I have learned to ride on a generic 20" unicycle. I can:
Freemount reasonably well with either foot
Ride indefinitely on smooth ground (which isn’t very far on a 20")
Do reasonably tight fig 8s (though as a series of straight lines and corners)
Ride off a kerb (my latest trick)
I want to get a 2nd uni. My goal is to ride off-road - I have taken the 20" on some tracks, but with limited success, given my lack of skill and the size of the wheel. I also would like to do some longer rides on the road. I live in a place (Norfolk, England) not not for its mountain vistas, but that’s not to say it’s dead flat; there are several places nearby with hilly-ish off-road tracks, but nothing very sustained or ‘technical’.
So, my dilemma: do I go for a 26" and give up some of the ‘distance’ potential, or a 29" and risk not being able to climb/descend under control? What kinds of terrain is a 29" or 26" suited for?
Help me out, my birthday’s coming up, and this is my present to me!
I’ve got a Nimbus 29er from UDC which I’ve been riding for the last 4 months. This weekend, we took our unis (my 29er and my friend’s 20") off road in an attempt to cycle from Cambridge to Ely on the riverside path. This is, of course, largely flat countryside with occasional steep-but-small hillocks. The path itself is a typical country track for much of the journey - unpaved, compacted dirt, lumpy and irregular. Difficult to ride!
Both our unis were set up with a rather high gear - really more suited to road usage. We found the following:
lumps / loose gravel / anything seemed to cause the 20" difficulty
the 29er was tricky to mount in places - this is partly a tribute to my lack of skill, but I basically found I didn’t have enough space in which to freemount without rolling off the ridge we were riding / hitting a bump
when I got on the 29er, it seemed to be 2-4mph faster than the 20" even though they were set up for practically the same gear ratio
I’m planning on getting a Muni wheelset for the 29er (longer cranks, knobbly tyre) that I can fit at weekends for this sort of riding - then I can tackle those paths again. Wouldn’t want to do it again with my current setup.
It’s taken me a long time to get used to the 29er on the road - feels really unwieldy after my flingable 20" standard. It did seem like a 29er is a fantastic cross-country machine, but more technical stuff might be harder on it due to its size / weight. Going up hills is partly a function of your crank length (and hence gearing) so you might be able to find a 29er which serves that purpose too.
Just my $0.02, I’ve never ridden a 26er (although it always seems like a “nice” size compared to either a small wheel or a huge, 29er)
I’m confused about the ‘gear’ thing - do you mean crank length? If so, what’s on the Nimbus now, and what will you be changing it to? Looking at threads about 29" unis, 150cm seems to be regarded as the ‘sweet spot’, so that’s what I was aiming for (if I go that route).
I recently invested in a 26" for my second Uni. Like you, I also wanted something for off-road riding. After riding my 26" (with 150 cranks) on some local trails for a couple of weeks, I would recomend this size if you plan on riding any hills. The 26" rolls over bumps in the trail pretty nicely and will climb up moderate inclines. For steeper parts of trails, longer cranks would be better.
Have fun shopping for and riding your new birthday present.
If the stuff near you is like Thetford then with an off road tyre, it’s rideable on a 29 with 125mm cranks, which is also a fine road uni. However, a 26 is a bit better for muni, especially if you decide to get into more technical riding. Also, you’ll probably find the 26" easier to get into riding offroad on if you’re currently inexperienced.
If you only get one unicycle, the 26" is more flexible, because you can put everything from a narrow road tyre, to a 3" wide downhill tyre on it, and with short cranks it can be similar to a 29" on the road. However, if you’re anything like me, you probably can’t be bother to change cranks/tyres etc. often, so the 29er would make more road oriented unicycle.
My advice to you would be that if at all possible, come to the BUC and have a play on some unicycles and buy one there. It’s a fantastic weekend, and is pretty cheap, and you’ll probably have much more inspiration as to what kind of riding you want to get into after seeing other riders. Saves you postage too.
If you can’t do that, then I’d say decide on what’s your priority, muni or distance, and get the 26 or 29er depending. Maybe phone unicycle.com and have a chat, they’re very helpful.
By the way, if you buy a 26" don’t buy a pashley, they’re old and out of date and really really annoying.
150s on a 29" are a little long unless you’re intending on some fairly serious offroad, 125s are a good comprimise for control, speed and hill ability. The ‘gear’ people are referring to is the ratio of the length of your cranks to your wheel size. Don’t be misled by wheel sizes, loosemoose’s 26" Muni is bigger than most 28"s because it has an enormously fat tyre, this is often the case when comparing smaller diametre Muni wheels to larger diameter road wheels. Personally I’d go for a 26" with a pair of 150mm cranks for fairly decent off-road ability, and then get a set of 125mm or 101mm cranks for road riding if you still need more speed. You need to think a little about how far you want to go, i ride a 24" with 165mm cranks and a very high rolling resistance tyre but i still regularly do a 9 mile training ride including hills and off-road in 1 1/2 hours.
