Singletrackin: Munis vs Bikes

I was wondering how fast some of you guys average on a technical singletrack. If it’s very tight and twisty without too many big downhills, can any of you keep up with the “average” mountain biker?

I can keep up somtimes but not much.

On a techy singletrack loop like Cwmcarn or Afan (In the UK) I usually go at about the same average speed as a large group of bikers as they usually take frequent stops to regroup. Solos and pairs I only ever see once as they go past. I have overtaken a few mountain bikers on climbs but can’t keep up on the flat and am way behind on the downs. I’m a pretty slow rider FWIW

Ah, geekery.

This is a loop I do around Malvern occasionally to see how fast I can go. On smooth, steady climbs the unicycle is as fast if not faster than the bike, but if the surface is rougher the bike edges ahead. Downhill, though, the bike can’t be seen for dust, and I’m not too sure about level sections because there aren’t any round here…

The whole loop is just over 8 miles long; the last time I tried it took 45 minutes on the bike and 61 minutes on the 29er. I haven’t tried the muni yet. I can keep up with bike groups riding at a leisurely pace on the 29er, using a bit of nattering time to catch up after downhill bits, but unless the whole route is a steady climb there’s no way I could keep up with proper fast people.



When I was in my good shape, I was able to outrun a friend (who was out of shape on a bike).
I was also able to comfortably ride with another friend who didn’t care much about speed.

Kris Holm (on a 24") did Moab with a set of friends on bikes and that worked out.
I think they are doing 10+ mile days even.

I know at least one trail here where a bike and uni would be evenly matched
(loose rock, 12% grade, 1/2 mile).

It also depends on the style of riding.
If your friends are into trials, they aren’t going to care much about racing to the next section.
However, if they are into BMX style riding . . .

Wow, thanks for all that info. So, speaking of 29ers, is this an off-road trail or a paved lane or what? If off-road, how does the 29er do out there? I have been thinking of upsizing from my 24x3, been wondering about a 26x3 which would be the equivalent size of a 29er. Just curious if they’re better/worse/worth the money…

My experience is pretty much like Phil’s. I’m way quicker on a bike on smooth flat or downhill stuff , but uphill I’m quicker on the muni until it gets too rough for me to ride (this is cross-country, although I pretty much never ride my mountain bike anymore - on the road there’s no comparison, bike is always far faster). My usual muni route to work is about 9 miles, mostly xc, some (steep) road. It’s mostly downhill going in and mostly uphill coming home (I live on the top of a hill and work at the bottom). Going down takes me about 55 minutes on the muni, but I can do it in something like 35 minutes on a mountain bike. Coming back the bike isn’t so much quicker - takes about 1 hr 15 mins on the muni on a good day and only about 10 minutes quicker on the bike.
On the road bike I can be down there in less than 20 minutes if I welly it and the sheep are well-behaved - I’m not going to come close to that on a unicycle… but the original question was about muni, so it’s not really relevant.
Oh, by the way, my muni is a 26x3 and I reckon I’m quicker on that than I am on a 29er, just because it’s so stable and doesn’t take so much concentration to keep up a spin. Bit more weight to pull up hills though. 29ers are lighter but more jittery, but most people seem to prefer them for xc racing - probably just what you get used to. Cokers are potentially quite a bit quicker though in the hands (feet?) of a good rider.


If you have a 24x3, don’t bother getting a 26x3. They’re really not very different in terms of speed; you’d be better off just putting shorter cranks on the 24x3. A 29er will do fine off-road; for non-technical to lightly technical trails, a 29er is more fun than a full-on MUni, and it can handle even moderately technical terrain if you put long cranks on it. (If you put really long cranks on it, 195mm like Jim Roberts did, you can even ride Moab terrain).

Have you tried a 29er away from the rocks of Dartmoor? They excel at going very quickly over smooth ground; generally this is the kind of terrain races will be over. Over rockier ground like Dartmoor the tyres are just too thin so unless you can weave around every single rock you’re going to get shaken around a lot more than on a much softer muni tyre.

The 29er is fast but over lumpy rocks it can feel like you’ve forgotten to put the tyre on…


No, but I’ve ridden them on the smoother rocky/gravelly stuff (like the old railway line down from Princetown), which isn’t really any rougher than grass or rougher fireroads. I just find them far harder to control (like a muni with the tyre pressure too high) and the extra concentration needed makes me feel less inclined to ride so fast. Better riders than me (i.e. technically and experience-wise, rather than physically) may well be able to get over the trippiness (that’s a good word :)) and take advantage of the lower weight. There must be something in it otherwise 29ers wouldn’t be so popular with the xc racers.

You’re probably right. Most of my riding does tend to be at the bumpier end of cross-country. The fat tyre definitely wasn’t good in the slime at Sleepless :o - could have done with something skinnier then (if only coz it would have been lighter to carry).

Anyway, that’s all a bit off-topic for this thread… there must be a reason why 29ers are so much more popular that 26x3s, but it doesn’t really affect the bike/unicycle comparison.


I’ve been on a fair few muni rides with bikes. As long as you’re keeping it technical with no nasty fireroads it’s okay as you can keep up or catch up a bit at gossip breaks, but once you get to any wide open flat or downhill sections you’re screwed.

It is hard to keep up even on twisty singletrack after the first 20 miles or so of a days ride though, I’ve found that taking a large quantity of sugary sweets like skittles or something with you helps.

