The Unicycle Factory Documentary

The scene with the coffin kind of suggests to me that Tommie has a tiny bit of Ozzy Osbourne in him. Nice work, though, and nice drumset sniglets! In addition to the obvious educational value of the documentary to anyone who has ever wondered what it would take to manufacture a unicycle mostly from scratch, it is amazing to watch some of the riding, particularly Tommie on that 16-footer. The way he has to pause every few strokes to let his body get out in front of the wheel again is truly awesome, not to mention frightening.

A member of this forum who isn’t around much anymore -Maestro8- once wrote that a unicycle being ridden is a “bimodal double pendulum.” I’m no physicist, but that sounds correct to me. A tall giraffe helps to illustrate the point, though actually, having seen Tommie’s sideways-traveling unicycle being ridden, I have noticed a similar sequence of movements. The rider has to pause every so often, get out in front of the wheel again, then resume pedaling. I guess we all do the same thing while riding any unicycle, but normally the movement is too small to notice. The taller the giraffe, the more pronounced the movement becomes.

Anyway, thanks again to you and Tommie for making this documentary, Super G!

Song – Thank you! I was hoping you’d pipe in at some point. Tommi only had one request for the whole project other than conveying what goes into a build. He wanted the last scene to be of him with his sign. On the day I went up to get that video/picture, I learned of his plan for the “coffin” bit. That was a wacky day – transporting a coffin to a parking lot several blocks away. The scene where he discussed his truing stand collection was also his contribution. The rest of it was me. He was very cool about letting me have complete freedom to do as I saw fit.

Thanks also for the compliment on the drumset sniglets. I played for over 25 years then fizzled out. I haven’t owned a drumset for well over 10 years so I played on a friend’s set who was kind enough to put up with me. That was my way of trying to add “music” that we all expect on a documentary. I’m aware of royalty free music, but none would have satisfied my opinion of what would have been appropriate. Drumset sniglets come across as somewhat musically neutral, so I thought it worked.

I would describe Tommi’s slow, stop, slow technique on taller giraffe’s differently than you. I feel it is simply the best way to ride a tall giraffe and maintain control. Once you get comfortable riding like that, it helps a lot with feeling at ease up there. It also has a fringe benefit of appearing more difficult than it really is. As said before, its all about confidence and fear level.

Thanks for making the video and documenting the process.

I have only had time to watch part of it so far. Tommi seems to be a super nice guy with a lot of talent for riding and building. However, I just cringe when I see the shop equipment operated with those long nails, and some other scenes with sandals.

He has obviously contributed a lot to unicycling, sorry to read somehwere that the unicycling community left him behind. I hope his business picks up, but I think a bit of change of style and a better online presence might help him out a lot.

Perhaps someone out there would help him by creating a supportive online presence?

I agree and believe Tommy will never end up with much business unless he starts using the internet.

I live in Australia, I am not going to go and call Tommy on his US number to get something made.

I would have to:

  1. Call by phone every time you need to discuss something
  2. Have to pay for those phone calls
  3. Cant get easy updates of my project which is often exciting to someone getting a custom frame.

When I needed a 22" frame I chatted to Jakob (Flansberrium) online. I told him what I wanted, discussed it with him and he made it and sent it.

  1. I could chat online/email
  2. Could facebook voice call/skype voice call easily
  3. He uses the internet so he can send you pictures of your frame as it gets made.

Even someone in the US I feel would still prefer the ease of use of the latter. How can you compete with that if you refuse to use the internet.

Actually it’s kind of normal for riding something that tall. The taller you get (at least up to Tom’s 22-footers), the harder it is to maintain a steady amount of lean in your direction of travel. On my 9-footer it’s fairly easy, but you still have to pause sometimes to even things out.

My favorite parade move on that uni was what one might call a “tipping stillstand”. Ride on an angle toward the curb, waving at the people next to you (and not the ones in front of you). Then stop pedaling, and let the uni start to fall forward. At the last second, notice the people in your path, react with fear and make a quick turn back toward the street. The crowd loves it, though at the expense of the small portion of the crowd you just gave a heart attack. Work your way toward the other side of the street, and repeat. I could do those all day!

