Unicycle candidates for riding skateparks

There are some related threads but I wanted to consolidate information into one place without threadjacking regarding this question I pose which is, “What are the best unicycle candidates for riding skateparks and why?” I think the answer depends on the desired riding features of the skatepark in question. My knowledge of this subject and the terminology is limited.

Fixed wheel unicycle

Lots of people ride regular fixed wheel unicycles in skateparks to great success. There is some riding on ramps including dropping in but by definition there’s a lot of pedaling and gravity is not being taken advantage of. Grinds are executed on rails and boxes and tricks like spins and flips are executed on flat, banks, into and out of grinds, and pretty much everywhere.

BC wheel

I would guess that far fewer people ride BC wheels than unicycles and even among that smaller group even fewer people ride BC wheels in skateparks. The only person I know of is Nicolas Potier. His video includes riding in quarter and half pipes, riding splines, stalling on the lip, dropping in, offroad jumping, grinding rails and lips, riding in a bowl, and lots of other activities. This type of riding takes advantage of gravity but requires a huge amount of skill and control. The BC wheel plates provide a nice steady base but are the only thing you can balance on.

Freewheel unicycle

Not very many people ride freewheel unicycles at this time and I am probably their largest champion. I have not taken my freewheels in a skatepark yet but have a sense of how they might work. You can take advantage of gravity and have a higher balance point than a BC wheel (the seat) but the base isn’t as stable. You would also be able to pedal between obstacles and both increase (by pedaling) and decrease (with a brake) your speed. Some preliminary work with rolling hops and small jumps shows there’s a tendency for my feet to drift off the pedals when I’m in the air but that may be fixed with better technique and more practice.


The unbike is basically the front end of a BMX bike. I haven’t seen this used in a skatepark but there’s no reason it couldn’t be. The handlebars provide a higher balance point and there’s a somewhat stable base. It’s not as stable as a BC wheel with plates below the axle. You can take advantage of gravity.

Pegged unicycle

The pegged unicycle (is there a better term for this?) is a variation of the unbike. I haven’t seen this used in a skatepark either but there’s no reason it couldn’t be. The seat provides a higher balance point and there’s a somewhat stable base. It’s not as stable as a BC wheel with plates below the axle. You can take advantage of gravity. Forum member showed an example of this based around a regular unicycle but you could probably build one out of the front end of a peg drift trike and even get a nice disc brake.

Unicycle with drop plates

This is my theoretical variation of the pegged unicycle. Has anyone built one of these? Is there a better name? Instead of putting a unicycle frame and seat on a BMX wheel with pegs you use a BMX wheel with BC wheel style drop plates. This might be the most stable configuration you can use and still take advantage of gravity. Compared to a freewheel unicycle you lose the ability to increase speed easily (although you could push with your leg like a skateboard and BC wheel) and also lose the balance adjustment that pedaling can provide. If you’re getting a lot of air, however, I think it would be much easier to find the plates than the pedals of a freewheel unicycle. My guess is that this is the best configuration for vertical-style skatepark riding. You could probably build one out of the front end of a peg drift trike by adding BC plates and even get a nice disc brake.

As much as I can imagine the difficulty, I think your best bet for skate parks is either the BC or your freewheel uni. I imagine trying to drop-in a 20" fixie down a half-pipe would cause so much pedal strain that you’d lose more speed than you gain, and so wouldn’t really catch air.

BC Wheeling a skate park sounds like great fun if you can manage it, they are essentially 1-wheeled skateboards after all, as opposed to 1-wheeled BMX’s (which is what I usually think of with flatland/freestyle uni’s).

Freewheel Unicycling… I guess the best part about this is that you’ll look like a unicyclist on the skate park as opposed to a guy stood on a BMX wheel :smiley: Could open up more variety in tricks if you did it though!

The other contraptions… Not sure I see the point, and I’m not sure I see the advantage over a BC, other than having something to grab…

Comparing a unicycle with BC plates vs. a regular BC wheel I see two big advantages:

  • You can put a brake on so that you can work up to and get used to higher speeds gradually.
  • You no longer have to put so much concentration and effort on maintaining lateral stability. Maybe this means greater speed efficiency as well? [/LIST]
  • Jeff Groves did some skatepark BC wheeling (see Defect).

    It’s not hard to drop into a half-pipe on a 20" or 24" unicycle, but it’s hard to keep the momentum high enough to do anything interesting.

    I’ve seen David Weichenberger ride a 20" up a five-foot half-pipe and get onto the lip.

    You also left out the unibike; a bike with the front wheel and fork removed (and possibly with geometry optimized for balancing on the one wheel).

    Thanks for the info! I had meant to put it explicitly in my original post but it’d be great to hear if anyone has other candidates to add to the list. Do you know better names for any of the others on the list?


