To brake or not to brake....that is the question?

I’m ready to buy my first expensive unicycle and can’t decide about spending the extra money on one with a brake. My dream is to ride easy off road bike trails nothing too crazy.
It’s between Nimbus 26" Mountain or Oracle 26". $280 difference.
How do I know if I’ll really need it? :thinking:

I own the 26" Oracle. I live in a very hilly part of Southern California, and I use the brake a lot. When I first bought the Oracle, I was a relative beginner, and I was just learning how to put one hand on the seat handle. The brake lever behaved like an instant UPD lever. I spent a lot of time practicing using the brake. Then I added handlebars, and that improved ergonomics of the brake. Learning to use the brake is a challenge, just like learning to unicycle. If you get a brake, I suggest you practice using it on flat surfaces. To justify spending the extra money on the Oracle, you have to commit to learning how to use the brake. You probably won’t like it at first, but you will improve with practice. Brakes come in handy not just for steep hills, but for any sustained downhill. They save your knees. Bottom line: What are your riding conditions?

Free mount

Dose a brake help in free mounting or at least in the “learning to free mount process” ?

Not at all. For a static mount, the wheel should stay stationary with the pedals flat, but the frame will rotate around the wheel as you jump up over top. I don’t know of anybody who uses the brake for mounting, but if someone on here does, I’d be interested to hear/see how that works. In any case, I find a static mount more useful for muni because the ground is usually uneven.

I don’t ride mountain with a brake. I have one on my 29er, but it rarely ever gets used unless I’m doing something incredibly steep. It’s a nice-to-have down longer descents imo. My main muni is a 26+, and I don’t have one on that at all.

With a 26, you just have so much leverage depending on the cranks you run (I stick with 140s or 150s). If you start going to shorter cranks for more speed, or run a geared hub, I can see the need for a brake.

Still… they’re on every high-end wheel now practically, so clearly people find value in them. I got all my wheels before the brake craze caught on. It’s just an extra maintenance hassle to me.

First “proper” unicycle? Don’t bother with a brake.

Brakes on unicycles do the following things:

  • Help "old" knees on long or moderate to steep downhills
  • Allow you to control the uni better on steep downhills
  • Give you a new way to UPD off the front while learning them
  • Allow you to do really cool "coasting" stops (with a lot of practice)
The only type of unicycle I would say ALWAYS get a brake on would be a coasting uni. Otherwise you only really need one if you ride lots of hills, or a small number of really steep hills. Also for geared large wheels they can be pretty helpful. None of those are likely to be on the list of the uni you're about to buy, unless you're surrounded by hills.

There are much more differences between those two uni’s than the brake. The Oracle is an aluminum frame, uses a wider hub. So in general it’s a higher spec uni than the steel nimbus muni.

For easy off road walking trails, no you don’t need a brake. BUT, there is a good chance easy off road trails are going to turn into something more as you advance and the easy trails get boring. If you begin to hit harder trails a brake will come in handy, for steep downhill sections, for longer not so steep sections a brake helps.

The real question is do you want to spend 400 or 700 dollars, both uni’s are solid.

Some (at least one) do find a brake useful for free mounting.


Yes Yes yes Perfect. I have struggled with free mounting and keep imaging if only I could keep the wheel from rolling.:slight_smile:

Unless you plan on pushing yourself Muniwise, don’t bother with the brake.
Once you learn how to mount you will never use the brake for that either.

I also think 26" is too small for a brake.
Once you learn how to ride well you won’t need it.

As you can see, there is a wide variety of opinions on brake use. They are definitely not entirely necessary. But they are useful, in my humble opinion.
The video of the guy who uses the brake to mount his 29’r is interesting, but he is somewhat unique in that mounting style.
There are two times I can think of when using a brake to mount is helpful. One is when you need to mount on a steep downhill (usually muni). I do this a lot. If I’m facing a steep downhill, the brake really helps me during that first brief moment getting my feet in place before the I go hurtling down the hill. It’s possible to do it without, of course, but I find it a real help.
The second I haven’t done myself, but seen it done. A few years ago I rode a short stretch with Felix W on his epic cross-country tour, when he stopped briefly in Los Angeles. He had 70 pounds of gear on the uni and his back, and free-mounting his 36" was a challenge. He accomplished this by doing a two-step rolling mount, applying the brake as his first foot hit the pedal, and letting the momentum pivot him up to the top. He then released the brake and rode. Very effective and impressive technique.
For me, using the brake has been like this: not much at first, because it took a while to learn how to use it and get used to using it. Then I used it a lot. But now that I’ve gotten to be a somewhat better rider (although still not very good), I find I don’t need it as much, as my riding skill and general strength has improved.
I have a brake on my 24", 26" and G32". (BTW, on the 32" I use the brake every time I dismount. I find the control very helpful.)
So in general, I recommend the brake, if the cost is not too onerous. Like a handle, it’s a tool that may not be necessary, but can make the exerience more pleasant.
Cheers! :slight_smile:

Having a brake will likely not help you learn mounting, only practice will. I’d say you have no need for a brake on a 26", and not for a long time if you are still learning freemounts.

