RTL: Ranking for non-geared teams

Ditto. I love the feel and vantage point of the 36. There was no way I was going to give that up for safety or convenience.

Our time trial practice run i did ungeared:
12.8 miles, 0:51:11 time, 15.00 avg

A week later I did it again on my geared cycle:

Geared, via my cycle computer:
12.32 miles, 0:43:46 time, 16.9 avg

In general, the geared 36’er makes me 2mph faster.


In terms of safety, I think one reason I broke my leg on a 29" Schlumpf when the gear slipped was because as soon as it did, my leg got planted on the ground at 30km/hr. The legs are so much closer to the ground that you don’t get much of a choice of where it goes.

You might land from higher up, but hopefully more gracefully on a 36" Sclumpf.

For what its worth, I have crashed at 19-20mph (30km +). I was just too sleepy riding to work one morning, and leaned a little too far forward and fell – I took two huge/fast steps and hit the ground with my hands. Luckily, my gloves protected them. I bent my handlebar, but everything else was fine. I did get a tiny scrape on my hand and knee, but that was it. I was pretty lucky for sure!


The thing that’s a little disturbing to me is that a freewheel mode is possible. If you hit the button and it engages a little, but not all the way, this can be activated. It’s a little unusual since the hub really wants to be in one gear or another, but I’ve experienced it while shifting. Tom experienced it while hill climbing with a loose ISIS crank.

I think a UPD because of a free-wheeling incident is far more dangerous than a typical UPD.

In a typical UPD, you come off forward of the unicycle, and your body weight is somewhat ahead of your legs. Either you run out, or you fall forward.

With a freewheel UPD, you can come straight down. It’s possible that you fall slightly backwards. My hypothesis about what happened to you is that your leg came down at a slightly awkward angle ahead of your body weight, and then had all the force of your body push into at 30kmh

Had you simply had a regular UPD, you would have fallen forward and gotten scraped up, but not forced your leg into an awkward position.

Frankly, I’m not sure that a 36er could have prevented it.

I had a freewheel fall on the geared hub, first generation, a couple years ago, right before Ken’s fall broke his leg. In my case, I fell completely flat backwards, landing like a snow angel. Luckily I had a fanny pack to protect my spine and a helmet; I always wear a helmet with a guni at ANY speed.

As for Ken’s Q about speed: I reached 21 mph as a max speed on my Coker with 110s. Without a steepish hill, my cruising speed was no greater than about 16 mph for an extended period. With my 29" guni and 125s, I can reach 22.5 mph (35.6 kph) and was able to maintain 18 mph (just under 30 kph) at RTL under the right circs. So I’d say that the 29" guni added about 5-10% to my speeds without costing too much in work.

There was nothing awkward about the leg position. It was the perfect angle for snapping it in half. My body was not in front of my leg, it was behind it. This gives you a rough idea:


Try this- ride a bike really fast.

Now tilt to the side and plant your leg at about 45 degrees into the ground at 30km/hr.

I don’t think the schlumpf 29er gives me a massive advantage in terms of speed compared to a coker. The high gear doesn’t feel massively different - with 125s (as pretty much everyone was running) it’s quite similar to 102s on a coker. For me, it’s primarily a very convenient coker which can also be an okay muni, ie. a to the trails and ride the trails machine.

I think that now I’m used to it, and have a lightweight(ish) road tyre on it, it is more relaxing to ride for long distances though - you are just spinning a lot less weight around - approx 1500g weight at the rim vs. ~3000g at the rim on a coker.

It seems from RTL that the 36" schlumpf does give a noticeable speed advantage though, which I guess is unsurprising, as it is a so much higher gear and still has a usable low gear.

Although having said that, there are I think 2 teams in the top 10 who only had 29er schlumpfs? Maybe there is an advantage to the 29er schlumpf for faster riders than me.


