No Perfect Unicycle

As with astronomy, weaving, guitar, photography, &etc., unicycling seems to be yet another of those glorious hobbies in which there is no “right” answer to the “which is best” question - it all depends on about a thousand factors, and, even if one listed every factor into a flowchart and had a strict formula for how to determine which unicycle is the exact, perfect match for you, at least three people in a dozen would come back to declare that they are much happier with some other cycle that the formula said was utterly wrong. I get that. I am, anymore, used to and expectant of that. So I’m going to ask anyway, just because when people answer the impossible questions, sometimes they bring up issues that I hadn’t considered while trying to find my own, personal, version of the impossible answer.

I actively intend never to jump off of a picnic table on a unicycle. I hope never to find myself looking forward to riding 100 miles in a single day. I don’t want to ride the slopes of Mount Everest, and I certainly don’t want to ride a unicycle in traffic, with multi-ton vehicles around me moving at speed, hoping that, if I DO fall, I will fall in a safe direction.

I like playing a GPS-related video game in my local area. I was riding a bicycle from place to place happily, and somehow a unicycle came up and bit me in my dreams - something different, something unusual. I travel sometimes as much as 20 miles in a session, but mostly in legs a couple miles long, along roads, bike paths, some dirt trails with roots and rocks to deal with. I would walk those distances, but walking is horribly slow and eats up shoes on some of these terrains.

In the future, I may wish to shoot for locations further away, or get from one location to another quickly for game-strategic reasons. Some of the locations require travel on logging roads - decent slopes, loose gravel, the rare-occasional mountain footpath.

75% of my riding will be on roads and sealed surfaces, though.

I have a Torker CX 20’’ that I am learning on (4.5 hours practice as of this post, average distance per attempt around 16 feet without wall or support), and very much enjoying, without complaint once the initial bugs were worked out (like the seat twisting in its cups every time I got on). I expect to upgrade to my “perfect unicycle” by Christmas and cannot decide which is perfect for me.

I figure anything sturdily built by a reputable name will get the job done, so I THINK my limiting factors will be these:

  1. I have no use whatsoever for a $1,000 unicycle - I will never be a professional rider, and if I change my mind on that, I can buy a suitable ride at that time.

  2. I need to be able to hold a slow jogging pace at least, for this to continue to be fun. Not a sprinting pace, not a geared bicycle pace, but just something that tells me I am doing better than I would on foot. I really don’t mind the idea of having to ride for some time to get to my destination - that’s kinda the point, to be out of the house being active as much as possible.

  3. I need to be able to navigate steep slopes from time to time and would prefer not to walk them, so huge wheels/tiny cranks are probably not involved in my answer.

Will a 20’’ Muni get me the pace I want without looking ridiculous trying to pedal fast enough to maintain a jogging pace? Will that Numbus 24" basketball uni hold up to the occasional mild offroad and the surprise big rock in the path? Do I need a 26’’ to ride 10 miles with reasonable comfort on a daily basis?

Whatever I buy, I sincerly hope it will be able to be the last unicycle I buy, my “perfect ride” (minus the obligatory upgrades), but mostly I just want it not to break on me while I’m 5 miles up a logging road.

PS. I have been lurking for awhile and have read many posts that addressed others’ “impossible questions”, but mostly those seemed focused on different riding goals that I have outlined here. Not trying to spam the forum with duplicate questions, honest.

I would recommend the nimbus road 29" with 138-150mm cranks. Can handle anything it sounds like you’d throw at it, you wouldn’t have to pedal fast to go a reasonable speed, and it’s cheap.

you gave a pretty good description of what you wanted. a 29 is a good “all around” wheel.

I have the 29 mountain uni, which is the same as the road but with a mountain tire, and I think the tire that comes stock on it (the maxxis ardent) isn’t ideal for the road. On the other hand, a road tire can take gravel paths and some trails just fine.

Saddle choice is another preference. I recommend the KH saddle for longer rides.

+1 to juggleaddict’s reply

For me, the muni bug hit me quickly and badly. So I’d suggest a 24" or 26". Then I thought that would be the end of buying, and I told myself that I never needed a 36er, that I assumed was good for road only. Boy was I wrong. The 36er was even a bigger blast for the light trails. As your skills progress so does your perception change. For me personally, i have 2 favorite rides, the 26er and of course the must have, 36er.
Btw, if all you think about right now is riding, your best bet is to buy the best you can afford. You then wont come up with excuses for yourself.
Good luck and welcome to the forum!:wink:

+2 to Juggleaddict’s suggestion - though possibly shrink your cranks from 150 once you get used to it (I went from 145 to 125mm cranks on my 29er that I pretty much use for the things you listed).

