What am I doing wrong?!

So I swapped the pedals on my 29" from the 150mm to the 127mm hole (KH Spirit cranks) thinking it would be faster. It’s not! I’m averaging around 1mph less on the shorter cranks. Using the search function all I can find are posts saying short cranks are better, faster, etc yet I’m slower. I feel like I’m spinning smoothly, weight in the seat etc, I’m riding the same loop I have done for months after work each day and while I’m still managing to ride the whole way I’m just not going faster.
Has anyone else experienced this? Is it a technique issue, or could I be holding back subconsciously without realising it?
Thanks for any comments!

Did you raise the saddle by 25 mm?

I did. Spinning along feels good, it’s comfortable, uphill does take a little more effort but that’s to be expected for a while at least. Is it just a case of getting used to it? Should I try swapping out to the 137’s off my 36" as an in-between step? For the record, I haven’t used the 137’s on the 36", only 165’s til I get more comfortable with the big wheel.

I imagine it’s just getting used to it. With shorter cranks it’s easier to “float” over the pedals once you get the wheel going. You want a nice smooth circular rotation, which means you need to focus (sometimes moreso than pushing) on picking your foot up on the backstroke. This will help you spin faster. Try to think of the pedalstroke as one smooth motion rather than individual pedals, and put as little weight on the pedals as you feel comfortable with. You should be able to spin 125s quite a bit faster than 150s. Give it a little time for adjustment. I also think taking the wheel to a local pump track really helps you focus on staying in that balance point gracefully over a wide range of terrain, so you’re using less energy on corrections, and more on going forward.

OK, I’ll stick with it for a while and see how it goes. It could just be a confidence thing with getting used to going faster too, as my speedometer says I maxed at 11.9mph and I didn’t upd to give a false reading. I suppose I just thought I’d get an instant speed boost!

I don’t think anything on a uni is instant! As above it’s mainly about getting used to it. In a way it’s counterintuitive, but you have to realise how much energy you use on just balancing when riding a uni, and changing the crank length (particularly going shorter) takes you out of your comfort zone, so you’ll initially be using a lot more on that. Possibly also as you suggest a confidence thing as you’ll feel less confident on the shorter cranks.

It definitely does feel a bit like I’m perched on top of the uni. It’s amazing how much difference an inch can make. Maybe I should re-word that!

I’ll stick with it and see how I feel in another couple of weeks, I’ve done less than 10 miles total on the shorter cranks so far. And as you point out, nothing happens instantly with unicycling. Except upd’s, I find they happen fast!

You probably need to build up the extra strength before you can get the cadence back up, especially up hills.

A good way to develop spinning is to find a nice smooth downhill surface where the gravitation almost matches the wind resistance at full speed so you virtually roll down. Then without having to push you can focus on floating on the pedals.

I made big leaps in cadence when I rode with slippery shoes for a while. Their tendency to slip off forced me to really get my feet moving in circles without depending on the pedals to drag them into line.

You are likely to be weaving a bit more because you have not yet adjusted to the dynamics of shorter cranks.

Probably also taking downhills more slowly because of the feeling the the uni might get away from you. This will pass as you get stronger and more comfortable with the new dynamics.

I’ve had a 29" for a few months now with the 150 setting. I’ve been wanting to try the 127 for a while and this post got me to try it out.
I was not on the same course I usually take so it’s not a accurate comparison but I was about .7mph slower.
Also, I had 3 upd’s(which it is very rare for me). My muscles above my knees got pretty tight as well.
The extra height doesn’t bother me, I still mount it about the same. It’s just the loss in torque which is throwing me off right now.
I just have just under 5 miles under my belt right now.

Thanks for that, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one! Same as you, I haven’t had any problems free mounting, I have felt the additional tightness in my thigh muscles and lost speed. Maybe I just expected too much too soon. I think I will alternate a day on the 29" with 125s with a day on my 24" with 137s til I get more used to it.

I had been riding 127mm cranks for 4 months on my 29" and it does go faster for me. At the start my shin muscles were very sore. I guess that is because it is more like riding on a bike with the ball of the foot on the pedals. Also because the cranks are shorter, the balance area is a little smaller. I UPD’d more with shorter cranks. With free-mounting you also have to be a bit more accurate and I can’t free-mount the shorter cranks at 100%. Now after those four months I shifted back to 150mm. Free-mounting now is at 100%. It does feel slower, but I have so much balance on it. Now I can also much more easily stop and start hopping and continue again.
I’d say it is just some getting used to and after a few months try to go back to longer cranks to see how much progress you’ve made.

