struggling with speed

I will start by saying I know practice is ultimately the answer but I want some thoughts as to if that is all. so here is the issue, I can ride fairly comfortable but I struggle keeping an even speed, it’s like I speed up and slow down constantly. I know I’m improving but I’m wondering if changing my set up would help. I am adding a couple pictures that show my seat height at the 12/6 got lucky yesterday and had someone take pics while I was riding and these came out good. so my question is does it look like I should lower my seat a little or just keep at it

Looks okay to me. Keep at it.

That is your 29" Trainer I presume? Does it still have the original 152mm that it came with? Personally I would find those very slow for a unicycle you intend to use on the road.

Perhaps try dropping down a size (and adjusting the saddle up accordingly). It is a simple upgrade that could result in a speed increase (after some time to adjust to them).

A nice thing with cotterless cranks is how cheap they are. So perhaps buy a couple sets. Switch down a size to say 127mm, give yourself some time to get used to them, and you should find that you get a little bump in speed, then switch down again to say 114mm.

Personally I would run 102mm on that but if you haven’t used short cranks before that might feel a little extreme. Best to go down in steps, give yourself some time and see how it works out for you.

The height looks just fine.

I second the shorter crank reccomendation.
But take it slowly, make slow steps because it will feel quite different.

When switching from 145 to 125 mm on my dual hole cranks I’m always “surprised” at the feel.

Shorter cranks enable you to ride at higher rpm so this enables higher speed.
Possibly also taking out some speed variations due to the smaller circle your legs are making.

But the biggest factor will probably be practice :), taking out the “balance corrections” as much as possible.

I find that riding a (ever so) slight incline makes for a smoother ride as far as balancing is concerned. Because your power is more focused on the front half of the pedal stroke.

Like @ruari said if those are ~150mm cranks it’s going to be hard keeping up speed and being consistent, your legs are just moving around too much.

To me your seat looks too high, your leg is almost fully extended I wouldn’t ride with my seat that high, but some folks probably do.

Shorter cranks will help, I run 125mm on my 29er, if I go shorter I can ride faster but my knees begin to hurt so I’ve decided 125 is fine.

Riding fast is a combination of trying to pedal fast and keeping your legs/body relaxed at the same time… not very easy, I’m not very good at it. It is a skill you can master if you keep practicing it, but you do need to practice riding fast, it won’t come on it’s own just riding around slow.

Every time I get caught up in trying to ride fast I just remember “Oh yeah, it’s a unicycle, it’s NOT fast”

If I want to go fast I ride my two wheeler.

I guess that the question is more about speed consistency than about speed increase. Your seat hight seems to be just right. I think that to get a consistent speed it might help to have a reference. Try to ride with a friend (eventually on a bike), the goal is to have a constant speed reference. If I am riding solo or with my kids, my speed floats a lot. However, if I ride with adults (they ride bicycles), my speed is almost constant.

Looking at the picture, the toe of your 6:00 foot is pointed downward. I’m guessing you’re near your limit for saddle height. You might consider lowering it a tiny bit. A lower saddle may allow you more range of motion for your body to make balance adjustments over the unicycle. If the movement of your body is inhibited by an overly-high-saddle, then you will have to rely more on changes in pedal pressure to keep the unicycle under you. And that results in the changes of speed you mentioned.

ruari mentioned going with shorter cranks. I think the riders using the shorter cranks are forced to stay balanced over the unicycle. Conversely, with longer cranks, staying balanced over the unicycle is less critical because it’s easier to make crude adjustments to pedal pressure.

You might try practicing riding very slowly. That will force you to use more body balance and less pedaling-in-the-direction-you’re-falling. Then apply what you’ve learned to regular-speed riding.

My guess is that the wheel of your 29" is pretty heavy. That could inhibit you from making more smaller, quicker adjustments to pedal pressure. Everything else being equal, I bet that swapping out your wheel set with something lighter would alleviate the problem of slowing down and speeding up.

thanks for all the replies so far, yes that is the 29 trainer. I’m not really trying to go faster so much as just be consistent as possible. I do find on a slight incline I do my best as far as staying smooth and holding a steady speed but on level ground I go from my top speed of just over 9mph to back down to just over fast walking speed. and it’s just a constant battle to try to ride a smooth speed I have found after about 2 to 3 miles I hit a good spot and do better for a couple miles so I know practice plays a big part. I think I will try going with the next size down on the cranks if that can help smooth out my ride

+1 on the shorter cranks the suggested 125mm sounds about right for a first step, depending on terrain etc. in the long term, even something like 100mm would be suitable. I want to make sure you remember that you have to raise your seat accordingly when you do that, as ruari pointed out.

