The 'schlumpf' experience- to a non user

Noticed that on this thread-

we had someone relatively new to unicycling asking about schlumpf hubs, and several people advising against him getting one, on the ground that he’s a bit new to unicyc.ling.

Also, quotes like-

which I’ve heard similar posts saying on other threads.

I wondered if any regular Schlumpf users could attempt to convey, to a person like me who’s ridden 24/26/29-er non geared hubs, but never a Schlumpf, what exactly is the difficulty, and how it manifests.

Or, whether they actually disagree and consider the Schlumpf to, with practice, become as fluid/easy to ride as a regular unicycle.

When geared, there is pull on the frame, so when you catch yourself after hitting a bump, are maneuvering around a lot, or are putting a lot of force into riding, that pull is just one more thing you have to deal with to maintain balance.

Other factors are the actual wheel size, where a bigger wheel rolls over bumps better (when comparing a 36" to my 29" schlumpf), and then you also have a larger effective wheel size which is harder to handle (my 29" schlumpf gearing up to 44").

I think this is a lot of it; when riding the Schlumpf, the frame is the lever arm for the hub, so it always wants to push forward. You don’t notice this when you’re riding normally, but when you have to correct, the uni always wants to push you forward. That’s why the only way to get out of trouble when you’re imbalanced is to pedal faster.

It’s also just a larger effective wheel size; a 44" ungeared uni would be a beast to handle, too. But I think the experience of people who’ve ridden 24" Schlumpfs extensively (I haven’t) is that they’re harder to ride than ungeared 36" wheels.

I should start by pointing out that my only experience with geared hubs is on a 36er.

You are riding this…

but it really does help to imagine that you are riding this:

Shifting proficiency (both up and down) is a must. I switched from 150mm to 137mm cranks so my heel could reach the button without having to ride on my toes. Once I’m in high gear moving my feet on the pedals is a no-go as is checking my rear view mirror, drinking from the hose on my CamelBak, and waving to all my fans. It takes 100% of my concentration to ride in high gear.

When I’m out on the Louisville Loop (100 miles of pristine rails-to-trails bike path) I can ride for long distances in high gear. I know I’ve found my spin when I can rest my right hand (my balancing hand) on the handlebar (which my left hand never leaves). That really squares my shoulders and makes me lean forward a bit not sitting up so straight and that is when riding in high gear feels almost natural.

I’m convinced practice makes perfect so I persevere. I’ve been having too much fun riding my MUnis this summer but the Mountain Bike Trails are closed more often in the winter so I will be getting a lot more practice on my 36er. I hate to talk anyone out of experiencing the thrill of riding a 36er in high gear but I do like to warn people that Schlumpf expectations often exceed reality. It sounds easy enough but in practice, it’s down right scary.

It’s hard to convey, I didn’t truly understand until I bought one, then I sold it because I didn’t like it. Tholub pointed out some things after the fact that really helped me understand what I was getting into.

First, does the rider truly anticipate using the high gear all the time?
Second, how will a higher gear or lower gear help the rider better than simply riding a bigger or smaller wheel?

Note that riding a fixed wheel is far easier than riding a geared up wheel of the same inches, for ex: 36" vs G24 in high gear.

Some folks insist that it is an acquired skillset, not unlike learning to ride a bigger wheel, a UW, etc…

For a new rider, it would be very difficult to ride in high gear over obstacles, but maybe road riding would be okay, maybe.

I would never suggest a guni to anyone who is not a seasoned rider and who has not spent significant time on a 36er, even then it would be best to demo one first. But if he has the money…

BTW, I sold my G26 to a guy who had never ridden a unicycle :astonished:
He was absolutely convinced that he was going to ride and that he wanted the best of everything before he started. I haven’t heard from him in a while :roll_eyes:

Then there is the added weight issue

I would be remiss not to point out that my geared KH36 is heavy. Granted the Impulse was advertised as the lightest 36er on the market and, had I not sold it to fund my MUni addiction, I probably would have switched out that super light aluminum hub when the Oracle hub came out. Add the yet to be released knobby 36er tire and I would have tried my hand again (for real this time) at Coker MUni.

Here (below) you see them side by side and it was not long before I sold my Impulse so I only owned both together for a short while but I can still remember the joy of riding it a little after a long day of Schlumpfing around on my KH36. Far be it for me to call any 36er “nimble” but I have to pick up my new KH29 to get that same “wow, this is light” feeling. Of course the hub is not rotational weight so it’s the Nimbus Nightrider tire that, when lightened, would really make a difference.

First I’d say how and where does the user anticipate using the geared unicycle? If of the mindset like me (and many others) of having ONE unicycle that does it all then I’d say a Schlumpf Hub is just the thing to have since I do a lot of riding on trails, paved paths, roads (gravel and paved) and so having some gearing options are great to have. However, if you’re like NurseBen who only likes riding single track then yes I’d agree that having a geared hub may not be the best option; just a fixed wheel is probably better. Totally depends on what your use case is.

