quantifying training/physical benefits of unicycling


Recently a reporter asked me this question:

Is there anyone (perhaps youJ) who can tell me more detail about the training/physical benefits of unicycling? I need some hard data like wattage, heart rate, etc. to make comparisons so that readers get a better idea of the aerobic element. How high does your heart rate get, etc?

I can descriptively answer the question but I don’t have any hard data.

Anybody have this info?



Well, that kind of depends on how you want the information derived. In theory, I could tell you the wattage a unicyclist produces, but this will be a mathematical formula, and should in theory apply to all moving objects. If you need measured data, I’m sorry to say I wont be able to help you.

Kris i cant help you :angry:
But my mom may she is a Physical Therapist:D! I’ll ask her.
Kris i got a two questions for you, when do you usaly release a new line of unicycles? And why arn’t you on the forum more often? It seems you only pop up when you have a question.

It sounds like you need to do some hardcore tests, like in da hospital to find that out, dont u?

p.s. Im sorry im getting way off topic, but is this the real Kris Holm? And if so r u going to do anything new to your 06 KH’s?

Bah, stick to the topic at hand. Anyway, if you’re not the mathematical type, this might blow you away completly, but this is a pretty good website when it comes to calculating wattage. (Warning: This involves formulas for air resistance, slope resistance, rolling resistance, etc.) All these formulas are approximations, and will only be 100% accurate under ideal circumstances, which never occur…

Edit: Eh, forgot the website :stuck_out_tongue: http://damonrinard.com/aero/formulas.htm

Don’t have any numbers, but maybe you can get a ballpark estimate using a few basic measurements?:

Calories burned must be related to water sweated/lost (or maybe not. I don’t know).

So if you could find that equation, then you could simply measure the weight of the water you drink on the ride (mass of starting water minus mass of water left over, just in case…). Weigh yourself, aswell, before and after the ride. This will tell you how many pounds (wait, Canada… kilograms) of water you lost and how many you replaced. Could be helpful in finding how many calories you burned.

You could also look at how many calories are in the food you eat on a ride. Or, how many calories did you consume on the day of the ride relative to how many you consume on a non-riding day. Then relate it to the type of riding and duration, etc.

just a few ideas, none of which strike me as particularly good, but together they may give you a semi-decent estimate of energy burned during rides.

Personally I measure the energy burned on a ride in super chicken burittos. On average I’m comfortably full after a bit more than one. After a ride it’s usually 1.5-2:D .

For wattage you could just use a spinning magnet method, spining magnet = electrical current, using your average rpm’s, and maxwells equation, you could get the wattage proccesed by the movment of unicycling. This isn’t including forward momentum, or the forces used to keep yourself balanced just the aditional unused energy that is transformed into heat/weight, and held by the unicycle itself.

As for heart rates this will depend on 1: How good of a unicycle you are (how much energy you use to stay balanced) and 2: how physicaly fit you are, so it would really be an individual thing, and it would also be easy for you to do it yourself kris. just some heart rate measurments.

I don’t know much about hard data, but I can say that the tighter-fitting pants in my wardrobe have been harder to put on lately due to increased leg girth, and I can now walk for quite some distance carrying my girlfriend where I used to wear myself out at about ten metres or so. :smiley:

You’d need to get a few people to go out for a ride, describe the ride, and measure their heart rate and ability level to get any idea of the range of exercise. I know that it’s definitely easier for me to ride a distance than it is to run or jog a distance, but I’d consider myself a good rider, rarely having to overcorrect for any deficiencies in my balance, making it more efficient. For someone else, i.e. a new rider, going 50 feet is going to tire them out because they’re still learning to correct for balance and put weight on the seat.

Hello Kris,
I don’t have wattage, but here is some info:

I had posted this 8/21/2005: I read an article in the paper today about the amount of water needed while exercising. It described weighing yourself before and after 1 hour of exercise, and that’s the amount of water an you should drink. So I measured, 2.5 pounds, that times 16 is the number of ounces, or 40 oz of water an hour! (Sounds like a lot to me.)

Additionally: In 13 months of riding this 50 year old has gone from 192 down to 163lbs. Pure uni exercise.

I had a stress test a few years ago, was told nothing was wrong, that I was in poor shape and need to exercise. It would be interesting to see the difference to now.

Best I could tell ya.

Kris, you should get some data from Nathan Hoover, he has posted a number of times about his rides which he has used a heart rate monitor on so you may be able to get some numbers there.

It probably does depend on the skill of the rider though. A beginner may have a much higher heart rate than an experianced rider doing the same thing. However, it’s likely that an experienced rider will push themself to a higher heartrate by doing more difficult riding, so the number may be very similar.

Yes, danger_uni is the real Kris Holm.

Re: quantifying training/physical benefits of unicycling

I used my heart rate monitor for a couple of uni hockey sessions (1 hour play no breaks, well one player did fracture his hand) and most of the time my heart rate was at the lower end of my aerobic range but during intense play it raised to the upper end. So I suppose playing uni hockey for me is an aerobic exercise.

I tried to collect data this morning. At work they have a blood pressure/heart rate monitor and some hills to ride. It’s a flight of stair up and about 300 feet from ridding hills.