Ok, I reread your post. Sounds like you’re a ‘play it safe, conservative kind of guy’. 29er will suit you just find.

Sounds like my older brother, he can have my QuAx 29er when he’s ready…

Conservative, Play it Safe - Probably Accurate

Yes, I am definitely on the more “play it safe” edge of things; although, I’m not so worried about bumps, bruises and falls. I just find little appeal in the extreme sports side of the hobby. Mostly, I want to get from A to B more quickly than I can walk/jog, while sometimes traversing rough terrain between A and B. The objective is not so much to seek out rough terrain in order to jump/bounce/hop/conquer it but rather to be able to cross said terrain if it gets me to my objective. Sometimes, said terrain may be fairly rocky and uneven, and I would like to be able to ride it if necessary rather than walk it, but I won’t actually be seeking out such opportunities other than to learn how to ride them.

I looked at the Nimbus 29’’ Road Unicycle and it seemed a decent possibility, my two concerns being 1) Will the wheel hold up to some rough treatment PROVIDED THAT the rider will take the less abusive route when one is available? Or will my first big bounce on a surprise rock in the road make me regret my purchase? And 2) For a fairly in-shape person, is a 29’’ wheel with 125-150 cranks going to kill me trying to get up a steeper trail? If both of those answers come out in this cycle’s favor, then my choice is made.

Otherwise, I was eyeing the Nimbus II 26’’, just kinda figuring that, all else being equal, a smaller wheel will likely be A) able to withstand more abuse than a larger wheel, and B) easier to ride uphill, as well.

Beyond that, it was all 24’’ options on my list, with the nagging worry about not being able to get a decent pace on level ground, even though, to be honest, I do not yet know what kind of speed to expect from ANY size wheel. For all I know, this Torker CX 20’’ might end up being just the ticket across the board once I can reliably ride it for some distance. I just kinda assumed that a 20’’ gets you about a walking pace and a 36’’ gets you moving way too fast to keep up on foot. That assumption leads to the assumption that somewhere in the 24 to 29 inch range is the happy comfortable pace I am looking for.

Thank you all kindly for the input. I will update as things fall into place.

The perfect unicycle is the one you haven’t bought yet.

As you progress, you’re going to learn what type of riding appeals to you. A general goal of mine is to acquire modest skills in freestyle, street, trials and mUni. This cannot be accomplished on a single unicycle. My three (I have a few more cheapos I’ve lent to friends) unicycles are:

19" Nimbus Equinox Street
26" Nimbus Oracle
29" Nimbus Road

Currently, I’m neglecting the 29" road, because of the excellent trails in my neighborhood, and because the addition of a KH t-bar has made my 26" Oracle so much more road worthy. The 19", however, is most important in my skills acquisition. After learning basic mounts and riding forward on a 24", it was the 19" on which I learned to idle, ride backwards, mount in a variety of ways, ride seat-in-front, jump…and the list goes on. If you have the gumption to learn in the first place, learning more freestyle skills could be very satisfying. A larger wheel makes riding smooth and fast, but it can limit your skills acquisition.

Tough decision…

  1. It’s the same rim and hub as they put on 29" mountain unicycles so no worries there. Yes, smaller wheels are less likely than bigger ones to taco when landing 4’ drops. How often will you do that? :wink:

  2. “Steeper trail” means different things to different people! 20+% grades are tough no matter what you’re riding, but a 29’’ wheel with 125-150 cranks won’t be ridiculously harder on a given hill than the other ones you’re considering. 20" unicycles tend to be especially hard to ride up hills because every bump seems bigger to a smaller tire, and also because momentum can be your friend and small wheels don’t have much of that.

I agree with the others about the 29" road unicycle. I’ve ridden mine a whole lot and there’s no arguing its versatility. Crank length is something most of us have played around with, and your preference might change as your skills develop. I started with 140 mm cranks, but like the others have gone one size shorter since then and plan to try some 114s when I get around to it.