I never took a physics class, but I agree. Seems to make sense! And don’t worry, Maestro8 is still around, but currently he’s a recent father, and I think his cycling lately has been on two wheels, pulling a trailer. :slight_smile:

I think for that cycle (the Crab Cycle), he appears to ride it like a beginner. In other words, he just hasn’t fully mastered it yet. At the same time, of course, he’s an expert because hardly anyone in the world has ever tried one! His is the only example of such a unicycle that I know of. In fact, the last time I saw Tom was at a NAUCC where he was hoping to deliver it to the customer, so I’ve seen it in person. I remember him telling me this was the first unicycle he’d ever built that he didn’t test ride before delivering it. I’m sure it would be very odd getting used to riding it, even a little bit!

I’m still not used to the nails. They really seem to get in the way!

When you stand still, the world tends to leave you behind. Today, an online presence is hard to live without if you want to really do business. But you also have to be able to meet some reasonable deadlines, and charge what you’re worth. In the past he tended to charge too little (unicyclists are notoriously cheap), and avoid deadlines. Years ago, tried a few different ways to sell his equipment, but he wasn’t willing to really commit to specific timelines. They wanted to sell his Ultimate Wheels and a few of the other cycles that would appeal to lots of riders, but they don’t like to sell anything they can’t have in stock. This is why they don’t sell Schlumpf hubs either; because availability is on and off. Mostly off, without a set time for when the next batch will be coming out.

Absolutely. Where I used to live, he was still six hours away by car. In theory, you could order something from him and have it delivered to you at the next USA convention, if he could get it done by then…

Being an “Internet virgin” is a choice, like the long nails. He’s a brilliant machinist, but I think he has difficulty with the written word, which may be part of his reluctance. If he could have a “front man” to help him out, that might help, but it would add cost to his product. The market is there, and I think there’s a lot of potential for custom-built unicycles but if you just want to be a hobbyist, and not do it “for work” it’s never going to be easy. :frowning:

I will not attempt to defend Tommi’s business decisions or fingernails. I will say, reluctantly, that Tommi has reading retention issues. He has told me that he can read and understand what he’s reading, but cannot retain what he reads from one paragraph to another. I learned that years back when I gave him a book as a gift. He informed me then of his problem and did not keep the book. This is a striking problem to have for someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of unicycles and metal fabrication. I have also noticed he may be dyslexic. I say this because he typically misspells names, including my own. In fact, I’ve seen him misspell my first AND last name. I’m reluctant to say these things because nobody likes having their shortcomings put on display for all to see. Would you? Even though he does not use the internet, he has friends that read stuff like this to him on the phone.

Reading issues do not translate to bad business decisions. I get that. To put it bluntly, he is his own worst enemy with regard to his business. So you probably wonder, why did I put so much effort into this documentary? I did it because I felt like doing a huge favor to a good friend. A good friend who has better integrity, character, conversation skills and sense of humor than most people I know. A good friend whose over-all talent ranks in the top 1 percentile in my view. A good friend that would give you the shirt off his back whether he could afford it or not.

For those of you that wish to dwell on Tommi’s shortcomings, consider this question. What is the most effort anyone put forth to help you. If you struggle to think of anything substantial, ask yourself why.

He is obviously talented and skilled very nice person. It was very good of you to help him out like you did. Now I am aware of an interesting person in the unicycle world I previously did not know about.

Hopefully, a good working relationship with someone that has great internet, PR, and management skills will help him to bridge the gap. He obviously has a lot to offer the unicycling world. It would be a shame for it to go to waste. There is a good opportunity here, a win win situation if the right person can step up to the plate.

I don’t think anyone here intends to be mean or anything like that. No one is perfect. Everyone is good at something, not so good at other things. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.

Like snowflakes

I’ve never met or talked to Tommi. Maybe some day I will get the opportunity. Most of us on this forum never will. Who are we to decide our standards and ambitions should be his? Or think he might be more successful by our standards? Or that “It would be a shame for it to go to waste.“

My guess would be that what many of us think might benefit others might ultimately decrease their real enjoyment, happiness, and success.

Why is it we want others to be just like us while we don’t want to be like anyone else? Thankfully, like snowflakes, no two unicyclist (or humans) are alike. I’m enjoying what I’ve learned from this thread (and the previous one) about Tommi and glad a small portion of what he can accomplish, his methods, and what his values are has been shared with us. I don’t want Tommi to change. I’ve grown in my appreciation for who he is. I almost always only start to appreciate others once I get a feel for what it’s like to walk in their shoes, understand why they are who they are, and try to comprehend why they think and feel as they do. If he chooses to change in some way, may it be for HIS benefit, not mine.