1 cup coffee, toast and changed the cranks on my 24x3 Muni from 150 to 170’s.

weight 168lbs and height 68.25  dressed with shoes. Age 50.

time      systolic    diastolic     heartRate
8:20am   120        73              63    - had 3 similar measurements
rode the hills(bad day, 150's work best for me on 24x3)

8:52am    157       78             104
8:53am    134       81              91
8:55am    122       80              84

Re: quantifying training/physical benefits of unicycling

Hi Kris- IMO some of the suggestions have been too theoretical to be of much use, and the best way to settle it would be a study my a medical research dept.

As you’re pretty much the most famous unicyclist in the world, I’m sure you’d be in with better chance than most of finding a group who’d be up for doing one.

Getting the hard data is going to be expensive. I saw Seattle Performance Medicine at the Seattle Bicycle Expo a couple years ago. They do fitness analysis for athletes. They have a portable machine that you wear that measures V02, heart rate, and other factors as you ride. They’d also be able to do other analysis. A basic workup like that was $400+. It gets expensive.

A custom hub that can measure how many watts of work you’re doing would also be interesting. They have those types of hubs for bikes. Designing such a hub for a unicycle would be on the order of designing the Schlumpf hub. Maybe a Schlumpf hub could be modified to measure wattage?

Getting exercise and fitness data for unicycling sounds like something a grad student in exercise and sports science might like to do.

Is there some way to quantify core strength or the improvement in core strength?

For instance, can unicyclists perform a Pilates exercise at a higher level than any other Pilates beginner?

If unicycling could be touted as the ultimate in developing core strength UDC stock prices would soar.


Does your university have a sports science department ? If so then there may be students that want a project topic so it wouldn’t cost anything to conduct the study. Just a thought.


Hi Kris!

I know you posted it quite a long time ago, but right now I’m facing this issue and I found your post, so here I go.

I’ve been training with a personal trainer for the past 10 years, and the goal was not getting injures during on my circus activities. But since I started running marathons she went crazy, cause there’s not much material about this unique sport.

We’re planning a six month training program for the next Dusseldorf Marathon, and it starts today!!!

I posted a thread yesterday about this subject, and all the answers are similar: riding, riding and riding. And my trainer explained me that nowadays professional athletes are reducing their milage and increasing the intensity to avoid injuries caused by stress.

Anyway, she’s quite excited about getting together some data to help developing this field.

I’ll let you know if it works!!!

bye, cafi

Once you’ve learned how to ride, unicycling isn’t very strenuous unless you’re pedaling up a steep hill. It might also be strenuous if you do really radical shit, but I’m not at that point yet. Unicycle basketball, football or hockey must be fairly hardcore, but these activities are dependent on a high concentration of active unicyclists and thus appear to be unavailable in the city where I live, as the toiling masses here are overwhelmed just trying to make rent. There’s a homeless guy on my street who sometimes takes little rides on my unicycle, and even manages a freemount now and then. Organizing a team of people like him would be a project far beyond anything I could manage, though, but I did read once about a homeless World Cup for pedestrian soccer.

As far as fitness, what’s special about unicycling is that it provides light to moderate exercise over a long period because it’s so much fun that you don’t want to stop. Once I start hopping over park benches, I may end up with a different opinion, although I would imagine that even that sort of activity is not very aerobic unless you do it over and over again without stopping…

(Since I have some partial paralysis in my legs, my fitness needs are prob a bit different than most)
For my riding, mostly Muni (terrain would be relatively mild to most others but knarly for me) I don’t work the muscles needed to ride well just from my weekend Muni rides. And I’ve found that gym machines work the needed muscles and in much less time than riding.

The level of strength I make sure I have before a ride is 30 min on my rower @30+ rpm @level 6. Every rower is a bit different, so this is ~ to 5 sets of 20 reps of twice my weight on the squat machine (which I’m told is only ~70% as “heavy” as a free squat. So it’d be 1.4 times my weight.)

I also do lots of core work. The main exercise is single leg lifts w/ 10 lbs/pair of ankle weights 30L, 30R, 30L, etc for 30 min.

If I do each of these twice a week, that’s fine for maintenance. But if I need to work up to those strength levels, I do twice a day, every day until I get there. Once there I usually do other core and balance exercises on the other days.

A formula I’ve come up w/ is 20-25% of my total time should be spent doing some sort of strength/cross training. This has been true for other sports I’ve done.

After thousands of falls & a lot of years of aggressive riding, and now at 40 (not so old compared to some!), I do find I’ve got some body “issues” I didn’t have to worry about in the past. The main one is annoying over-tight core muscles in my lowermost back and glutes.

Riidng a geared 36 pretty much everyday I find that it’s good for bigger leg muscle fitness, but at the risk of muscle imbalance. With more technical muni & trials, there is a lot of turning/twisting, and smaller core muscles working, that aren’t triggered as much for road riding. For myself, it seems they can get overloaded and overtight if I head out for a ride on the weekend without cross-training enough.

I’ve had to focus more off the unicycle on physio-type excercises to maintain the small core muscles and also engage more glute muscles in pedalling. Glutes can get lazy and that can also lead to knee instability. For “normal” fitness levels I don’t think it takes a huge time commitment - even 15 minutes/day to do a few exercises.

Not the most technical description, above, but my main point is that keeping proper muscle balance is really important.