Tips for distance riding

First and foremost the disclaimer, I’ve already done some searching and reading on the forums. Now that that’s out of the way…

I briefly tried my hand at distance riding a little more than a year ago. I dropped distance riding because muni was more my thing, that and it got very boring doing it by myself. I didn’t really get that far into it, I maxed out at 27.5 miles (on my 29er), just to comfortably say I did a marathon distance. Still I have a 50 miler on my bucket list. I do not have machinations of doing a 100 mile ride.

The takeaway from that marathon ride was that my legs held up fine but my bottom did not, it was crushed. Forget male anatomy, the boys, etc., etc. it just felt like a big squished bruise anywhere my bottom had contact with the seat. The last few miles were very painful.

A good opportunity to take a stab at that 50 mile trip presented itself this fall and I figured I’d give it a go. I doubt I’d be able to make the entire 50 miles but it would be nice to extend my current max distance. After some forum reading and a bit of common sense I’ve come up with the following to help me:

  • Ride a 36er. I still don't have one but someone has been kind enough to lend me theirs. I'm hoping for an easier ride than when I was doing distance rides on my 26 or 29. I've rode a 36 about a tenth of a mile, just enough to test one out in the parking lot during some of the muni fests I've been to, so I know I can mount/ride one. I really have no idea of how much of a boost to expect from transitioning from a 29 to a 36 though.
  • Use padded shorts. Very early on when I first started back unicycling I bought myself a pair of cycling shorts. They squished the crud out of me so I sent them back for a refund. That's to say that I've been riding without padded shorts all this time. Maybe they aren't necessary for muni but from what I've read on the forums only a "masochist" would attempt distance riding without them. Suppose I better get a pair, and I suppose they would have made a big difference in my 29er distance rides. Bikes are different from unis, so are there any brand/model recommendations?
  • Ok, the reason I created the thread. Would obligatorily dismounting and resting every [b][i]x[/i][/b] miles whether I felt I needed it or not help in the long run? Say resting 10 minutes for every 5 miles even if I felt perfectly fine... or is it more the case that 5 hours in the saddle is 5 hours in the saddle so I might as well only stop and rest when discomfort starts to set in?



As you know I don’t do much distance riding either but everthing I’ve read suggests that handlebars are the way to go for distance riding. Since handlebars will give you a more bent over bike-like stance a narrower seat would also be better (e.g. the Kris Holm street saddle instead of the freeride saddle).

Actually ride a lot.

It seems to me some forget to try riding a lot - frequently.

They just want the quick fix. Nothing that requires them to do anything. No training or adapting their body to new and different conditions.

So remember, forget training. It’s not necessary!


Thanks for the tip. I was planning on working my way up to my goal or something but your tip has convinced me to forgo all that and take a few months off to rest up and then just go for it. :sunglasses:

Seems like the best way to go, this way you won’t be sore from training when you actually do it. :wink:

Make a plan to do a distance ride every weekend (or as regular as you can). Basically add half an hour to each weekend as you go forward. Try to fit in one or two medium rides (1 to 2 hours) mid week.
As JB said, it wasn’t the legs that proved problematic, but the backside does need to get broken in. I recall, faintly, that I had the same problem when I started bike racing, but once I was riding for two or three hours regularly the problem went away.
As always, if something starts to hurt, STOP. You don’t want an injury to ruin your season. Anyway, if you are doing the work, rest is a valid part of the fitness regime.


I’ve been going through the same thing. I decided to set a few distance goals to get me riding again, as I feel best in general when I’m riding lots. I’ve only been ramping up my road riding since the start of September, but last week I put in 30 miles, and ok start to just a month of real riding I think, especially since my first ride was only 2 miles and I was very sore from that for a few days… I’m up to doing 10 mile rides 3 times a week and ready to add a longer maybe 15 mile ride in there.

As with you my limiting factor is my crotch. The longest I made it without taking a rest was 8 miles and I was suffering after that for two days. The last ride I did I hopped off every two miles for my ten mile ride… Very little pain/discomfort at all. So I will say that probably little rests more often is the key, and as you progress distance wise, they can become longer apart.

And then like the distance rider guys have said, ride a lot and far.

I’ve also been riding a 29er, and while the case for a 36er looms, I’m not completely sold on it yet. Yes it’s faster than a 29er, but really not that much faster. For 50 mile rides I don’t buy that a 36er is necessary, a 100 mile… yeah for sure.

After owning a 36, I would never ride my 29 on anything moderately easy for over a few miles. It makes that much of a difference.

It’s easier on the body because you are doing less pedaling. It’s easier on the mind because the wheel is more stable, esp over small bumps. Even if you have been unicycling your whole life, micro adjusting takes its toll on the mind after a long ride. The 36 allows you to relax much more than even a 29. Handlebars are great because they also allow you to stabilize the wobble a bit and body core, making the ride more efficient IMO.

