What size wheel for long-distance on roads

Hi Folks.
I’m new to unicycling and am teaching myself on a cheap 20" at the moment. Crazy as it may sound, I’ve entered a 24-hour marathon in Thailand in November. My question is, which uni will be best for an ultra-distance on bitumen. I’m leaning towards a 29" because I also need to think about carrying it to Thailand and getting it on planes, etc (I have yet to inquire with the airline!). Any advice re. sizes ans brands would be really appreciated. Thanks, Chris

If speed is not important and your aim is to achieve a certain distance you may indeed opt for a 29 inch. I would defently invest some time in getting a touring handle and a saddle you can work with. If the road is hilly or you want the option to change crank length en route a set of tho-holed cranks may also be nice.

Simply for riding distance on the road, the 36 wins every time, but if you factor in transportation, storage, steer-ability in a crowd, versatility, the 29 is the better option. You’ll end up owning both one day anyway.

janvanhulzen and Mikefule give good advice, but additional information would be helpful. You said it’s a 24-hour marathon, but didn’t say anything about the actual distance. Time is time, no matter what wheel size you use. If there’s no specific mileage requirement, I would simply spend as much effort and money as it takes to be as comfortable as possible while riding for 24 hours. If, on the other hand, you have a minimum distance requirement, like 50 or 100 miles, I would go with a 36". Yes, you can take these on airplanes. Last summer I picked up Kikenji at the Los Angeles airport coming in from Japan, and he had his 36’r with him, in a big bag (partially broken down). (Just my opinion, YMMV.)

A 29 with very short cranks (~100-114mm) or a 36 for long distance. As others have said, a 36 is the king of the road, but they are expensive. I went straight from a 20" learner to a 36 and did just fine, but learning how to freemount a 36 can take time for some people. A 29er will feel much like your 20" but faster. The 36 has a lot of momentum behind it. Transportation is the main issue.

While we’re on the subject, does anybody know where to get a 36er bag for airplane travel? Perhaps plans to make one? I’m heading to the San Francisco ride in September and need some way to transport mine there.

From reading existing threads it seems like an experienced unicyclist doing serious road riding would usually choose a 36" probably with the two-speed Schlumpf geared hub, or else a 29" with the same.

But for someone just starting out, there’s a lot to get used to and sticking with a plain 29" for this fall seems like it would make the most sense - leaving time to worry about developing a confident free mount, finding a saddle plausibly comfortable that long, setting up a handle and getting used to it, etc. Also if you are not riding supported, you are going to have to think about how to carry essentials.

(If cost is no object the 29" with Schlumpf could perhaps be contemplated on a dismount-to-shift basis, but considering the hub costs several times what a basic unicycle does it’s probably still sensible to start with a plain one for your training rides)

If you were going to be at your destination for long enough for it to matter, a steel frame is going to be not only cheaper but more repairable than an aluminum one as it can be plausibly bent back to shape or welded with a stick welder. You could make similar arguments for something using a common road bike rim/tire size.

Probably the best thing you can do right now is make a quick scan of your local used market for a 29" and if you don’t find one, get a plain 29" Nimbus road with short or dual hole cranks ordered, get used to riding it, and start the quest for a saddle and handle combination that works for you.

I’d be tempted to dismount the wheel and pedals put it back in the square shipping box, or a replacement fabricated with double-layer cardboard panels from a big screen TV or refrigerator box. If you don’t want to be taking packing-tape secured cardboard through the airport, you can probably find someone to turn a canvas tarp into an overcover.

Suggestion to the OP: Save the box your 29er comes in…

Kikenji used this one: http://www.municycle.com.au/catalogue/UX-BAG-N-36_item.html?ref_cat_id=StorageTravel
It seems to be only offered at the Australia site, but you might call and ask about it. There is also this one on the UK site: http://www.unicycle.uk.com/o-some-unicycle-bag.html I’ve gotten stuff from the UK before, and the shipping wasn’t really that bad. Good luck!
(You could also just make a box for it from a bike box and check it as luggage. I’ve heard of a number of people doing this successfully.)

Sweet, I’ll order the UK one, that one looks really nice.

I had a bit of a tiff with security over the cardboard box thing. Brought my mountain uni in a box for a trip and had it nicely packed so nothing was metal to metal, everything padded, so naturally security opened it up and didn’t bother repacking it before just tossing everything in. I got it back as a box of parts with no packing, pieces were rattling, so I took it to security desk to get a witness opening the box where they impolitely explained that they aren’t liable for anything in a cardboard box, it HAS to be in a bag. Needless to say I had some words.

Well, that’s good information, I hadn’t heard that before. (But I’m not surprised.) Thanks!

For the record, it was American Airlines. Flying into Grand Rapids. This was sort of the icing on the crud cake they had already baked on the way out of Grand Rapids at the start of the trip.

I haven’t actually looked up the policies, but it may be worth a glance in the future.

Can the “bag” be a canvas or fabric cover for the box? A basic cover with a zipper and carry strap would be pretty easy to make if you have access to a sewing machine. It doesn’t have to be strong, it just needs to turn your box into a “bag”.

Thanks for the tips!

Thanks heaps for those tips, guys. Yeah, the 24-hour marathon does not have a set distance, so no pressure to do heaps of kilometres, so I reckon I’ll go with a Nimbus 29. I’m thinking either the road uni or the muni. How do people feel about a muni on bitumen? Thanks for the tips re. the handle too. That’s good to think about. Thanks a lot for the help.

