Unicon 20 France - Road Climbing Categories

I’d be too scared for that distance. I had a bad experience on a long decent (Mount Wellington Hobart Tas) and (slightly) dislocated a shoulder when trying to change brake hands on the constant downhill in January. But anybody who made it up in Grenoble would certainly be a much better rider than me.

Just signed up for this, chose the standard category. I may regret this, but this sounds like a fun way to suffer. Not sure what unicycle I’ll use. I hope I can somehow borrow a 29" with a road tire, or I may use my 27.5" Muni.
I don’t think the Muni would be completely out of place (probably not winning, but I think other than the top 10% of riders, this will be mostly about your fitness, less about total speed where the best setup becomes more crucial) , but I’d need to bring a smooth tire.


If I have a uni that works for you, I would be happy to lend it to you :slight_smile:

1 Like

Just cut off the knobs then. It’s the last day of Unicon anyway :wink:

I’m excited for that race too.

I’m speaking as race director, but also as someone who raced both unlimited and standard categories at Unicon over the last 18yrs- 1st/2nd/3rd placings in Unlimited, and 2nd/3rd placings in Standard class.

The two categories have distinct skillsets. In the unlimited, it tends to be a lower cadence, high power event. In standard class, the rate limiting factor is how fast you can pedal. Top riders in standard class include young kids who have the ability to sustain a high cadence, and top women have similar/close results to men. When I was a top unlimited rider, there is no way I would have done well in standard class- my focus was on pushing a big gear ratio, rather than cadence training.

The idea behind standard class is so you can get to the start line without worrying about what your competitor is riding. You are racing them, not their unicycle. With unlimited, the idea is to push technological boundaries. You may find your competitor on a 5 speed unicycle, or a freewheel unicycle, or an ultralight custom tyre/wheelsize. It gets very expensive, and riders have to lug a lot of equipment/unicycles half way around the world.

In the past, we have fixed distance races 10km and 42.2km marathon. This makes it more like an athletics/running race, because it’s pointless measuring a distance if the course is not flat. Why would someone care if it’s 42.2km up a mountain? You can’t compare it with times from a different race! On the other hand, bicycle races don’t prescribe exact distances, so organisers are free to make use of local terrain as they see fit. This is the idea behind our last rulebook addition of a ‘free distance’ category. It makes it more like bicycle racing than running. The only thing unusual about the ‘free distance’ category at this Unicon, is that it is entirely uphill with a constant gradient. In my opinion, free distance races should test someone’s strategy and tactics, and it would be more fun to have ups and downs.

I appreciate a lot of effort went into the numbers provided by unicycleharry, but as toutestbon said, we are not machines. An optimal setup for one rider, is not optimal for another rider. Unless someone tests themselves on this course with different setups, they won’t know which is faster. This is what makes the unlimited class strategic from an equipment sense. You need to know your body and what works for you.

Regarding merging categories. I think standard riders would be upset to have their category merged just because the terrain ‘might’ favour them, and separated when it doesn’t. It is not an inferior category, it just has a different aim, and tests different skills. Remember, standard riders frequently beat unlimited riders at Unicon- not overall but certainly in age group placings. I would have won age group medals in the unlimited despite riding standard class. However, to win a race, you need to be in it. That is something you have to decide before the race.

If 29 was truly the fastest wheelsize (I doubt that applies to every type of rider), then we could just offer the standard class, and do away with unlimited. However, I think you will find many upset unlimited riders who are travelling to Unicon with a 36, or trained with one, without plans to race standard class.



Ta, perhaps there should be a 1st, 2nd and third awarded/acknowledgments in unlimited, standard and overall combined for this event.
For me, I decided it’s not a race I will compete in as it seems way too tough for me.

For the reason above- they are different categories. We don’t know if it’s necessarily faster on a 29, or if is faster just for a particular rider on a particular day.

In principle, I agree with you. We don’t know who will be the fastest and whether it will be a standard or unlimited rider. But I think like @makym that for most people a standard 29" will be optimal. There are unlimited riders (like makym) who have made the choice to ride in standard class.

On the different skills associated with the 2 categories, it is true on the flat. But for a race like this, you need to have power.
With this logic, we could even imagine that it is the unlimited riders who will ride in standard class that will have the most advantage.

I’m afraid there will be very few of us in the unlimited category, do you know the number of participants in the 2 categories?

1 Like

We have the data but not sure we can communicate on them. @GingoO?


81 unlimited, 117 standard.


I don’t think there is a doubt in my mind that >29" can(will?) produce the fastest time, similar to flat marathon races.

I just wonder if there are many people who will benefit from the 29" class as intended (fast spinning and cadence limited, not power limited).

Like @toutestbon said, the 29" class seems like it may benefit many unlimited riders, who now find the 29" size to be optimal for their fitness (both power AND cadence, similar to how they choose wheels/cranks for an unlimited races)

Of course, whatever the standard size is, there will be some who will “benefit” from that size more than others. However, I just think that 29" will not produce a similar skill differentiation for this course, as it does for flat marathons.

I am signed up as unlimited since I did so before the course was made known. However, my current plan is to ride a 29".
I wonder if there are other unlimited riders in a similar situation.

Sorry Ken, I just don’t find it valid:

Still, in standard category you can use variable size of wheels (up to 29") and cranks (unlimited). On the uphill course, the selection of crank length is very important for given road.

Yes, the Schlumpf is expensive, but standard categories are not the same and for 10k and 42k, riders need to bring many wheels anyway.

