Oldest unicycle that you still ride?

Most of what I’ve read on the forums is about fancy new stuff (which is really great), but I wondered if anyone rides older uni’s and wanted to share a bit about them.

I still frequently ride a Schwinn 20" that looks to be from about 1963. It appears to have all the original parts (aside from the inner tube and tire). My 1st unicycle (also a Schwinn 20" from 1985-86) was borrowed by a friend who moved out of state and never returned it. A short time later, probably around 1994-95, I found this older one at a garage sale for $25. It’s held up surprisingly well over the years. I was even using the original tire until a few months ago, but the sides finally split, and before it failed I broke down and ordered a new one.

It was a bit tough finding a replacement tire. It uses that old Schwinn proprietary S7 tire sizing. The size is a 20 x 1 3/4, not 20 x 1.75. Back in the stone ages, Schwinn measured their rims differently than most do now, and while 20 x 1 3/4 and 20 x 1.75 are the same mathematically, they are not the same in tire sizes.

Thankfully, there is quite an interest and nostalgia for the old Schwinn bikes, and some companies still make tires for them. After a little searching, I was able to find an on-line store that sold the size I needed for about what I would have paid at Wal-Mart for a 20 x 1.75 BMX tire.

A couple of weeks ago, I was curious to know how old this unicycle was, so I started looking for any kind of date or other info for clues. The only thing I found was the US patent number. According to related info we found on the internet, the patent application was from 1961, and it seems to have been made around 1963. A close friend still has his Schwinn 20" unicycle from the mid 1980’s (which he still rides frequently), and it’s obvious from comparing them that mine is considerably older.

One of the things that I really like about this old unicycle is the seat post. The fork on this unicycle is split. The seat post has holes drilled at different increments for seat height adjustment. A single bolt goes sideways through both forks and through the seat post. The saddle can’t be rotated right or left, and it can’t sink, even if the bolt is a little loose (which has never happened, BTW). I’m sort of a perfectionist when it comes to lining things up, and with a conventional bike or unicycle seat post and seat post clamp, I always wonder if it’s aligned as good as it could be, and if the clamp isn’t tight, or if the clamp isn’t very good, the saddle can rotate or sink on you. There’s also an infinite amount of adjustment you can do with a modern seat post clamp, which seems to be a good idea, but that also drives me crazy. I’m always wondering if I could adjust the saddle height just a little better, but with this old seat post, holes are drilled about an inch apart, and it’s very obvious if it’s an inch too high or too low. There’s only one hole that feels just right, and once it’s there, I just forget about it and ride.

The other thing that’s amazing is that the saddle has held up so well. The cover seems to be some kind of bullet-proof plastic or rubber. It has no guards, and even though it’s been dropped dozens or maybe hundreds of times, the saddle cover has never split or torn. I noticed the other day that I had tiny foam bits on my shoes from it leaking out of the bottom of the cover, so it will eventually need to be replaced, but who makes saddles that last 5 decades these days? It is a little uncomfortable to ride long distance on it, but for casual riding it’s still not bad.

Sadly, I’ll probably retire this old guy this week when my new Nimbus Gel saddle (yippee!) comes in. I have a new unicycle, but I stopped using it because the saddle is terrible and bruises the heck out of my inner thighs. After one ride, I had a dark bruise the size of my fist on my right inner thigh, and not a small bruise on my left, and that was the last time I rode it. I would have used the saddle from my old Schwinn until the new one comes in, but it has incompatible parts. I will keep this old Schwinn as a backup and for anyone that wants to learn to ride, but today and tomorrow will probably see it’s last serious usage. :frowning:

So what old stuff are you still riding?

It’s not “old old,” but my best garage sale find was a totally tricked out Yuni Trials with profile wheelset / AlexRim that I sunk many hours into restoring. Definitely worth the $20 bucks or so that I spent on it.

The only reason I don’t ride it more (and haven’t updated with new shiny pics) is because the last thing that needs done is the seat. Right now it still needs recovered and the foam might need to be smoothed out. Thankfully I have a friend of a friend who owns an upholstery shop so I might get a nice professional job done sometime when I get my tax return.

My first unicycle was the DM Ringmaster that my parents bought for my 21st birthday in 1994. It’s still the unicycle that I use most often, playing hockey on it every week.

