To Build UW or not to Build UW?

That is the question.
As you can see, I’m fairly new here, and I’ve been scouring the web for a few days looking for a well priced Ultimate Wheel at least 28", but I haven’t been having much success. First question: Do any of you fellow uniers know a good site where I can get a decent UW (I’ve already found Second question: Should I get a 28" as my first UW, or should I start smaller? I’d like to work up to 36", especially after seeing Brian MacKenzie’s video. Third question: If I don’t find one, would it work to make a larger UW? Fourth question: How does making a plywood UW compare with welding a steel one? Main reason being that I don’t know how readily available welding equipment will be in my area.
Thanks to any brave unicyclers out there who aren’t too confused right now.

Okay, not much experience with ultimate wheels here, but here goes:
First answer: you could try eBay, Amazon, and many other shopping websites. There are usually people on there who specialize in bikes and unis, and some would probably have ultimate wheels.
Second answer: Kind of depends on your skill level and what you want. Obviously a smaller wheel will give you more maneuverability, and a larger wheel will give you more speed (technically more ground covered in a single revolution).
Third answer: See answer 4.
Fourth answer: Any metal will be stronger than plywood. Again, this is specific to you. If you weigh more, you should go with steel because of its higher strength. If you weigh less, you could get away with plywood. While a plywood UW would take less experience to build, a steel UW would mainly just be welding. Check to see if you can rent a welding machine. If you can’t, it’s probably cheaper to either build a plywood one or just buy one.

It’s super easy to make a plywood UW. I made one in about a half hour that is ugly, but functional. Ergolicious used my basic build, and did it much nicer than mine.

My original post had photo’s of how I made the pedal mounts, but they were in the gallery, and that is no longer working. If you want I can repost them on this thread.

Basically the idea is that pedals for 1 piece cranks (1/2") fit standard nuts available at the hardware store. With a couple dollars worth of hardware you can get the pedals mounted.

I would go with plywood.

28 is probably a good size to start with, most people seem to agree that larger UWs are easier to ride, I have never ridden one myself though so can’t comment.

In my experience larger UWs are easier to ride. I think 28" is a good idea since 700c tires are typically nice and smooth, ie friendly towards your legs. I made one with an aluminum rim since I got the rim for free and my dad was set up to weld it. If you do make one out of metal I suggest cannibalizing a set of old cranks, as this is much easier/cheaper than tracking down a left hand thread tap. My build ended up costing less than $30, pretty much all of that was for the tube/tire, so if you do have access to the equipment it can be done on the cheap.

Thanks for the input. Pinefresh, so did you basically just cut off the end of two cranks and weld them to the rest of the frame? And how did you make sure the beams were centered?
Jtrops, if you could post those pictures, that would be great.

You’re going to want at least 3/4" thick for plywood. That means heavy, though you can make holes in it. A metal framework will be lighter, especially if you go large. A 36" plywood UW would be really heavy, and tend to smash through walls & stuff. :slight_smile:

I recommend you hire someone (welder) to build you a metal one to your specifications, at least if you’re going larger than 24" My 24" UW with plywood (an an alloy rim) is pretty heavy.

Wait. I should sell you mine. Want one for $50? You can see where I am. Don’t know if it’s viable to ship it to you. I rode it in a show the other day, but I don’t really care about it. I’ll post a picture.

This is not a great picture, but shows the UW fairly clearly. It was the first show I’ve done in a couple of years, just for free and for fun, with minimal training. I did manage to ride the UW though, which I never really mastered!

It’s a Miyata rim and tire from the 80s (top of the line at the time), 3/4" plywood, and a Unicycle Factory Ultimate Wheel Insert. That’s the thing holding the pedals. It can be disassembled and used in any other wooden UW as pedal support.

I made it myself, in 1986 for Unicon II. Finished it a couple of weeks before the convention. Couldn’t really ride it yet. After the convention, IUF founder Jack Halpern “lost” his (it fell off the top of their van on their way into NYC). Jack lives in Japan, but was a really good UW rider. He wanted me to sell him mine. “But it’s not even a month old, and I haven’t had a chance to learn to ride it!”

