Can the unicycle serve as a viable transportation means for short distances? Is it more efficient than walking? Which is more tiring: to walk or unicycle the same distance?
I am looking into whether to buy a unicycle or not. My family are trying to convince me not to buy it, saying that it will not be practical. And I am confused and do not want to make such an expensive investment - (200$ is a lot for me; the only available one for me here in Lebanon costs 200$ and I don’t want to buy online) - when I am not sure I can use it for practical transportation for short distances. If I can’t, then I will not buy it. What I would like for you to tell me is whether I can expect to go on short trips in nature with a unicycle (once I learn unicycling) or whether I am better off walking or bicycling.
I am 5 foot 11 (178cm) tall, and 37 years old. I am a great bicycle rider. I can even ride my BMX backward for some 10 meters. I am interested in the unicycle as the next step after the bicycle.
While I know it would be impossible for anyone to give precise estimates about my potential experience with the unicycle, I would appreciate any opinions based on your own experiences on whether the unicycle can be a viable means of transportation (or a quicker and easier alternative to walking) over short distances (i.e. 0.5-2 KM).
Well, you do realise that by asking here that you will get a very biassed, but unanimous answer; yes it is a fantastic means of transport
I worked in central London for almost 3 years, and used a unicycle to commute to work approx 11km each way. This was much quicker than walking or the bus, and slightly quicker than the underground train. It was also free, a great work out, and was able to get me to work with a smile on my face every day! I started out on a 20" but only used to ride about 5km at the time. As I got fitter, I got a larger uni, and rode further. The bigger the wheel, the more practical it is.
These days I use a 24" unicycle around 3 times a week to go to a pub which is approx 1km away. It is much quicker than walking, and, unlike a bike, I can take it inside with me.
I started riding at the begining of last Summer, and started commuting in August. It’s great for getting around. I commute 4 miles to work on mine. It’s not great for hauling stuff around. You can use a backpack, but every pound you add makes it a little different to ride.
It’s really fun, and a really good workout. Much faster than walking.
I’ve used a unicycle as my main method of transport to and from study/work for over a decade now. My daily commute at present is 9 km each way.
A unicycle works well for short distance commuting with a few provisos:
you need to develop a basic level of proficiency and control before letting yourself loose in busy public areas. If your daily commute includes a lot of pedestrian or vehicle traffic it is important to have enough control to either steer around them or to be able to stop quickly and safely. It took me a few weeks of practice before I was happy using my unicycle to get around. It may take you longer or shorter than that to develop proficiency.
initially it will take a lot of effort to ride your unicycle (when you are picking up the basics of riding). A lot of your energy is going into keeping your balance, rather than moving yourself forward. Eventually your body learns how to balance and the amount of energy required to keep your balance drops dramaticly. At this point unicycling becomes more efficient than walking or jogging. You’ll still get a work out on the steeper hills but it is surprising how little effort is required to move along flat or shallow gradients.
learners tend to start on a 20" or 24" unicycle. This is a good size for picking up the basics but you cannot achieve very high speeds. In general the larger the wheel the faster you can go. An average cruising speed for different wheel sizes is roughly as follows:
20 inch wheel - 6 km/h
24 inch wheel - 8 km/h
29 inch wheel - 12 km/h
36 inch wheel - 18 km/h
You can certainly move faster than those speeds but they are a comfortable speed for cruising at on paved road. For your first unicycle you should probably grab a 24" if possible. Given your height it will be a good size to learn on and gives you a bit of extra speed over a 20". You may want to use shorter cranks once you get the hang of riding as this helps increase your average cruising speed.
i started unicycling at the age of 42 (just last year) - it took me a month to get the hang of it, and another two months to learn how to free mount (during a Canadian winter). I now do all my neighbourhood errands on the unicycle - the big advantage is its compactness - you can bring it into the shops with you, or set it inside the door, no lock-up required and nobody complains.
As for fitness, the unicycle is a big plus, I have lost over 10lbs since.
I started with a 26" since I wanted to use it for transportation to and from university. The distance is about 3 km - too short to take the bus every day, but takes some time to walk - and since I didn’t have a bike here, I figured a unicycle would be nice. (Of course, I got inspiration from a friend from university - would never imagine that people rode unicycles any longer distances or off road if I hadn’t met him).
After about three months of riding, I qualified to Ride the Lobster with my friend. The first day we rode 68 km (me still on my 26er), a distance I wouldn’t want to walk. We didn’t go very fast, maybe 10-11 km/h - mainly because I almost died (not literally… I hope) from soreness and chafing.
As a mean of transportation, I think bikes are much more effective. However, there are some benefits to unicycles:
Doesn’t take much space (I live in a student apartment, so this is definitely a plus).
You can put it in most cars without any problems.
At least in my city it’s OK to bring it on buses etc. Bikes are not allowed.
It’s much more fun.
A minus is that I get quite sweaty on my back if it’s warm and I have a backpack, and all the attention I get. It’s weird how someone who dislikes attention like me rides a unicycle.
