Riding the 'pendulum'

I graduated recently to a 36er from a 24” that I learnt on. The 36er has been a bigger learning-curve than I expected although I am satisfied with my progress. However, one issue is pretty persistent so instead of words I have added some images of my issue and hoped I could get some feedback.

The problem is, when riding the unicycle I get a frequent pendulum-effect with the seat rocking backwards and forwards. In effect my forward speed is continually being hampered by the tendency for the seat tube to pendulum backwards – and thus slow me up. OK, I understand this as a ‘balancing-act’ but the frustrating part is not having any references to help me decide how to adjust the seat other than trial-and-error.

Well, I have tried trial-and-error for hours and all I have learnt is there are an infinite number of position and permutations of the seat position. Apart from the extreme settings I don’t really sense any positions that are better or worse. I simply find myself compensating through riding style for any new position.

So, instead of spending much more time on the road with an Allen key perhaps someone could check out my photos and give me an opinion of the three different seat positions shown. Even if it is trial-and-error maybe comments could be made on the photo?


The other three things I am aware of is sitting up straight, sinking the weight and tyre pressure. I adjusted the Nightrider tyre from 55 psi to 45psi and found some difference. At 55 psi it was kind of ‘skittish’ and very responsive (hard tyre). I reasoned I had to ‘soften’ this by flattening the tyre by taking a little air out of it. It seemed to help as the wheel became a little bit more ‘sticky’ on the road as the footprint had increased.

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Personally, my seat angle would be close to what you have in photo 3, but the seat would be further forward on the rails. But it is a very personal thing.

Really, I think your pendulum feeling isn’t coming from your seat position; it’s just that balance errors are more expensive to correct on a big wheel. As you get better, you’ll get smoother.

I generally ride between PHOTO1 and PHOTO3 with my seat tilted fairly up. I’m not quite sure what you mean by the pendulum effect, but it could be counteracted by applying more pressure to the T7. I never really had the issue that you have, but all I can say is mess with it until it becomes more comfortable. Sorry that I wasn’t more help.

EDIT: I like my tire pressure high on the nightrider, I run it between 60 and 65 PSI. I tried running it at 70 PSI once, but at my weight (130 pounds) it was just too bouncy.

I think I understand his meaning for pendulum effect. If sitting straight and you suddenly bend forward at the waist, the uni frame angles to the rear and that’s a movement of the pendulum. Is that right?

If so, the pendulum part isn’t very relevant. What’s relevant is the relationship between your center of mass and your wheel axle. Sometimes when I’m crusing along and trying to maintain a nice fast speed, I’ll suddenly come forward (with the wheel axle) and be in this “neutral” position that’s slower than what I want, and it takes me a bit to get back into the grove of that faster speed. I think it’s a technique thing, and not related to seat position or seat angle. Both of those are more about comfort.

I prefer a handle I can lean on to take some of my weight off the seat, which doesn’t happen with a T7 for me. I prefer a lower handle.

Yeah I think thats what is happening with the pendulum and it really slows things down needing synchronisation to get going - but you infer it is technique. So what do I focus on to improve? I have been aiming to put my weight on the seat - not take it off as you mention. Do you mean you distribute your weight between the seat and the handle? You don’t transfer the burden to your legs and feet? At present the T7 doesn’t seem to be doing much for me but maybe I need practice to decide. Actually I have begun to hold the seat handle as preference to the T7. What handle have you got and how is it fitted.

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The fore and aft pendulum effect is nothing to do with the unicycle. It is your fear of letting the unicycle run away with you. The pendulum effect is less noticeable on a 20", but watch any learner and you will see that there is a tendency to ride and stop ride and stop ride and stop - proving to himself every pedal stroke or every few strokes, that he can stop if he needs to.

You can’t literally “ride and stop, ride and stop” on a Coker, because of the flywheel effect of the big wheel, but it is that jerkiness and uncertainty in the pedalling that causes the effect you are describing.

Think smoooooth.

Ride it on grass as fast as you can. Fall off a few times and realise it doesn’t kill you. Rush at areas of broken ground and just keep moving. Learn the feeling of being in charge.

I like the look of photo two best. Angle the front up if you like your testicles being raised up high when you ride. I would use the maximum pressure in the nightrider tire- that is what it is there for! Use at least 65psi. There is no lack of grip- as having lower pressure will just slow you down with extra friction, and may well add to your undesirable pendulum effect.

OK, maybe it is a mind thing, you may have a point. I have always tried to play mind-games in the learning process. Your comment reminded me of something I forgot to mention in my earlier post - i.e. length of the cranks.