Seat height looks about right from the pictures, I doubt it’s the issue. It’s always a good idea to play around with easy to change settings occasionally though, so try raising or lowering your seat. (Mark your current position with a marker on the seatpost first). When I do that (most of the time it happens on accident, when I borrow a uni to someone, and forget to mark the seat), I usually end up liking it in a slightly different spot then previously.

I’d recommend riding with (at least) one hand on the handle, as it doesn’t look like you are doing that. I think it’s mostly benefiting for “side to side” stability (wheel wobble etc.), but your issues might be related to that. It’s worth giving it a try at least I think.

For me, dropping speed is purely a mental issue, sometimes I struggle to get into a good cadence, and end up dropping into a slower speed any time I’m not concentrating on it, and some days I can keep a high cadence effortlessly. I think that’s a pretty normal thing, so that may also be your issue.

yeah in those 2 shots I had hands off because I was just giving a thumbs up to the person taking the pick and was about to come to a stop and get my phone back :smiley: I do ride with 1 hand on pretty much all the time except when I slow down straighten up and stretch a bit. I’m having a hard time using my left hand to hold the seat but I keep working at it and can’t ride with both for more than a few yards before I go into that oh crap I’m falling thing and have to flail my arms wildly to get my balance back :astonished:
I just ordered a set of 140 cranks, I’m going to go slow with the changes and see how they go

Oh and as far as this being for road riding, hmm not so much as just for fun on the bike paths and such,I’m getting much better on the rough stuff so I’m still thinking about putting a more aggressive tire on it for light trail riding. as I get better I was leaning toward a 32 but I see a lot of foo foo talk about the 32 inchers. I’m just scared a 36 would be too much for me and I don’t think I’ll ever actually commute. But time will tell,for now I just want to get solid with my skills

You have to do what is right for you, we are all different. I agree, people here definitely look down on the 32, 36 or nothing! … whatever :thinking: I had a 36 for about a year, never got comfortable on it, I had the skills I needed to ride it, I could mount, but never got as comfortable as I wanted on it. I guess most people are o.k. with that, I like to feel more in control when cars are whizzing by me a foot away. I’ve also thought about getting a 32, but it’s just so close in size to my 29 that I can’t justify it, so I’ll just keep riding the 29er.

Seat height:
It’s hard to see your feet, but you might be stretching a bit. Try lowering it, but no more than 1/4". Your current height is about what a lot of Freestylers would use, but that’s for a bumpless gym floor. As your riding gets more bumpy, like rough roads or gravel, lower it some more. for dirt trails, depending on how rough, you would lower it more again. This is to give you extra room in case you hit a bump with your pedals at 12/6; too high and you can get bounced off the seat, losing your bottom foot off the pedal.

Speed consistency:
From your description, it sounds like you’re still working on a smooth spin. Most of this will be corrected with time. Even when practicing for Track racing (very high rpms), sometimes you end up slowing down a bit and have to push it back up to maintain speed. With more practice you will get more consistent.

Those 140s will be nice, but it’s not much of a transition. I suggest you next get a pair of 110s, or go straight to the 102s. The bigger change will be freaky at first, but as you ride more you will see you have more control of those short cranks than you thought. On the upside, after riding short cranks, even if you go up just to the next size, you will suddenly feel like you have tons of control! :slight_smile:
140s is a good size for Muni on a 24 or 26" wheel. 125s is a good size for riding moderate hills on a 36". The 150s you have now are what I would call the “standard” cranks for someone starting out on a 36". If you want to cruise, and still have plenty of control (after getting used to them), try the 102s.

Bigger wheel:
Go big or go home. 36" is the biggest size you can get without going custom, and it’s still relatively small. Back in the day, hardcore penny farthing riders would get their wheels built to the maximum size they could fit. This would be 60" and more, for more speed. There’s nothing wrong with a 32" wheel either, but it’s not much of a change from 29".

Holding the seat:
Riding with both hands on the seat (or on a handlebar) is a useful skill to work toward, as it will teach you to minimize your upper body motions, and learn to make the necessary adjustments from the waist down. This comes in handy if you get into longer and longer rides.