Of course, I’ve upgraded parts here and there and replaced parts as they’ve worn out, but it’s no Trigger’s Broom. The frame and rim are still original, and as far as I’m concerned as long as the frame is the same she’s the same unicycle.

Well I bought this Yuni 26x3 Mountain Unicycle back in 2006. It was my second unicycle.

I had already bought a better saddle for my trials and it soon made the swap over to the MUni, which I was riding quite a bit.

It was pretty awesome with the greatest muni tire of all time, the famed Gazzalodi 26x3, but it came with a square taper hub and a DX32. Actually the Gazz was a bit of a floppy noodle with the Alex rim and I was looking for a upgrade. This was before 26" MUnis were a big thing and 32h hubs didn’t exist yet so I had to special order a 36h Echo trials rim. Double walled and at 46mm external it was the strongest widest rim available.

I built the new rim up 4x on a Nimbus ISIS hub and installed some Echo 160mm cranks. At the time 150s felt too short and 170s were just too long. 160 was a great middle ground. The Gazz on a wider rim and 160mm cranks was a force to be reckoned with.

During the time I was riding the Nimbus/Echo wheel I went through a few pairs of pedals and swapped out the saddle again.

I started experimenting with lighter tires and bought a range of Qu-Ax cranks when they were $12 each. I started to ride it a lot with a 2.3 tire and 145mm cranks.

My burly 26x3 MUni had become more of an XC machine and the heavy frame was weighing it down. I had a some Magura brake mounts welded on the back side of a KH29 frame and swapped out the Frame, seatpost, and seatpost clamp.

Now that I had a frame that would take Magura brakes I went ahead and ordered one from Brycer. Adding a brake was great and I started to think about going a bit bigger (and lighter again).

I ordered a couple speedway 50mm single wall rims from Alaska, a 26 and 29. I built up the 29" wheel for my unicycle and really liked it. Some Kris Holm 150/125 moments eventually replaced the Qu-Ax 145s and I started to play around with the shorter crank hole.

After a while I decided to add a homemade handlebar for more control when in the short hole. With the new handlebar the Magura brake line was too short and I was lucky enough to get a disk and UCM caliper mount from MountainUni.

Sinz cranks with a disk brake replaced the KH cranks and Magura brake. The disk brake revolution has begun.

I was quite happy with my unicycle but then a deal on a KH-Schlumpf hub came up in the trading section of the forum. Canadian dollar was high and Australian dollar was low and I seized my chance at going geared. The hub was in a KH24. I ended up selling off all the extraneous parts and laced it into the 26" Speedway rim.

I had to do a little bit of fiddling to get the disk brake cranks to work with the Schlumpf but it worked. On a downhill run I ended up bending the left hand crank. Now it has a Moment 137 on the left and a 138/155 Sinz with disk on the right. You can’t notice the 1mm difference when pedaling.

The cranks will eventually get replaced with some spirit 137s and I have a 08 KH24 frame that fits very nicely on the 26" wheel. My current seatpost is too short to use in the smaller frame but as soon as I get a longer post I will do the switch.

The old Yuni looks quite a bit different from when I bought her.

That’s totally cool. To me, great finds like that are what I live for. I love to tinker with stuff, and I have a lot less buyer’s remorse and greater sense of satisfaction when I can find the “good bones” of something used for a good price and restore it and tweak it to my satisfaction.

My latest unicycle purchase was from Craigslist. It was a good price, and I’ve had a lot of fun fixing issues with it and updating it. It’s gonna look a lot nicer and ride better than this poor old Schwinn, and I get the satisfaction of making it “mine”!

Danny Colyer,
That’s very cool too. It must be well made, well maintained, or a little of both! And kudos to you for the hockey playing. That sounds very challenging! Some of the worst injuries I’ve heard of to both the unicycle and the rider have been stories about unicycle hockey. I respect that! :slight_smile:

Wow! That is amazing! You’ve done quite a lot to that unicycle! I actually learn a lot reading your posts. They’re well written and articulate with a sense of someone who really enjoys what they do. Plus, you’re very nice to people on the forums. Awesome!

It’s like the Irish axe that’s been in the family for 500 years - it’s only had 9 new handles and 4 new heads.

My basketball uni has the hub that originally came on my Miyata in 2001. The rest of the parts have been replaced, although functionally the uni hasn’t changed much.

My commuter 29er is an amalgamation of parts, most of which are 10+ years old.

