My old Nimbus 24" ultimate wheel broke at the weekend, and my new one has already arrived from Unicycle.uk.com - thanks for the quick service, as always.
This review is written from the point of view of an experienced unicyclist (29 years of riding, the last 15 or so quite intensively on all common wheel sizes) but I’m quite a novice on the ultimate wheel: still at the stage of counting pedal strokes, but good for regular rides of 50-100 pedal strokes, with the occasional figure eight or circle.
First things to notice: my old Nimbus had a steel rim and 4 oblong section steel spokes. The new one is aluminium, with a strange arrangement of 6 spokes in a sort of six armed swastika pattern. Practical advantage of the shape: it is less likely that you will put your foot between the spokes in a UPD. I have done that a couple of times on the old one and the fall can be quite ungainly and painful.
Second advantage: it’s lighter. The wheels including rim tape, but without the tyre or pedals: old steel one, 2.858 Kg, new aluminium one, only 1.587 Kg. As you can do a lot of carrying with an ultimate wheel, it makes a difference!
Next difference: the pedal sockets were brazed onto the surface of the old one, and experience showed that this was a structural weakness. On the new model, the spokes are pierced all the way through so that the pedal sockets are attached to both sides of the spoke, which is (a) a stronger arrangement and (b) reduces the Q factor, which is really important on an ultimate wheel.
More subtly, the spokes are slightly narrower too, which further reduces the Q factor.
Cosmetic difference: the old steel one had a rim that was drilled for ordinary bike/unicycle spokes. The new on isn’t drilled, so it looks more “purpose made” and less “improvised”. It’s purely cosmetic - in fact it possibly makes it a tiny tad heavier, but it’s clearly a styling improvement.
Pedals: the first thing you may change on any uni. However, the white plastic pedals are grippy enough for flat soled cycling shoes in the dry, and have the advantage of being less likely to damage an indoor floor than metal pedals. They are better quality than the originals on the old UW. A strange detail is that the bits that screw in are different colours, which is one additional clue as to which is the right or left of the wheel. This matters as if you ride it the wrong way round, the pedals will unwind and damage the threads. I did that once on some brand new alloy cranks. Ouch!
Tyre: bloody horrible. The old one had a 2.25 inch white wall tyre that was fairly smooth. The new one has a 1.5" tyre which has a serrated edge that is really uncomfortable when it chafes on the inside of your legs. I have swapped them over. In doing so, I discovered that the 1.5" tyre was the tightest fit on a rim I have ever encountered. I also discovered that the rim on the new on is a few mm wider than on the old one. American friends, read “tire”.
Definitely, the new one is a big improvement on the old one, lighter, better designed, smarter, stronger. The only criticism is the tyre, and I would recommend that you change that unless you are a good enough rider to need the extra grip and to avoid the extra chaffing.