During our training, we kept time on a number of specified runs for different people with different setups. We also did one particular hill (Tunnel Road) multiple times with different setups; this provided some data to analyze about the efficacy of different setups. The conclusions we came to were:

  • The rider is more important than the unicycle.
  • Everyone is fastest on the setup they're most comfortable with
  • It's possible to go up hills (up to a certain grade) faster on a geared uni than a fixed 36er, at a cost of greater energy expenditure
  • Geared unis are faster downhill and require less energy than a fixed 36er
  • Did I mention, the rider is more important than the unicycle?

Tons of data in Google Docs spreadsheets:

Totally Doable training rides
Bay Area training rides

I’ve got to agree with all of those points. Yes, geared hubs give you a mechanical advantage, but they don’t make your legs 1.5 times a big.

I found myself catching the only gunis that we were riding with on long, gentle uphills and downhills. They’d take off on the flats and most steep hills (up or down).

I hope that if RTL happens again, there will be separate categories for geared and fixed unicycles, since there is a significant mechanical advantage at a price that not everyone can afford.

I disagree with this. Had this been a bike race, pretty much every bike would be more expensive than a GUni. If you wanna race, you got to show up with equipment that will play to your abilities. Adding $1k to the cost of your cycle isn’t really a hardship if you’re serious about racing. Unless you live in a third world country, any teenager with a summer job can save up that much money. If you’re NOT WILLING to spend that much money, you can still show up and race competitively, just not expect to win.

Not only that, but many ungeared riders were competitive with geared riders. If you had taken away NZuni’s only geared cycle, they may have still taken 2nd place. There were many GUnis in the middle of the pack, and one or two towards the back of the pack.

For many, travel, accomodations, car rental…etc were as expensive or more expensive than their unicycles.

Agreed. The difference in cost between my Schlumpf hub and a decent fixed hub is a relatively small percentage of the total cost that I spent on everything else. I didn’t buy the guni specifically for RTL, but if I didn’t already have it, I’m sure I could have justified the cost to give myself a fighting chance in the race.


I think I’ll take your word, and not try the experiment.

Still, do you think your leg would have broken had you simply UPD’d on a single-speed unicycle at that speed?

The reason I bring this up is that I once had a UPD where my uni went into freewheel mode when shifting from low to high at speed (maybe 10mph). I landed awkwardly, and it was much more painful than UPD’s I’ve had at much faster speeds on a single speed. (I’ve come off going 17mph before).

I imagined that your UPD was like mine, except going much faster. For this reason, I no longer attempt to shift from low to high faster than 5-7mph. Shifting the other direction has never been a problem.

It’s not the speed so much. It’s the awkward angle. I’ve crashed my bike at 30km/hr with just scapes and lost skin.

When the Schlumpf went into freewheel mode, I basically toppled backwards, and the leg was planted at 45 degrees into the ground at 30km/hr, with all my weight behind it. This was because I was applying backpressure on the trailing pedal as I was going down the hill.

If it was a forwards UPD (say if the hub locked instead of freewheeled), I think I would have gotten away with just a bit of lost skin. Also, I think if it had been a Coker Sclumpf, I might have been high enough off the ground that the trailing leg would have gone right under me and I would have landed on my butt. The 29" is much closer to the ground which didn’t give it enough time to do so.

Totally agree. I lucked out and got some unexpected well paid work in march that kept my cash flow positive, paid for flights etc. But even so it cost a lot getting there and stuff. I think overall including food car hire etc i probably spent 800 quid 1600 dollars.

Separate categories are silly, they only make sense if you separate by what actual gearing you have as geared 36 is v different to 29. And what about brakes - they can give a speed advantage and reduce effort a lot. Should they have another category? If the biggest race ever only has 35 teams it’s silly to split them up based on how pimpy their unicycle is.


If it were to have any separate categories, it would have to be a significant. Having a category with brakes/no brakes is just silly. Having Geared and Ungeared category less so I think. Also, male/female categories would make sense if there were enough female teams too.

That’s kind of what I was trying to get at earlier. Usually when you UPD, you’re already leaning forward so the mass of your body is unavilable to put extreme force into your legs.

My teammate Chris got to experience the “locked hub” scenario with my Harper-hubbed 36er, which failed prior to RTL. He was going about 15mph. He lost some skin, but nothing serious.