What unicycle will win Ride the Lobster

I’m interested in finding out what people think about what unicycles the winners of Ride the Lobster will be riding.

I think it’s nearly cinched that the fastest teams will be on geared wheels, and I’m curious if 29ers or 36ers are going to be faster.

Of course 36ers are geared higher, but I’m finding that it takes a bit of energy to get the cranks spinning. I’m wondering spinning a higher cadence on a 29er might be faster than mashing it out on a 36er, not to mention the lighter weight. Still, I like the stability of the bigger wheel, and I’m finding it easy to accelerate to high speed on the slightest downhill.

yeah yeah, its all about the rider, but lets assume all riders are equal and discuss what cycles are going to will this race.

Of course the results off RTL will settle a lot of arguements.

I think it’ll be won by short-cranked, non-geared 36ers, with maybe a longer crank or geared 29 for the hillier sections. Since teams are allowed to divide the race however they want, a team could set up their strongest climber and his/her choice of uni for the hilly sections, and allow the spin-meisters the flatter sections.

Sorry if this comes across as pedantic, but even if we assume all riders are equal it’s going to depend somewhat on what they’re all equal to, no? Which is to say, whether they prefer to trade off aerobic fitness and spin real fast in a lower gear vs whether they prefer to rely on their strength.

Strength-oriented riders will presumably prefer the geared 36" solution since they can spin slower. Aerobic rides I guess might prefer a higher cadence (and potentially lower bottom gear for hills) on their geared 29ers…

Have you ever ridden a geared unicycle? Please keep in mind that nearly all geared unicycles run a 1:1.5 gear ratio, which is as close to nothing in my opinion, strength matters very little, what matters mostly is how fast you can spin without falling off, even on geared unicycles. To actually have benefit of the gears it would have to be 1:3 or something like that.

Sure, that’s a valid point. I guess I’m thinking more of what you’d call a “typical rider”. Of course it’s easy to point out that it won’t be a typical team that wins. I don’t know how far into masher territory 54 gear inches is.

I think non-geared unicycles don’t stand a chance on the flats, but may be advantageous on the hills. Still, I’m assuming that people will change cycles based on the terrain of each particular segment. I think even someone who is a spinner will be faster on a geared wheel. 43.5 gear inches would be seen as a fairly low gear on a bike.

I disagree. On flat land, I cannot spin as fast on a geared 36er as I can on a standard 36er (using 150mm cranks). I’m not even sure its strength, I just feel like I can’t get enough leverage to spin fast. …this may change as I get more experience.

I think a 36er geared to 108 gear inches would be very difficult to power on anything other than a slope.

Haven’t the faster times and speeds measured on a uni been on non-geared unis?

But I agree, people may bring more than one uni each, for the different sections. Maybe bring several unis for the team to share and just different seat-posts for the different height riders.

I am a bit tired of the yes / no discussions about high gear ratio’s so let’s not go there. I think that fixed wheels will be better than schlumpfs for most of the ride.

I’m just interested in peoples experiences, regardless if they’re different from mine or not.

In general, a geared 29 will be faster for a given amount of energy output than a non-geared 36, and a geared 36 will be faster for a given amount of energy output than a geared 29, on anything except uphills; if there were easy access to all the different options, I’d expect geared 36 teams to perform noticeably better than geared 29 teams.

However, I think there are more geared 29 than geared 36 unis out there, and since people need to train on their race setup to get maximum speed out of it, it may be a geared 29 that ends up fastest.

i have a lot of experience on a coker, and less on a schlumpf 29.

on a road course hours long, there is absolutely NO chance that i could match my coker speed to my schlumpf speed

geared unicycles would have the advantage in this race, no doubt about it.

you have to picture the whole time you would ride 3+ hours, lets say, for someone on this course, on a given day.

roads are incredibly paved these days, even in nova scotia, spinning your cranks fast is all well and good…briefly.

A geared 29r who could pedal more COMFORTABLY than a Coker rider pedaling as fast on his short cranks will have the advantage. (let’s picture, for this, the same rider, equally experienced on both machines)

take into consideration all the hills, etc that one would encounter where one would downshift to tackle them, upshift at the top, then keep going.

