Thinking of doing an Iron Man on a 36er unicycle

Last year I entered and completed my KH29er in an Richmond Xterra race. Now I am thinking of doing a Half Iron Man. The question I have, is it possible to maintain 12.5 - 14 mph for 56 miles? I do not have a 36er at this point. I need to know if it can be done on a normal hub or would I need a Guni 36er? Also, could I maintain 12.5 - 14 mph safely?

I would first contact the race organizers because my wife wanted to do the same thing on her unicycle but was denied because of “safety issues”. I would recommend a 36er and with enough training the average speed you’re asking about is totally doable. Good luck.


I have had to plea my case a couple times, each time they have come back to me and apologized and welcomed me back. my big concern is the 4 to 4.5 hour cut off time for the bike. I know you cannot have mountain bikes, coaster bikes, cruisers, tandems, or recumbents. So we will see!

This sounds cool! I believe you can turn many heads and stand out from the crowd with a unicycle in iron man.

To average 12.5 to 14 mph you would need a 36er. It is possible to average that speed (for the times you are riding) on an ungeared 36er but if you include rest stops it would be difficult. I rode my first century (not a race) on an ungeared 36er with 114mm cranks. For the total 100 miles I averaged just over 13 mph of rolling time. If you added in the rest stops it brought the average down below 10 mph. On a geared 36er on my next century I was able to average over 15mph for the first 60 miles (rolling time) but again the average including stops was much less. If I were racing I would probably have taken fewer and shorter rest stops. Get a comfortable saddle so you can take the least amount of stops.

I not be sure if you could do it in the cut off time. Even with a 36" fixed you would be pushed to do it.

The problem with regulations is not what you would think it is. The one rule that I found that excludes unicycles is the freewheel one, it is put in there to exclude fixed wheels… well it excludes us too.

That being said, I have done a sprint triathlon and they were happy for my entry and keep on asking me to do it again on a unicycle. The important thing is to take it seriously and if you are strong in the other sections they will be ok with it. My advantage was the swim I exited the water in the first wave being a strong swimmer. The cycle I kept up a good pace on the schlumpf 36" completing it a time that put me about half way down the field, I then did an ok run. So I finished in 68th place out of 181 finishers.


The hard part is going to get them to allow me to enter in an iron man! When I did the Xterra race, I realized, I could probably win my age group if I just used a bike. Based off the lap times in the race compared to my lap time using Strava I am faster than the fastest guy on a bike. I have qualified for the Boston Marathon for the past 3 years, but I have no desire to run it. My weakest leg is the swim. This is why I have thrown out the question is it feasible to maintain 12.5 - 14mph before I get cut off! I would hate to have them allow me in the race just to turn around and get disqualified on time restraints!

Why not just come up with a course of your own and do it? Sure it’s not “official” and they’ll be no fancy t-shirt or medal but you’ll and others will know you did it. I was thinking about doing a full ironman distance one day but on my own terms. I’ve got an area that would be perfect for for covering the distance with a down river swim followed by long loops around a very peaceful wild life refuge and surrounding rural back roads. My goal would be to complete the entire distance within the final 17 hour cutoff that is used. The main concern I had about doing an official ironman distance event is that very likely my ride time would be slower than the normal bike cutoff. However I know the down river swim plus my running strength would more than make up for being a bit slow on the ride with my unicycle and still get me under 17 hours.

Good Luck!

Can’t resist…

Unigeezer came up with his own “fancy t-shirt” for his latest 100 miler :smiley:

Like others I think the bike cut off would be the big potential prob. To improve the odds I’d train more on the swim and uni than the run (I heard the total cut off is easier than the swim or bike). G36 would of course improve your odds. (A bunch of years ago I watched the first paraplegic to compete in Hawaii miss the “bike” cut off by less than 2 min on a high tech trike. He did well in his 1/2 Ironman qualifier, considering.)

Showing the organizers evidence of your other races should squelch most of their safety conserns.

So, in Ride The Lobster, the winning team, which was 3 guys relaying every 20-30 minutes, using Schlumpf 36ers on mostly flat terrain, averaged about 13 MPH. Three other teams averaged close to 12.5 mph. The other 31 teams didn’t meet that.

I’d say it’s quite challenging to average 12.5 mph (20 kph), total elapsed time, over nearly 100km on an ungeared 36er on a road course. There are guys who could do it but not many of them.

The average speed drops with distance considerable with distance. For short distances, like a marathon, I can average over 17mph. For a 100km, I am my average is only about 15 and for 180km it is about 14mph. These figures are not with a hard one hour + swimming before you start.