But he told me to name my price. Okay, I counted the 22 rolls of 35mm film I had lined up from Unicon II and the 1986 USA Convention that came right before that. That would cost about $160 to get processed. I still remember Jack’s response to that: “One hundred and sixty dollars for an ultimate wheel?” Followed by some form of “Okay”. It turned out to be $120 cash, and then he sent me one of those cool Casio watches that could store 100 pages of data, and had a calculator keyboard on them. They weren’t on the market here yet.

So my UW lived in Japan for the next 16 years. Then Jack brought it to Unicon X, in Beijing. At the end of the convention he gave it back to me. Fortunately this was (just) before 9/11, and airlines were still pretty flexible about heavy luggage. So it came home with me.

It’s not pretty, and it creaks when you ride it, but it’s unique. The shapes cut out of it are Uni-Cyclones (like the tattoo on my leg). This was painstakingly done with a hand-held jigsaw. It looked really slick when it was new, but I think Jack left it outside or something. :stuck_out_tongue:

A bargain at $50! Plastic pedals with grippy tread included. The tire is also very old, so slides very nicely along your legs!

Yep, you got it, I found an ancient norco mtb at the dump that had aluminum cranks, lopped the ends off and welded them to the rest of the wheel.

As for centering the beams I think I just divided the the circumference by 6 (or the number of beams) then used that length to mark out how far apart along the inner arc of the rim they would be spaced. As long as the beams are evenly spaced along the rim and are all the same length they should form a perfectly straight geometric shape. From there the length of the beams will determine the size of the inner hexagon(or whatever polygon you end up with) and therefore your pedal spacing.

It was about 5 years ago that I made it so I don’t have my calculations. I remember looking at the 24" UW that sells for the design. If you want to do something less fiddly you could try a tic-tac-toe pattern like Brian’s 36er.

Check this thread

UDC don’t build a 36 but do a great service for a tiny market by manufacturing the other sizes. lets face it, how many potential customers are there? I found the 36 easier to ride, but that’s me.

johnfoss, what size is your UW? I might take you up on that, if I decide on wood. Although, since I live just south of New England, I don’t know what international shipping would be like.

England is a tough one. When I came up with my UW pedal mounts it was great except that left threaded 1/2" x 20 tpi nuts are very hard to come by outside of the U.S. They are under a dollar in just about any hardware store here though.

When I get to the machine that has the UW pix on it I’ll post them anyway, but I think you’ll have a hard time finding the nuts that you need to make it happen.

Oh sorry. I meant NEW England, as in Pennsylvania, so finding those nuts shouldn’t be a problem.

I’m in the same country as Pennsylvania. :slight_smile:

It’s a 24", and shipping shouldn’t be a big deal. Much simpler than a whole unicycle! That will add whatever the shipping costs.

24" is a good size for plywood, as it gets heavier the bigger you go. It’s all a matter of how much wheel you want. For most people, an ultimate wheel is a novelty cycle that doesn’t go on long rides. Unless you’re George Peck, who used to ride his on mountain trails (26"). A 36" or larger UW would be a great attention-getter, but more cycle to handle and store.

the 36 was good for doing parades and events where i wanted to cover a few km’s.

it is also good for trials, as the wheel was in perfect grabbing range. (although mine is steel, so very heavy…and also i am not a trials rider…what you saw in the video is pretty much my technical upper limits…and i haven’t ridden it in a while)
it’s awesome on muni trails that slope down a little

the wheel is the perfect size to rub dry rubber against sensitive inner/upper thigh skin, which happens when the wheel gets too much side movement (like when you are tired)

bigger = easier is definitely true if you are riding on a level surface.

I think there’s something wrong with that video link. I was expecting some UW riding, not guy playing guitar & singing!

holy crap, thanks :slight_smile: damn copy and pasting :frowning:

edit: there we go :slight_smile:

Aw man! Now I want one too. :stuck_out_tongue:

it’s really fun. and the design of that one ended up working out really well for slinging it over my shoulder and carrying it

Brian, how did you attach the pedals? I’m still debating over wood or metal, or how much detail I would have to give the person who welds it for me if I did metal. Are there only certain rims that can be welded, or do pretty much any of them work?