Totally disagree with this unless you’re talking about riding offroad. On roads and on predictable terrain I’ve seen little difference between riding my fixed 36er and G24 in high gear; in fact I like riding the G24 better as I feel more in control because of my lower center of gravity and lighter rotational mass. Again it’s all about experience and time in the saddle; I used to not have this opinion of riding the geared up G24 but with time I really like it!

Definitely true. The balance envelope riding in high gear is quite different than in low (1:1) gear and does take quite a bit of time to master. Not only that but the biggest difference is the response time. The wheel doesn’t respond the same in 1:1.5 mode as it does in 1:1 there is some lag time that you learn to deal with.

Definitely agree. Learning to ride is a ungeared unicycle is difficult enough, when I started riding my geared 24" it wasn’t quite like starting over but pretty close for a while! But after year’s of use I think I finally got the hang of it! :wink:

This is going to be a sticking point as this was the turning point in my decision to sell my 26guni because it was more work to ride on the road than was my 36er. Granted, it wasn’t totally comparing apples to apples, but it was significantly more work to ride my G26 on greenways in high gear when ridden back to back with a KH 36. I did this multiple times and even road along with my wife and her opinion was that I was working harder on the guni.

I think the difference is that a smaller wheel is twitchier, so it requires more attention than a larger wheel, and more so if you are rolloing obstacles or doing a lot of up and down riding. I find a 36er is very easy to ride and more accomodating when I’m off my game or get a little “tweaky” whereas the guni would throw me when I was a little off.

I just can’timagine a new rider on a guni, but maybe if that’s what they learned on, sorta like Bungeejoe and clipless pedals, that they would ultimately adapt better than someone who tries to ride a guni when more experienced.

If they have the cash, I suppose there’s no reason not to buy one, just so long as they know it’ll be some work to learn. I’m contemplating a 29guni with specific plans for use in multiday touring, but I already know that I could ride my 29er for this kind of riding, so the high gear would be more for riding the easier double track/road sections.

With all due respect NurseBen I followed along the time line from before you got your Schlumpf, to when you started riding it to when you had enough of it and sold it; it wasn’t a very long time stretch! I honestly don’t think you gave it enough time. When I say it took me a while to get used to my G24 in high gear I’m talking about MONTHS not just “multiple times”. So it’s hard to seriously take your input or at least one should with some serious grains of salt…

Again, your limited experience here is seen. What you call “twitchy” I call inexperienced. I too thought my G24 was “twitchy” at first but over time I realized it was just more responsive! Now I have no trouble with the G24 in high gear, it’s really no different to me than riding the big 36er on the roads. I think tire choice may have something to do with this as well; not sure but the Maxxis Hookworm 2.5 rocks! I liked my setup so much that I’ve done a half and full century (50 and 100 miles) with it and couldn’t imagine doing it on a fixed 36er with no chance to gear down for longer climbs. Ugghh!

Like anything it’s how much time and effort and patience you put into it. For me I just stuck it out and I’m happy I did because I couldn’t imagine going back to an ungeared unicycle! However, I can totally understand why some folks would easily be frustrated with the large gear step to high gear and why a geared unicycle wouldn’t make sense for some users. Works for me though!

About to upgrade to a KH26 GUni really soon, so excited!

@ munisano, agreed on all points, but keep in mind that the OP is asking for a new rider, so his experience will probably closer to mine.

@ Nurse Ben: fair enough but your point of view is from somebody who tried it for a short time and quit. I think those of us who’ve stuck it out probably have more to contribute to this discussion, no disrespect. :slight_smile:

I think the point that the OP should take away is that it takes time to develop the skill necessary to effectively ride a geared unicycle. When I say takes time I mean it could be MONTHS! It’s also important to strongly consider what your use case is, are you going to be ride the types of terrain that is appropriate for a geared unicycle? If all you’re going to do is ride hardcore MUni and mostly on single track then a geared unicycle is probably not your best option. However, like I said before, if you like the idea of using ONE unicycle for all your riding including single track trails AND easier paved and predictable surface routes then a geared unicycle is an awesome tool but one that takes time to tame!

Good Luck!

Buy one

I no longer hesitate to recommend going geared. I have two and feel strange riding fixed anymore.

A friend has learned to ride in the last month on a 20 inch. Bought a 36 and now tried my 24 geared and could ride it in less than five minutes on a gravel trail. It’s not that hard. Think of geared as a skill. Any skill needs regular practice if you are going to be good at it. Geared will take away from all your other skills until you master each skill together. I’ve recently been adding skills to high gear and clipless like seat in front, hopping seat in front, and riding backwards to help with my muni skills.

Go buy one.


Ordered a 26 KH Guni last week

This is what I like to hear, thanks:)
I expect my new toy in about 3 weeks, I have a hard time waiting :angry:

Even if it takes months to learn to shift smoothly, no problem.
I have about 25 years of unicycling ahead of me, so no way I will sell it when I don’t succeed in a few month.
I really like the idea of having two unicycles in one.