I do understand what you mean about rushing ahead and push the pedals to follow the growing speed. When I do that I get a sense of ‘overpedalling’ as if it is undergeared. Then the speed of pedalling effects my legs and I loose synchronisation, balance point shifts for some reason or other and this drops me back as I attempt to regain the smoothness. However, I think the feedback on seat position has helped 'cos it’s there to be adjusted!!

I was advised that my 145mm cranks should not be longer and I would manage on smaller ones as I got better. I wondered if I used 125mm I could keep up with the increasing speed without thrashing my legs round and loosing smoothness? Other riders have mentioned smaller ones even eventually 114mm.

I have access to a good wide stretch of firm sandy beach that runs for approx 4 miles. Not thought of using this until reading your comments. Think I will have a go on this.

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Un-weighting the trailing foot? Surface irregularities?

You might consider also the way you un-weight the pedals on the up swing.

Look at pictures or video of you from the side while riding with your differnt seat positions and angle. Note that the frame is not straight up and down but changes with your adapting to maintain balance. Thus I find seat forward/backward and angle position to make little difference to me. Pointing it up seems to increase comfort for many riders.

If hills and bumps are what are throwing you into the pendulums, try anticipating the action and moving to compensate as the surface irregularities are felt. Soon you may start compensating with out having to think about it.

Miles I guess. Work on a smooth rhythm and consistent body position. Not that I don’t move around when I ride, but when I’m “in the groove” I’m down and holding my upper body relatively still. When I need a break from this I’ll sit up and cruise in a different position, though usually a little slower.

Yes, just like a bike, where up to 40% of the rider’s weight is on the handlebars, saving the long-term effects on the crotch. If we’re cruising on a 36", we’re well past the whole sitting-down thing, which is for beginners.

I have a Wyganowski handle, which is not useful to you as he doesn’t make them any more. Closest thing today is the Coker Pi Bar. Which is also cheaper, but you have to make sure it will fit your tubing diameter.

What Mikefule was taking about above seems to be more a beginner fluctuation of motion than what’s probably happening to you when trying to maintain an even cadence so you probably don’t need to worry about that.

Crank arms: 145 is on the long side, though it’s a good size for getting comfortable on a 36". I only use 150s for trail riding with lots of hills. 125 is good for road riding with lots of hills, and I use 114 for most road riding. I used 102s for the Unicon Marathon last summer. Though I wanted 110s and nobody had any, the 102s worked well because the course was pretty flat. I recommend giving the 125s a try. At first it will seem like you don’t have enough control, so give them some time and I think you’ll like them.

When I first got on the 36er I was a little shocked at the ‘slowness’ of the revolving cranks. In fact with 145’s fitted I wondered how I was ever going to turn the wheel and keep it going! The 24” that I learnt on could spin the wheel no problem. I couldn’t imagine how I could have a crank length even smaller than 145, and actually considered if I should get something longer! Surprise, surprise! Of all the things I now consider replacing it is the cranks for smaller ones! Riding the 36er with 145 has become a little like the 24" I learnt on!

From what other people have said I now think the tyre is ok it just needs inflating. The seat is ok it just needs adjusting for comfort. The T7 will do for now and I will make something up from bits to experiment as I have a workshop. I have a pretty sound mind-game to go with the increasing speed.

So I have just ordered my 125 cranks with your comment in mind, “At first it will seem like you don’t have enough control, so give them some time and I think you’ll like them” You could have said this to me when I first got on 145 cranks and I wouldn’t have thought I could go even smaller!!

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Please note that everyone is different. There are some very strong Coker riders who use 140 or 150mm cranks. Most people Cokering on flat ground will go with something shorter, but you will need to find what works for you.

(I know it’s already been said here) Just practice, more saddle time, your descriptions all sound like things you deal with when you are getting used to a 36er at speed. As described before it has a “flywheel” effect once it gets going so it takes alot of practice to still be able to lean into it and pedal hard when you feel it pulling around. As with anything else in this sport, you have to get used to it first.

Also yes try smaller cranks, you will have less hill climb ability and off the line torque, but 125’s will be fine to use don’t worry. You will be surprised how easily 125’s will climb steep hills if you are in shape.

Seat angle, tire pressure, and crank size all come down to personal preference and with experience you can ride any combination of the three fine.


As one who tried every set of cranks imaginable, I’d say don’t make my mistake.

Just ride the bloomin’ thing, mile after mile, hour after hour. Then when you can ride it on autopilot, you can adjust it to suit your style. Look to the archer, not to the bow.

