Round The World on 1 wheel -- why not??

I also think a 29-er would be preferable to a 36- it’s just so much more convenient if you’re going to use the odd bus, train, boat, and, for if you have an offer of a room for the night, much easier to store.

Someone suggested a guni- IMO, bad idea: if it breaks you’re going to have real problems getting it fixed.

It all sounds fantastic- not many long unicycle rides are unsupported, there’s usually a van in the background, and, I always feel that going unsupported is more in the simple spirit of the one wheel ride.

I wish you the best of luck, and, if you can, keep us posted on progress.

“Wobbling” Wally Watts rode around the world on a unicycle in the mid/late 1970s. There have been some posts here about him over the years.

If you do attempt this it would be good to keep a log of how much time you spent traveling and how far you got each day.

Totally agree here. I don’t think there’s a Schlumpf in the world that has survived 18K miles, and if you have a problem it could be months getting it fixed.

Probably there’s no unicycle at all that survived 18k miles. So if the Schlumpf hub breaks, and if it takes too long to fix it, he could replace it by a standard hub. Nevertheless, he would benefit from having gears until it breaks - if it breaks at all.
If it was me, I would go for a Schlumpf hub and hope for the best.

Well done on even dreaming this seriously, Jai!

I’ve done some unsupported touring and have dreamed about such an open-ended long trip. I have other commitments which mean it isn’t going to happen any time I can foresee, but I’m happy with that choice. You are in a great position to be ready to put your life on your back - so I would encourage taking the chance while it is possible for you!

On equipment, there are always compromises - it’s just picking the right ones for your needs.

In an ideal situation (no limits on money etc.) I’d also suggest going for Schlumpf 29. Geared riding is vastly nicer for long distances on the road, and saves your joints over long rides too (less to-and-fro). Sadly the difference in spoke length between a Schlumpf build (four cross) and a standard hub build (three cross) don’t quite line up enough to be able to rebuild the same wheel as a singlespeed should the Schlumpf have problems. It would require having either a full set of spare spokes as well as the spare singlespeed hub (would be worth carrying as is only a few hundred grams), or to find somewhere to buy spokes on the road. I’d have no qualms about setting off with a Schlumpf though as it is plenty reliable enough and if you are not up against the clock then you can deal with most things (ie replacing for a singlespeed hub in the worst case) as you go.

A 700c wheel will give you a lot of availability for spares over a 36" wheel - as others have said. 700c parts (rims, tubes, tyres, spokes) can be found almost anywhere in the world, which can’t be said for any other wheel size. Sad, as 36 wheels are awesome, but fix-ability has to have a big value on a long trip.

Having a few grand put by will surely make things easier than setting out penniless. But it would also surely be very interesting to set out and see how it goes too!

You may well wish to be more free of constraints than Guinness World Records would require, but it would be good to check what their full rules are. I understand that Willy Watts didn’t fulfil their evidence requirements so they don’t yet recognise anyone having done the globe trip yet. You could be that first person. I think you’ll need GPS in that case.

Check for plenty more discussion of self-supported touring kit on this forum too.

I hope you manage to make this happen!

Fantastic adventure Jaibus. Looking forward to reading about it.

Here’s the link. I found it quite interesting even though the pictures don’t work anymore.

Worth checking out Joff Summerfield’s Penny Farthing World Tour

He’s someone (in an only slightly different field of penny farthings) who has been there and done it.


Again, thanks everyone for your input & ideas!

UniShark - I understand your mixed feelings about ‘these kind of adventures’ and I have them myself regarding other adventure seekers I have seen & met. I take solace in the fact I am not out to sponge off people, better or worse off than me. The road and my tent will be my home, I wont be homeless. If anything I am looking to do the opposite; by not constricting myself to constant riding, timescales & logistical constraints of a ‘challenge’, I aim to be interacting with local communities, experiencing & helping wherever I can, whether that be working the land, building with cob, teaching unicycling etc.
As for who gets to pay for my healthcare when the sh*t hits the fan… an International Insurance company, not you!

Sam Wakeling - great to hear from you and Id also like to say thank you to you especially! Your end to end ride with Roger was one of the first intensive unicycle rides I heard about & inspired me to do my Ireland charity ride back in 2011.

