What stops you going faster than a race bike?

Today I had a brief conversation with a guy who is an adicted and strong racing biker. He asked me a bit about distance unicycling, the setups we are using and the speed people are cycling.

He admitted to be quite impressed and raised the question “since it is lighter, if you could sort out the aero dynamics, from a physics point of view what stops you going faster than a race bike?”

I have my own thoughts around this, but I would be interested in your views.

Road rash!

  1. Persistant memories of RR


I have a speed limiter in my head, that kicks in at 20 km/h, regardless of the wheel size I am on. (24 to 36)
I am 41 and have kids, so I’m kinda responsible, bleeaagh. :astonished:

The only real way to answer that is to get him to learn to uni and see for himself.

Because it is ‘not’ lighter.

My 36" Schlumpf weighs over 8kg, has a stupidly heavy large diameter wheel with overbuilt tyre, overbuilt rim, and two clunky gears in a hub that you could use as a boat anchor. It rides heavier and handles more sluggish than you’d expect at 8kg…probably feels more like a 20kg mountainbike.

My road bike weighs less than 7kg, has 20gears and buttery smooth shifting, and wheels that weigh less than 2kg combined.

The unicycle rides like a tractor, the road bike rides like something made for racing.

If you could make equivalent gearing, equivalent weight and equivalent diameter wheels, I think it would be possible to go as just as fast. But more importantly, it will ride as nice as a road bike.

There are some riders getting near to and over 30mph now on unis (not me!!)… but even with a schlumph at that speed they are pedaling at 200rpm which is pretty rare in the 2 wheel world.

Also when riding a uni you are constantly making micro corrections for the balance, trying to do these at race bike speeds would be pretty tough!!

You can only go half as fast with one wheel. Cars have even more wheels and that’s why they’re faster than bikes.

Ok… so the theory is the more wheels the fast you go??? now I understand why the made a 6 wheel formula 1 car in the 1970’s :slight_smile:

…and why a 747 has 18 wheels.

try a kilocycle if you want ruthless velocity.

A race bike isn’t a a freewheel

Track bikes, while fixed, are still geared higher than the highest available gear on the market (1:1.5).

I would be curious to see if a track rider with a 1:1 gear ratio would be a bit more similar to uni speeds. The other issues mentioned play into this equation (balance, weight of uni, etc.) but I think the gearing is probably the main issue.

Now admittedly I’m not that experienced a uni rider, but my son can certainly go faster on his single speed bike which has almost identical gearing to the uni I often ride with him. A couple of factors here - he can pedal fast without having to bother about the interaction between pedalling and balance, and he also doesn’t have the issue with starting to fall forwards when you’re already pedalling as fast as you can.

And why inline skates are faster than cars (watch from 1:15… :sunglasses: ):

Less stability reduces potential leverage and increases fall risk.

Upright position increases wind resistance.

Minimal gearability.

What I’m curious about is why people even care about comparing unicycles to bikes? Do you also compare bikes to cars? Where does walking/running fit in?

Unicycles are not a sensible form of transportation, many times I could go faster and further on my feet than on a unicycle, but running and hiking is no where near as fun and “energizing” as riding a unicycle :smiley:

Instead of comparing unicycles to bikes on biking terms such as speed, efficiency, distance traveled, we should be comparing bikes to unicycles on unicycling terms such as fun, fitness, and thrill.

Unicycling wins hands down!!

Thanks! Lot’s of good reasons. I would add that race bikes have click pedals, while … I know, some unicyclists do use them as well, but …

Looking at the reasons I feel it being even more extraordenary how fast the experts are on unicycles.

Because they know bikes and try to better understand unicycles, which I feel is perfectly legitim. Comparisons help to better understand limitations and opportunities for improvements.

Sure I do! For example I compare fuel consumptions! But in general the similarities are much less than between two muscle or engine driven vehicles.

In the past I used my bikes a lot, but since I started unicycling they became almost totally obsolete. Therefore I also considered getting totally rid of my bikes, which was then also going into a comparison.

For me they are! I see even the advantage that I can more easily combine the usage of a unicycle with public transportation, than I could do with a bike - just to give you another sensible comparison. :wink:

However, I fully buy into


So could I on pretty much any of my muni rides, however when I ride my road 29er I do consistently go faster than I could run (at least for the amount of effort expended - I can run at 18-20km/h depending on the distance, but that’s full on race pace). That makes it a sensible form of transportation in my mind - if bicycles didn’t exist it would be the most efficient form of human powered transportation to cover that distance, and I do use it to get from one place to another. What’s more I often use my 26er muni for transportation over shorter distances - it’s easier to jump on and off than the 29er, faster than walking, a lot less effort than running, and a lot less trouble than a bicycle when I get to my destination (easier to find somewhere to put it, and I don’t feel the need for a lock to stop somebody riding off on it).

Which is a fair point - I can also already after less than a year do stuff I can’t on a bicycle, like hopping up and down things.

What stops you going faster than a race bike?


For over four years I have been riding unicycles, averaging three rides per week, and even though I can easilly outride my wife when she is on a bike, she still says: “unicycling is silly”.

Some people just can’t be reasoned with :stuck_out_tongue:

That must have been a traction thing–to hold higher speeds in the curves. Extra wheels means more road friction.

Yeah, they go faster than, uh, 18-wheelers!

Sounds like some sort of electric vehicle.

A butterfly isn’t a popsicle.

The bicyclists are afraid we’re going to sneak up and pass them someday. But I don’t want to go as fast as a unicycle as I could on a bike. Because on a bike I’m far, far less likely to eat it at high speed. Bikes are definitely safer once you get beyond running speed. And they’re more efficient. Doesn’t make them better than unicycles though.