Sounds like the decision is a no-brainer

Okay, well, assuming that I won’t change my mind 37 times between now and then, which is actually a fair possibility - I think I have thought this through pretty well, it looks like the Nimbus 29’’ Road Unicycle is the answer. I won’t be doing 4 foot drops; in fact, if my path requires any sheer vertical motion in excess of about a foot, I will likely find another destination. It’s not that I don’t want to do the work/take the risk; it’s just that I am seeking a solution to a specific problem, and the problem does not involve that kind of riding.

My reading so far indicates that a 29’’ was at the top end of wheel size I wanted to consider (pre-disqualified the 36’’ for unimportant reasons), fully capable of the distances I was looking at, and my only reservations about going that big seem to have been addressed. Of course, I will keep this 20’’ for learning new things - maybe it will lead me down another path in the future and I will be back here looking for another “perfect answer” to another “impossible question”

Just a curiosity followup question here: I was ready to accept that a 19’’ trials unicycle might also fit the criteria, or another 20 inch’ish uni, if I was mistaken about the comfortably attainable speeds on that size of wheel. The advantages in my mind were:

  1. Small wheel = easy hill climbing.
  2. Built like a tank - no way I will break it.
  3. Lighter weight = more likely to take with me when I leave the house for whatever reason = more time riding than something overly large/heavy/inconvenient (based on the theory that the tool you use the most is the one you have with you most often).

The deal breaker there would have been the average speed while riding it.

I am assuming that deal is broken by the last sentence. Correct?

(Also, your points about small wheels and bumps/momentum seem to help disqualify the 20’’)

I can ride my 29er with 127mm cranks on flat trails and hills. Yesterday my ride was 7 miles with a 1 mile climb of 300 feet (4-6% grade). I averaged 6.2 mph. I’m a pretty conservative rider but persistent. Lately I’ve been working on climbing hills. Started with 150mm cranks. On totally flat roads I can average 7mph. I’d say go with the 29er. I’ve never ridden a 36er and don’t really plan to in the future.

Good Luck.

Everyone’s got an opinion, so here’s mine.
If you really do plan to cover 10 miles at a stretch, then a 29’r is preferred. No question, the bigger the wheel, the greater the (comfortable) distance. And you will be able to keep up with a jogger’s pace much easier. The downside is, as mentioned, hill climbing. But even that has a LOT to do with the terrain itself. I can climb pretty steep paved hills handily, but come to a stop pretty easily when the path is dirt/rocks. It has a lot to do with your fitness and riding ability. (I don’t own a 29’r, btw, my road uni is a geared 32", but we won’t get into that conversation here.) I ride either a 24" or 26" off road, but tend to favor the 24, because I’m old, and I can clear a lot more rough terrain with the 24 than the 26. Plus the trails around here have a lot of steep hills, so there is that. (I use ridiculously long cranks, too, 160 on the 24 and 165 on the 26. As mentioned, crank length is almost as important of a variable as is the wheel size. I suggest you go with dual hole 137/165s, so you can have a choice.)
I would say to at least consider the 26 if most of your riding will be on rough trails. (Keep in mind that a 26" uni with a 3" tire is actually a 27 1/5" diameter). As far as a 20" trials goes, hardly anyone uses one for muni. You see it occasionally, but it’s pretty rare. Just too small a wheel for the job.
Anyway, between the 26 and 29, the reality is – you should get both. :smiley:


Thread threw me at first. But since I just added key refinements to my 36er in the last two weeks, no one has seen my uni. If the OP had seen it, this thread would have had to use a different title. :wink:

I am not ignoring other valuable posts in favor of LanceB. I just don’t know how to quote from multiple replies yet.

Lance, the more the merrier. I was seeking opinions. I will not complain if I get opinions. Regarding the 32’’ Guni… thanks for making me drool just a little. Won’t be happening to me unless God speaks to me while I’m riding and mentions gears, but, HEY, it could happen :slight_smile:

Thanks for bringing the 26’’ back into the discussion once the 29’’ idea had taken a bit of root. I have time. What I don’t want is to regret, later, that I did not properly consider the options (nor to discover that I paralyzed myself with option-abundance). I will put on the drawing board, “26’’ - DO NOT (What is a proper antonym for ‘exceed’?) THIS SIZE”

20’’/19’’ trials - Thanks for putting that one to bed. The others got it nicely snuggled for a long nap by ignoring its possibility completely. Your followup gave it a nice lullaby and maybe a smack in the head. It’s out of consideration. Great, I expect, in the right application - mine is not the right application for it.

