observation about hill climbing

When climbing a hill on my bicycle I usually stand alot while leaning heavily on my handle bars. I find this to be a real obstacle while riding my unicycle. It seems that on a unicycle that you lean the unicycle forward but keep your body upright with very little lean.

'taint necessarily so…

Stephen climbing on Slickrock

Good climbers lean forward a lot, especially if they’re speed climbing. Although we’re more upright than you’d be on a bike, because we don’t have the problem of having to shift our weight forward to keep the front wheel on the ground.

Depends on the grade. At Fargo’s 33% grade street, if you don’t lean way forward on your bike, the front wheel comes off the ground and you’ll fall backward! On my uni I was leaning just as far forward to counteract the tremendous gravity that was pulling me back.

I think it depends what you mean by lean. You still need to keep it in proportion to your centre of gravity, usually slightly ahead of it if you were going forwards.

I stand on my pedals all the time when I’m climbing- whether I’m on a bike or a unicycle.

Your picture of Stephen reminded me of this one; Brett Bymaster, at Moab in 2001. In this picture he was doing a little ‘workshop’ for Kyle Thompson on uphill cranking. That’s “Krazy Karl”, before he was famous… :slight_smile:

I tend to lean forward much if it is on the road. If I do the same offroad then any rock on my way stops me.
And in the last race I found it much less tiring to sit on my saddle as long as it is possible while climbing. Even then it was possible to be faster than bike riders :slight_smile:

thanks for all the tips and photos… Just need more practice I guess…

one other thought on subject of hill climbing

I have very short legs and a very long trunk. I wonder if that has any effect when going up a hill…just a thought. I was thinking this as I was trying to climb hills today. I have always loved the challenge of a hill…whether I was running/ biking or now unicycling it. That hill in San Francisco seems amazing. I watched the video of MuniAddict conquering it and was thinking…boy I would love to try that some day.

Mike Adams

Hello Mike, and welcome to the uni forums! The hill I climbed, Fargo street, is in Los Angeles near Echo Park. Thousands of bicyclists have been coming to the annual event held there for more than two decades, and its claim to fame is that at 33% grade, it is one of steepest residential streets in the US. So far, I am the only person to have ever climbed it successfully on a unicycle. Twice! :slight_smile:

amazing…I watched your video and I loved the comment that you weren’t going to quit even if it killed you. I am also your age and have been riding unicycle for only 3 months. I love the rush of climbing hills…No where as steep as the one in SF but i have a big one planned near my house. It is hard to climb even with my cyclocross bike. I love seeing old guys like us doing stuff like this. I can compete against kids have my age and less with no problems…

If your legs are REALLY short it can eliminate the ability of running long cranks w/o messing up your knees. How tall are you? What’s your inseam?

If your torso is a lot longer than other riders your lean angle would be less w/ your upper body, but nothing significant. Your lean angle prefference prob has more effect than having a long or short torso.

Same for me (my mother pretended it was an adaptation to mountain conditions :astonished: ) but I don’t think there is an influence. I am a good climber when it comes to MTB and the worst on earth on Muni … I (just?) need to train and relax more …

Leaning Forward is an illusion

When riding a unicycle your body should should be pretty much in a strait line with your feet pointing to the center of the earth. When you are riding up a hill your body is still strait it is just that a portion on th eearths crust is tilted up towards your face. This makes it seem as if you are leaning forward but in reality you are not.

If you are on a skimulator doing a perfect standstill your body will not move as the skimulator changes it’s grade.

That’s not really true. As the steepness increases the contact point of the wheel to the floor moves away from being directly below the axle. The effect is exaggerated by bigger wheels. So on a really steep hill you do need to have your centre of gravity in front of the axle (i.e. lean forwards) just to balance. Add the torque reaction of shoving really hard on the front pedal to drive the unicycle along and you have to lean even further or you’ll just push yourself over backwards.


Lean is dependent on so many things: traction, speed, torque, terrain, etc…

New riders don’t have as much fine control, so their balance is more precarious, esp on irregular terrain, whereas with experience you can adjust the uni angle and literally “pump” the unicycle as you pedal, just like a bike :slight_smile:

More practice climbing, yup, can never really get enough, it’s one of my favorite things to do, that and swooping along a pine needle covered single track :smiley:

how much harder or easier would it be to ride a 20 in or a 29er up the steep hill in LA?

For really steep hills, the most important factor is rider strength, followed by rotating weight, followed by leverage. A lightweight 20" with longish cranks would be probably somewhat easier, but a lightweight 29" with really long cranks would be good as well. A typical road 29er with 125mm cranks wouldn’t be good due to lack of leverage; a trials 20" wouldn’t be good because of the heavy tire. But rider strength would trump most equipment issues.

…and technique. Hill climbing is it’s own skill.

If you were training for the Fargo hill or something similar you could practice on a less steep local hill on a larger wheel and/or shorter cranks to similate the effort required, but there’s no streight substitute for practicing on something as long and steep.

Terry’s successful climb was because he practiced a bunch on hills closer to him and he had previous experience on Fargo. Steveyo is a good climber but since he hasn’t ever ridden something that steep is prob the main reason why he didn’t make it.

I was as surprised as Steve when I successfully climbed it during his visit! I had only been to Fargo 3 times in the previous few weeks since my last attempt about two years before. And the best I did on those three attempts was just a bit better than halfway up!

I seemed to be stuck at that point, and I was hitting my VO2 max and burning lungs and lactic acid filled legs just couldn’t go any further. Up until the day I first made it to the top, with Steve filming, I was seriously doubting whether I could ever make it all the way. And on the day of the event, even though I had made the climb once-and it had taken every last ounce of strength I could muster-I was still uncertain.

But I had been getting plenty of quality sleep and eating right to give me the best shot, plus, all the admittedly shorter, less steep hills I had been practicing on had helped condition my heart, legs and extended my threshold for lactic acid buildup. And then, on event day, things changed as soon as I got on my 24" MUni for the actual climb, in what was my first, and likely last chance to make it official.

I was filled with confidence, because something inside just told me I would make it. After I finished the climb, becoming the first person to ever do so on a unicycle, I rested a bit, and then did it again! But you’re right about one thing; there is no substitute for the real thing, Fargo! it’s a one of a kind monster that must be seen to be appreciated. :slight_smile:

I think it’s more likely that he didn’t make it because he hadn’t ridden in months. See point #1.