Hopefully, my post share what works for me and not what I think anyone else MUST do. Occasionally, I tend to step up on my soapbox and be a little insistent. Saddly, after I push the “Submit Reply” button i usually feel regretful. And maybe it’s a good thing I still feel regretful when I do.

One of my sadnesses is that modern society and technology has provided such a great increase in the anonymity of us all. Many of us now reach out to everyone and know no one.



I don’t think any of us who made comments are calling for Tommy to be like us.

I was under the impression from the very first posts on the documentary series that the reason why Tommy said he would make this unicycle for free (-minus material costs) was because he wanted the video to show how much work goes into his unicycles and why they cost what they do in an attempt to get more people to order from him as work on custom unicycles had dried up.

So those who made comments I think were just pointing out that if his wish is to increase business the “internet” point is probably non negotiable.

Yeah, as far as I know, only two people ride that crab unicycle, but now that you’ve put it in perspective, perhaps I should try to become the third.

Weird unicycles kind of scare me, though. Even just to ride a 5-foot giraffe, I always have to start with a few minutes of cowering. There is no good reason for this, as I don’t have any problem once I actually set sail, and I have even fallen off a giraffe many times, both intentionally and unintentionally, and never got hurt.

Hah! That’s almost exactly what Tommi said when I spoke to him!

For many unicyclists the technology has provided the ability to build relationships with people they never would have been able to.

Without it many riders would have quit long ago after riding alone for years. They use it to discuss what they are working on with a person with a common interest who may live in a different city or country.

I know riders who have very close friendships with someone in a different country, who talk daily and take holidays to visit each other 16 hrs away. I think there is plenty of evidence that many use technology to build close relationships also.

I made my comments out of support for this Tommi character. I got the distinct impression that he would like to have more business. I also got the impression that he would like more contact with people into Unicycling as less folks visit him compared to pre- internet days.

So I thought a good person with a complimentary set of skills could help him in this way, if that is what he wants.

The new technology has changed the game. A century ago, the telephone also caused similar changes, before that the printing press. Also consider how radio, mail, and television affected human communication and interaction.

The Amish collectively resisted electricity and the telephone, as they did not like the effect it was having on their community.

Ancient Egypt had a working steam engine, that they did not utilize, as they were not sure what to do with all the slaves that would not be needed. The course of history and the world today would be much different if they did put it into use. Think of how we would be without mass produced vehicles etc. etc. etc.


Online contact about other things I have been into in the past has been very useful. People helping each other from all corners of the world.

On the other hand, I think it’s sad to see young kids with there noses buried in their smartphones. It’s a Zombie Technology Apocalypse. At certain parties people I know have hosted, one of the rules they have is everyone hands over their keys and smartphones. Not to be taken back until after the party is over.

One of the things we noticed is that most of the kids who grew up in the smartphone age don’t know how to interact and communicate without them. Give them a selection of board games, and many don’t know what they are. Are we well on our way to Isaac Assimov’s world where people can control myriad electronics and robots but not relate to direct human contact?

Reading this thread would give the impression that The Unicycle Factory has no internet exposure. Right now at least that is not the case. The Unicycle Factory has a current website as well as a Facebook page. Looks like David Bagley created both and both are quite informative. There is a bunch of info on the home page with a listing of parts and kits available. There is not an email for Tommy but I think every page does have his phone number on it. Even has a FAX available.

If I do a Google search for The Unicycle Factory, the home page comes up and even searching for “tall giraffe unicycle” will lead someone to The Unicycle Factory’s home page.

A suggestion would be to add TUF’s phone number and maybe even the home page link on The Unicycle Factory Documentary Youtube page.

Home page at:
Facebook at:


I was definitely under the inmpression there was no online presence at all. Thank you for clearing that up. Now I have a better idea of what he has to offer.

If you have the access and permission, you definitely should! I would if I lived a little closer. I was lucky in my early unicycling involvement, that I had access to a wide variety of wheeled contraptions, and learned to ride nearly all of them. From a small uni with a 13/16" wheel, to 16’ giraffe, to a normal-sized giraffe with pedals that went at different speeds to big wheels up to 63.5" and even an electric unicycle more than 10 years ago. In digging back through my photos to find when I last saw Tom Miller, it was 2005! That must be when the Crab Cycle was new. No chance to try it then, as the customer hadn’t yet taken delivery.