The speed you ride on any crank depends both on crank length and experience.

Crank length is obvious as the shorter the crank, the less your feet have to travel.

Experience is less obvious. The problem is that you are trying to ride the 125s as if they were 150s due to the muscle memory you have built up. This is the cause of muscle tightness and UPDs especially in a first major length change. All you can do is practice to change this.

Give it about a month and those 150s will feel really slow and powerful while the 125s will spin happily.

This might or might not have anything to do with it, but I found that my pace went up a lot when I was able to pedal using only forward pressure, riding as though I had a freewheel hub and always needed a little load on it to keep from coasting. When it’s going well, front-to-back balance can be controlled just using more or less forward pedal pressure. (Not that that’s practical downhill, but it’s doable on flat roads and the natural thing to do uphill.) At first this was easiest on my 36" unicycle since it needs a lot of pedaling force anyway. Handlebars might help too, making the ride less wobbly so that fewer corrections are needed.

I’m wondering if maybe you’re less confident with the shorter cranks right now and that’s making you check up on the pedals more often when it feels like the wheel might be getting ahead of you. If so that will probably take care of itself with practice.

I took my 24" out for a muni ride tonight, I have been reducing the crank length on it from 165 to 150 to the current 137mm. Tonight was the first technical/hilly ride I’ve done on the 137s. I can’t say how my speed was as I don’t have a speedometer on the 24" and hills, techy trails and upd’s make it a bit arbitrary anyway.

However, I rode sections i have struggled with in the past both up and down hill. Downhill I think the lack of control helps in a perverse way, if you don’t have the power to stop the wheel you have to just hang on and hope! Its the uphill riding that’s relevant here though I think. I felt like I was spinning smoother than with 165s. Line choice becomes more important because without the power to force the wheel over obstacles I had to choose a smoother line.

Ultimately as has been said in most of the comments, I guess it will just take time and a conscious effort to spin smooth, weight the saddle and keep moving forward instead of using the pedals to make balance corrections.

Thank you all for your input!


I just finished my second ride with the 127’s.
-Hard packed gravel trail(my preference)-

Not only am I faster than the 150’s now, I can ride twice as long without having my “delicates” force me off the saddle.(about 3 miles now).
I went from 7.7mph to 8.6mph avg. I’m sure I can squeeze out another half mile out of that too!
I am slower on the inclines, but more than make up for it downhill and straightaways.

I still had two upd’s, but I went twice as far as normal.(11 miles).
I have no more tightness of my muscles, just over worked. I should have cut the trip shorter, but now without my junk falling asleep, I’m more limited by endurance than pain!

2 weeks in I am back up to the same average speed on 127s as I was on the 150s, but still upd more often, usually on rough climbs. I also have a short, steep descent that I can ride on my 24 with 137s and could ride on the 29 with 150s, but still don’t have the control to ride on the 29 with the 127s. Basically I can see the speed advantage but will need to give it more time to get confident and regain control. I’m sure it will come. And at the end of the day, if outright speed was the priority I’d go back to riding b*kes, but I don’t intend doing that!

I am surprised how quick I’ve adapted to the new setting. I have found your body/muscle memory gets used to a certain rpm. If you don’t spin faster, crank size won’t matter. Finding a stretch of road level or declining allows your legs to break out of their old routine.

My crank adjustment is two-fold.
1st is to try to keep up with my pre-teen daughters biking. Luckily, my youngest has the uni interest :D. I throw hints out about how fun it would be to uni together.
2nd is the distance traveled. Since my first bike, I always loved exploring. And now I can do that with my 29! I never would have imagined that back when I was a teen.

To upd at speed now is getting harder to catch myself without falling. I’m going to have to seriously consider how much more I need.

I do better cadence on the 29 when I get out on a small wheel sometimes.

I routinely ride 36" where pushing is required and this morning switched to my 29" where it’s not required. This advice is excellent for that switch as well!

Thank you!

I should add that the 29" has VERY short cranks, whereas the 36" has like 152s. The 29" is also MUCH lighter.