I also sold my Schlumpf about a year after I got it (it’s Joe’s 2nd hub :slight_smile: ). I did ride it for many months, and didn’t ever finding shifting to be all that difficult. At first I had it in a 29" wheel, hoping it would be better for road use than my heavy 36, but did not find this to be the case (I also had problems with the high gear putting too much strain on a prior leg injury). I then switched it to a 26, hoping it would have advantages over an ungeared 29 with both a lower and higher gear than the set ratio on the 29. However, I found the extra weight of the hub and slop in the gear (albeit very slight) offset any advantage of the smaller wheel for climbing, so the guni 26 didn’t seem to climb any better than my ungeared 29. And I can ride anything on my 36 that I could ride in high gear on the 26, with more confidence/stability/safety on the 36. I didn’t ever really have the time or stamina to do the epic mixed terrain rides that a 26" guni might be good for. When I’m riding easier trails or road, I find an ungeared 36 to be better; for muni I enjoy an ungeared 29 more. In the end I decided that the higher maintenance, lower reliability (I didn’t have any problems, but it always made me nervous), and money invested in the Schlumpf wasn’t worth it for me, so I sold it before too long, while it was still new enough to be pretty marketable. Maybe if it were half the price, half the weight, with three gears, more dependable and servicable, and truly set up for a disc brake . . . :roll_eyes: As it is, I can see how a Schlumpf would serve well for people who do a lot of varied-terrain rides and/or travel a lot with only one uni, but that’s not me.

Very informative discussion :slight_smile:

I was especially interested in whether riding a guni was more difficult than riding a bigger wheel that matched the effective size of the gunis wheel.

Consensus seems to be that it is harder, or, at least that it’s harder until the ride has put in considerable amounts of practice (months).

The notion of the frame pushing the rider forward at times is something that would not have occured to me, but I guess it makes sense that, with a geared hub, the frame will act like a lever.

The remaining question then, is, if they’re so difficult to ride, what’s the payoff? Why do people pay what is a considerable amount for a geared unicycle? Is it just the extra speed, or, in the same way that a coker compared to a small wheel has, for some, that special quality of ride, does riding a guni have a ‘feel’ that non gunis don’t?

I have a ride I do from my house, 400 meters of climbing, 33 km, mixed road and dirt, with some moderately technical singletrack. I can add in some very technical singletrack if I want to. It’s way too long a ride to enjoy on an ungeared 29er, and even the easy singletrack is pretty gnarly on a 36er. The geared 29er is perfect for it; it’s fast enough on the road sections to make them non-boring, and on dirt it’s nearly full-on MUni.

And just in general, I don’t like 36" wheels for weight and practicality reasons, so a geared 29 is better for pure road riding for me, though I don’t do much of that anymore.

  1. I went with a more complicated unicycle (Schlumpf Hub) in order to simplify my life! Ok, I got tired of maintaining and having to decide what unicycle to ride on which days and in which places. So having a geared 24 (and soon to be replaced by a geared 26) has vastly simplified and culled my unicycle herd. A lot of folks like having a unicycle for every type of riding, I used to be that way too but all that stuff started taking up too much space and I naturally found myself really just using one or two unicycles: my 36er and my 24". So acquiring the Schlumpf Hub has now pared that down to a single unicycle to do it all and I don’t regret my decision in the least. It’s nice to not worry about what to ride, I just grab my uni and go!

  2. I’ve increased my overall riding range now. For example when I want to ride trails at work I used to have to get in my car and drive to the trailhead because the 2 miles of pavement and gravel path was too slow to cover on my MUni which ate into my lunch time riding budget. But with the geared hub I can now simply ride to the trailhead fairly quick in high gear and then hit the same trails I used to before in low gear. I’ve got lots of examples of this use case as it’s pretty typical of my riding style. So the alternative was to drive to the trail head or ride slow to the trail head and take much more time to complete the ride.

For XC MUni I ride my G26er almost exclusively. Nothing quite compares with the exhilaration you get from flying through singletrack at speeds only possible on two wheels, not that long ago.

For me it’s also the incredible versatility of having a standard 26er in 1:1, which is great for steep climbing and negotiating over moderately technical terrain, and then the virtual 40" wheel you have in high gear, for which the experience is unlike anything else on one wheel.

And once you have become well accustomed to riding a GUni, it’s a very rewarding experience, and going back to an ungeared uni of the same size wheel really feels boring and excruciatingly slow! The exception is if I’m going to be riding a more technical, rockier trail, where a non-geared MUni is king. :smiley:

Thnx, this explained it perfectly for me. Will help alot when I decide to upgrade from my 24" beginners uni. :slight_smile:

Well first there is the technical side.

-it’s more complicated to install (esp if you use a disc brake)
-it’s heavier and clumsier until you rev it up to speed
-it takes a lot more maintenance, and is more likely to break than a regular unicycle.
-the shifting is clunky and there is a big gap between the gear ratios. Like jumping between the granny ring and big ring on a mountainbike in one go, whilst having to adjust your balance in between.

In terms of riding, it’s feels a bit like a tractor. Not as fast and crisp as a bike, and not as light and nimble as an Unguni. So it’s kind of the worst of both worlds. If you like going fast, get a bike. If you like riding a unicycle, get an ungeared one first. I wouldn’t recommend it for someone just starting out riding.

I have three ungeared Unis, and they get used once a year (if that).