Road Unicycle Set-Up and T7 Handle Modification

I’ve just put up another article on Adventure Unicyclist, but thought I’d share it on RSU. For photos of the setup:

Road Unicycle Setup and T7 Handle Modification

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).

The test:

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.

On second thoughts, I’ll attach the pics here too, but you’ll have to fit it into the text above.


Wow, I just did this same exact thing a couple of days ago. Tho, with lack of a bike seat I just made a make shift cushion to get the feel for it.

I, as well, thought that it felt quite nice, tho I did not trust the strength of that part of the T7.

looking good gizmoduck

althought i dont understand why you would like to use a unicycle seat?
on my test set up using a bicycle seat i liked it very much

  • point on the v shape frames that would be a nice thing
    but i wonder if it would really work have to try it

its good to see that there are more people working on design inprovements

I’m not using a unicycle seat. I’m using a bike seat.

I think I could use a unicycle seat, but it was easy to mount the bike seat because I had the bracket attachments sitting in my toolshed at the time. I’d need to find someway of attaching a unicycle seat before I can try it with this set-up

why just use the bike seat?

i guess you can ride it alsow with a bike seat or what is the problem that you have to use a unicycle seat?

I would think that the more positioned we get to a bike position, a bike seat is going to offer better comfort than a regular uni seat.

Looks sweet. Finally found what that end piece of the T7 was for.

Do you mean like this?

Your novel use of the T7 looks like a great way to figure out what spacing, angles and general configuration of extended handlebars would work well. Given the T7’s history of breaking it also looks scary. Can the “T” part of the T7 really support that much weight?
How is your V frame construction going? I am eager to see and pictures or diagrams.
Maybe next week I can take some pictures of what a tuck looks like on my “Florian Green” V frame built by Pete Perron. That might also be helpful in showing what distances and angles work well. But I’m off building igloos for the next few days so it will have to wait.
Keep up the good work in unicycle R & D.


I like the idea and your solution looks pretty sweet. With a bike though, you can put your weight on the handlebars and stretch out front because the front to back balance isn’t an issue. Bicyclists really only have to balance side to side, and momentum even takes care of that. With a unicycle, even on a 36" wheel at cruising speed, we’re still have to stay balanced in all directions which is why it’s harder to take the weight off your crotch.

I like the DIY mod/hack arrangement you came up with, but I think you’re right that the V-frame is a more ideal set-up. I can already see a see-saw effect on those T7 rails as a disaster waiting to happen. That part is weak enough as it is. I tend to pull of on my t7 quite a bit when going uphill. I definitely see some snapped rails in your future. Keep up the experimentation though. I like where you’re going with it.

With that set up the fork rake will be negative which will make turning more difficult.

Did you experience the unicycle wanting to keep in a straight line when trying to turn?

i dont support you on the text that on a 36 inch you have to stay balanced in all direction
well atleast i dont feel like it.
i only have to stay balanced forward and backwards the side to side momentum is almost none

I laughed a bit at first about the metal fatiuge teter-totter you had developed there Gizmo, but like a lot of out of the box ideas, it sparks other ideas too. . . . . .

I ride a really long set of bars on my KH36 that is run off of a beefed up rail adaptor, but if I could cut the length of cantelevered “mast” esentially in half, that would reduce some of the structural problems with this design that I’ve had to engineer around.

I’m intriuged enough with your experiment to try to mock-up something similar . . . . a cross between my existing mast set up, but with the seat set back behind the frame somewhat. But I’m worried about the legs hitting the frame bit that you reported.

Couple questions:
-Do you run zero Q cranks?
-Do you set your set for close to full leg extension or do you keep the seat lower than this?
-Ever tried this bar set-up on a Nimbus 36 frame (with wider hub and narrower frame crown)?
-Are you a race horse jockey sized rider with narrow “Steven Tyler-esque” hips or more average sized??
-Did any of your angle adjustments fix the knee/frame issue or would you have to move the seat forward somewhat?


Thanks for all your input.

eenwieler-sander: I used a bike seat because I had all the bracket attachments for it. I haven’t tried it with a unicycle seat, but I think a bicycle seat is actually better for this kind of setup- there is no reason for a curved seat that is three times as thick as it should be (ie unicycle seat).

scoope: good point about fork rake, but I had no trouble steering it. I haven’t used it in any tight cornering and haven’t had enough experience on it to give you a firm opinion yet. However, there are many riders who use long extension handles and seem to steer ok (Sam Wakeling and Dustin Schaap spring to mind).

