Ultimate Wheel Build

So, every year at STOMP Munifest I mess around in a open field with one of the ultimate wheels someone has brought along. Then after STOMP I rush to unicycle.com because I have to have one. Then I see the price, and another year goes by. I just can’t pay that much for something I am not even sure I can ride or if it will be something I use or just look at in a closet.

So, this year, I start wondering about making one. Thanks to UNIGEEZER, there are options out there. So, I grab an old 26 aluminum mountain rim and start cutting spokes. I get a pair of old cranks and cut them down and find some really strong large fender washers, and with the help of some sharpies, I even make the cheaper plywood I got look pretty good.

I thought I would share my saga, for several reasons. First, others might want to see if $30 is a way they want to try themselves with an ultimate wheel before investing in a light professionally made one. Second, and most importantly, it will help to keep me focused on learning and adapting as I continue this adventure.

Stay tuned…more to come…

Nice build! It’s cool to see that the pedal mounts I came up with are still useful.

Looks great!

Update 1

Finally a slower day and better weather. So, I headed out to find a good fence or handrail–preferably with a smooth slightly downhill slope. Then time to tire myself out straining many muscles trying to find balance.

It was a pretty successful first day attempt. I was able to make up to 3 full revolutions while holding onto the hand rail. When teaching people to first ride the unicycle, anyone who can make full revolutions on their first day out, I am pretty satisfied.

With Christmas only days away and more rain in the forecast, not sure how much more practice I will get “this year”. I will keep track of total number of days practice till I can “ride” it though. Gaps, I know, will slow the progress.

Here are 2 pics–one with me practicing just balancing on it and the other was taken while moving “forward”–I use that term loosely!

(After 20 minutes of saving and spinning and re-saving–NO CLUE why they are coming through sideways???)

Nice Work! I should get out on mine too. How is the leg rub?

When I got a set of inline hockey knee/shin pads with plastic that wraps around the side of the leg it made my learning progress much faster.

The KH leg armor works great if you spin the slick section inward. I am definitely going to have to get another tire, though. The knobby mountain one was what I had on the rim. The knobs love to try and grab the armor. It does look good though with the mountain tire. Working at a bike shop, I should have no problem getting someone’s cast off-slick. That would make learning easier.

Curious what size your’s is? Also, do you find more air or less air makes it easier to learn with? The online comments I have read say that learning on a larger wheel is easier. This is a 26. Looking ahead, I am worried that the biggest one I can find to buy is a 24". Up side though, an aluminum one would have to be much much lighter than the tank I built :slight_smile:

yeah the tire is key. I have an old Avocet Cross/K that has virtually slick sides, and an inverted tread pattern. My current build is 700c, but my original was 26".

I used 3/4" plywood for my first one, and it was really heavy. My second build is nicer than the first one, and I used 1/2" Birch plywood for it. It is much lighter, and surprisingly, stiff. I was worried that it wouldn’t be up to the task, but it hasn’t had any problems in the years since I built it. In fact, it works so well that I don’t imagine I’ll ever purchase a pre-made one.

I would like to build a hub so that I can lace up a 32". My plan is to make the hub so that it resembles a hoop style kite string holder, but made out of metal, with spoke holes, and pedal threads.

You can search the forums for my ultimate wheel pedal mounts, and there should be pictures of the new wheel in there. The old pictures went away when the forum lost the"gallery."

I went through the same thing a while ago and the memory’s a bit vague at this point but I think it was that a picture taken in “portrait” orientation was saved by the phone just as you see it, with a tag attached instructing the viewing software to rotate it by 90°. The problem was that while many browsers do what the tag says to with the image, others–such as Firefox, which I use–ignore it the tag.

The fix was to open the file in GIMP or some editing program like that and actually rotate the image to the correct orientation then re-save it. HTH and good luck with the ultimate wheel! One of these days maybe I’ll get around to trying that.:slight_smile:

Question: for your 1/2" birch build, what size screws did you use in the spoke holes to keep from splitting the plywood? Also, did you use a single or double walled rim? I even had a little trouble with splitting near the hand notches with the 3/4. Yes, I even predrilled. I used 1 1/4" sheetrock screws.

Day 2

Ok, We rode Muni this morning (7.5 miles) on a wet pretty technical trail, but since I still had good weather (finally) I had to get in some more practice on the Ultimate this afternoon. -about 45 minutes (then I was pretty worn and regressing)

Few things:
-Learned that if you can’t keep it exactly straight, lean the top of the wheel towards the opposite side of the foot that is coming over the top of the revolution. Then you are coming up on the side it hits and so because it is lower on your leg, it doesn’t grab you. (hope that makes sense?)
-Was able to do most of my practicing holding on with only one hand today.
-1st day my best was 3 revolutions in a row. Day 2, I set out to make it all the way down the rail (see pic) without stopping. Didn’t make that–about 2/3rds of the way. Still much improved.

Overall, having taught many people to ride unicycle, I see now in myself about the same progress I hope for in those I teach. That is VERY EXCITING!!
I really think this is doable, and like unicycling, in 1-2 weeks (if I can get enough practicing in.)


I used 1" sheet rock screws. I did drill pilot holes first. That wheel was built with a double wall (box section) rim. I don’t remember off hand, but I think I used every third hole. The rim I used didn’t have any offset for the spoke holes. I don’t think I could have used a 1/2" sheet of wood if they had been offset. As it is I put the disc in the rim, and marked the holes, and the valve position. Then I removed the disc, and drilled the pilot holes down at each mark, but in the middle, so that the disc would be centered in the final build. I also cut out the space for the valve before I reassembled it, and screwed it together.

The first wheel I built was with a single wall rim. I had to use two rim strips on that one for fear of having a screw go into my tube.