…get both! Um. Okay, best if you were on your way now. Nice meeting you :smiley:

@Vertigo - those numbers are helpful. Faster and Slower only mean so much. An average person walks around 2 miles per hour. A speed walker makes around 4-6 unless they’re “going pro” or thinking about it. (I can’t walk next to a good speed walker, nor even jog comfortably with some of them - they really MOVE!) So a 6mph average on a mild slope on a 29’’ sounds yummy. Is that realistic on a 26 without using silly-short cranks? (Okay, I’m going to define ‘silly-short’ as less than 100mm, arbitrarily, with absolutely no scientific reasoning to do so.) or are those kind of numbers pretty much 29 territory?

@LargeEddie - I ready NYSO’s learning journal from start to finish (147 pages at last look) before I stopped lurking and started posting. Your name didn’t come up much until later in the week-long reading marathon, but it came up often enough to give your name some weight in my considerations. I could do much worse than to take your advice. Putting on my drawing board, “LargeEddie suggests 29’’ road with (maybe) 127/150 dual hole cranks”. Sound about right?

@elpuebloUNIdo - the perfect unicycle is the one you haven’t bought yet. I like it. Writing that on the drawing board. A reminder about how desires and intentions change. Hell, I might put that in as a signature line, with proper attribution, of course. The idea of a 29’’ limiting my ability to learn new skills if I wanted to concerns me mildly. Keeping this Torker 20’’ might help alleviate that, or do you think not?

@UPD - My older brother seems more like you. Push until you find your limit then conquer that limit, else, you will never really know where your limits lie. You are right, though. Me? I have a limited problem for which I am trying to find a solution. I will leave the conquerers of boundaries title to those who earn it. Who knows? Maybe in a year I will be back here crying that I didn’t reach high enough, hard enough, or deep enough to really satisfy my desire to excell? It has happened before. In the meantime, buy your brother a beer and tell him some noob uni rider sympathized with him, just a little :slight_smile:

Welcome Deke! You haven’t told us how old you are. If you were 17 (which I highly doubt), your long-term needs would probably be different from someone over 40 (I’m guessing around there).

You are assuming you will only ever want one unicycle, and that the type of riding you want to do today is the only type that will ever interest you. Please keep an open mind; you may want do do more with your unicycle(s) in the future.

While you mostly told us what you don’t want to do rather than what you do (not necessarily a bad way to give us the idea), It seemed your main purpose was to get from place to place faster than jogging and have a nice time. So no 19"/20". That size is the easiest to travel with (esp. by plane), but otherwise they’re just slow.

Great suggestions have already been made. Now you must choose since all of them are perfect. And none of them. Do not get the impression it’s the last unicycle you will ever want. If you keep riding, it probably won’t be. Those of us with multiple sizes of unicycle use them for multiple types of rides.

Anyway, pick one and start enjoying it. All the suggestions have been great ones.

And please don’t open a different can of worms by starting a “No perfect Saddle” thread. We all know that one’s true. :slight_smile:

About Me?

I should take a moment to fill out my profile information. I will do that after this post.

Mid-40’s, good guess. Wasn’t trying to hide it; just, I started out here reading a VERY long thread by NotSoYoungOne and the expectation that a lot of uni riders were older kinda sunk in by the end of it. Being 40 seemed such a non-issue as to be immaterial.

I have had some of those brutal impacts you see in skateboarding and some unicycling videos and I have absolutely no desire to push myself to the broken bones and punctures stage. I’m not into that anymore, hence the elimination of the extremities of unicycling (sliding down stairway handrails, going 20+ MPH on something I can’t stop in a hurry, etc.) But the rest of it does appeal to me. I like the idea of pushing my physical limits, but I’d rather push them on hills and trails than on things that could make me unable to walk until healed.

I anticipate riding a very long (20+ miles) bike path near my house when I am comfortable with whatever uni I end up with. Fairly gentle slopes, not a stretch of level ground the entire distance. The rest is to navigate backroads and paths getting to GPS coordinates others have posted in an online game. Basically, the unicycle I get is meant to replace my POS bicycle (single speed Huffy with 26’’ wheels) because I think riding a unicycle would be more physically demanding and would be a talking point with others in the game, kinda my unique approach to it.

I think the 29er previously mentioned is a perfect fit, but I have time before I buy. Hoping to get my daily average over 20 feet per ride today. But it’s fun to daydream between practices.

Thanks again to all for the helpful input.

That slight change in explanation of what your doing would lead me to believe a 36 (Titan) would be better.

