Riding "Shifty"

This weekend the weather was absolutely gorgeous and perfect for riding with temperatures in the mid 70’s F during the day dropping to just above freezing at night.

Saturday happened to be the last mountain bike race of the season around these parts. The race was held at a little resort town about 30 miles away so I decided to go do it … on a mountain bike, not a unicycle … even though lately I’ve been riding my MUni a lot and haven’t been riding my mountain bike at all. I had a good race finishing mid pack in my age category (old geezer). My hat’s off to anyone who competes in a mountain bike race on a unicycle. I feel like I’m riding pretty strong these days on the MUni but there’s no way I could have done even one of the two laps of this race.

Today my legs felt tired from yesterday’s workout but it was so nice outside I just had to take a uni ride. My wife and daughters have a horse and were gone to “the barn” early so I decided to take the geared hub unicycle (from now on referred to as “shifty”) and do an 11 mile loop that passes by the “the barn”. My plan was to ride to the barn, watch my little girl have a horse riding lesson, then continue the loop back home.

I started from home with shifty in 29" mode. My route took me through my neighborhood to a “nature area” with a nice but short dirt trail. From there I was back on the pavement for another short distance then up a short, steep gravel parking area at the start of a paved bike path. After another short but steep climb just beyond the start of the bike path I was in 43.5" country! It takes less than a minute to shift from 29" to 43.5" mode but it takes ME several minutes and failed mounting attempts to “shift” my brain into 43.5" mode. Eventually I was on my way though.

After about two miles the bike path ends at another gravel parking area. From there I knew that the route takes me on a major road through town and past an Interstate Highway interchange with no shoulder along the road. Back to 29" mode to negotiate the dirt/sand/gravel “path” that runs just on top of the curb along side the four lane road that passes under the Interstate with on/off ramps and cars whizzing by at 50 MPH. Once past the Interstate the road heads out of town and gets a very nice, wide marked bike lane. Back to 43.5" mode! This time I was able to mount and ride off, if a bit awkward, first try. About 3 miles later I was making the turn onto the road leading to “the barn”.

I won’t bore you with the details of the barn activity when I arrived except this: The horse was sick, the veterinarian was called (a Sunday barn call!!) my wife and kids were upset, etc. I ended up mucking the paddock (that’s a technical term for shoveling ****) while still wearing my 661 leg armor and walking the horse around the outdoor arena. (As a side note: the indoor arena at this particular barn has ground up Nike tennis shoes about 4 inches deep on the ground for the horses to work-out on).

The vet came and went, drugs were administered (to the horse - not me unfortunately), another horse was borrowed for the lesson and it looked like everyone would survive so I set out again - back in 29" mode because the area around the barn is gravel and I didn’t want anyone to see me struggle with mounting shifty in 43.5" mode. Back at the main road I switched to 43.5" mode. The next five miles were uneventful - just riding along enjoying the lovely weather but struggling somewhat with my fore/aft balance. That problem seemed to get worse as I got more tired. Holding one or the other arm a little bit out and in front seemed to help.

About 1 mile from home I switched to 29" mode and rode through a neighborhood that’s built on the hill side, then to a dirt single track that leads home. Some of the paved climbs were steep and I couldn’t have ridden up them in 43.5" mode but in 29" mode they were no problem. The dirt single track was a really nice change of pace from the pavement and cars.

Obviously, the ability to switch gears is really nice. I’m not much for just heading down the paved road - I like to mix the ride up and I’ll always ride in the dirt if I can. All told, I changed gears 7 times today and rode 11.4 miles with a ride time of 1 hour 26 minutes - around 8 MPH average.

Steve Howard

Nice writeup! So did you feel like you had a lot less control in the 43" mode, or was that just because you were tired? Does it get into “cruise control” like a Coker, or do you feel like you’re pedaling uphill the entire time?
Just like to know what your most recent experiences are with this wheel, so I know what to dream about at night…

I second every word paco said. Also, what crank length do you have on it?

Klaas Bil

I can ride slowly with good control in 43.5" mode as long as the ground is smooth and flat. At higher speeds it’s very stable and easy to go straight except for the fore/aft balance thing that gets worse as I get tired. It gets up to speed quickly without much effort and it pedals smooth and easy.

I’ve not ridden a Coker for any distance so I don’t know what the “Coker cruise control” feels like but so far I’ve never felt anything like cruise control in 43.5" mode … it takes concentration all the time.

I’m using 170mm cranks but I’ve ridden Blue Shift a lot with 150mm cranks and I had the same fore/aft balance problem with it too.

Steve Howard