I’ve also found that I never wish for any cranks longer than 127mm unless I am going up some very steep extended hills.

Pacing and a positive mental attitude go a long way, literally! Riding lots of miles, up to 75% of your goal in the week prior to your event, and finding the ideal setup for comfort and efficiency is part of a good success strategy.

Hydration is mentioned a lot, but can’t be stressed enough. And not only drinking plenty of fluids, but doing so before you feel thirsty, and making sure you have plenty of electrolytes added! This alone can make the difference between success and failure. When we sweat we lose sodium/electrolytes, and if we don’t continually replenish them, the muscles begin to cramp, and the imbalance can negatively effect many other body functions.


looks like I was way off base as usual :frowning:

I was in the same boat. Trying to decide for the longest time if I “needed” a 36. I finally got one and am very glad I did.

I’ve commented in other posts about this, but now my 29 sits mainly unused. Got the 36 for any road riding, cross-county muni, the 24 for anything harder, the 19 for tricks.

I’ve done quite a few 100milers and I’m not sure an extension handle helps so much for crotch comfort as it does for giving you extra leverage (particularly essential on a geared 36"). The plastic KH seathandle works great, especially if you have small hands like me and can rest them both on there.

A flat seat probably makes the most difference. I get less crotch discomfort with the NNC Flatfish than with a curved saddle.

Short cranks help with an Unguni too- you have greater resistance so it helps relieve pressure on your crotch when you sit down.

Seat foam- I’m a big fan of minimalist seats. Too much foam is uncomfortable. However, I learnt the hard way that no foam is also very uncomfortable. My worst ever experience was 100km into a 160km race. I took all the foam off to save weight, and ended up with blisters on my bottom for the next week.

In terms of wheelsize, my preferred wheelsize for Unitouring and commuting is a 29’er, simply because it’s easiest to travel with. I’ve done 100km+ rides on the 29 and it feels great (but best with small cranks).

My challenge this year is to do a 160km on a IUF standard 24" (125mm/618mm).

When I was training to do my 100 mile ride, I did a lot of 10-20 mile rides. This gave me quick feedback as I made adjustments to my unicycle. My longest training ride was about 40 miles. I fiddled with the seat and handlebars until I found the best riding positions for me. A lot of trial and error until I got the seat in a good position and decided on the right pair of cycling shorts. This preparation really paid off after about 60 miles on ride day. Lots of chamois cream kept me from chafing. Chafing is bad. I used buckets of the stuff.
I also advocate riding uphill. Whenever I had a choice, I chose to climb hills. I have limited time to train and firmly believe that the strength I gained doing hills made all the difference. This was an easy choice for me as I had also commited to a serious ride up a mountain road after seeing Joe Myers do it the year before. I even carried weights in my backpack, up to 20lbs. I got my 36er in February, 2012, and did my 100 mile ride that September.
I also think overall fitness is crucial to long distance riding. I swim, bike and run regularly for my personal health and am certain that it made training easier for long distance riding. I am planning on a Seattle to Portland unicycle ride next July, 200+miles over 2 days, and believe that a winter spent strength training and building overall endurance will make the difference for me being successful or not. Most of that work will not involve my unicycle.
I also take a break every 15 miles when riding my unicycle. 5-10 minutes off the seat stretching and taking care of personal needs really helps over a long day of riding.
A willingness to take a bit of pain and a positive attitude can help achieve any goal you set for yourself. You gotta believe!

Interesting… I only ride distance on the 29er because I can’t afford a 3rd Uni, and because it works great on all terrains thanks to it having a Muni tyre (And because it’s faster than my 24" :D). I’ve always had a thought in the back of my mind of buying a 36er for pure road commuting (That is, if I ever have anywhere to commute to on the road), but you’ve given me a better idea - Get better at consistent, fast, smooth road riding on the 29er :smiley:

I’ve found the 36 to be more than just for paved road riding. It is a great cross country machine. With a light 36 and some practice you’d be surprised how nimble it can be. I’ve found I can store it anywhere I can store my 29, including my rather small mazda3

That being said its hard to get 36 tubes if you are traveling

I am currently preparing for my hardest ride to date. I have done three 100 mile rides but I expect this one to be the most challenging. I will be riding 67 miles with about 80% (54 miles) of it on singletrack trails, much of which is rooty, rocky, and hilly. There is about 5,700 feet of elevation gain. I am planning on riding a fixed 36er with 150mm cranks. The event is an organized mtb ride with hundreds of participants. I am not aware of any others riding it on a unicycle. I am expecting to use every minute of daylight to finish the ride in the allotted time.
I am hoping that with all the climbing I will be out of the saddle enough to avoid getting too sore. I am tempted to ride my geared 36er to take advantage of the few road sections but I think with all the climbing on the singletrack trails it wouldn’t be worth carrying around the extra weight.