If you do try riding it, I recommend padding up. :slight_smile:

I remember my first attempt at riding a 2-wheel stack unicycle (the kind where you have to pedal backwards). It was in an open parking lot with nothing to really hold onto. I tried riding it away from a table. I think that ride lasted about 8/10ths of a second and ended with a gash on my shin or someplace. I eventually learned to ride one in 1982.

Sounds like you just need to spend more time with it. If you practice idling and going backwards on it, plus doing planned dismounts to various points of the compass, that will clear things up for you a lot.

Sounds like a brilliant idea. Take the keys to reduce irresponsible driving. Take the phones to reduce possible liability from pictures and videos that might get posted from your home! Or just embarrassment. Plus the obvious social reasons!

Yesterday I rode my favorite trail in Auburn. Toward the beginning, I passed a group of hikers coming the other way. One girl in the group was intently focused on her phone and I was wondering if she would even notice my approach (on the wide trail) before I got there. She did. About 2 hours later I saw the same girl, standing on the edge of the 2-lane road where the cars park, literally with her feet on the white line that marks the edge of the lane. She was facing directly toward the road, riveted on her phone, and never looking to see if cars were coming. I wonder who dragged her out to see nature yesterday? :frowning:

It is a fairly regular feature at local meetings, where attendance is usually in the low single digits. When someone unfamiliar shows up, getting him or her to even try riding a regular unicycle usually requires tremendous effort, so the question of whether or not someone has permission to ride the crab unicycle has never been raised, as far as I know. I did climb onto it once, but then quickly climbed back down! There are two people who do ride it -the owner and one other guy- and when riding, they look a bit like surfers who are pedaling their surfboards. Neither one is yet able to reverse direction.

Has Tommi had any boost in activity or business since this effort to give him more exposure?

I know a really good tailor who used to do work for royalty and some of the wealthiest people in the world. Decades ago he was really really busy through word of mouth and references. I was told by multi millionaires and billionaires that if I want the very best suits, go to him. You had to wait for weeks or months just to get an appointment, and then pay up front through the nose just to see him.

Then the internet came along and changed the game. His business has been reduced to just him and his wife, and things are pretty slow. He could not adapt to the new ways of doing business. I see other shops with better online presence and marketing selling similar goods that I think is not as good at much higher prices, and they are busy.

It seems that it is no longer good enough to have superior craftsmanship skills to bring you success. You absolutely must be able to deal with the internet and social media properly to bring you success, or you must have someone with those skills work with you to bring in customers.

Their situations seem similar.

Up Rite - No, Tommi has not seen an increase in business. Pinoclean will probably get great satisfaction in seeing me say that, seeing as how he is the only person that responded with nothing but criticism.

I don’t regret my effort though. I wanted to give the guy his moment, and I think I did. I understand the necessity of online presence, communication, etc… and discussed this with Tommi years ago. Despite his counter-productive business views I made a deal with him about the video and held to my part of the bargain. I did not want to make it an overt advertisement, so I was subtle in providing his contact info. I could have been more aggressive with it, but I doubt it would have made a difference. Tommi has to make the difference himself. With that said, he is an excellent resource for anyone that is willing to pick up their phone.

If anyone is interested, we might make another “making of” video for a big wheel. Tommi has not made one in ages and said he would enjoy that. I would love to have one of his big wheels and wouldn’t have to put in near the amount of effort to make a video for that.

Satisfaction that Tommy has no increase in business? No I am not happy that he wants business and isn’t getting it.

I watched the whole video and found it very interesting so I think it is great that it was made. But unfortunately the main reason why people don’t buy from Tommy is not because they don’t realise how much work goes into his creations so it was never likely to fix that.

You should be very proud of the video I found it interesting from start to finish.

I am sorry to hear that. He seems to be a really good guy with a lot to offer. Sad that many highly skilled master craftsmen out there are disappearing into obscurity instead of thriving in the new internet world.

I see unicycling as a pursuit that has a lot of potential to become far more popular than it currently is, locally, North America, and worldwide. In the area that Kris Holm lives in, only one shop carries has a half decent selection of stock that carries his unicycles, and their sales volume is very small. In contrast, Japan has a million in it’s unicycle community I think. Local bike shops probably move millions of dollars in bikes every week.

Through word of mouth I have informed several people every month about the local unicyle shop. Some of who already ride unicycles competently had no idea it or the local club existed.