I am thinking about making a handle and work on learning to use it

I own both, and it’s amazing how different they feel. The 32" is definitely a small 36". It has the momentum of the big wheel, and it’s way more stable. Yet it remains zippy and easy to maneuver, and most importantly, it’s easy to mount with a static or a rollback mount, even on short cranks. On the other hand, the 29" feels more like a big 26".
There is a swiss rider, forgot her name, who just put her Schlumpf hub in a 32" and she says it’s the first time she can ride it without being full on concentrated as when it was in her 29". And she’s had the hub for 10 years and is among the top riders in Europe.

Based on my experience a handlebar may help to stabilize your speed. A handlebar tends to limit the forward and backwards bending at the hip and essentially raises the center of gravity. Just like a giraffe unicycle the higher the center of gravity, the easier it is to maintain forward and back stability and maintain a constant speed. I noticed that when I fist started road riding and and switched from a uni without a handle bar to one with.

Of course more time in the saddle will help with more control over the speed. As your muscle memory develops you will instantly and without thinking make small corrections in the forward and back direction with little change in speed.

I noticed this thing on my longer ride (around 5km total, so not even long). 29" with 152mm cranks. Now that I did 7.6km ride yesterday, there were couple things that I noticed causing rubberbanding of speed before, but which were smoother now;

-Backback. I have camera, 840ml water, cellphone (well, smatphone, but whatever), and speaker for brake time loosening. Even this all small load added differential to weight distribution I was used earlier without backback at all.

-Bumps on road (potholes and such). Quick accerelation of speed and then breaking bit due uneven road surface.

-Going back to normal riding posture AFTER riding uphill. Since I need to balance differently when going uphill, this method caused havock to my normal ridng speed; way too fast. This is even worse in one place where there is downhill right after uphill, not normal surface.

These all issues have gotten better by just riding more, along with downhill riding and dealing with road camber where I need to lean body differently.

hmm good points as I have just started riding with a camel pack for water recently. I need add a strap between the arm straps in the front as it moves around quite a bit
OK so I got the new cranks and yeah very little difference from 150 to 140
but I’m going to ride with them some and see how it feels, I didn’t raise the seat any so everything is going to be a little different. probably won’t get to ride till later in the week if then as we are getting hammered with afternoon rains.

Also, depending on terrain holding (pulling) saddle helps me on keeping more constant speed on rougher terrain. Takes a while to getting used to holding saddle during ride, but give it shot too. Like when going uphill and needing extra power to legs and to keep my ass better on saddle, as well as when going faster since I can bring my body more forward causing center of balance to shift more.

No hands practice

You know what no hands on a unicycle means, right?
Yes, both hands on the seat and just using your legs(pumping pedal) for control. Your upper body helps but it’s mainly the pedaling force(both down and forward). Have you ever tried to ride a trail or paved road with both hands holding the seat. How do you go straight? How do you correct when you start veering to one side? You handle bar guys know what I’m talking about. It’s all in the pedaling.

Pay attention to downward force and forward force. When riding super slow on grass it’s all pumping down hard and slow on the pedals(4 to 8 o’clock) with very little weight on saddle and swaying side to side. When riding on smooth surface and you want to go faster without “swaying” it’s all about fully “weighted” on your seat and subtle equal forward force on the pedals(like from 11 to 1 o’clock). For some reason I like to visualize what those lumberjacks do when they are balancing and rolling a log under their feet.

Not to get into a disagreement, because there are so many different riding techniques out there, but for me there’s more going on than just pedaling.

Handlebars can be used for steering, just like the handlebars on a bicycle. And, also like a bicycle, holding the bars allows you to shift the unicycle and your body relative to one another in a left-right fashion. Learning to hold on with one, then two hands, shifted the locus of balance from my upper body down to my hips. I sit on the back edge of the seat and place a lot of weight downward on the bar ends. In this position, the forward/backward motion of the unicycle is stabilized, and I can hit pretty hard bumps without being thrown off.

I learned to ride short distances with both hands on the seat…before learning how to do anything really useful with my hands on the bars/seat. Over time, however, I learned the added forms of control with the hands (referred to above). At that point, taking a hand (heaven forbid both hands) off the handlebars started to seem like a loss of control.