Day 3

Ok, You have to understand, I am one of those who learned to ride unicycle when I was 10, then 6 months later I took it apart to customize it, and didn’t put it back together for 30 years. It was, however, like riding a bike, and in less than 30 minutes I was riding again like I was 10. Sooooo, I have taught lots of other people and improved my skills, but I haven’t had to “learn to ride a new thing” in over 40 years now (if you are doing the math, yes, I turned 50 this year) I was very curious if my brain would adapt quickly, slowly, or not at all???

All that to say, any improvement each day would make me happy. I have been PLEASANTLY surprised. Each day (though only 3) has shown marked improvement. Today I made it the full length of the rail (see pic from last post) without stopping, only holding on with one hand, and did it 5 times. (not necessarily consecutively)

My newest reflection and pondering is: Does practicing daily without missing days, or practicing with gaps help or hurt the process???
-part of me thinks daily muscle memory would be better
-another part of me thinks, like working out, gaps give muscles time to heal and remember.


I can’t speak for UW riding in particular, but in general, my experience is that learning a new skill requires as-close-to-daily-as-possible practice (and a lot of it). Once a skill is learned well, I find sometimes when I return to the unicycle after a week hiatus, I have better finesse at it. One footed riding is an example of a skill I only learned moderately well, and as a result, I slip back on the learning curve. I’m guessing that with the UW, some muscles get tired, so I suppose a break can be helpful.

Day 4

Well, today was 2 extremes. I started out feeling like I had regressed–shorter distances and lots of mistakes. After a few tries though, I started focusing on trying to get off the rail. After 30 minutes, my best ride was 5 revolutions without touching the rail.

Referring back in my mind to teaching others to ride unicycle–I am at the pivotal point of getting it. I have the concept but not the control and consistency. That is still VERY exciting. This looks like it is doable and in a reasonable amount of time.

I did have my first Superman UPD though, :astonished: while setting my 5 revolution record. Not exactly the way I wanted to end it. Next time, I think I am ready to get out my gloves. :roll_eyes: Little bit of road rash on my palms today.

Tire Change

Been really cold, BUT a friend hooked me up with a new tire that he had for a mountain bike trainer setup. Excited to see if it moves the learning curve along faster.

Will let you know

Before and after pic below–Yes, flipped sides–One side black and white, other side colored–that way I know which is right and left. :slight_smile:

Day 5

Well, let’s start with the positive. The new tire is skinnier than the rim, so leg armor was pretty much optional. No rubbing or dragging or snagging of the armor. That was SWEET! The wheel is also lighter-don’t think that really effected learning, but walking back up the path to start down again, and again, carrying it, was easier. That about wraps up the positive…

Ok, a tire that skinny is extremely hard to stay balanced on top of!! Huge difference-which equated to a huge step backwards. Now maybe once I have it down, I could handle and appreciate the smaller profile, but for now, it set me way back. It looked much more like circus riding with me teetering back and forth from rubbing one leg to the other. NOT PRETTY!! I also decided to attempt going up hill on the incline to see how that did–pretty much impossible at this juncture. I did take a little air out of the tire and that helped a little–leading me to…

–Conclusion: I need a “townie” style tire. Wider than my rim but without all the “mud knobs”. That would offer enough of a surface to balance on, without grabbing my armor or legs.

Still loving the process and the chance to learn something new. I can’t wait for a decent day to get back out and continue practicing!!

Excuse or needed change?

Ok, so one time I set out to teach this middle school kid how to ride. Every time I worked with him it was one excuse after another.
-This road is too bumpy
-These shoes are slick
-The tire is a little low
-I’m just tired today

He never learned to ride. He “tried” off and on for months and months.

So, as I let everyone know about my 3rd tire, I am reminded of the story and questioning in my own mind if the tire is an excuse. Or is it like Goldie Locks and one was really too hard, one too soft and this is it. Well, hopefully soon we will know the answer. New Tire installed today!! Looking at it, I am optimistic, but that describes this whole process.
–First tire–mountain bike Knobby Kenda 26 x 2.10
–Second tire–street slick (other extreme) 26 x 1
–Third tire–(hopefully last) Good Year townie 26 x 2.125

Here are pics of #2 and #3
Updates to come…

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Day 6+

Ok, FINALLY no rain or cold. Maybe spring will come??? I actually went out for a few minutes a couple of days after putting on the new tire. Not really enough time except to see if the tire would work. Today I got in a full practice.

Good news: LOTS
*Love the new tire.
*Size and shape much better than last 2.
*I even shed my KH leg armor. (Rubs a little on jeans but not enough to stop from riding.)
*Even with the large gap in practice time. Picked up right where I left off
*Got about 7 revolutions without touching the fence.

Great weather, lots of good practice. REALLY hope to have to figure out how to get a video in here before summer of how I am actually riding this thing.

Long term plan is still to pick up a light aluminum UDC 24 inch and put folding pedals on it so that it is very portable. Then plan to adapt a backpack so I can carry it with me (like and elastic “x” strap system that it will hang on the back of the backpack.


Are the cranks only held in place by one of the three screws or are they kind of clamped between pedal and crank?

I used a Dremel tool to notch the plywood so the crank fit inside snugly and flush to the front. It did not go all the way through. You are right, only 1 of the bolts goes through the crank. There is a large fender washer on both sides of the plywood sandwiching the crank and the other 2 bolts help pinch the washers together and keep them from shifting. They are only 1/4 inch diameter bolts. Has been very strong so far. I had to do it that way since I checked several places and could not find a reverse threaded nut or even one right hand threaded that had the same thread count as the pedals. Friend had old cranks and they are aluminum so they weren’t hard to cut.