My main MUni started as a 2005 KH, but the only original parts left are the hub and rim. I replaced the broken frame with a 2004 KH, so it’s gotten a little older. (Unlike the 2005 frame, the 2004 is steel, and I’ve had to weld that twice).

Thanks for the post. I think it’s insane (and very cool) that you guys play hockey or basketball on unicycles, and that you know enough riders to actually play! But I see that you’re from Berkley, and I’d expect more unicycles there than I would find here (can’t really justify why except for shameless stereotyping). My next planned purchase is for a muni. I’ve been thinking of it for a few weeks, and then I saw one at the bike store today (which really surprised me), and it was pretty cool. I’ve seen tons online, but this is the first I’ve ever seen in real life. As a former, avid mountain bike rider, I’m really starting to feel the pull to go off road.


MUni is the shizzle. Go for it!

DM sold his unicycles with a lifetime guarantee. That was before the days when people started doing silly things like riding offroad and jumping off walls, but even so the Ringmasters were built like tanks. Their strength and build quality made them the unicycle of choice for street entertainers - and, as it happened, the friends that I asked for advice when choosing my first unicycle were street entertainers.

And yes, I’m a competent cycle mechanic and take good care of my machines.

To quote Terry Pratchett on writing, it’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

I have a Schwinn giraffe that comes out on occasion. Not sure as to exactly when it was made but definitely in the '50s. It belonged to a friend of my grandfathers. I believe only his daughters rode it and they were half a generation ahead of me. I borrowed it for a while and learned to ride it when I was a kid. I can’t remember if he gave it to me before he passed away or if his wife did after but I do remember riding it around their driveway the day it was given to me. Regardless of if he was there when I was given it I know he still smiles whenever it gets ridden.

Do you happen to know if David Mariner is still out there somewhere?

Lol, sounds like you’re talking about a Silver Spirit 1 from 1965 :wink:

Awesome! I think you got me beat!

I am totally that way too. I have a hobby / addiction of buying unicycles, stripping them down, cleaning them up, painting them, and making them mine. I bought a really craptacular Chinese unicycle so I could review it and ended up painting the frame metallic purple and going nuts buying a bunch of parts so I could make it totally custom. I bought a whole bicycle from Walmart because I liked the purple-and-black tires with the purple rims and the whole bike in-store was cheaper than ordering the same rim and tire alone online.

I wanted to make the most polished turd in the world, yet the hub was too wide and it currently sits in a pile of parts in a chest.

At this point my only other options are custom fabricating it or getting a Nimbus Eclipse hub, which I’m about 82% sure will fit.

Cool! Nice video review.

I just bought a cheap unicycle from Craiglist and spent more than I paid for it getting a Nimbus Gel saddle, a double bolt seat clamp and a new seat post. I was thinking it was a bit like putting $5000 rims on a $500 car, but the welds are pretty darn good (nothing like the ones you showed in your video review), the hub is decent, and while the pedals are plastic, they seem well made, and I think they look cool. Glad I’m not the only one polishing crap. When you put that in your post, not sure if you were thinking of Myth Busters, but it reminded me of one of their funnier episodes: https://youtu.be/yiJ9fy1qSFI They did a pretty nice job of making crap look good, literally!

Definitely! I look for things all the time to buy and cannibalize rather than spending even more money and just getting the raw building materials, and it seems, just like you found out, that you have more options and variety than just buying the individual components.

I’m not sure if I’m happy or not to have seen your pictures. If course what you’ve done is way cool with that craptacular Chinese job, but now I’ve got all kinds of ideas in my head about an old unicycle I have. I had convinced myself that the old girl wasn’t worth it, and I’ve got way more important things I need to be doing, but now… :slight_smile:

I haven’t heard any news of him for a long time. From a quick Google search, this is the most recent news I could find:

Probably not, though you’re both taking your time machines too far back for Schwinn. The 20" and 24" Schwinns came out in 1967. The Giraffe followed about 10 years later, though I’m not sure if it was exactly 1977 or not. Don’t believe eBay sellers, who are just taking wild guesses as to the age of “old” unicycles. :slight_smile:

It’s hard to tell the age of Schwinns, as they didn’t change much between '67 and 1980, when they changed to cotterless (square taper) hubs & cranks. Then again in 1986, when they were re-introduced with lots of changes.

