Short cranks for trials?

I put the original 138mm cranks back on my sort-of trials unicycle (KH20FL rim with the fattest possible tire), removing the 110mm cranks that I had been using since I was a beginner, almost two years ago. This was a question that emerged from hijacking a beginner thread, so I decided to be polite and post it here.

Anyway, 138s give a very different feeling. Other than being slower for transportation, though, it’s hard to say yet what the concrete differences are. My rolling hops are still about 2’ maximum on level ground, one-footed riding might be a tiny bit easier, though it wasn’t at first. Hopping up and down the stairs is about the same, riding down some gentle steps is actually a little more difficult now because of the unfamiliar feeling and the seemingly higher seat. Clearly, these longer cranks will take some getting used to before I can say for sure if they are better for trials riding. All serious trials riders, I know, use long cranks, but I am so used to short ones, and they are so much better for riding the 5 blocks or so to the stairs that I use…

It’s funny how that works. It is almost always harder to do things with short cranks when you are used to long cranks but not necessarily any easier to use the long cranks when you are used to short. In my experience this holds true across many disciplines.

I barely ever ride my trials but I have holes drilled at 112mm in my 137mm Moments. I really like the shorter setting for basically everything I do except trying to “ride” on rocks.

The one obvious advantage I felt with longer cranks was being able to reset the pedals back to level after I landed while hopping in place or riding over a little drop-off. If I come down a little bit off balance, the leverage definitely helps for getting the wheel back under me while stalled. Other than that, most things were on the one hand/on the other hand.

That’s a funny thing with them. With 138s rather than 112s, your foot is an inch farther away at the bottom, so you might lower the seat as some do, but it’s also an inch closer to your torso at the top. I tried 170 mm bicycle cranks on my muni for a short time and it felt like the seat was too high and too low at the same time, one foot barely reaching the pedal while the other knee was as high as I could lift it. It seems that longer cranks take away some of your margin for choosing between a “high” and a “low” saddle position.

Wow, that is an excellent description of the feeling of long cranks! I had never thought of it, but you’re right: The longer cranks, in addition to making the seat feel higher, also make it feel lower! Also, when I tried one-footed riding with these longer cranks, my resting foot grazed its pedal once or twice. That never happened with my 110mm cranks.

So far, I think Saskatchewanian is right about trials cranks, but I’ll give these a little while before I go back to my 110s, just to see if I get any surprise breakthroughs.

I struggle a bit with shorter cranks, to the point that for learning I put 165s on my 24" muni. I’ve now swapped back to the 150s and find them ok, I think like all things unicycle it just takes saddle time!
The thing for me is I’ve only ever used 175s on my mtbs so spinning a smaller circle feels odd. I’m ok with 150 on my 24, 140 on my 19, and put the 165s on my 36. I try to use all 3 so I don’t get too used to how any one feels!

Now that I’ve given them some time and lowered my seat, the longer cranks are starting to be helpful:

Going from riding along the street to hopping up onto a sidewalk or stair without stopping (a rolling sidehop?) is easier than before because I now have a slightly larger window for when to hop.

One-footed riding has become easier because I now have a tiny bit more leeway as to when and how hard I push down on the pedal. With 110mm cranks, my longer one-footed rides (20 revolutions and above) usually only happened on slight downhill roads. Now, navigating level pavement is easier with the extra leverage and extra time per stroke.

Anyway, there are undoubtedly plenty of other threads on this topic, but I wanted to set the record straight.