Also making sure to ride with fat people helps too, rather than with racing whippets. I certainly couldn’t go riding with bike riders of similar fitness to me.


You guys must be joking… there is no way a muni could keep up with a bike, period. At least not my bike - a Marin Attack Trail, a long wheel-base full suspension 6" travel bike with 2.5" tires and E13 DRS chain guide. I easily go 10 or so MPH through rocky trails, up and down hill. I just aim downhill and rip it, the bike handles everything and anything.

But then again, I’m no ordinary biker. My avid unicycling has transfered some amazing balancing skills over to my biking. My mtb’ing friends always comment on my ability to crawl and hop over really rocky sections, and they readily attribute it to my unicycling.

OTOH, I’m not a muni-er, so perhaps the muni would have an advantage on some really technical stuff, I just don’t know. I’ve seen some vids of some amazing muni. OTOH I’m more likely to just huck it over technical stuff on my bike - just lean back and rip it through.

It seems that good muni’ing requires some real serious skills, but good biking is possible with just some confidence and speed.

Who said it could? Over a random stretch of cross-country a bike will always be quicker, but in some situations (certainly if it’s uphill) not by much. If you pick the course artificially so it’s all slight uphill a muni may well be slightly quicker. On a smoothish downhill, or course, the bike is obviously much faster. This is assuming the same rider of course (or at least the same ability of rider). A fast unicyclist will very often be quicker cross-country than a casual biker. A fantastic biker like yourself wouldn’t be caught by a muni (although you’d be surprised in the right conditions: I’ve left a few very embarassed posers with fancy bikes on my way home from work).


Not wanting to be rude, but 10mph is pretty slow for a bike, on a downhill muni riders can go significantly faster than that.

On the sort of downhill trail that you can just point down and let go, a bike will always be faster unless the rider is a complete wuss. Riding up, whilst the muni can still ride your heavy bike will slow you down loads compared to the muni. When it gets tight and twisty and technical, you’ll be slowed down, particularly on a long travel full suspension bike, particularly if your technique involves a lot of just hanging on and riding over stuff.

I’ve met some xc bike racers with stupid light bikes, who could beat me on absolutely any uphill or downhill, whether I was on a bike or a unicycle, but pretty consistently the sort of people with long travel bikes and super fat tyres were slower than me uphill and faster downhill, except when it got really twisty, where I could just about keep up on the downhill. The XC racing people just have the skills to ride stuff efficiently, which combined with super fitness is unbeatable.


On an Attack Trail I’d like to see you go up a steep fireroad at 10mph. A unicycle has a “lowest speed” for going uphill at which you have to keep pedalling to maintain your momentum and balance; on the 29er I find this is around 5-6mph. On a bike you just click down the gears until you’re going at around 4. On this kind of hill a bike can outpace a unicycle for a short burst but it’s not sustainable. This is evident on long road rides or endurance events where the bikes scream past going downhill but uphill a unicyclist will be going much faster.

My fastest bike for going upwards is actually the singlespeed rather than the proper bike for similar reasons; it is much lighter than the big bike but with no gears to twiddle you have to keep pedalling to maintain your momentum.


26x3 and 29ers have the same diameter wheel size. I understand that a 26x3 will be more heavy, and thus not quite as quick or flicky, but I’m intersted primarily in MUni, secondarily in everything else, tertiarilly in…well, nothing, I just wanted to use the word tertiarilly. (I just checked that to make sure I spelled it correctly, and what do you know, it turns out that it’s not a real word…and here I am thinking that I’m using a big word…darn. However, I hereby petition that “tertiarilly” be placed into the dictionary henceforth.)

Just curiously, why do you say that a 29er is more fun? Are you a brunette? :wink:

And over technical singletrack, the tire lets you know that it’s had enough of your shananigans, and makes you walk home.

Did the sixties happen fifteen years later over there? :wink:

Hey, and while I’ve got you here, and we’re off topic anywho. I have a question. What’s the difference between England, Britain, and the UK? My friend actually just got back from 4 months over there, and she couldn’t even tell me. :slight_smile:

Oh, and since this is my thread, I hereby refuse to allow you to worry about something not being on topic. Discussion flows where discussion is wanton to flow.

Well, that is one impressive bike that you’re talking up on a unicycling forum. :slight_smile: Remind me one day to tell you all about my telephone…

But seriouslly, that’s why I stated technical singletrack without too many hills. I have just begun muniing, I’ve only been out half a dozen times, and the last time, I was averaging about 7.5 mph with my 24x3. And my conditioning leaves a LOT to be desired, as obviously does my skill and technique. So, braging about 10 mph just doesn’t really seem appropriate…imho :sunglasses:

I say a 29er is more fun because I have a lot of experience riding 29ers, 26x3, and 24" MUni setups, and in my experience, the 29er is more fun on easy stuff, and the 26" and 24" are about equal on all types of terrain. A 26x3 really doesn’t feel any faster than a 24x3 on the trails; the 26x3 is a little better at floating over loose scree, but in most cases the speed difference is imperceptible. The softness and chunkiness of the tire keep you from being able to flow quickly down the trails. Whereas on a 29er, you can definitely get the feeling of the wind in your hair as you’re zipping down fast singletrack.

If you can, borrow someone’s 26x3 and go for a ride. It really doesn’t feel that different.