Obviously start putting miles/kilometers on that uni, to get comfortable with it. All sorts of terrain or road conditions. For best results, ride on the types of stuff that will be on your upcoming ride. Hills? Try to do bigger ones. Lots of road camber? If you don’t know, assume yes and practice on that.

Padded shorts: In my experience, if the pad is the wrong size or shape it can negate the comfort factor. I have a pair of recently-purchased, really nice shorts that just suck on rides of over 15 miles or so. I think it’s because the edges of the padding are coinciding with the edges of the top of the seat, or similar. But all the Pearl Izumi shorts I’ve owned, to drop a name, have been great. But like saddles, it’s going to be a personal thing so what works for one person is not guaranteed for anyone else.

Dismounting every X miles:
I think it’s vital for longer rides. The X is variable, depending on your training level and what works for you. Some people call it a “Circulation Break”. Let the circulation get going and give your legs a brief rest from constant pedaling. It definitely works for me. Our standard 19-mile training loop, which usually involves a stop at the halfway point, is always more enjoyable if there’s at least one more stop in there.

Probably the most important ingredient of being able to enjoy really long rides. Work your way up in mileage as you prepare, and try to do at least one ride that’s at least 3/4 the total distance. My last two big rides, a 100k with 4400’ of climbing and the San Francisco Uni Tour (42 miles with lots of steep climbs), were relatively comfortable because I had done plenty of training, including some before or after-work rides on the two weeks before the main events. That said, I don’t recommend doing anything other than possibly a short, easy warm-up ride on the day before.

Mental Attitude:
Also important. It helps to just think in terms of finishing the ride. “I’m going to do this whole ride, and I’m going to have a good time doing it.” Just having that in your head can make a big difference on a hard ride.

I definitely agree on the leverage thing for geared unicycles. On the too-many occasions when I’ve had to ride without a handle, or with a broken one, it’s a much less-stable feeling on a geared 36!

But on the comfort factor, I differ greatly from my featherweight friend. On a road bike, I am told that only about 60% of the rider’s weight is on the seat, while the rest is on the handlebars. It’s possible to do similar on a unicycle, if you set up your handlebar the right way. Some people set theirs for a more close-in, leverage-based ride or a short, less complicated extension of the simple seat handle. But I like my handle to be low and long, to lean on. For me it definitely helps in the crotch wear-and-tear department. While I’m sure it’s possible, I do not achieve a full-on road bike position. I’m probably halfway between that and sitting fully upright, a compromise that allows me to make corrections if I hit big bumps that slow the wheel.

I can’t offer any advice there, other than I’m hearing more and more about them, and I want to try one for myself!

Ow. Bring lots of positive mental attitude to that one! May I ask why you’ve set that as a goal? There are better ways to abuse ones self. :slight_smile:

Crank Length:
I agree with the person above that listed 125 as the maximum size they would use for a 36" ungeared on road. I agree. That’s the size I used for my ride around Lake Tahoe, which has lots of climbing, and I think it was the right choice. For most of my local riding, 125 is too long and I’d prefer 114 if I still rode the thing.

If you aren’t used to shorter cranks, keep riding on what you have for now, then try shorter ones later. I started out with the 150s that came with mine, but now, on an ungeared 36" that size is only for really steep stuff or MUni.

It’s a tough call. Being able to cruise in high gear allows for somewhat of a break from all that pedaling, but you have to weight it against all that climbing in low gear. While I just did a geared 100k with about 4400’ of climbing, that was on pavement. Uphill on dirt can be a lot more work.

Food and Drink:
You’re going to need plenty of both. Regardless of how much support the ride provides, carry with you more water than you think you should need between stations, and snacks to replace your power and electrolytes. On long unsupported rides, like a day-long outing at Moab, I fill my Camelbak’s 3-liter bag with water (always only water) and add a bottle of Gatorade or similar. Then I have a lunch of “real” food, as well as a bunch of Clif bars or similar.

to get myself committed to my goal a bit more…
I’m also in the boat, with having a 29" and not getting a 36" soon.
my plan is to just train constantly on 29"…and hopefully get up to a century by the end of this year. Since its possible on a 29er, why get a 36er to lower the challenge? :wink:

I stopped trying for longer distances in August when I road 30miles. (longest ride before was 16miles; along a river so pretty darn flat)
I’ve never used bike shorts…I’ll start looking…and at mile 8 or so, I had had no breaks…and once i did get off, I was all numb. After that, I got off every 2 miles, but still felt really bad… I used a stock naomi impact…and since then, I’ve cut a center groove and flattened it. I’m hoping it’ll be better next time.

It is not that complicated…

No one really needs all those fancy tricks - butt creams, long handles, big wheels, all that water, fancy shorts, or stopping all the time for breaks.

Why train? Training sucks! Why not just ride and have fun.

Fifty miles is not that far. I’ve done metric centuries with one water bottle, no stops, no handle bars, and no butt cream.

But I ride lots… frequently… without any fancy tricks or gadgets…

… and so can you!


…well I do use one gadget, clipless.