Trying to stage a comeback after 10 years off

So a bit of history - back in the day I learned to ride a unicycle so I could get around campus quicker. It was nice and convenient, faster than jogging, never broke a sweat, and no bike rack to fiddle with on my car.

That was 10 years ago, and during those 10 years I maybe got on my unicycle a handful of times just to take a pedal or two to see if I could still ride. About 5 weeks ago I saw what I would call a mountain unicycler while out on a walk. I had never seen anything like that before, and it kinda inspired me to take my unicycle out again. That time I decided to take it a bit further than the standard two or three test pedals. I decided to use it in lieu of taking my walk that day - so I went close to 5K.

Well that was enough to hook me. I remembered that it was fun and it is exercise after all. I’ve now logged about 50 miles in those 5 weeks and I guess I’m a trekker because I want to do more. I’ve got a 24" wheel, no plans for upgrading due to lack of funds, I’ll just have to make due with the 24" and pushing my distance out. I suppose time is the limiting factor over distance due to the smaller wheel, but I’ll just have to deal for now.

Some observations:
-My legs kill. I suspect it’s due to age and being out of shape. The 5K trail I use is probably 75% hill, some really steep. I suspect those old muscles are coming back, otherwise it wouldn’t hurt.

-I had to recondition myself for seat discomfort. It really, really hurt at first, now it really only hurts initially, then the pain goes away after a block or two. I guess I’d compare the first mount of the ride to sticking something sharp on my bottom, but then it goes away.
Now I find the #1 pain to be related to chaffing on one side where my leg makes contact with the seat. I hear seats are better than they used to be so maybe I should look into it.

A few questions:
I was kind of curious as to whether there was a formula for determining equivalent bicycle distances. Like 1 mile on a unicycle is roughly equivalent to… one mile on a bicycle :stuck_out_tongue: Don’t know why I would care, since I’m really only comparing the distance I went on a unicycle last time with the current distance on a unicycle. Just curious, since I think I spend at least a third of the time coasting while on a bike and there’s no rest on a uni.

Like I said, I initially learned to unicycle as a means of quicker transportation than walking or jogging. The down side was I never learned to idle or go backward. Obviously neither of those skills are absolutely essential for trekking, but I’d still like to “complete” my training so to speak.

Any tips? When I learned to ride a unicycle I was taught that rule #1 was “always come off the front of the unicycle” and to its credit it is a really safe way to dismount. I realize it’s not required, but for someone learning the ropes it’s what I needed at the time.

Now the problem is any time I give a back pedal I feel like I’m going to come off backwards and land on my head, so it’s really limited my attempts at learning new things. I also seem to freeze up after a reverse quarter pedal. I’m mostly content just to plod forward a few miles than to take the time to learn something new.

I suppose I’ll need to learn to idle first. Help me not be so lazy.

Welcome back. As a relatively new rider (~2 years) it’s always interesting to hear stories like yours.

Some of the leg pain is probably conditioning but make sure you’re keeping your weight on the saddle so as not to make more work for yourself.

Saddles have come a long way. Check for options. Depending on your current unicycle you made need to be aware of seat post to saddle compatibility.

I’ve always found dismounting to the rear to be more controlled and smoother. You may want to start by working on reversing your tendancy to dismount from the front. It might help you to be more comfortable when learning to idle and ride backwards, both of which take a lot of practice.

I would suggest getting a new seat–the Nimbus or KH seats are more comfortable than the older style seats.

You can improve off-road performance with a new tire. Just be sure it will fit the frame.

As far as riding backwards and idling, yes, you should learn to do them. Put on some safety gear and try them. I would suggest a rear dismount first, because it is relatively easy to learn and is a very safe way to get off the unicycle. If I stall going down a steep hill, I naturally do a dismount to the rear. Dismounting to the front on a steep hill sounds very dangerous to me. To dismount, you stall with the wheel a bit in front of you, and then step off the back with one foot. It is the reverse of a static mount.

A good skill to work up to idling is to stall, roll back half a pedal stroke, and then ride forward again. If you get good at this exercise (which is not easy!) then riding backwards and idling will come along easily.

Good luck.


Thanks, I’ll have to try that.

I had to buy a new tire about two weeks ago. I used my unicycle so much back in the day (probably 5 miles a day, 5 days a week) that I wore a hole in the tire all the way through to the tube.

That’s probably another reason I put it down for so long, I was worried about finding a suitable tire replacement. I kicked that excuse to the curb. I just went to a bike store and asked about 24" tires. Out of all of the bike tires they pulled out I found a tire, a Kenda Kiniption, to have a really nice comparable tread for paved trail unicycles.

