[newbie] City commuting: is unicycle really efficient

I find the 29’er/100mm unicycle highly efficient, and all my city commuting is done on a unicycle.

  • My casual riding speed is about the same as my fast running speed, and if I’m going longer distances, I can usually sustain 20-23km/hr.
  • It’s easy to maneuver in crowded areas, hop on/off footpath, through crowded shopping areas etc
  • It leaves your hands free to carry the groceries
  • For shorter distances (5-10km), it’s not that much slower than a bike, but when you get there, it’s easier to lock-up, or take it inside, or walk through crowded areas.
  • With a bike, you tend to spend more time on the road, whereas on a unicycle, it’s more like an accessory than a vehicle. I guess you find the same with a longboard.
  • It’s reliable, not a lot of moving parts to break.
  • It’s lightweight and simple. I live up a flight of stairs. It’s easier to carry up without handlebars flapping in your face and derailleurs getting caught in your shopping bag.
  • It’s cheaper comparatively than a bike, so easier to replace if stolen.

I was hoping I’d find someone who commented on efficiency. I guess I need to work on my riding form.

Uni’s are SOOOO much easier to care for and carry than bikes. I’m amazed you don’t see more bike messengers riding unis! As for uni theft, I believe they make specialized bolt that you can put on your uni to prevent people from sealing handle bars and seats; could work on a uni too! Then you’d just have to lock up your tire…of course I’m not sure it would make much sense to undo the bearing holders only to steal the frame and not the tire. This (PitLock) was a site I found that is similar but not exactly what I was thinking about.

freestyle !

I haven’t seen anyone mention it yet :


Unicycles are WAY cheaper then bicycles in every aspect! (except similar individual parts)

I do small commutes on my 20" Muni and it is terrible… slow! but its a hell of a lot of fun and when i pick myself up a 26" or a 36" it will be a different story, unicycling as with every other sport it is what you make it.

Daily commute

I commute daily through downtown Seattle on my Nimbus Impulse. I began city riding on my son’s 26" Muni, and it really helped to build skills and find different routes through town. I got my 36er on Feb. 14th, and did the 2 miles across downtown on the 15th. I just decided to do it, and figure it out. I take my uni on a commuter train and vary my rides as weather and time permit. Some mornings I do 2 miles, some mornings I do 10-12 miles. I use a combination of train, bike path, and city streets. I then do any number of combinations for my ride home. Riding through the city is a challenge, but I have found the city built a bunch of unicycle ramps on the sidewalks that even assist our friends in chaired vehicles. I go from bike path, to sidewalk, to street depending on my location and traffic, both pedestrian and auto. I put my bike lights on it and it helps with both cars and people. When folks see my flashing light coming at them, ( I point it down a little so they don’t go blind) and they seem to give me a little more room. I also notice that it gives them a chance to see I am not out of control. My skills on the big wheel have really benefited with some of the technical riding I have to do when in town and traffic. The disc brake is a huge help.
Mostly I would advocate a safe unicycle commute for anyone who enjoys the bliss of an amazing way to navigate their city. I slow down and do the 2 miles in about 18-20 minutes, depending on lights and traffic. The regular people I see who wave and say hi have become a great way to have a positive start to my day, rain or shine. I have to start riding my bike again for some triathlon training and I am going to miss my daily unicycle commute. Probably have to cut back to 2 days a week on the uni. As one of the few unicycle commuters here in Seattle, I try to present a positive image for our “sport”, and especially try to stop and answer questions from people who can’t believe that we can ride such a big unicycle. I even let anyone who knows how to ride, ride it. I have hopefully helped rekindled the unicycle passion in at least 4 people who could not believe I would let them ride, and ride they did. The big wheel freaks them out at first, but they are usually excited about riding it. I always direct them to UDC to check out the new stuff. Hopefully more folks will try commuting. I have found it very efficient, and a complete stress reliever.


I’ve got a friend who’s done a lot of longboarding, and I’ve ridden with him (me on a unicycle) so I can offer some comparisons.

Long boards are faster than unicycles on flats/downhills.

Unicycles can ride uphill, longboards have to be carried.

Unicycles are safer- I’ve failed to convince my longboarding friend of this, but, I dabbled with boarding, and quit it cos I could feel the high potential for injury.

(My friend had a real bad fall on his longboard 2 years back, snapped his lower leg bones clean in 2, and spent over 6 months in a cast- that kind of confirmed my feelings about the relative safety of the 2 activities).

Thing is, when you’ve mastered the basics of unicycling, the amount of control you have is phenomenal, you can control every thing it does through your feet alone. On hills there’s no messing around reaching for brakes, or scraping your back foot along the ground like on a board, simple back pressure on the pedals. You also never reach high speeds comparable to a board, so, even in the event of coming off, bad landings are rare.

As for stopping, as you’ll have seen in previous posts, unicyclists rarely dismount on rides, they either hop, or, like me, learn to idle (rock in one spot), or, at, for example, pedestrian crossings, just grab a convenient pole.

20"-ers are not good for communiting (too slow), but 24/26/29" are very good.

One nice thing is that unicycles work well on both road and sidewalk, so you can choose according to which seems best at the time.

When people ask me about speed, I always say, ‘slower than a bike, faster than walking’.

Other pluses, like a board, you can pick up the unicycle and carry it (useful in shops).

And, wherever you ride, the spirits of little children will be lifted, as they witness something that looks so impossible, that it can only be a manifestation of genuine magic in a world, that, in all other ways, seems to be becoming more and more mundane with each passing day.

