Short cranks for Muni racing

Just got back from the Italian national championship races (results here and had a great time. I had a great time and was happy with my results (downhill, XC and uphill times all basically double the winning times so in the lower quarter overall – three third-place finishes in the over-40 age group, well, actually four 3rd places in my age groups but in trial there were only 3 so doesn’t really count).

But I was really blown away with not only how difficult the downhill course was and how fast the top riders are but how SHORT their cranks are.

The top riders were mostly running 110mm cranks on 27.5" muni wheels! OK, on the cross-country I can imagine this (I rode 127mm cranks on my 29+ wheel) but the downhill was really steep in the Alps with sections so steep that you can barely walk down on foot and even with 150mm cranks I had to walk 3 sections (Maksym from Poland had convinced me to ride the 127s for the downhill too but I chickened out just before the start when it started to rain and was concerned how sippery it would get and switched back to the 150s and still fell multiple times).

In the past months I had been playing with shorter cranks for moderately difficult muni (meaning 127mm cranks instead of 150s), but it was really shocking to see that the top riders could still have that kind of control on super-steep technical terrain including two >1meter drops with even shorter cranks!

Going to the German muni national championships next weekend, so interested to see how the courses and the setups will be (I will probably use 127s for the XC again and hope to be capable of running 127s on the downhill but not sure if I have the skill and control).

Wow, my knees hurt just thinking about riding rough terrain on 110s! :astonished:

For downhill I guess it means those guys (and girls?) are also really good at working their brakes.

I don’t even like my KH 26" in the 137 holes. It’s fine on the level, but I was riding it on a rolling trail and it really wore me out. I know part of this is not being used to the cranks; I used to ride 140s all the time on my old 24" Miyata with 1.75" tire (and no brakes)!

As John says, it’s probably mainly about them being really good at controlling the uni with the brake. Interesting thought though - I might just try the 127 hole on my Spirits for a bit of easy muni and see how it goes, have only really used that before for general utility riding.

I find everything a little easier on the 127mm holes. Especially downhill… almost flowy.

For me, everything is dampened. (or feels a little smoother)
Now I’m not jumping off anything bigger than 16" though.

I still find it very hard on my knees. So I’ll stay in my happy place… 150mm.

Yeah, I talked to quite a few and they said you rely on the brake. Apparently the local club that sponsored the race and course which had a lot of the top riders encourages training everything including steep terrain with 110s for higher speed.

And yes, the top girls were also using short cranks and way faster than me! (8:01 faster male, 9:48 fastest female, my time 17 minutes).

After the Uphill, Trial, Cross-Country, and Downhill races I think every single muscle in my legs is sore today! Well, 4 days to recover before I do all those events again in Germany :slight_smile:

I’ve seen them last year racing in Riva del Garda and I have to admit they are aliens.
It is true, they ride literally everything with 110mm cranks and 27,5x2.4 tires. After seeing them I explored shorter cranks on my unis (I was used only to 150mm cranks) and I felt a lot better and quicker but I don’t think I will ever go shorter than 137 mm on the 26x3.00 and 127 mm on the 29er…

If you are good at using your brakes, 110mm or 125mm is manageable, I borrowed Christians old Muni multiple times, and the 125mm cranks weren’t too much of an issue, even for someone with a lot of unicycling experience, but no braking experience like me.

I only use 140mm because A) I don’t have shorter ones right now and since the 140s don’t limit my fun, I am currently not interested in spending money on different ones and B) I like big drops and gaps, and I am not good enough with my brake (yet) to be back on it immediately.

For the upcoming german championship I might do a lot of crank swapping (If I feel like it) 125mm cranks of my 19" to my 26" for Downhill, 140mm of my 26" on my 19" for Trials, 125mm back on 19" for Street and Flat. I might also be to lazy.

EDIT: Shorter cranks are also often more fun, since shorter cranks are faster, and going faster is more exciting. I should switch to 125mm, and force myself to learn using the brake for bigger jumps. Right now I found my legs limit at a 1,80m drop with perfect landing (this:, I can’t stop the momentum there. If I’d be able to use the brake, I could probably land that drop, even with 125mm cranks.

brake for drops

Yeah, Christian (Hörner) was also telling me to use shorter cranks.

Yeah, I also learned last weekend that I’ve been doing drops wrong as I have not been using the brake at all. I think that was the main reason why I haven’t felt comfortable going shorter as I have been needing the extra leverage of the long crank to land drops/jumps (not that I’m doing anything close to 1.8m, more like 1m). So I will definitely have to work on using the brake for drops and jumps.

@Finnspin: ah, from the video I recognize you, I think from Elsbet. See you on Friday in Steinach. Hope the weather doesn’t suck (lots of rain forecast for Friday morning).

Great topic… Ive just gone down to 125’s on my 26 with 2.4 tyre. What has helped me with the brake is having KH bars as it lets me use the brake more effectively.

When they said everything were they just talking about Downhill races? That would make sense to me, and maybe Cross Country, but any proper uphill would seem to kill your speed pretty fast. Either that, or their knees will all need replacing by the time they’re 30 years old. :astonished:

But this thread tempts me to play around with the 137 holes a bit more, especially on downhill-ish areas, while I play catch-up on learning to use a brake. I only got my first non-36" uni with a brake last summer!

I think they meant almost all general riding and training, i.e. so that you get used to riding on the short cranks. For the actual uphill competition maybe a bit longer… although I think even here they were using relatively short cranks. On my training runs (unfortunately only two), Maksym recommended trying to ride with 127s (I have an effective diameter of 30.5" on my 29+ and tried but couldn’t power the 127s and had to dismount about 1/4 the way up, so used the 150s instead – but I also don’t train for extended steep uphill like that but only ride what “exists” around me being either short and steep or long and not so steep <15%). He then offered me his 137s to use but I (correctly) declined as in the race I dismounted on the 150s twice anyway.

I think Maksym used 127s on a 27.5 for the uphill (no dismount and 5th place behind 4 local riders all from Villanders) and I believe most of the Villanders riders used something around 117-127 on 27.5". (and I think I remember Maksym saying the Uphill was less steep than that of Unicon 2016 in Spain but I might be wrong).

Note: I just checked the Unicon 18 (Spain) results and a lot of the top Muni riders were at the Villanders race (With over half of those riders being from the Villanders Unicycle Club):
Uphill: top 1 + 6 of top 15 (4 Villanders)
Downhill: top 2 + top 7 of top 15 (5 Villanders)
XC: #2 + 7 of top 11 (4 Villanders)

So I guess their success suggests that their on to something…

I’ll try and pay more attention and ask more this weekend at the German nationals.

bars for muni

Another interesting topic: bars for muni!

I personally tried them but didn’t feel ready yet. I know the Lichtenstein riders like Turtle (extreme alpine terrain) swear by them.

But I’m just racking my brain, and I can’t recall a single unicyclist with bars for the downhill, cross-country OR the uphill last weekend… Although it does seem like especially for the uphill it would be helpful.

Does anyone know if there are any restrictions on the use of bars for muni in UCI? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen people use them in races? But would suggest that most of the best riders are choosing not to…

No restrictions on bars in the IUF (or USA) rules. They are probably less necessary for shorter races, or for uphill races. In those cases it might be extra weight you can do without. But for anything with steep downhills, if you have your brake lever mounted for handlebar use, naturally you would want to keep them on there.

For all that short-crank riding, I bet those fast riders are all leaning toward lighter wheels. I like the tire that came with my KH 26" last year, but at 3" there’s a lot to it, and it also raises the diameter. For a race, comfort is a low priority so a lighter tire, which may be skinnier, is what people may want for faster speeds.