Schlumpf Tips & Advice

I have a Schlumpf hub in my 29" KH muni. I only briefly tried it out in high gear last year and I’m just now starting to ride again. My goal is to cover a long distance (not necessarily speed) to get in to some of the shorter bike events and work my way up.

A few things I could use advice on.

How do you shift gears in more detail? I’m sure you’re supposed to kick it with your heel in some way, but is there an easy method? Do I just need to wiggle my heel in closer and wait for a full rotation?

What was your experience like when you first began to ride in high gear and what challenges do you think you had to overcome? When I tried last year, I decided that I need to just mount it and go while it’s already in high gear. Ideally I should have tried while pushing off of something, but I was on a trail when I decided to try it out. It was a pretty awkward feeling since I had to push harder to get moving and I noticed my speed was very unstable. When I felt I needed to slow down, it was just impossible to back pedal in that gear. I’m assuming a lot of that just takes getting used to it and training your muscles.

My previous story led me to a couple more questions. How do you all slow down? Do you guys downshift before dismounting? Is downshifting dangerous?

Pretty much looking for a Schlumpf beginners guide here.

Thanks everyone :smiley:

Pretty much. I find giving it a bit of an actual shove once my foot is in the right place helps make sure the shift fully happens. I also usually use the inside of my foot rather than my heel but I run fairly short cranks :smiley:

The main thing for me that still gets me is committing to it. If I’ve not ridden for a while or I’m a bit nervous for other reasons (I took a pretty major catastrophic fall recently that caused this) I find my shifting fails a lot more, because I take it too tentatively. You need to force the button in good and pedal hard through it while leaning forward, otherwise the wheel takes off and you fall backwards :smiley:

I try to downshift before stopping but if not I usually just slow down in high gear. Both are just a good old case of practice.

FWIW I run a G29er too with a lightweight road setup, and use it for covering distances, so our use case may be similar.

True Schlumpf Advice

Try the search feature— this has been covered many times over— don’t make us re-live it again.

Heaven forbid that we have actual discussion on a discussion board.

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There’s no magic to shifting gears. For most riders it remains a challenge even after years of experience. The people who become fluid at it, that I know of, all have good one-foot riding skills, so if you want to work on something off the Schlumpf, you could work on that.

Starting in high gear on a Schlumpf 29er is possible, and it’s what I usually do when I’m in a high-gear situation. But it’s a pretty big gear to push from a stop, and it’s always a bit awkward. Most 36" riders mount in low gear because it’s even bigger and more awkward.

You have to slow down before you downshift, at least to some extent. But if you get too slow, downshifting becomes harder. So if I know I have to downshift (like, I see an uphill ahead), I’ll slow down to cruising speed to try to make the shift.

Shifting in either direction can cause a crash. Downshifting always feels scarier.

Just that more relevant questions could be asked after the search and information was reviewed. That’s why it’s discussed on the appropriate discussion board.

That makes a lot of sense. I’m going to start with pushing off of something in high gear to get my muscles used to how hard i need to push. Going to treat it kinda like free mounting. Need to know how to ride before you try to free mount, or else you aren’t going anywhere but down :slight_smile:


Maybe the search function isn’t as great as people think it is too. I think my questions were detailed enough to allow others to express their personal experiences in relation to my experience.

I’m still learning myself but I think there are basically 2 different methods:

  1. find the “sweet spot” in the rotation - for me when the pedal is in front so my foot is pretty flat, but probably depends on shoe size relative to crank length – and then rotate your ankle in quickly to hit the button with the side of the heel of the shoe. I wear 5.10 Impacts with pretty beefy soles so I have a big “hitting surface”. Sometimes it takes 2 tries.
  2. rotate your heel in gradually and eventually it will be close enough to push the button. I have had some success with this method although a few times the top lining of my shoe has caught on my crank, so I think it again depends a lot on your shoe.

Of course, shifting ease is also a function of how far your buttons stick out. I have intentionally screwed my downshift button further in because I have had a few unexpected downshifts and was worried that I would hurt myself with a sudden UPD at high speed. At present my thinking is that I would prefer needing a few tries to shift over an accidental high speed UPD. My upshift button sticks out the recommended amount (I’ve read others complain on unexpected shifts when hopping and my forward hopping foot is next to the button in low gear, but I haven’t yet had this problem, but can see the possibility). I expect I’ll get all this dialed-in after a while.

