I’ve just put up another article on Adventure Unicyclist, but thought I’d share it on RSU. For photos of the setup:
Cut and pasted from AU without pictures:
I’ve been going on a fair bit about what I think is an ideal road unicycle set up is. I’ve also been experimenting and, so far, I’m pretty happy with the theory that road unicycles should be set up with a similar riding position to a bicyclist.
Bicyclists have been riding long tours/races for many years, but until the advent of 36" wheels, long distance road unicycling was so tedius that not many people did it for fun! Unicycles were designed to do tricks with, not for riding for extended periods. You can sit on a bike and pedal away for hours, yet even the most comfortable unicycle seats cause crotch discomfort relatively quickly.
What’s the difference between a bicycle and unicycle? A bike distributes weight evenly between the handlebar and the seat, and the seat does not curve upwards to wedge against your crotch. The handlebar keeps you from sliding off the front of the bike seat. Unicycles are far too upright. All the weight is on your crotch.
A lower position also gives greater stability by lowering your centre of gravity.
There have been various attempts at handlebars on unicycles, but I have yet to see a production bar that stretches you out like on a bike. The closest thing is probably the T7 handlebar, but it is far too upright and much too short.
If you look at photos of people riding the T7 ((there are nice ones of Chuck Edwall pg 17 and also of Jan Longeman pg 31 in the current Issue 7 Unicycle Magazine Dec08/Jan09), you’ll see that the T7 is up against their chest. It is like riding the Graeme Obree style Hour Record Time Trial position. Very aerodynamic, but with your elbow flexed at more than 90 degrees not that great for control or comfort.
Having a more stretched position is NOT about getting a Time-trial like position either. What I’m advocating is a position that has your back fairly straight, about 45 degrees, elbows slightly bent with arms relaxed. If you imagine superimposing someone riding a bike on a unicycle; that is the position I’m talking about.
We have seen various extension set-ups, from custom ones to production versions like the T7. None of them are satisfactory, because of the need to have long things sticking out from the frame with no support. They are often overbuilt in order to maintain strength, at the expense of weight and a higher centre of gravity.
The solution would be to create a V-frame. Instead of having one fork leg, there are two, coming out as a V from the bearing holders. The front fork allows a stem to be clamed onto, whilst the back fork leg would hold the seatpost. We have already seen a couple of examples of this, in Pete Perons Purple Phaze unicycle. However, until we get a production V-frame, we’re stuck with trying to use long handles.
With this in mind, I set about modifying my T-7. Conveniently, it has a T-bar at the back. I have never been able to figure out what it was for, until I realised that it was designed to allow you to mount the seat further back!
This allows a more stretched out position without actually overextending the handlebar, which would weaken the design.
I have used a bike seat, with a BMX clamp. But I’m sure with some creative bolting, it would be possible to put a regular unicycle seat in there. The bar was also wrapped in regular road bike grip tape (not shown).
I took the unicycle out for a spin. First off it was interesting to mount as the seat is positioned much further back from the handle. It didnt’ take too long to get used to it however and I was off.
The first thing I noticed was how comfortable it was straight away. My weight was evenly distributed between my hands and the seat. With this set-up, I felt like I could ride it all day, just like my bike. It’s still not quite long enough or low enough to be a bike position though. It felt cramped compared with a bike, but was a vast improvement. It’s kind of like riding a bike with a short top-tube and an upright handlebar (A plea to Mr Nimbus: please get rid of that rise in the T7…it’s horrible!).
However, it was vast improvement on just about any other bar I’ve ridden on a unicycle. It felt very natural and bike-like to the point where I was craving for a set of drop bars and hoods!
The main problem I encountered was nothing to do with the T7 at all. It was caused by the wide KH36" frame consistently whacking against my knees when using this position. The square corners are particularly painful! It took a fair amount of adjustment of the seat (mainly pushing it back on the rails and angling the whole thing upwards) to try and minimise this, but I still ended up riding with a somewhat bow legged position.
Other issues were to do with slowing down, but I didn’t get a chance to test it on any hills. I suspect that the braking power would be somewhat limited, not by having a stretched out handlebar, but by how upright the T7 is. There is not much leverage to pull up as your elbows are already quite flexed from the upright T7. Again, if the T7 was lower (hence elbows less bent), that would improve the pulling power. It may be that you would need also to run brakes and ride this more like a bike anyway (ie use your brakes to slow down rather than leg backpressure).
Turning was interesting because of the bike seat. There is much less material to push against with your thighs. It was more dependent on leaning your body and handlebar. Again, not too dissimilar to riding a bike.
In summary, I think the more stretched out bike like position works great on a road unicycle. The T7 can be modified to get closer to that position, but it’s still too upright and too cramped to be directly comparable.