For the Giraffe, there are only two major changes I know about for sure. Early models had a Track-style hub, with a lock ring holding on the bottom sprocket. But these can come loose, which is a dangerous situation on a unicycle, so in late '79 (or so) they went to a 3-bolt design down there. And toward the end of their run, which I think was 1983, they changed the “Giraffe” sticker. Early ones featured a yellow giraffe, which looked like Geoffrey the Giraffe from Toys R Us. The later design had no giraffe (thanks to Toys R Us lawyers).

The oldest unicycle I ride “regularly” (not very much these days) is my very first one, a 1979 Schwinn Giraffe which I bought in February 1980. It’s the last one I would ever part with. In the early 80s I had all the non-chrome parts on it chromed (cranks, chain tighteners, seat post and all the little bits), so it’s shinier than a regular Giraffe. For many years, it’s had a double layer of seat covers, with a white, Semcycle-era cover over an old Schwinn one. Also it has a quick-release seat post clamp, which was used in shows for raising the seat from lowest to highest setting before getting on it. :slight_smile:

My oldest unicycle is a Loyd, which probably dates from the early 60s. I don’t know exactly what year. Loyd Wicker Smith designed the split fork frame of the Schwinns. Schwinn bought the design from him and took them mainstream. I found my Loyd on eBay. It still has it’s original equipment leather bicycle saddle, which I’m sure is a major crotch-hurter. It has a short seat post, and I don’t think I’ve actually ridden it. The tire is probably not original.

In the early 80s Al Hemminger, the first unicycle collector I ever heard of, found an antique, handmade unicycle that was very sturdily built, of unknown age. I doubt it was from a decade later than the 1920s. He had my picture taken with it at one of those old-tyme photo shops, where I wore 1890s clothing and pretended to be from that era. I don’t have that one scanned. :frowning:

Other oldies I still ride (sometimes):

  • My 1982 Tom Miller 45" big wheel (wheel has been reubilt a couple of times, but still has its original cottered hub)
  • A late 70's Schwinn 20" that was used to win the Pairs Freestyle event at Unicon I
  • A 20" Columbia that's probably from the early 70s
  • My P.O.S. Troxel (tricycle technology) unicycle from the mid 70s
  • A 1985 Semcycle 20" (first model year) with radial spokes
  • An Oxford (Japanese) from the 70s, from the garage of Bill Jenack
What I don't have is my first Miyata, purchased in 1981; possibly the first one sold in a bike shop in Michigan. It was believed it was the display model from the big Chicago Bicycle Show. It got stolen with my Unibug in 1983.

1 & 2 are Univegas. Miyatas in all senses except the stickers
3 is the Oxford
4 is the Loyd, with it’s seat of torture
5 is “OGK” from Japan, which came with a built-in kickstand
6 is a “Pro”, also from Japan; apparently a relative of the Oxford

John, I don’t know if a comprehensive history of unicycling has been written, but I think you should seriously consider writing it. Just sayin’…

Interesting! Very good post. Thanks for all the info and history details. This has certainly turned into an interesting thread! I bought the Schwinn in question back around 1991 from a garage sale for $25 to replace one I had bought in 1986, which was certainly newer than this, but as you said, the basic design didn’t change much. The seller wan an AA pilot I knew from church, and he apparently rode it (or at least owned it) as a kid. He never made any claims as to its age; I was just guessing based on patent info, his age, and some other stuff I found online, which apparently was off by at least 5 years.

As far as the age of Universe’s giraffe, maybe it’s like the unicycle mentioned in ERIC P/saskatchewanian’s post (parts from various sources), or maybe it’s something like Shmolagin mentioned regarding the Irish axe that’s been in the family for 500 years? Regardless, it’s a priceless family air loom, and he should be proud to own it.

One thing I do kind of like about this old Schwinn is the split fork design. I’m sure I’ll get all kinds of lectures over saying this, but I like it. I’m guessing it’s more complicated to build and service the captive bearings than a more modern design, but since it has no welds, it seems like it would be very hard to break, and I like the way the seat post attaches. It all seems very structurally sound. I also love the whitewalls on the old tire. Very retro!

Here’s a few pics for reference. You can see the patent number, the split fork design, original tire (last three pics), and the original seat. Maybe someone familiar with these might have a better clue as to the approx age.

I still have and ride my 1972 20" Pro Cycle. It’s had 5 tires, 4 seats and 6 sets of peddles but it’s the same one. It’s also the one I loan out to people that want to learn.