I longboard and unicycle…they are both great in their own way. It’s often difficult to choose which to ride…longboarding is mellow and chilled, easier for me to find flow. Whereas unicycling is edgier and immediate…I just love riding both…neither is better than the other…and, by the way, longboards can climb hills!

Have fun,

I don’t think this is true.
A base 29" street unicycle is $350/450 USD.
I see dozens of good bikes for this.

A good road bike often costs double that, or more. Sure, you can get a bike that’s nothing special for that price, or a top quality unicycle for that same price. Bikes are definitely more expensive, when you compare the quality of the products.

I have a “decent” cycle cross bike, a 2006 kona jake the snake i bought in 2010 for $800 and it was $1600 new, it had a new cassette, new tires, extra set of rims, and a complete overhaul form a guy that worked at a shop, its an awesome bike but on the low end of the biking spectrum.

I also have a 2008 Rocky Mountain ETSX with is just past introductory full suspension. To get a “real” bike (real bikes cannot be purchased at walmart, or canadian tire) was around $1200 and i spent $3050 on mine. Top of the line can well exceed $9000.

I spent $230 on my new Norco Muni 20" and i am eye balling the KH 26" Muni which is $660 (new) that is quite the price difference.

Note: i have owned several bikes from both canadian tire and walmart and have had the bike basically implode in 3 weeks… Going on my 5th season with my Rocky =D

Introductory unicycles are around the $150 mark.

(all pricing canadian)
Trainer 29" uni - 170 + tax
Nimbus 29" - 350 + tax
KH 29" - 690 + tax

Glad to see the OP visiting the discussion boards a full year later. Reading the verbiage in your first post, I would have pegged you for a one-and-done poster (no offense, but we get a lot of that around here). How’s the unicycle commuting going? Are you up to the speeds of that Manhattan (had seen that video before) rider?

+1 the Impulse was my first 36er and I was amazed how easy (I’m not that talented) the brake was to use. The move to Magura Hydro rim brakes (due to incompatibility Schlumpf hub) was definitely a step backwards. I’m glad I learned to brake on the Impulse.

Welcome to the wonderful world of big wheeling! Sounds like you are a great ambassador for our little niche sport. Keep up the good work!

if you want to commute on a unicycle you need at least a 26er for it to be worth while.

Where I live, literally everyone commutes by bicycle because it is a three mile long tropical island. It is very corrosive here, and everyone rides beach cruisers with three speed hubs. With all of their rust and fat tires, I find the bicycles much less efficient than my 29er with 125mm cranks. I just have so little friction and I ride so much that I am extremely efficient (although there are definately more efficient unicyclist). I also used to enjoy longboarding a ton. That was before I got a uni. I never have to dismount mid-commute here because all the traffic isis bicycles and I just always ride in the road. Comparatively, the uni is way more efficient than a longboard, and I find bicycles uncomfortable now. Plus, people give me a hard time when they see me on a bike now. I’m expected to be on my uni :stuck_out_tongue:

Mine was $35 (about $50) brand new - and I still ride it. The only bike you can get for that price is a heap of junk kiddies one. I got a s/h quality 29er for £90 ($150), a pricepoint at which you’re still into heaps of junk bikes even s/h. Meanwhile even a quality unicycle is cheaper than all of my bikes. If you think bikes are cheaper, you’re not comparing like with like.

I disagree- I spent many years commuting on my 24x3; obviously less maximum speed than, say, a 29-er, but, the extra control comes in very handy.

Currently I’m riding my new Quax 26", but it’s pros and cons and I could well switch back to the 24x3 in future.

Ditto - I clock up over 6000km a year on a 24" skinny wheel job, nothing fancy.I lose some speed next to a larger wheel but it is far less than, for example, 1/3 of the speed of a 36". And because half my riding is through tight places such as busy malls and crowds I get what I lose by being able to stay on it more.

It takes somewhat longer than a push bike of course but for the right situation it even compares well to bicyling. Especially when mixing it with public transport.

IMO unicycles are great for urban commutes. Take it on a bus, subway, buildings. It’s very manuverable, one you are good. A good 24" uni is very light.

The inefficiencies compared to bikes are for longer commutes with less stop and go. But then again, I hate having to lock my bike outside. On a uni just bring it in with you. If you are not great at idling or hopping (I’m good enough that I rarely have to dismount), it is still really easy to quickly dismount and even run with your uni.

I used to mind the comments, now I don’t give a @#$.

I got into unicycling after seeing the Adam Cohen video. I really love the idea that a uni can be a viable form of transport for commuting. I’ll always remember the excitement and sense of achievement I felt when I rode my 36 to work for the first time. It’s both exhilarating and challenging and no two days are the same. I love overtaking bicyclists on the uphills :slight_smile:

For flat roads and downhill, I find unicycling to be more efficient than walking, but less efficient than biking. For uphill, it’s quite challenging, and I’ll either go for it if I’m feeling like the challenge, or I’ll shamefully get off and walk up if I don’t want to be ridunkulously sweaty by the time I get to my destination.

Heat index > 100 and riding uphill do not agree with me for some odd reason. But despite hills, I still prefer unicycling to walking. Walking is just. So. Slow.

My feet are really poor (car accident injuries 30 years ago) and so the more I am on my feet the worse I am.

So I find anything more than a few hundred metres worth the effort. Even hills are ok as we have almost no serious hills in Perth. Indeed, “the Fremantle Doctor” is the hardest bit of riding here. (Fremantle Doctor is a wind that gives us relief all thru our hot summers, blowing in from Fremantle over the city.)