BoojiBoy: Yes, you need some back and forwards movement to adjust balance, but how much do you tilt back and forths when riding? Very little. And no one is suggesting a position so stretched out that you can’t adjust your balance. Many riders use a stretched out position already (see above), and I haven’t seen them fall off yet. I’ve noticed that when I’m riding, my back is at 35-45 degrees anyway. So the only difference is not the tilt, it’s where your hands are placed- close to your crotch (with your elbows flexed at more than 90degrees) or further out in front(slightly bent elbows) like on a bike.

naturequack: I"m still in talks with the framebuilder. He answers his emails rather slowly…might give him a ring today.

agentQ and Jerrick: Yep, everything in this world has a purpose. It took me a while to figure out what that T bar was for though.

Yes, the T7 is prone to fatigue…I’ve seen at least 5 broken T7’s. But not sure that this will be much more fatiguing on the welds (except now there is stress on the back welds too). The front weld I don’t think will be taking any more pressure than if you had mounted the seat on the seatplate. It’s certainly less force/leverage on the welds than if the T7 had a longer bar sticking out from the front.
-Do you run zero Q cranks? Ye
Yes, I prefer zero Q cranks, except I don’t like it on my Schlumpf because it makes me nervous. I haven’t got around to getting some flared cranks yet
-Do you set your set for close to full leg extension or do you keep the seat lower than this?
Same as a bike, knee slightly flexed at it’s lowest position.
-Ever tried this bar set-up on a Nimbus 36 frame (with wider hub and narrower frame crown)?
I think the issue is the tube diameter. The KH has thick tubes and a square crown that whacks against my legs. A Nimbus frame would probably be better, but not a fan of the wide hub. You can squeeze the frame in though to take a regular hub.
-Are you a race horse jockey sized rider with narow “Steven Tyler-esque”
I’m not heavy. 57kg race weight, currently about 60kg
-Did any of your angle adjustments fix the knee/frame issue or would you have to move the seat forward somewhat?
I basically tilted the seat up and pushed the rails as far back as possible. Although it’s angled upwards it actually self corrects when you ride it (ie the fork legs tilt forwards and the bar/seat are relatively flat). In the photo I’ve tilted the unicycle forwards to show this. It doesn’t rub my legs as much on the frame, but I can’t ride with my knees pointing inwards and close to the midline like I normally do.

monocyclism: Yes, I was referring to Pete Perons V-frame. I think it needs to be more stretched out that what Pete has though. If you look at that photo in the link you provided…his back is arched. If that was a bike, you would say to the rider they need a longer stem/reach.

Boojiboy: I’ve attached another photo of me riding with a short seat extension (GB4). Notice how my elbow is almost locked at 90degrees. I have very little leverage and it’s very uncomfortable to take any weight on my arms. Now just imagine the same position, but instead of my arms being locked in a flexed position, that they are placed out the front on a handlebar, with my the elbows only slightly flexed (ie like a bike). I think forwards/backwards balance isn’t going to change how much, but it will be a lot more comfortable.

Good stuff Ken. I did a bit of experimenting with a bike seat this fall and will definitely have a bike seat and long handle on my next 36er.

Here is a bit more discussion on bike seats on 36ers.

Cool…looks like you have a similar idea with your set-up. I’m not the only one who thinks the T7 is too upright!

You could extend the reach without getting a super long handle by sticking out another post from the back also, and mounting the seat on it. Much like what I’ve done with the T7.

i’m not really a road rider… i prefer muni…but today i was bored and i still have my 29" schlumpf…and i thought your idea is worth to try it… it feels good, there is way less weight on my bottom…but it is still a little to short and the angles could be better… and i need shorter cranks :wink: … i could only ride it for a short distance…hope i can try it really soon. thanks for the great idea!!

That’s a neat idea, but I don’t think the T7 seems strong enough… Looks like it would bend at the rails pretty soon. I don’t think I’d try it.


This is probably the most interesting post this year. In the beginning of January!!!