  • Fixed wheel unicycle
  • BC wheel
  • Freewheel unicycle
  • Unbike
  • Pegged unicycle
  • Unicycle with drop plates
  • Unibike [/LIST]
  • What is a standard BC wheel size? 20" or 24"?

    I am picturing a uni, pedals replaced with BC plates, a low seat and disk brakes. Seat allows easier balance (as does the brake) with it low enough to allow jumps and “normal” bc-type balancing options. A seat would also make it easier to push-start your BC because you have something to grab onto. Brakes allow for easier speed regulation, balance, and better landings, or cool tricks like stalls, etc.

    Now I want one!

    Standard is 20" but there are some 24" around. Your description is what I refer to as “unicycle with drop plates” (got a better name?) and I think would probably be best for riding a skatepark (although a freewheel unicycle is more versatile overall). The easiest way to build one would be to get a peg-style (vs. pedal) drift trike fork that already has a disc brake, cut a notch in it, and put a unicycle seatpost and seatpost bolt on. That’s what I’m planning to do to make a 3.8x geared freewheel unicycle. Another route might be trying to affix a regular unicycle frame onto a BMX wheel somehow. I’m considering making one but probably not until after Unicon.

    “Ultimately Impossible BC Wheel”

    What kind of pegs? I have flat feet and the thought of standing on round pegs just makes me cringe. The advantage to the plates is that gravity naturally makes them sit in the proper position, and I’ve never ridden one but I imagine it helps you balance since your feet are actually below the center of the wheel?

    Good list and nice analysis, waaalrus. Thanks for starting the new topic.

    I picked up on the skatepark idea in the Ultimate wheel vs. BC wheel topic mainly because I’ve watched some skateboard and BMX videos lately just to compare them with what people are doing in unicycle videos. And the first thing I noticed was how much of the content was devoted to aerial tricks. Those are big crowd-pleasers I guess, and standard unicycles seem limited in that department. Grinds, flips, and spins, like you say.

    Questions involving what’s best are tricky if everyone isn’t agreed on what constitutes “best.” I don’t think it’s necessarily what would be easiest, but then it’s hard to put a ranking on how rewarding it would be for a given person to learn the best tricks they can on a given style of unicycle. And I don’t imagine one person learning to ride all the different styles to be able to make a fair comparison between them.

    I don’t think a low balance point for the sake of stability is the whole story. I personally love watching frame gliding freestyle unicylists, like Kaori Matsuzawa in Defect and many of the performers in Thomas Gossmann’s indoor videos. They’re way up there, but of course they were all on flat smooth surfaces. To me, the metric should include how impressive the trick is, but also how obvious it is that you’re doing something that no human should be able to do. :slight_smile:

    I’d make the claim that unbikes and pegged unicycles are pretty much equivalent. You can (and people do) sit on the bars of an unbike, and unicycle seats are used as handles all the time. Clamping in a bike stem in place of unicycle seatpost is trivial, and mounting a seatpost in a bike fork wouldn’t be much harder.

    Seems like a unibike (thanks, tholub) is also more or less congruent to a freewheel “penguin” unicycle.

    I’ve heard of a pretty nice indoor skatepark a few miles away from me but I’ve never been. I’m so far from having even basic street skills on a standard unicycle right now that I wouldn’t waste my time or theirs by going there yet. Over the weekend, I got my 14 year old nephew to try a unicycle for the first time. He might be ready long before I am.

    I mentioned peg-style drift trikes vs. pedal ones to differentiate the attachment mechanism. The former use BMX-style dropouts with pegs attached to a regular BMX wheel whereas the latter use unicycle-style bearing caps (of various diameters) with pedals attached to a freewheel hub. I agree that plates below the axle would work better and you could start with a peg-style drift trike front end and replace the pegs with drop plates. Depending on the supplier you might get one with no pegs to start with. Thickness of the axle is a key point here as with regular BC wheels.

    Thanks for following the discussion here and providing a thoughtful analysis!

    While it may not be the whole story I would argue that it’s a big part of the story. Stand up unicycle coasting tricks are a different animal because the seat gives you a higher balance point than a BC wheel. While there are videos of Jeff Groves, Bryan Stevens, and Nicolas Potier doing incredible things on BC wheels I argue that there is still some lateral wobble which dampens speed and control. I’m not sure who is still riding, but put any of these people on a BC-unicycle and I think the results would be spectacular.

    I agree with this. Riding with the handlebar version would be similar to riding a pegged unicycle SIF although the balance would be more like holding handlebars close to the headset.

    I disagree equating a unibike and freewheel penguin. I’ve tried to make this point elsewhere but riding a wheelie on a bicycle and riding a freewheel unicycle are very different.