In the begging, you want control over speed. That basically means a smaller wheel and longer cranks. As peter.bier said, 20" and 24" are common beginner sizes. I think 26" worked pretty well too (hey, even I could learn on it), but then I had very long cranks (170 mm if I remember correctly). As I got more confident, I changed to shorter cranks (currently 125/150 dual hole Moments).
If you can only afford one unicycle, I would suggest a 24" or possibly 26". I like to ride off road too, so I got a fat tire on mine. If you don’t intend to ride off road, Maxxis Hookworm or similar tires might be the way to go.
I often ride my 36 downtown and back in an afternoon, about 20 miles. It has a scenic advantage in touring because I can see over the common six foot high fence size, into the gardens I never got to see before.
The 29 " size is better in crowds because you can slow down to a walk or idle on the 29. Going real slow or idling with a 36 is much more difficult. I wouldn’t get anything smaller then that for a road burner.
I never carry anything except a fanny pack with a rain suit. Like everyone says^ , if you need to carry a lot of stuff, a bike is a lot more practical.
I would recommend that you do a lot of research online, you will likely want to buy online. Bike shops in Florida carry almost nothing, I doubt it will be any easier over there. Maybe Municycle or UDC UK can ship to you.
I found that whenever you add a 26" wheel you double your speed. If it takes me an hour to walk somewhere i would be able to get there in a comfortable half hour on a 26" uni and 15 minutes on my bike.
I like the uni for getting around getting in tight spots and being able to bring it into places you can not bring a bike but prefer using a bike if i need to carry anything more that what fits in my camelpack.
A 36" uni is about halfway between the 26" uni and a bike for speed but a whole lot more fun a bit overkill for short rides less than 1km or so though.
Great advice has already been given so I will add that my 26" uni is faster than joggers and is the best workout I have done short of swimming distance.
It took me 36 days/26 hours to ride 150ft, I am a very slow learner??? Now I can go 1/8 mile before needing a rest and am doing better on distance every day.
A bike uses a lot less energy but not even close when you add in the workout and the Super FUN factor. I am making a fixed gear bike for when I need to ride a bike because I am in love with the fixed gear riding.
Oh ya and a Unicycle is SO easy to maintain, simple, fast enough, FUN, FUN, FUN, and a workout like your legs have never had!
I don’t have a car with me in Australia, so I do all my commuting on the unicycle. I go to the Supermarket and do my groceries on it. I find it’s easier to carry stuff on a unicycle than on a bike.
In terms of speed, it’s much faster than walking, and slightly faster but with much less effort than running (I’m talking 26" or 29" Unicycle).
A 36" is faster, but I hate commuting with it…too bulky and hard to store. As for top end speed, the fastest any human being has run a marathon is slightly over 2hrs. The fastest someone has ridden a marathon on a unicycle is a shade under 1 1/2hrs.
I don’t know what kind of Unicycle they are selling by you for $200 dollars. But with a good unicycle you can ride much faster than walking and go anywhere a bike can. A Unicycle will not be as fast as a bike but it is much more fun and it fits into the trunk of your car!
By the way I actually rode one of my Unicycles in Lebanon. You have a great country for some good MUni!
Wow! What a response. Unicyclists seem to be a responsive and active bunch of people. Thank you everyone. I appreciate each and every one of your responses.
Now, what I would like to ask you is the following:
The unicycle that my bicycle shop has is a Qu-Ax 20" standard model with 114mm cranks. Do you think that is feasible for me to get around for up to 5-6 KM errands eventually, considering my height? What about the crank size? Is it good for a 20" model? It costs $200 as I said. The other option which I am considering, but for which I would unfortunately have to wait till September-October (since that is when my salesman will next travel abroad to import bicycles, etc.), is to order him a Qu-Ax Cross 24" unicycle. I think the bigger size will be better for transportation and the Cross model better for some rough terrain which I would hope to eventually be able to tackle.
What would you advise me? Which option should I choose? Are both viable? Is one of them clearly wrong? Do you suggest yet a third?
Personally I don’t like to ride any longer distances on a 20" - it’s pretty much as fast (slow) as walking, and since the gear ration is 1:1 you have to spin the cranks a lot. Finally, it doesn’t feel as nice to ride over bumps etc. as with a bigger wheel.
Why don’t you want to order online? It would be OK to wait till September if it was August now, but last time I checked it’s still April.
Thanks hansc. I don’t want to order online because I can’t use PayPal and that seems to be the only way they accept payment from overseas. Also, a bad experience with a non-communicating salesman (who made me wait for more than a month just to tell me he doesn’t accept credit cards but only PayPal) made me forget the idea. Time is too precious to waste trying to get an online salesman to notice your messages! But maybe I’ll try again if you know of any online merchants who accept credit cards from overseas without PayPal.
At your age you are not going to be doing aggressive Trials or Street. You would be much better off getting the 24 unicycle. It is great for cross country and MUni. You can go much faster and commute better with a 29 inch or even 36 incher but the 24 would be the best all around Unicycle for you. Funny someone just started importing Qu-Ax into Israel this month. I am tempted to meet you at the border fence and throw the unicycle over!