Unicycles: freestyle versus cruisers. Or-recommend a unicycle

Can someone please explain the difference between freestyle and cruiser unicycles? I know that they’re used for different situations, but how are they made differently? Can one use a freestyle for general transportation?

And the second part of my post. I currently have a 20 inch unicycle that I learned on, and have been using it to get around campus lately. It’s not very fast at all, and I’m considering getting a new unicycle this summer. I’m deciding between a 24 inch freestyle, and a 26 inch cruiser. Would the 24 inch unicycle be fast enough for me to comfortably go on the side of roads (definitely not so with my 20) and be suited for transportation. However, I still might be riding in some crowded but open areas. Would a 26 incher be too fast? How hard is it to ride at slow speeds on the larger unicycle?

If it helps in the recommendations, I don’t really have any intentions of doing freestyle stuff (the 24 inch is cheaper) or much muni. I might, however, go on some tame bike trails.


Hold on! Darren Bedford also has cross country unicycles in 20, 24 and 26 inch sizes!! Ah, so confused. What’s the difference between cruisers and cross country? Would a cross country uni be better for me?

Historically, a freestyle unicycle is one on which the rider performs and, as such, will likely have a small (20") wheel, non-marking tire and plastic pedals for indoor use, flat crown for one-footed and stand-up skills, and will not have enormous stresses put on the frame, wheel cranks or pedals. They are slow because of the small wheel size.

A “cruiser” evokes images of a big unicycle, more frequently referred to as a commuter. The Coker (36" wheel) and the 28" or 29" uni’s (29er’s) with “shorter” cranks fit into this category. Cokers can be managed in tight spots by riders of greater skill than that possessed by me. I commute 10 miles (round trip) on a Coker when the weather is good. David Stone rides one 26 miles a day on a regular basis. I have seen people do remarkable things on them. For most folks, 29ers are reasonably managable which is to say most things one can do on a 20" or 24", one can also do on a 29er as long as the cranks are of sufficient length. Unicycles in this category are fast and reasonable for short range commuting.

A uni with a 24" wheel can be comfortably ridden faster than walking speed by almost anyone and is generally considered the minimum size for errands or any kind of transportation. Lightweight, Taiwanese 24" uni’s are inexpensive and quite popular.

Cross-country unicycles, more frequently called MUni’s (Mountain Uni-cycles) are rugged, off-road cycles. They will usually have very strong wheels, cranks, and pedals and have fat tires with aggressive tread for traction. They don’t work or wear well on pavement unless a much less aggressive tread is selected.

There are more knowledgeable people on this forum that can give you more complete info but I hope this makes the distinctions you requested. Figure out what you want to do with a unicycle (this may be more than one thing) to help you decide what you want to buy next time. There will probably be MANY next times.

First of all, I’m very pleased to see yet another person interested in Bedfords (I love my two :))… alright, enough sales-pitching.

Speaking of a Bedford unicycle, I’m pretty sure you’d get the same frame whether it was 20", 24" or 26" (unless you wanted something that could handle a 3" tire). Semcycle, for example, does make a thinner, lighter frame for one of their commuter-style unis (customized for transportation). Back to Darren: the big difference you’ll find between the 24" freestyle and the 26" cruiser is the tire size (the rim may also be different). The 24" freestyle (I assume) has something in the 24x1.75" tire range. The cruiser (another assumption) would probably take a 700c road tire (as you would see on a road bike, though it wouldn’t necessarily have to be as narrow as you’d expect to see being used by a roadie) but you could most likely pop on a 26" cyclocross tire if you wanted something with knobs (not sure how wide you could go, that being mostly dependent on the rim).

The 24" would be decent for transportation, I would guess, but I’m sure many would advise you to get the 26" if that’s going to be its main use. As for control with a 26", that would be dependent on the length of cranks you put on it and your competency as a unicyclist. I find I have enough control over my 24x3" MUni (effectively a 26" unicycle) with 145mm cranks to ride on campus through crowds of people. Again, a matter of getting used to it and knowing how it handles.

Cruiser vs. X-country: I would guess that this is again a difference in tire size. The cross country uni would most likely come with a (standardesque) 26" mountain bike tire (something on the 1.5" range, perhaps. Maybe narrower. Could also probably take a 700c tire for cruising applications) and the cruiser with a 700c.

A very quick email to Darren (bedford_unicycles(at)yahoo.ca) would get you direct, accurate answers, but I hope I’ve been able to provide an overview of sorts.


P.S. Harper, I see in my writing and editing you have slipped an answer in on me. I don’t think I’m being too repetitive here, so I’m going to post as well :).

