Newbie - Fried Quads

I just started unicycling 2 weeks ago and am looking for advice on how to ride longer. I am a fit road and mountain biker (150 miles a week) and for the life of me, I can’t make it down the street on my uni without my quads being trashed.

I assume I am not putting enough weight on my saddle, but what else can I do to relax and not burn out my legs?

I am riding a Club 26" uni and can make it up and down some small hills already. Longest ride has been about 1/4 of a mile.

You could try longer cranks and rising the seat a bit to help to put your whole weight to saddle. Though just riding of course helps too and builds your strength over time!

Exactly :wink: You have to learn how to ride with almost all of your weight on the saddle and that comes with practice. Eventually you will always want to ride your uni because it’s more relaxing than walking :wink:

I think everybody experiences this. With time you will learn to relax and place more weight on the saddle. It probably took me a month or so to over come the “burning quad” syndrome.

The thing is, being a fit biker is not the same as being a fit unicyclist :stuck_out_tongue:

In other words, you need to ride the uni more so you can build up your legs.

As you get better at riding it will take less effort to ride, but it will always take more energy, more strength, and more endurance to ride a uni, by a factor of 4-5 times what it takes for biking.

I never thought it’d be as much as 4 times tougher… Just out of curiosity, is this more like how you feel about the difference or are there some kind of researches/discussions between unicyclists who ride/used to ride bi*es too?

I haven’t been on two wheels since got my 36er except for quick test rides on my friends’ bi*es so I really don’t know about it :smiley:

One thing that helped me to relax and allow myself to put my weight in the seat was to focus on the horizon rather than on the ground in front of me, which improved my balance a whole lot. The reason I had been putting so much weight on the pedals was because I was needing to use my legs to keep my balance. So once my balanced improved I didn’t need my legs for anything other than pedaling and I could relax.

I don’t think there is any way to quantify the effort because bikes and unicycles are so different, but since we pedal upand down, they are at least twice as hard, then we have 1/2 as many wheel, so another multiplier of two, then we are riding a single gear when most bikes have multiple gear, so add in another multiplier, so five times :stuck_out_tongue:

All I know, is for years I was a biker, did BMX, DH, XC, Road and Mountain, long tours with heavy panniers, and riding my uni up a hill makes it all seem like small potatoes! Four years now and I am no where near as capable on a uni as I was on a bike as an adult, but I may be closing in on my pre-teen biking abilities :roll_eyes:

Nothing builds uni quads like riding a uni. Add some hills, up and down, that’ll build up those “biker thighs” into “uni thighs”.

^ Well I guess that makes sense :smiley: Much harder it is, that’s for sure!

Yeah, but heaps more fun! :smiley:

That’s what I keep telling to non-unicyclist folks here but they don’t believe me and just keep asking about my missing other wheel :wink:

I think it’s a factor of 2:
1/2 the wheels.
1/2 the speed.
2x the effort.
2x the fun!

I was also very fit biker, it took me a month just to ride a few rotations, and forever before I had enough technique and strength to ride any significant distance. But once you get to the point where you’re starting to get comfortable on the uni, and particularly if you’re the type of person that likes a constant learning curve, you’ll never go back!

Doesn’t matter how fit you are on a bike, riding a uni finds some different muscles (just above the knees are the ones I noticed). I think riding a recumbent bike/trike will hit these, but certainly not an upright bike.

You will be sore. You will lack endurance. The only way to get better is to unicyle regularly and provide yourself with adequate recovery time.

This page gives some info about energy expenditure.

It makes it clear that the further away from your balance point you have to recover from, the more energy you expend. So expect to use less energy once your balance improves. And expect to use much more energy when learning new tricks and/or riding offroad compared to cruising down the street.

On a road bike I can ride 3 hours in the hills without eating and still put in some power on the final stretches home. On a 29er riding single track, I must stop and eat every 45-60mins or I suffer a huge glycogen bonk and struggle to even mount the uni. Riding back to the car on firetrack after 3 hours of this feels very difficult.

Funny, I’ve been riding since January but went on my first fairly long ride the other day and experienced complete lockup in my quads. Had been doing some downhill and when I dismounted (not a UPD) to take a breather, I found I could no longer stand do to the cramping. I could see the muscles twitching under my skin, but they didn’t loosen up for a good 10-15 minutes.

Today however, I went on an even longer ride with more downhill and had no issues. Weird. :stuck_out_tongue:

It comes with time. When I got my Coker, I struggled the first day to even go 5 miles on flat ground because I just wasn’t used to the higher speed or the unicycle itself, so I spent more energy on concentration and balance.

A few weeks later, as I got more comfortable, I did a 25 mile ride with relative ease.

A few weeks after that, I did my first 50 mile uni ride…

And just last week I finally accomplished a century.

If you expect distance unicycling to be immediately easy due to your biking prowess, it’s not going to happen. Different muscles, different variables, different exercise. You’re probably already seeing improvement as you get more comfortable on it though.


I really appreciate the good advice. I have taken to focusing on the horizon, putting more weight on the saddle and raising my seat post. As a result I have doubled the length of my ride and can climb hills way better. Huge improvements in just over a week. Having so much fun!