So we have two “different” races at the same time. It’s like having trial and speed trial at the same time. Do you think it’s correct? Do you assume that the standard rider cannot perform good in unlimited class and vice versa? Having two “different” races at the same time cannot show who is really the best in given discipline.
While I see it problematic on flat and up/down courses it’s not a problem on a constant uphill course.

I am registered in unlimited category and I will ride on 29 standard unicycle. How should I be classified? Or in other question should I race against Ken or Simon? Do you think that the strategy will be different between two categories? I had similar problems in Korea of having need to select the race against Martin Charrier or Florian Rabensteiner.


I completely agree with you.

There is not a lot of traffic and after 50 m or 100 m the riders will be alone or in very small group.

We did mass starts in the Rennes marathon (5 editions) on open road and it was no problem.
The danger is at the moment before the start. It is longer to start with waves.
It is more pleasant to know your ranking in real time.


Including Schlumpf…

That’s why unlimited is interesting- you need to pick your equipment.

You won’t know for sure unless you’ve ridden the course on different unicycles. What is the optimal power/cadence on course that is 3% grade? 5%? 10%? Is it faster on a 36/125mm or 29/89mm? Someone with short legs vs someone with long legs? A spinner vs someone able to push a big gear/larger wheel?

There are 117 standard riders and 81 unlimited.

You can, but you know the maximum wheel diameter of your competitors. For unlimited, there are unlimited wheel sizes, crank lengths as well as drivetrain to worry about.

A standard class racer only needs to bring a 29. An unlimited rider may need to bring a 36 and a 29, or even a 26, to give them options once they have tested the course.

I have three Schlumpfs in my garage that have only been ridden a handful of times. If I was racing unlimited, I’d have to agonise over which to bring, as well as fixed wheel unicycles.

The problem with combining the unlimited with standard is that it becomes unlimited class. It means that someone who was going to ride 29, now has to consider bringing a different unicycle. In effect, you are asking the organisers to get rid of the 29 class in favour of the unlimited class only.

If you can convince every single unlimited rider to ride in the standard class, I’m sure the standard riders would have no problem with that.

You are classified in the race you start in. As I said, standard class riders often beat unlimited riders- it doesn’t mean they get medals in the unlimited class.

In the standard class too. The choice of crank length is crucial for such a race. I’m not sure if you can go faster with 29/89mm than with 29/150mm in such a race.

As an unlimited class rider I take the same G36 unicycle for the 10k and for the marathon. While a standard class rider will take a 24" for the 10k and a 29" for the marathon.

And for the hill race, a standard class rider can also hesitate between a 29, 26, 24…

I may be wrong but I think most of the competitors try to define which unicycle they are going to ride, before arriving in Grenoble.

I believe that the competitors registered in standard class because they planned to do this race in 29" and not because they feel like “standard class rider”. You’d have to ask them, but I think if the standard class was 24", those who planned to race in 29" would have just signed up in unlimited class.


A standard class racer also would need to bring a 29, 27.5, 26, 24, various crank lengths, and different tire sizes.

I still think flat marathon rules work since there is implicit exclusivity.

There is exclusiveness to the classes, whether from the rules (G36 can’t enter 29" class), or from having a distinct advantage (29" likely won’t beat G36 in unlimited, <29" likely won’t beat 29"). (even if there are some extremely skilled standard riders that beat some unlimited riders).

An analogy to the climbing road race is if we made the standard marathon class to be a 50 gear inch cutoff… Then G32/29 riders can ride in the standard class, and also try to ride in the unlimited class if they want to… Probably can be quite competitive in both classes. Two G32" riders can both get 1st place now! :grinning:

Climbing road race
Similary, 29" riders can be pretty “happy” here… They can ride in standard class, or also in unlimited, and potentially be competitive in both…
But, in my opinion, this is odd. Why don’t we try to avoid this as much as possible; we could choose 20"/24" standard class for the climbing race? Or make the classes exclusive; 29" can’t enter unlimited?

Some Mt. Diablo times highlighted in blue boxes in this picture. I just took the top few times I know of.
The fastest times are around 3-3.7 W/kg

The chart a few posts up in the thread, 3.7W/kg is 118rpm on 29, and 96rpm for 36 for the Unicon climb.
I think it will be a pretty close toss up between 29 vs 36 vs Geared at Unicon, all the way up to 4W/kg.

1 Like

Standard riders need to bring 24" for 10k, 29" for Marathon, and 29" or 27.5" or 24" for road uphill (OK, I know this uphill, it’s not steep, thus 29 is a good option). Plus various crank length sizes. Standard category doesn’t mean that all riders ride the same equipment. The proper name would be a “limited” category.

I do not ask to merge two categories and create unlimited category. What I ask is to include standard riders in the classification of unlimited. In theory the standard rider could receive two medals. For example, if standard rider is the fastest from both categories, he should receive gold in standard and gold in unlimited. This could be also applied in 10k and 42k, but from experience we know that on flat courses this will never happen. (Never say never :smiley: ). Of course, talking about general classification, not an age groups. Argument that standard rider is faster than unlimited riders in narrow age group is not a good argument. The uphill race is different because the bigger wheel or gearing is not an obvious advantage anymore. Here it will not matter how fast you can spin but how much power can you generate. The drafting is not significant. In my opinion the two categories standard and unlimited could start and race together, as always with the fastest riders in the first rows.