If you are primarily going to do tricks than a good 20" will stand you in good stead. If you more interested in getting from A to B than a cruiser is something you should invest it. If you want to do a bit of both it is probably better to buy two unicycles than try and compromise. (Besides which you can never have too many unis).

As several people pointed out the main difference between different types of unicycles is the wheel size and tyre type. Frames also vary depending on the intended use.

Regarding communting here is a brief summary of some different configurations I have used and my thoughts on them

20" with 125mm cranks:really slow, impractical, the only reason you would commute on a 20" is for novelty value or if you’ve managed to break every other unicycle you own and can’t bear to walk

24" with 125mm cranks: a suprisingly large improvement on a 20". Still possible to do many freestyle skills but will zip you around short distances no problem. It is also very easy to nip around people on a relatively crowded walk way.

26" with 170mm cranks: really slow due to the long crank lengths. With 125mm cranks though this is another step above the 24".

28" with 125mm cranks: nice and fast while still fairly maneoverable with practice. 28" wheels are more difficult to turn and and you may need to build up some confidence before riding through crowds. If it gets really crowded I tend to dismount rather than ride a 28" with short cranks. It is fine for my ride to work through moderate foot traffic.

36" with 125mm cranks: really fast but totally unsuitable for commuting throw heavily populated areas. Great for long distance with little pedestrian traffic where you are not starting or stopping very often. The added momentum makes slowing down or speeding up a pain.

<How hard is it to ride at slow speeds on the larger unicycle? >

Part of the answer depends on the quality of the unicycle, I have a 24 inch torker and a 26 inch sem xl , For me it is easier to go slow on the sem than the torker. The other part is just practice, and if your riding in crowds having a smooth dismount with the uni in front is a good idea .

Although with regular riding you can ride a coker with 150mm cranks through pretty much any city situation. It was my commuter vehicle of choice when I was commuting and that included everything from large A roads (main roads) to riding on the pedestrian path past the London Eye, probably one of the most crowded bits of London. Cokering in crowds is mainly just a matter of being polite and not trying to go too fast.


Re: Unicycles: freestyle versus cruisers. Or-recommend a unicycle

Coker, Coker, Coker, Coker…

How bad do you have to suck to lose a popularity contest with Saddam
–Bill Maher

It’s not just wheel size. On the whole, a bigger wheel will be faster over a medium to long distance, but you can make small wheels faster by putting shorter cranks on. They allow you to rev. faster.

A 20 inch uni with 102 mm cranks will be approximately as fast as a 24 with 125s.

A 20 with 110s is easy to mount, ride, and trick on, and you can lean it far enough to clip the ground with your pedals. :0)

A 24 is less versatile for tricks, but is a good all round size. At exactly the same cadence (rpm) it is 20% faster than the 20. It will cope with off road; it is manoeuvreable. It is capable of high speeds.

A 24 is easily rideable with 110s, and makes a very nippy machine.

I’ve done 20 mile days on a 20 and a 24. A bigger wheel is better for long journeys though.

A 26 is noticeably bigger than a 24. With long (150mm +) cranks, it’s a plodder though. If you want to ‘cruise’ on a 26 then 125s or 110s will do the job.

A 28 is a good size for roads and simple trails. With 110s it will touch 15 mph (or more) and average getting on for 10 mph.

So, for ‘freestyle’ which is tricks and clever stuff, a 20 is probably best. For general mixed use, a 24 is a safe bet. For riding from one place to another, touring, commuting, cruising, regular rides of 10 miles or more, a 26 or 28 is a good investment.

And a Coker is in a league of its own.

A 28" with 89mm cranks is great fun! It takes a bit of getting used to but it is more manouverable than a coker and therefore better in highly populated areas. The only downside is it has less momentum than a coker and cannot reach quite the same speeds as the coker over longer distances.

How fast is a 26 uni

I have a 24 and feel like I my feet are going a million mph. Will the 26 be enough or do I need a 29?

After taking tire height into account, the difference between a 24 and a 26 is negligable in most cases. Go for a 29.

Your other alternative is to get shorter cranks for your 24. Your feet won’t move as much with each pedal stroke. You’ll be sacrificing control / power for speed, but if you’ve got long cranks now, you’ll probably appreciate the difference.

That depends on the 24 though- it’s true that a 24x3 (i.e. with a 3" muni tyre) is close to the size of a 26" with the usually less fat 26" muni tyre.

But, if the 24" is some kind of freestyle setup, which is common for 24" unis, then a 26" is going to be noticably faster.

And, even comparing my nimbus 24x3 with my new quax 26 muni, the 26 feels faster (though I’ve no got a speedometer, so I may be imagining it).

Personally, I’ve always found both the 24x3 and the 26" to be adequately fast, and that’s without going short on the cranks- both are definitly far, far preferable to a 20" for speed.