It represented an upgrade from a 1.75 to 2.3. I found that adding that extra inch allowed me to go faster than ever before, but made hills a bit tougher to climb. Conditioning I suppose.

I’ve never had issues stalling downhill, but I’ll have to give your suggestions a go. The main difference this time and last is that I had a mentor when learning to go forward and free mount. I learned without having any accidents. Good on that guy for teaching me. This time I don’t have a mentor - but I do have the lessons I’ve already learned.

Thanks for the tips. And after reading around it sounds like it may be time for a new 29" unicycle - with a new seat.

Another thing I noticed. I get a bit of a creak when really pressing myself near the crest of steep hills - I think it’s spoke related because by that point I’m pure muscling the pedals in very poor form. Anything to be concerned about?

If the mountain uncycle peaked your interest, then there’s a reason for that:

You want to ride trails.

Not trying to be difficult here, but in my experience, road riding on a 24" is not all that exciting, which is why I ride trails on a muni.

The uni you have isn’t going to cut it for anything but flat pavement, so my suggestion is to scrape together some funds and get a 26/29 muni, a Nimbus ($250-300), maybe you could find one used. Don’t waste money on that old uni, save up for the good stuff, uni gear has changed a lot in ten years.

Otherwise, you ride what you have and you risk the chance of starting to feel the same way about your riding as you did before, ie bored.

Motivation? Ride every other day, turn off the TV/Game/Internet until you’ve ridden that day. Ride for fifteen minutes before work. Ride at night for fifteen minutes before bed. Keep your uni and gear in your car. Take your uni to School/Work/Vacation. Teach someone else to ride. Take your dog riding with you. Try to ride some easy gravel/dirt/bark trails to mix things up.

I rode last night, it was brutal, 85deg F/70% humidity, thought I was gonna puke, but it was a good ride nonetheless :smiley:

No matter what, just keep riding!

So far that’s the plan. I’m going to ride my current unicycle into the ground and save up for a 29" - the 36" look a bit intimidating, plus I’d have to work up to the kind of leg strength that it would surely require. I’m really looking to up the distance factor more than anything. No other way to do that save upping the wheel size.

I think lifestyle change got to me more than boredom. I went from daily campus commutes to an office job. I dropped all physical activity for a long while and my free time was cut to almost nothing. Weight gain got me exercising again and like I said, I saw someone on a muni while out on one of my walks. It was something I had never seen before up until a month or so ago. I’ll have to look into muni. Getting back to nature would be welcome. It looks like it requires a lot more strength though. I’m a skinny weakling.

I should have stopped that guy on the muni and had a chat, but I learned to tune out pedestrians long ago - riding around on campus landed me nothing but snide remark after snide remark. I didn’t want to be a bother to that guy - he had probably heard it all and conditioned himself to tune people out as well. Of course I wouldn’t have offered quips about missing half a bike though. Curse my shy nature.

And no motivation needed at this point. I’m already re-addicted. I put in at least 120 minutes a week and I’m looking for trails where I can do more. Unfortunately the temperatures here are closer to 100 with 70% humidity, but that didn’t stop me yesterday. :sunglasses:

I have a 24" version of this:

Seat and all, the only difference is I had to rig it with a longer post since I’m 6’2".

+1 on saving up for a Muni. You may want to get some cycling shorts and Chamoi Butter for the chaffing.

36" is generally too big for Muni, most just do gently XC.

Leg strength is prob not the issue, endurance and reaquanting w/ proper technique I bet is.

Learning dismounts in a variety of ways consistently, will reduce the likelyhood of a bad UPD.

The creeking noise may be comming from your cranks loosening, so make sure they are tight, as well as everything else (for me once the culpret, after some searching, ended up being a loosening seat).

Ride regularly, every day is best for 15+ min. Multiple small sessions are better than a couple of long ones. Eg. daily 15 min sessions is better and less time than one hour three times a week. +1 on keeping it in your car so you can always practice.

To have the fastest progress it’s best to spend your time on skills you’ll need for your style of riding (basic skills, light trials). For riding backwards I’d go back to the railing and practice along that, then do a half reve back, ride forward, a whole rev, then two, etc.

You don’t have to wait untill you get a new uni to hit the trails. If I remember correctly, that frame will fit up to a 2.6" tire. The parts can handle a bit of hopping and curb sized drops. I knew a guy who could ride down one of the most technical local trails on his only uni, the same uni as yours w/ a 1.9" tire, two years in w/ no failures (he didn’t hop a lot and weaved through all the rocks).

That Schwinn frame is trail worthy, it’s the wheel that’ll fail first. If you run a fatter tire and some low pressure, it’ll be okay for the occassional trail jaunt.