-20+ miles
-gentle slopes
-replacing a bicycle

as long as you ride within your limits, you’re not going to hurt yourself on a 36. Slap some 150 or even 165 cranks on there and you have a gravel road monster.

Overall though, it’s more intimidating to learn how to mount and ride. (easier once you’re actually riding though) I went from a 20 to a 36 immediately after learning to ride, so it’s certainly possible.

This is why people have so many unicycles : P different ride, different cycle. You seem particularly worried about injuries. Just to give you some peace of mind, as long as you know when to hop off, you really aren’t in much harm of hurting yourself. You’ll know what you can tackle safely and what you can’t when you get out there. Worst comes to worst, you hop off, or drop your wheel. It happens : P

Thanks for that. I hope it had at least as much to do with the quality of my posts as their quantity. :slight_smile: I started unicycling just over two years ago, so that’s when I make my entrance in that thread. And posting thoughts and impressions about learning while they’re fresh seems to be the point of a journal thread.

There are folks here (such as John Foss) who were already veterans and world authorities before I ever thought of taking up the hobby. So keep that in mind.

Check on the 29" road part of that, maybe not so much on the dual hole cranks. I haven’t tried any, but I’ve got an impression that they aren’t really as handy as they seem like they might be. Maybe it’s that one-tool-for-all-jobs thing you wrote about in your first post. It makes for good forum discussions, but there’s a reason why we wind up having so many unicycles (and cameras, guitars, etc.) I’ve seen comments about them to the effect of, “I didn’t switch holes nearly as much as I thought I would,” and I can’t recall anyone regularly mentioning changing between crank holes. And as you’ve also observed, someone will probably jump in now and say, “Dual hole cranks saved my life!”

I’m also skeptical about needing 150 mm cranks on that type of unicycle. I suggest starting with 135 - 140 mm, then seeing if and when you want to go shorter. That’s plenty of leverage for getting up hills. (I was actually a lot more anxious about going down hills when I started riding mine. Up was never an issue.) Longer cranks are good for low-speed muni, where you might hit a rock or a root or land a drop with the pedals at odd angles, but the fat tire at very low pressure is really what makes that work. On a 29" road tire, it’s more about keeping up momentum and using speed to get over stuff.

I have 127mm/150mm dual hole cranks on my 29er. Got them because I knew I wanted to start out with 150mm and eventually go to 127mm. These days I don’t switch holes but at first I did on days I was riding hills. I like being able to switch holes rather than crank arms.

I’m thinking of putting those dual hole cranks on my 24" Muni. So far, I’ve taken that uni on two plane rides because I can easily pack it within regular checked bag dimensions. I feel that uni gives me more options, from technical muni to paved trails. Of course it’s not as fast as my 29er. Currently it has 125mm cranks and a hookworm tire for riding pavement and easy dirt trails. I’d like to be able to switch to 150mm for tougher terrain if need while on a trip. Last weekend I found out how hard it is to ride washboard bumps with 125mm cranks. It was my first time trying to ride more than just easy dirt/gravel trails. There’s no way I could ride my 29er on those type of trails yet.

When I first got my 29er I couldn’t ride on anything but pavement. It does have a Big Apple tire which isn’t ideal for off road but I couldn’t even do easy trails. Yeah it takes me a little longer to tackle the “tough” terrain. These days I’m sure I could ride it on easy dirt trails but I don’t since there really are none in my neighborhood. I mainly ride on paved trails and streets.

One thing I considered when buying my 29er was that if I thought the 29er was too much for me I could potentially buy a 26" wheel set to put in it instead. That was when was still offering to build wheel sets though. Turns out that I like the 29er for road riding. I have a 24" muni for other types of riding.

Oh, so you’re the one. :slight_smile: I forgot that you had them. For some reason I thought you had changed over to shorter cranks. My bad. I can definitely see the point about travel if you’re only bringing one unicycle.

As for the washboard bumps, I guess it depends on how rough of a washboard you’re talking about but I’ll be you get that with practice. I’ve been throwing in some stretches on gravel jogging trails in the middle of my road rides, on a 45 mm wide Kenda at 60 psi with 127 mm cranks, at the same speed as on the road. (Some of those cross-country kids are fast! Gotta stay clear of them.) There are ruts and bumps and rough bridge transitions and I just bounce over the top of it all. But the mountain bike trails in the local parks where I ride muni are way rougher, and that experience might be helping.