I am an older rider 52 years old and I am 5’ 7" and weigh 225 lbs. From my experience even though shorter cranks make pedaling smoother, to us older folks smoothness vs control is a big issue; and control wins over smoothness hands down. As Mike mentions in his post it is not the equipment but the rider that matters. You won’t get anywhere until you feel comfortable and that only happens by riding what you have until you can ride comfortably and that pendulum effect starts going away. I too had that pendulum effect and it started going away as soon as I started riding longer distances. So my advice to you would be to leave your unicycle as is and start forcing yourself to ride longer distances until that pendulum effect starts becoming second nature and you will finally learn to control it. The funny thing is that once you get over that pendulum effect than you will get the leaning sideways on cambered streets effect. If that happens to you then try grabing the handle with one hand or the other to minimize it. Unfortunately for us older riders fine tunning the riding experience is a longer process than for younger folks. I tought my son how to ride a unicycle and he rides circles around me. However, the good news is that sooner or later you get it just like that!!! It just happens but you need to ride and ride and try to stay positive and never give up.

Thanks for the feedback with your interesting comments. Also, as you observed, like you I am an older rider but age is just as relative as adjustments on a unicycle eh? :wink:

I’m 60 years old, 5’10” and weigh 148Ibs. I don’t feel any sense of slowing down yet and I’m thankful that I can still just choose to do physical activities. Since last year I have been what is affectionately know as semi-retired – that is, I work 2.5 days a week only. So, this gives me the chance to do some unicycle mileage-time on my free days. I take note of your advice on riding distance that several people have mentioned and I am doing up to 10 mile runs at present – trying to learn. Perhaps a couple of these with a few 5 mile practices. About 35 miles a week so I guess I should be capable of doing this distance in one ride when I am competent. I ordered 125 cranks and look forward to experiencing what these do on the 36er – not because I know I am capable of adapting to them – but simply because of curiosity. Regardless of my present learning-curve I want to know if I can go faster with them. :slight_smile: I suspect I haven’t got much physically-active time left to wait! :frowning:

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I ordered 125 cranks and look forward to experiencing what these do on the 36er – not because I know I am capable of adapting to them – but simply because of curiosity. Regardless of my present learning-curve I want to know if I can go faster with them. I suspect I haven’t got much physically-active time left to wait!

My experience with the 125 cranks was definitely a speed increase and incredibly less but pain almost none for the same relative distance. However imperfections slowed me a bit, but as I got more confortable with them it was ok. Mountains that was another story. Perhaps because I am very heavy, you should not have the same issue since you are a lot lighter than me. I switched back to the 150’s because I got tired of changing from the 125’s on street aned the 150’s on dirt. I like to swith between dirt trails and road riding, so I decided to just get better at spinning the longer cranks than having to switch back and forth. I have a kh 36 with moment cranks and that constant changing of pedals annoyed me, just imagine if I had to change the whole crank!!!

Short cranks with a warning …

I loved the 125 cranks. I could still climb +16% grades, but the -16% and steeper declines get hard on the knees. Short cranks and quick stops for cars that pull out in front of me also make it tricky.

My most scary event was on a steep down grade. At the last moment a four or five year old boy stepped out in front of me while I was training for the RTL and down hill speed. Mail boxes on one side and hedge on the other side of a side walk. I would have rode over him at better than 15 mph except that at the last second he saw me and jumped into the hedge and out of the way screaming. Never trained on the side walk there again.

Try to give consideration to safety and those around you. Some say a brake would have helped. I had time to decide what I was going to hit and try and go the opposite way the child went. Stopping was not an option. Thankfully neither of us was hurt physically.

Even though I have been hit by a car, had some bad crashes and broken my leg while unicycling, the fear in the eyes of this young boy taught me a harder lesson to learn. Hopefully I will never risk others like that again.

So, please consider these thoughts while learning and selecting shorter cranks.

If at first you dont succeed…

My problem has been ‘rocking’ forward and backwards on the seat with a definite sensation that something was just not set up right. My earlier descriptions in this thread explains it. So I continued experimenting with adjustments and arrived at a new seat angle/position.

I reasoned that if I was rocking backwards I should move more of my weight towards the front by shifting the seat forwards on its rail. But I also tilted the seat forward as can be seen by the angle of the rail. I kind of moved everything forward and let the back of the seat come up so I could feel it against my backside. As soon as I got on I could feel a fundimental difference! I could pedal quite fast without any instability. It felt responsive - I felt in control. I tried some inclines and was amazed to find I was getting up them much better on this new seat setting. I also pumped the nightrider back to 65psi as advised. Wow! a whole new dimension of speed and control has just opened up! I feel like a flurishing 36er rider!

Just wondering - I know it’s a personal thing but just out of interest does anyone have any comments about the seat position?



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