Thanks everyone for the Wally Watts & Joff Summerfield links, I’ve now researched both their rides, and amazing adventures they were! Im going to get in touch with Joff to hear about remote cycling unsuported on a fixed wheel first hand, and maybe he’l even fancy joining me as a send off before the Ferry to Holland :wink:
BTW thats an open invite ! I will get dates & route sorted once ferry tickets are booked :smiley:

RE Updates - Yep definately, I am thinking of doing either a wordpress blog or journal, as I can update both from a smartphone. Data is very costly on worldwide sims (even local ones abroad) so updates in remote places would be written & stored, then uploaded when I get to WIFI.
Thinking the Nokia E6 with lots of spare batteries should do good pics, videos & manage apps sufficiently. Also has GPS though not sure if tracking is possible…

Having read Joffs Penny Farthing account, I like his idea of a system such as ‘friends of the ride’, where people who are enthused & support the ride can make a regular small donation to help fund its continuation. In return supporters would get (for instance) they’re name on the web & in any book produced post ride.
Id like to stress again that I am NOT trying to sponge off people & make them pay for my life, but most things benefit from collaboration & sharing. is just one obvious example!
Constructive thoughts welcome.

With regards to a world record sadly my ride will not come under Guinness’ Cycling Circumnavigation due to it not being a ‘constant cycle in one direction’. The other requirements such as crossing an antipodel point and cycling more than the length of the equator are no problem ( :wink: ), but I am pretty certain I would have to apply for a completely new record category, for which they may still apply the ‘constant’ rule. I guess I can but apply and see!

Joff had a phone charger that worked off his Penny Farthing wheel - maybe try to get one of those? :slight_smile:

I think that this view, which reduces human interaction down to a set of financial transactions, is cynical, depressing, and unfortunately American.

Someone taking on a great adventure like a world unicycle tour is giving a huge gift to humanity. The people he’ll meet will go out of their way to touch that adventure, to be able to be a small part of it. They’ll talk for years about that crazy guy on the unicycle who came to town that time.

As Nathan Hoover once put it, when you’re an American travelling in developing-world countries, the locals always want something from you. If you’re unicycling, you’re already giving them something. It totally changes the interaction.

very well put Tholub

Wally Watts was the only 'round the world rider I’ve heard of. His ride was a handmade 43" wheel, which was rebuilt at least once along the way. The solid rubber tire was puncture-proof and very durable, but I don’t recommend using one!

There have been a few others who did exceptionally long rides:

In the early 80s, Pietro Biondo, from Quebec, Canada, circumnavigated North America, riding more or less around the edges including the Florida Keys, some of Baja California, in Alaska, and then across Canada for a total of about 12,000 miles. He rode a low giraffe with panniers and a spare tire (26", I think). Nothing on his back.

Around 2001 or so, Lars Clausen rode across the US, but then rode back. Then he turned either right or left and added on thousands more miles. He wrote a book about his adventure. His story is also searchable on these forums. This community helped him out when he first announced his plans; he was going to ride something smaller but we recommended the new Coker (36"), which he customized and did very well with.

Note that using that size wheel would be more risky on a 'round the world trip as Tholub has menioned. Replacement tires aren’t in any store, and a spare would be way too heavy to carry with you.

Over the years, a surprising number of people have ridden across North America, starting at least as early as 1933. Kids, adults on 24" Schwinns, women with bare feet, another barefoot guy from India, Steve McPeak on a 13’ giraffe and many more.

I wish you the best of luck in your adventure!

Gracie Sorbello

The Great Divide on 29’er

Cool, glad to hear you’ve thought ahead about the insurance and working on the way.

@Tholub: a bum with a unicycle is still a bum. :roll_eyes: I’m glad Jaibus has clarified he does not fit in that category. :slight_smile:

Ghandi was not a bum. Neither was Jesus.

Hi Jai,

Good luck for this trip. It’s certainly a step up from your Ireland adventure.

As far as I know, Wally Watts is the only to have circumnavigated the world, but I don’t know how well documented it was, or his route.

I have a few links on the AU site with various long distance tours:

On equipment- I personally only do tours with 29’er Ungunis. It’s bombproof, which is useful if you’re in the middle of nowhere. Even if you can’t get hold of a 29’er inner tube, you can always use a 26" tube in them. They’re also light and portable- lot’s of situations where this comes in handy. It’s even feasible to carry a spare tyre or two because you can get folding versions.

Geared hubs are heavy and unreliable- if something breaks, you may need to mail it to Switzerland from the middle of Africa or somwhere; with no fixed return address. They’re useful for going fast, but I wouldn’t travel the world with it.

36’ers are fairly bombproof too, and even if you destroy a tyre, you may still be able to ship one to most parts of the world (would be expensive though, depending on where you are).

Insurance- having broken my ankle as well as having an open tib/fib fracture, both times requiring two weeks in hospital and surgery, I highly recommend having good insurance. Even a straightforward fracture can set you back tens of thousands of dollars.


Jai, if you are planning to make way through Russia, our unicyclists will help!