A brake has three possible uses:

  1. Getting some stress of your legs for long downhills. This mostly applies to larger wheels with shorter cranks.

  2. Somewhat shortening your braking distance, again, mostly useful on a 29" or 36" with short cranks for long distance. Using the brake to slow down quickly is also a more advanced skill.

  3. Technical, steep downhill. A brake provides smoother braking than your cranks can, so if you are on the limit of grip, it will help. It can also help you to land drops into downhill landings.

I think you will find that none of these uses apply to you yet, and likely won’t for a while, at least not on this wheelsize.

The weight difference between the frames is not very significant, and that’s not rolling weight. Hub is the exact same for each wheel. Nimbus uses a 100mm hub until you get to the 32" wheel. Both use a CrMo, disc-ready hub. Both wheels are dished, despite the normal muni not coming with a brake. Both wheels also have identical rims and tires as well.

The brake and frame are the only major differences.

As for minor things, the oracle comes with the newer “vcx” cranks and a slightly larger seatpost clamp to account for the thicker frame material, but it’s the same design.

One of the stuffs I like with brakes is the very smooth and gentle dismount by the rear in slow motion.
It’s very appreciable to dismount by the rear from a 29er and even more from a 36er like if you were wearing a parachute: much better for the knees.
Now I do it all the time, and I find that it’s a good way to progressively learn emergency braking.

It’s very much a personal choice.

My own view is that the unicycle is a simple machine with very few variables and the joy comes from what you can achieve without adding complexity. Of course, a brake would make it easier to go down steep hills, but then a second wheel and some derailleur gears would make it faster, and a third wheel would make it more stable at low speed.

I’m in my 30th year of riding. I’ve owned a dozen or more unicycles from 20 inch to 36, ridden on and off road, and never had a brake.

But someone else may find their joy in the ownership of a more sophisticated unicycle, or in developing the fine control of the brake - or even in riding more difficult terrain than I can ride without one.

Part of being a unicyclist is being an individual. (“We are all individuals!” “I’m not…”) Make your own decision according to your own principles, because, you know what, pretty much everyone in this forum will recommend what they decided to buy.

And have fun.

I’m guessing you don’t ever ride long steep downhills. I have a brake on my 26er and very happy I do, it makes riding stuff easier and more fun, but then my normal muni terrain is quite steep.

Sure a complete beginner won’t be using a brake much if at all - I rode muni without a brake for almost a year. However it was a revelation for me when I got one - I’d thought I didn’t really need one as I could ride all the downhills without, but my first ride with a brake I was riding uphills I didn’t normally get up because my legs were so much fresher.

So my answer would be that SOK doesn’t need one right now, but he might want to have one in a year’s time if he’s riding steep enough terrain. If he knows now that it’s something he’s going to keep doing and he will be riding steep terrain then it’s better value to get a uni with a brake now than have to upgrade later.

I recommended the opposite of what I bought/would buy for myself, and it seems to me that multiple others did the same. Part of most good decisions is getting different opinions from (ideally qualified) people, and evaluating them for yourself.

I would say get the brake. I got it, and use it pretty much every day. On which Uni to buy, I was at the same crossroads that you are at now, I was even looking at the same unicycles! I went with the Oracle, and I’m glad I did. But the choice is yours and only yours. Good luck with whatever you go with.

Aracer, I do ride a lot of downhill on a KH29. Usually the uphill too.

I use my brake even less now compared to when I first started riding a 29" Oracle about 3 years ago.
I’m guessing that’s because I couldn’t handle the momentum of the larger wheel nor did I have the skills or lungs I have now.

Back then I was also using 150mm cranks and now I’m on 127’s.

So brakes for me and my riding? No way on a 26"
You? I’d probably guess yes by what you’ve said.
SOK said “My dream is to ride easy off road bike trails nothing too crazy.” so ya, I stick by telling him he won’t need it.

How about this?.. Skip the 26 and go for a 29!
Then get a brake for sure.
Problem solved.

I was wondering about that. Yesterday I rode 9km on the 32inch. Some sections going downhill, but I hardly ever use the brake other than if I want to UPD. I thought of using the brake to dismount backwards, but I reckoned if I ride slowly enough and have the balance right, I could get off without using it. Sometimes the wheel rolls away though when trying to dismount nicely. I will focus on using the brake more on that too.

It’s all in that statement! If it’s only about easy off road trails, then brake not required.

But you shouldn’t rule out the brake in general, especially on preconception.

I have a KH24 and it came with a brake, at a time where I was too beginner to use it except for instant face plant.
I became better at the brake when the 36" I bought second hand came with a brake too. And like Unidreamer, I’ve become a big fan of the rear dismount with the brake. It’s the first thing that made me consider the brake for other use than counteracting the downhill. And it’s also the thing that made me more confident about using the brake on steep downhill.
This summer, I took a ski lift and went down the slope. It was a 1200m descent over 6km, so rather steep. I had the 24 muni, and the brake which got a lot of use, and despite that, it took me 3 days to recover my upper thigh muscles!