After just a little riding I can mount pretty well in high gear. Although after switching from another unicycle I usually need 2-3 tries as the amount of force and/or expectation that you will be cranking along is so different and takes a few tries to adjust. What I still find really hard is mounting in high gear on an uphill slope. Even a slight grade makes it really hard. For comparison on my 36 with 125 cranks I can kind of doing a running jump rolling mount and start on moderately steep hills, but I have trouble dong this in high gear on the 29. At this point about a week into schlumpfing I think the problem is rolling back. If there’s an uphill incline at all and I roll back when mounting then I just can’t overcome the force to reverse and ride forward.

As I mostly UPD right now, no. I just remount in high gear or if there’s any kind of uphill, just reach down with my hand and push the button to switch to low and then remount.

For me, downshifting is more problematic. (I was going to say “harder,” but it’s really not any harder than upshifting – just push the button! :stuck_out_tongue: )
I’ve had numerous upds while downshifting, while only a couple while upshifting.
The advice to shift firmly and confidently is good advice, I know that more than one upd came from a “tentative” shift.
When I heel-shifted, it was always problematic. Now I ankle-shift (I wear high-top shoes), and most shifts are successful.
Starting in high gear is hard (on my G32), but do-able. I start in 1:1 and shift up from there every time.
Riding in high gear is hard. It takes more effort, even if you’re not trying to go fast. The other day I was riding along with my wife (who was riding her recumbent trike) in high gear, and noticed that even though the path was a very gentle downward slope (ideal riding surface), I was really winded after just a few miles.
Have patience and put in the miles – it will eventually get easier. OK, maybe not ever easy, but less difficult. For me, it’s always hard. But I do it anyway. :smiley:

The worst shifts are when you freewheel for a fraction of a second. Assuming the Schlumpf is functioning correctly, this can still happen when the pedals are being rotated at the same rate as the clutch mechanism (and that includes shifting during a still-stand thank you very much I am that stupid).

In my experience, it helps to be accelerating (putting forward pressure on the pedals) while up-shifting, and conversely, to be decelerating (putting backward pressure on the pedals) when down-shifting. Related to that is to get out in front of the wheel while up-shifting (which encourages forward pressure on the pedals) and getting behind the wheel while down-shifting (encouraging backward pressure on the pedals).

I always mount with my guni in low gear, and I place my first foot on the pedal with the protruding button. That way, I shrink the chances of unintentionally shifting during the mount…down to zero. For some riders (myself included), that is the non-dominant way of mounting. Good practice!

It helped me to be able to look straight down at my feet while riding. At least one rider commented on the forum that looking downward was disorienting. But, it’ll give you a better idea of the position of your ankle relative to the shift button.

Terry (Unigeezer) Peterson reminded me not to fall into the trap of placing the shift buttons in too far. For a beginner, the concern may be avoiding accidental shifts. But this isn’t as bad as shifting on a shallow button, then having it pop back out, and in the interim causing a freewheel situation.

If your heels tend to hug the inside of the cranks, you will have to purposely point them out more. I am currently running my Schlumpf with Venture cranks, and there is no q-factor to help me avoid accidental shifts.

I put my brand new Schlumpf into a 19". I wanted to start with a unicycle that would not cause me to be deathly afraid of shifting. It turned out to be pretty fun. I recently reinstalled it into a 26". After a few rides, I still haven’t gone any faster on the G26 than I did on the G19. I was more comfortable with the smaller wheel and therefore able to spin at a higher cadence. I wonder if a lot of people think they’re going to be riding faster on their geared uni, only to find that isn’t the case. I doubt I’ll ever ride 50% faster in high gear than I do in low gear.

Just like anything else unicycle related, those who get the most out of their Schlumpfs are the ones putting the most into them.

Shifting is always tricky and you will find the paces where it works the most for you.
Get ready to drop while learning (wrist guards and knee pads will help).

And as already said: the challenge is in the mind: keep your focus and do not let the failures get to you.

For the shifting itself, the type of shoes and even experiments with accessories at the ankle bone, you will find plenty of feedback in the Schlumpf main thread:

The Schlumpf thread is 58 pages long. And the search function sucks. I’m pretty sure pushing the last thread to the second page (on whether helium will leak out of a Foss tube, which hasn’t had a post in over two weeks), isn’t going to cause a major problem for the forum.

The last few posts brought up a couple more questions and comments…

I have my buttons mildy hand tightened. I had them unscrew themselves a couple times and just hand tightened back to where they should be.

Does everyone’s Schlumpf have a split second gap before it locks in to the new gear? Is that the same when you switch back to low gear? Is that what elpuebloUNIdo was referring to when you said “freewheel”? I’m good about my foot positioning, so I’m rarely too close to the crank arms. So that’s good it seems. On your comment about putting the Schlumpf in to a 19"… that’s interesting haha. It’s actually somewhat difficult for me to ride with a smaller wheel now. I’m used to my 29". I got my wife a 20" (I think) to learn on and it takes a bit to get comfortable with again. If you’re having trouble with the Schlumpf on your 26", ride it in 1:1 for a while. Those 7" make a surprising difference. To me it seems like it has more to do with how many rotations I’m making with the pedal. If would be interesting to compare a 19" in 1:1.55 to a 26" in 1:1 as far as the feel of it goes.