A 29er is the most versatile uni, it’s what I ride 90% of the time, lots of tire choices from big and fat to narrow and fast, worth riding in town, handles trails fine, obviously not for trials, but it can go big if you have the ganas :slight_smile:

The Nimubus Nomad 29 with a KH 38mm rim is a nice choice ($309):

Otherwise the prices go up quickly. I ride a KH 29, got mine used, it’d be worth watching the forum for used munis…

What’s your location? That guy might be on these forums.
And a lot of us would love to have another local muni rider.

I’m in the Raleigh, NC area. I saw the guy at Lake Crabtree, maybe 5 weeks ago. I actually started out riding a unicycle to get around NCSU back in my college days; mid to late 90s. I understand the Raleigh area is a hotbed of sorts for unicyclists. I wouldn’t mind hooking up with some locals to help me along. I feel like I need a mentor again.

Just going back to some observations I’ve had recently…

I replaced my old 1.75 tire with a 2.3 and immediately noticed a considerable boost in speed, but also noticed that the one hill on my route was harder to climb. I’ve got some serious steep ascents on some sections of my current route. I’ve since acclimated to most of them and I expect it won’t be an issue in another month or so.

Again, I guess the goal now is to eventually get a 29" muni. The overall concern with that is I’m anticipating not being able to go uphill at all. At least until I get stronger. It’s my understanding that increasing the crank arm length will help with that, so maybe it won’t be an issue.

I’m starting to at least attempt to idle - I only had about 5 minutes, my family got a bit impatient to go to a local greenway. What I’ve noticed is that I can give it the half crank forward but once it comes time to give it a half crank back I just pop off the front of the unicycle… in a perfect dismount. :slight_smile: I’ll have to do what you all have suggested and start by learning to overcome the tendency to front dismount.

That was only 5 minutes, so I’ll have to keep trying. I suspect it will take just as long, if not longer, than it did when I learned to ride. Again, that’s where I feel I need an onsite mentor as a crutch. Someone to tell me exactly how and where I’m screwing up and what I should be doing different.

Idling is a tough one. You should feel like your head stays still and the unicycle swings back and forth like a pendulum. That will help you shift your weight properly. Be stubborn and persistent and you’ll get it.

You’re right about the climbs. The 29 inch unicycle will feel heavy. But you’ll get stronger and you’ll learn to keep your momentum forward as you ride up the hill. There’s definitely a technique to climbing.

And the crank arms? Would lengthening them a bit help in any way? Of course I wouldn’t want to lengthen them too much. I suspect it’s like any other physical activity. Tough at first, easier in time.

Yesterday was my first real attempt to learn idling. I only lasted about 15 minutes. Way too hot out and it ended up being free mount after free mount. After 15 minutes I felt like I had been on an extended ride. The good news is I actually had two attempts where I had 3 cycles. 99% of the attempts were one and done. The other good news is that apparently I’m really good at free mounting, so there’s that. High on that confidence I tried an opposite foot free mount for laughs and I got them.

After watching some videos I finally figured out what I was doing wrong the other day. I was trying to idle between the pedals being in the horizontal. In the videos I saw it looked like everyone idles with pedals in the near vertical and it also looked closer to a quarter rotation as opposed to a half rotation.

The main progress yesterday was just getting a feel for forcing the pedals back after that initial pump forward. That was my initial hangup. The one thing about the two attempts I felt were successful… I had the tenancy to hard veer off to the left, so my idle was more of a turn, but don’t fall.

It’s nice to know that it’s a difficult thing to master. Believe it or not knowing that helps. Unfortunately I sometimes suffer from what I call “guitar shop syndrome.” It’s where you are just learning to play a guitar, you walk into a guitar shop and see someone shredding away, and think to yourself - I’ll never be able to do that! and have a strong urge to quit. Well let’s just say that seeing some of these videos isn’t helping me :slight_smile: Some guys really are quite amazing.

I’ll get there. i would have never learned to ride if I was a quitter.

I don’t want to wear out my welcome here, so I’ll try to scale back with the postings… now disclaimer aside:

I’ve got my sights set on this:

I figure a 26" will help me ease into a 29" if I ever go that route, and this one looks sharp. I notice that it, and all 26" munis are out of stock. I hope that trend doesn’t continue, but It’ll give me time to save up nonetheless - maybe even time to keep an eye out for a used one here.