It’s for all these reasons: the strict bike time cutoff at Ironman distance and the difficulty of trying to finish within that time, that I suggest just laying out your own adventure Ironman and doing it. You’ll know you did it and that should be enough. Maybe get some fellow friends and riders involved to assist you, take lots of photos, document your split times well, do a writeup about your experience and post it somewhere. I think it would be a pretty awesome and worthy goal. You don’t need an actual event to make it happen. PLUS if you do create your own adventure and do the things I described; perhaps you could use that documentation and experience to prove to a future Ironman RD that you should be allowed to compete on your unicycle…

I’ve had thoughts about doing much the same thing; this approach is basically what I used when I did a century on my 24" GUni a couple years ago. Found a great place to ride uninterrupted by car traffic (Chief Ladiga / Silver Comet Trail) had my wife and a couple of friends meet me along the way to provide aid and take pictures and then I did a writeup on my experience and posted it on my log (and on this site). But an Ironman? Perhaps some day but right now I’ve got to many other irons in the fire!

Good luck and make it happen!

I think you can

I think this is possible. I have done a number of triathlons (my longest being a half iron) and was thinking about trying one on my 36er. I was thinking that a sprint tri would be a good place to try it. I really think that trying a half is going to take the right race director at the right race. A resume of successfully completed sprint and olympic distance tri’s would probably go a long way in getting someone to let you race. I would avoid trying to get in one of the corporate sponsored races. A lot of the folks racing in those are very serious and would be most likely to complain. I would even target a smaller more localized event for the shorter distances. Many times those don’t sell out and a race organizer might be more open to allowing a unique competitor. Many of these smaller races are fundraisers for various causes and may be more inclined to accept your entry fee.
As for the race itself, I think course selection would be a major factor. I live in an area with a lot of hills, and many of the tri courses reflect that. A half iron I did in Lake Chelan had over 4300 feet of elevation on the bike course. It made for very slow times. I would look at the course profiles and try to find a flat bike course. I have one in mind in my area, and know the bike course is fairly flat for the shorter distances. If you can keep a 13-14mph pace you could be able to keep up with some of the slower competitors in a sprint tri. Many of them are new to tri’s and are not real fast yet, they just want to complete a triathlon. I also think these competitors would be very supportive of someone trying something new. If you are a decent middle of the pack swimmer, that would be good. A slow swim would really make any cutoff times harder to beat. I think a swim time of about 40-45 minutes in a half iron would be a reasonable time for someone trying to get into a race. Being able to document some swim and run times in other races would be helpful I’m sure.
As for the uni ride, I think you would need to be able to cruise at at least 12mph, and not take any breaks longer than a quick pee break. For me on my 36er, I can keep that pace when I use my 125 cranks, but 56 miles is a long way to go without taking a break. When I did my 100 mile ride, I took a break every 15 miles, and my longest ride without a break is a little over 30 miles. I suffered a knee injury around the end of November, so my plan to try a tri is on hold, but I am still thinking it is a good idea for the future. But I was planning to try some shorter cranks, maybe 115-110’s with the idea that the extra speed would help to get a race director to let me in. I hope you get an opportunity to do one.

KeithB, I agree with you that I should try a few Sprints and Olympic distances to have a track record to plea my case. I have gotten nothing but positive feed back from all the participants in the Xterra, River Rock Mountain bike race and the 18 hour Scouts Honor races. Xterra was very receptive they asked me two question: Do you mind being passed or passing someone on the unicycle? Can you complete the mountain bike section on a unicycle? 18 hour Scouts Honor race has always welcomed Muni riders and we also have cash prizes for our division. Red Bill sponsored River Rock resisted, until my friend blew up there Facebook page on why the let dirt jump competition, rock climbing and slack line competitions to happen and not Municycles in the Mountain bike race. I think it is just a mater of getting us out there and letting them know we are not a bunch of circus freaks. The race director is my biggest hurdle in to getting into a particular race.

I am with you on choosing the right course. My wife did a Half Iron Man last year that was all hills. I looked at some of then and knew I could never climb them and finish 58 miles! She competed in Iron Man Florida and that race gave me the idea to compete on a unicycle.
Now I need to decide if going with a Guni will gain that much time? What is the stability on a Guni going around 12- 14 mph? Is speed the contention or cadence?

A bike course that’s mostly uphill will alow u to run times closer to the bikes.

Crank size will be a bit more important esp if there’s a lot of flat spots. I think a hilly course would benefit more from a G36. Prob better to go for mostly flat like someone said.