unicycle without killing all the local pedestrians, and being able to wheel it into shops etc.

There will always be a place for ungeared unicycles on tour because of the simplicity factor- virtually bombproof. Hard to see purists joining the geared brigade.

In terms of costs- bear in mind that for non-US unicyclists- Cokers are almost as expensive as Schlumpfs. For example, here in NZ, I think a standard non-airfoil Coker is about $1300NZ----> $900USD. And that is with the USD at historic lows to the NZD.
I don’t think cost will be a major factor deciding between geared and non-geared.

We should bring this thread up again in 2007 and see how it pans out.