A few questions for those with similar unicycles:

  1. How does that seatpost clamp work out for you? I’m more accustomed to seeing a bolt-through method and I know that’s not going anywhere.
  2. Those crank arms look really long - I guess that’s needed.
  3. On other in stock unis I’ve seen a saddle option. From what I’ve read the KH Freeride provides the best comfort for long hauls.
  4. I assume I’ll need the battle gear that I see all muni unicyclers wearing - the shin guards and knee pads. It’s a bit alien to me because I’m not one to wear the whole bicyclist get up just because I’m riding a bike. I’ve had maybe two accidents in years of riding and they didn’t involve my shins or knees. Just straight traction loss with the pedal while riding full clip in the rain. I’m guessing this indicates that there are a lot of UPD when off road and that they can get messy?

As always, thanks for any replies.

That 26 would certainly be a good choice as well. It should be tough as nails.

To answer your questions:

  1. The double bolt seat clamp that Nimbus ships works well. You have to tighten it a lot to make sure the seat won’t twist when it hits the ground. Once you have it set, it will stay.

  2. 165mm cranks are long. You’ll get a lot of leverage from them going up hills. They’re too long for me. I don’t like all that leg motion when I’m pedaling. But then I don’t have so many hills to deal with. 150mm is considered medium length. If the 165s feel awkward, you could try 150s.

  3. I like the KH Freeride best, but the Nimbus saddle isn’t bad either.

  4. I wear a helmet and gloves for muni. There are a lot of different opinions on what you need. Some people like to be fully encased in hard plastic. When you first start, the biggest danger is pedal bite. Those metal pedals can really cut up your shins if you mess up a free mount. Some soccer (football) shin pads would be a good idea at least until your free mounts are solid. A lot of it has to do with confidence. You ride better when you’re confident, and you’re more confident when you feel safe. So some people really over do the pads in the beginning and then take things off as they improve.

Hey, thanks for the info. It certainly helps.

The one thing I’m not certain about in the muni I linked are the pedals. It says plastic in the product description and they look plastic, yet the additional information below says aluminum. A minor detail that could be ironed out via contacting them directly.

The freeride is like an extra $15, so no brainer. A 26" muni it is then… and I’ve got a birthday coming up. :slight_smile:

The Schwinn bolt-thru method comes with a major limitation; only 1" adjustment increments for seat height. Bike seats are tweaked a few mm at a time, so this is kind of a joke. A good clamp will hold your seat just fine.

What’s needed is in the eye of the rider; I’d consider 165 to be really long for most situations. My Wilder MUni came with 170s, but I’ve since moved to 160s and then 145s. Those are a little short for me, but faster on the easy bits. I also run 140s on my 29" but that’s a setup for trails that are easier than where I ride the Wilder. If you don’t have a choice in crank length, start with those and see what you think. Longer is probably better for someone just getting into MUni. Without knowing more about your terrain it’s hard to make recommendations. Where are you?
3) On other in stock unis I’ve seen a saddle option. From what I’ve read the KH Freeride provides the best comfort for long hauls.
That one’s good, but the Nimbus Gel is also very good. I used one of those for a 72-mile ride a few years back. I’m kind of a toss-up between the two.
4) I assume I’ll need the battle gear that I see all muni unicyclers wearing - the shin guards and knee pads. It’s a bit alien to me because I’m not one to wear the whole bicyclist get up just because I’m riding a bike.
Yes, you will crash more on a unicycle. Helmet’s the most important (assuming you value your brain), even though head impacts are very rare, followed by wrist protection. Knee/shin protection is more about avoiding the stuff that hurts, but heals. :slight_smile:

  1. +1

  2. Most feel it’s too long, even on the bigger wheel. Everyone I’ve read on here who got a 24" KH or N, w/ 165’s regretted it and only a couple of 26ers who still use the longer cranks. Some people like longer cranks like me, I have 170’s on my 24 and it does feel like pedaling a box, but WAY better than 150’s for me. Be aware that a small change in pedal size can make a big difference 165’s give no box feeling for me and pedal nice and smooth.

  3. Even for moderate distances the Nimbus Gel is unbearable for me (45+ min). I’ve never had any problems comfort wise w/ the KH Freeride.

  4. The pedals are plastic but have removable steel pins. You could remove them and eliminate serious pedal bites but w/ less tracktion. I have had to put LONGER pins in all of my pedals to get sufficient pedal grip.

Lots of pads may be overkill, but better safe than sorry and a trip to the hospital IMO.

The stem it came with was a way too short so I was able to get around that issue by getting a stem that didn’t have any holes. I drilled the hole exactly where it needed to be. The only drawback was the stem was too narrow for the fork, so I had to shim it. It’s held up well over the years though. I guess the other down side is there’s no room for adjustment now, but I haven’t needed it.

You all have put my mind at ease though, I just had visions of the stem sinking mid-ride.