The airport is one thing but also take transport from the airport to your destination into account. I did take a 36" on a bus trip once. Walking into the bus, waving to the driver saying “these are not the unicycles you are looking for” worked for me but if it gets crowded they may refuse to let you on. In that case you are in for a treat, cycling into the city with your bags in hand :astonished:

It’s all about the tire. Street tires have smoother tread patterns, and are usually narrower. Off-road tires are fat and knobby. You can ride either one on either surface, it’s just not ideal. Adjust air pressure accordingly. High pressure (what’s indicated on the sidewall) for street, low pressure for muni. The off-road tire will get worn down faster on the street. The street tire will have a hard time getting good traction on loose surfaces and negotiating rocks and ruts. There are a few multi-use tires, like the Maxxis Hookworm, that do an OK job on both, but not a fantastic job on either. Experiment to find the one you like best. (Like everything else unicycle-related, personal preferences are all over the map. Use what works best for you.)
Good luck!

If you look at the specs on unicycle.com, you can see the only difference are cranks and tires which can be easily changed. Cranks you can even change at checkout.

Nimbus muni:

Tire:Maxxis Ardent 29" x 2.4"
Crank arms:Nimbus Venture2 (black) 150mm, ISIS splined, aluminum

Nimbus road:

Tire: Schwalbe Big Apple (700c x 2.0) 29" x 2.0"
Crank arms: Qu-Ax 125mm, ISIS splined, aluminum

I bought the muni version last year because it was on sale. In the meantime I have changed exactly those two options. I put on 125mm Qu-Ax alu cranks and a lighter, slightly narrower Duro Miner. I would now call it a road / XC uni that can be converted back to a heavy duty muni in a few minutes :wink:

My advice: Buy what you think you’ll be doing / enjoying most in the future. For your event the muni as well as the road version will work fine. If you want to spend something extra, I would spend it on a premium saddle first. The comfort of the saddle will be the single most important thing for a 24 hour event.

Interesting - in the 26" category the Nimbus road and muni use different rim thicknesses, but in the 29" it seems they are both 42mm, so in theory an allen key for the bearings, pump, tire iron, and alternate tire (and perhaps tube, you’ll want one as a spare anyway) could preserve your options.

Can you get any information from the event organizers about road quality?

Unless you are expecting serious hills you probably want the 125mm cranks or shorter, or dual hole with an option in that range.

I don’t envy you trying to work up towards 24 hours saddle comfort inside of a few months… already thinking about handle bars myself for seat pressure relief with far shorter (~4 hour) goals in mind.

I ride a 29" Oracle Road LT with a Big Apple tire. It’s worked well for my 7 - 20 mile rides on paved trails and roads. I like the fact that I can switch to a muni tire if I decide to go that route.

I’ve worked my way up from 150mm cranks to 114mm. Lately I’m back to 125mm cranks while I try to tackle steeper hills.

A good saddle is a must.

Where will you be riding in Thailand? I lived there for a couple of years (many years ago). I had a bike but only rode it a few times as I didn’t really feel safe with all the traffic I had to deal with. I lived near lots of factories with trucks coming and going all the time. Thai drivers (especially buses and trucks) can be crazy. Also it was really hot. October should be nice though. I remember the Thais wearing scarves when it hit 70 degrees.

You should look into how much it will cost to take your unicycle on the plane, if that matters. Some airlines have limits and stiff baggage charges for international flights. I’m able to fit a 24" into a bag/box and still fall within the allowed dimensions. I’m not so sure the same would hold true for a 29" unicycle.

Good Luck and keep us up-to-date on your adventure.

Highly ambitious I would say…
Are you a late blooming prodigy?
I would hope so:p

I’m thinking along the same lines, UPD. I’ve been hoping that it’s something like the 24 Hours of Booty, which our own Biped is participating in right now. Basically, they provide a closed course of several km and you ride as many or as few loops as you want. You aren’t expected to actually ride for 24 hours straight. You can take breaks, stop for meals, even go back to your room for a few hours of sleep. It’s a charity event and it’s about raising money, not seeing who can suffer the most.

My guess is that his legs burn out before the saddle even becomes an issue. That sure would’ve been true for me after just a few months of unicycling. I needed to stop and let my legs recover after riding for a mile or two, and I would’ve been done for the day after not too many efforts like that.

But then again, some folks are actual prodigies, and anyway it’s probably mainly about having a good time and helping out a good cause. A 29" with a road tire sounds like a good setup. I doubt a handlebar will matter much yet. Practice going up and down hills too, a lot!

I’m not sure I agree. I’ve been riding about a month now, and had my own thread about the struggle to stop wasting so much energy in my legs and sit on the seat. But I overcame that, and so my primary complaint has moved from legs to, er, other regions. Now I’m in the camp of folks who intentionally stand on the pedals now and then to give the seat a break and an opportunity for blood flow, and am starting to get pretty interested in getting a touring handle (as well as a narrower and flatter saddle) to try to change where the pressure falls.

I just finished a not quite three hour ride doing the Central Park loop twice (around 12 miles total, so only just over 4 mph including breaks), and it was mostly saddle that was the limit (and the likely reason I won’t be going near a unicycle tomorrow). Yes, there were some hills where I had to take a break, and when fatigued free mounting can be a challenge, especially doing so in the legal direction of travel on an upslope - but I think legs that have found their business can probably go for quite a while at what is probably about a “walking” energy output for a casual jogger’s effective speed.

I don’t think the same is necessarily true of the saddle, er, “interface” - at least without special care to find the right saddle, try possible relief like a handle, and find shorts that work (the pair I’ve tried so far do not).

In effect, if the OP were proposing to do this ride as a casual bicyclist without training, people would probably just say “you’re going to be sore after that” but not question that 8-12 hours at least are possible. I don’t think the fact that a unicycle is a less efficient cadence-to-travel converter is the primary unique challenge where there is no mileage goal - rather, I think it’s that a unicycle is drastically less comfortable to sit on. Or at least it is until care is taken to find the right seat and perhaps handle for a given rider’s comfort.