I have Nimbus 26" and I like it very much. It´s good for little more technical trails and climbing/riding down hills works very fine. And about longer distances I think that there isn´t much of a difference between 29" and 26", atleast in my opinion. A friend of mine has a 29" and it isn´t actually any “faster” on roads than my 26".
So I would recommend 26".
Gearing is proportional to wheel diameter, divided by crank length. My friend was riding a 20" with 90mm cranks (offroad, that’s pretty bonkers, IMHO!), I was riding a 29" with 127mm cranks. It works out to not much difference in ratio, but the big 29 inch tyre rolls over bumps well (incidentally, the rim is typically the same size on a 28 vs a 29, but the tyre is much bigger and heavier on the latter). This rolling ability gave me a big speed advantage for cross country, even without significantly higher gearing.
My 29er is really a road machine. I’m inclined to put cranks between 140 and 160mm onto it for offroad stuff (along with maybe a knobbly tyre) so that I’ll have better control and leverage, that way I should be able to ride all the way to Ely 127s are good for road usage, so I’d like to keep using those for commuting. I’d like to mention that having come from a 20" standard uni (cost me 40 quid on ebay) such a big heavy wheel was an acquired taste and took a lot of getting used to. It’s also quite hard to idle (I can’t really do it) or do slow stuff with the short cranks on. It’s fast though!!!
I imagine you’ll find nice offroad terrain to ride around Norwich, both flat paths on the fens / broads and hilly stuff around Kett’s hill / Mousehold heath (am I getting that geography right?). Alsor, if you fancy coming down to Cambridge some time, you’d be more than welcome to join us on some cross country riding around Cambridge / the fens.
If your primary intended usage is on road and non-technical trails, I would definitely get a 29er over a 26". A 26", set up for MUni, will be awful on roads (I’d rather ride my skinny-tire 24"), and if you’re going to set one up with a skinnier tire and shorter cranks, the 29er will be just as good off-road anyway.
Ahoy there, good to see a Norfolk boy on here. Im just on the norfolk/suffolk border quite near Norwich. Im driving up to Scarborough for the BUC next month if you (or anyone else local on here) were going and fancied saving a bit on petrol by teaming up.
The only proper track ive been round is the black mountain bike route at Thetford. I’ve got a 24" muni and its great for technical stuff and steep hills, but riding in between the interesting bits is a bit dull and slow.
A 26 might be a better compromise for riding mountain bike courses like that but I did have a 26" pashley before and didnt notice much difference to that and the 24", although my 24" has a 3" tyre whereas the pashley’s one was smaller. I think if you are going to be riding less challenging stuff then it would be worth getting a 29 for the extra speed. I suppose your height would have a factor in it too.
I have 2 29ers - one with Big Apple tyre and 125 cranks, which is great for road riding and light trails but I’m not too good with the hills on it. And one with a knobbly tyre and 140mm cranks - which is great for off road, (I don’t know if you could call what I do MUni exactly) and hills but is uncomfortable to ride on flat surfaces with a slight slope.
I haven’t ridden my 24" onza since I got the new 29er. And I think the onza is heavier.
Also I’m a very slow learner but I can do (small) hops and curbs on the 29ers too.
The problem for a new off road rider is not riding, but freemounting and remounting time after time. It can be tiring and demoralising.
A 26 will present enough challenges at first.
An experienced rider who is 100% confident of freemounting on rough ground will go further and faster on the 29.
A 26 will be slightly lighter, more portable/storable, and quicker steering. There is a bigger range of 26 inch tyres.
Hills are not a problem, unless they are very long or very steep. I ride a 28 on the road, with some uphills and downhills on 110 or 102mm cranks, and a Coker on 150s. A 29 on 125s would be a go anywhere machine.
Thanks to everyone for their responses. I’m persuaded to go the 26" route. Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Biiiiiirthday…
This introduces a slight problem - when I thought I was going to get a 29", I had the KH model in mind. There doesn’t seem to be a ‘standard’ 26" KH model. The Nimbus has standard tapered square crank fittings and I’ve been indoctrinated with the spline thing, having hung around here too long (and I plan to swap between different length cranks). Maybe UDC can recommend a ‘bitsa’.
Oh - Mark: Mousehold Heath is one of the places I intend to ride! There look to be some nice hills and trails round there.
Tom: I’d love to go to BUC but there’s no way I could escape for a whole weekend and it’s a bit of a haul for a day! Maybe they could hold it in Norfolk next year…