I agree that back pedaling is tough. I think that’s the main issue I have with it right now. That’ll probably take forever for my muscles to get used to. Probably need to train in 1:1 on paths with a bunch of slopes for a few weeks.

I commuted into the city center today: that’s about 7km or so.

As I commented above, the shoes make a huge difference. I usually ride muni with my 5.10 Impact highs which have large outer soles and I picked up shifting right away. Today I rode with my much lighter 5.10 Freeriders (shaped more like normal skate shoes with just round outer around sole) and shifting was way more difficult. I though about this thread and what I wrote and pretty much followed my own advice… and worked pretty well; both the slowly rotate in until the button is pressed in as the heel rotates around and actively pushing the heel it worked. Although for actively pushing in, I found I had to visually look at the pedal in order to hit the button (previously wth the Impacts I could do without looking).

I managed a couple of upshifts and a downshift in downtown traffic (i.e. where I don’t really want to UPD) and worked out pretty well. At one point I stayed in low gear way longer, just to reduce UPS potential as there were a bunch of lights and heavy pedestrian, bike and car traffic. But worked out well.

Glad to read all this and see I’m not the only one struggling. I’ve had mine for a long time and never quite gotten used to shifting. I did for a while, then I had a proper crash when it went in freewheel like EPU said: the cranks spin without moving the wheel. It cost me a series of nice deep scars on my calf as I didn’t fall but stayed on the saddle for a few meters. Ouch. Since then I’m scared to shift.
After a long time away from this uni, I’m back at it. Getting better in gear but have yet to commit to shift.

I’m scared to shift too. Haha

I spent an hour or so yesterday mounting using a trash can for support to get used to the feel of that gear. Slowly started getting the feel for it. Once I made it to the end of my court, I experimented with the back pedalling a bit to get my muscles used to the feel. My goal was to finish the day by riding a loop around the street that surrounds my court, which is about 2/3 of a mile. I did it :grin: I felt pretty happy after that. I didn’t go super fast, but it was comparable to a med-fast pace if I was in 1:1.

Not being afraid to let the unicycle fall helps overcome fear. UPDs aren’t scary if I’m confident that I can land on my feet.
Shifting still scares me, so I’m not going to worry about that for a long time.
A better goal, to me, is to be able to free mount in high gear. I feel like that will be easier. I already noticed that it felt really weird to free mount in lower gear after just using high gear. I actually struggles a bit going back in to 1:1.
Bottom line is if I can mount in high gear then I don’t have to worry too much about going long distance.

This is absolutely true. But I’m lazy, and I’ve learned to mount in high gear more consistently than making shifts without going slow… :stuck_out_tongue:

For me it’s not that the shift is hard when going slow, it’s just that if I’m downshifting for a hill, I have to crank from a very slow speed to get going again. I’m gradually learning to shift while going incrementally faster. “Faster” might not be the most accurate word for that though…

I shift with my heel. I start by positioning my foot so my heel is angled inward (my normal pedaling position has my heels at least half an inch (1.27cm) from the button). Then when I’m ready, I try to give it a solid squeeze into the hub as it comes around. The important part after that is to keep the pedals turning. Most of the time, if the pedals keep turning, the shift is very quick, without any sizeable gap.

If I let the wheel get too far forward, sometimes I end up coasting when I hit the button. This can work if there isn’t too much of a gap, but otherwise this leads me to a dismount. Got to be confident, and try to maintain your riding position, and pedal rotation, through the shift.

Not only is one-foot riding a good side skill to help with shifting, the much more advanced skill of Coasting is even more useful. :slight_smile:

Note: All of my Schlumpf riding has been on 36" wheels since 2008, and I understand it gets easier as the wheel gets smaller.

I managed 2 loops yesterday. 1.5 miles on my first try. Getting used to it. I had a slightly faster pace this time.

My pedals are bugging me a lot. I feel like the wiggle room with them is going to wear it down. It’s really noticeable in high gear when back pedaling to slow down. It’s just one knock when switching to pedal either back or forward. Feels like the gears are just slamming when changing directions. I can’t tell if it’s the crank arms or the hub itself.

If the tolerances were too tight in the clutch mechanism, it would not consistently click into place during shifting. This, to my understanding, is the main source of “slop” in the Schlumpf mechanism. It takes a lot of getting used to.