Providing the teams have equally skilled riders on their machines. the team with 2 gear combinations will win. noo doot aboot it

First, I spoke to Darren at OUI and he said that Brian wouldn’t be a good advocate for geared hubs at all, after several high-speed-gear changes led to huge accidents. I was going to train on a 29’er geared and then switch to the geared as a training lead-up to The Lobster, but he cautioned against it, as Schlumph’s were unsafe in his estimation.

SECOND. I have run 5 full marathons, 5 half marathons and several shorter races in my career. I think that way too much emphasis is being put on the equipment used in this race and not enough on training. THIS RACE IS 800kms. That’s 500 miles in USA lingo. Each member of these teams will have to ride 100 miles. I will take 5 WELL TRAINED riders on non-geared 29’s over any combination of geared 29’s and 36’s any day.

If even one person on your team can not ride at least 30 miles a day at a reasonable pace, 5 people could beat you on 16’s

Not true. I had ONE accident, it wasn’t at high speed, and it was because the square taper crank came undone due to my poor care of it

No, can’t afford one :wink: Probably don’t need one but would love one anyhow.

True but it still comes off to the pushing slightly harder with a geared up vs spinning insanely fast on super short cranks. Maybe it’d be better categorised into “people who like spinning insanely fast” (the “aerobic” in my above comment) vs “people who like spinning a bit less insanely fast” - a 1.5x difference in maximum required cadence is quite significant but they’ll both want to be pedalling as fast as they can go.

Actually, I was really talking about the difference between people on geared 29ers or the ones on geared 36ers, rather than geared vs not. So how fast you want to spin is surely going to be one of the major differences? Thinking about it, that’s only a 43" vs 54" virtual diameter, which is a rather smaller difference in cadence to the geared / non geared case. So it’d still be a case of more or less insanity in cadence rather than strength as such…

I guess the thing that’ll be interesting (and the reason this thread was created!) is whether the geared 36ers will work well. Folks have been mostly basing gunis around 29ers - presumably for the obvious reason that it’s a more practical wheelsize in many ways. But I remember Harper once saying he thought the stability of the 36" wheel should be well suited to a guni - it seems like if you’re cranking out a long distance then the 36" guni would be better than the 29" guni for the same reasons a coker is better in the non-geared case (smooth ride, stability, etc). But not having the experience of riding either uni in a geared configuration, this is just my educated guess :slight_smile:

If short cranks and crazy-high cadence were more efficient for racing than long cranks, higher gearing and lower cadence, Tour de France riders would be running 110mm cranks, and lower gears, too. The fact that they don’t, after 100+ years of equipment refinement, says something about human physiology.

Now, the field in Ride the Lobster will be much more radically differentiated in terms of speed and strength than the Tour de France field is, so equipment will make less of a difference. Still, the top three or four teams should be fairly close, and I expect equipment to have an impact there.

Clearly, speed often comes at the expense of reduced safety. That being said, the current Schlumph hubs have been reliable.

Training really should be done on the equipment you intend to use for the race. Only people with significant GUni experience should attempt to race on them.

Of course training is paramount, my assumption is that all of the winning teams will be highly trained AND have GUnis. Training is a given and equipment plays a much larger role in unicycling than running.

I’ll have to agree with Steveyo and Dustin that the winners will probably mostly be ungeared 36s. This prediction is based upon all the recent racing and records I"m hearing about, which are predominantly on ungeared 36s. As well as my Schlumpf 36" experience in the Unicon marathon, which says that the owner of this cycle chose not to use it, and I couldn’t keep up with my starting group on it. Pedaling slower was great, but I felt way too unstable to risk going any faster than I did, and at that it was pretty stressful.

I don’t understand the people saying the gear ratios don’t make much of a difference. Sure they do. On an ungeared unicycle, your basic limitation is how fast a cadence you can maintain for a long time. A higher gear enables you to slow this down, and presumably get some more speed. “Big” gear ratios would not be useful, as it would make the unicycle too hard to ride at all, let alone fast. I felt this on the Schlumpf 36", though my experience riding it was mostly limited to the one race, and less than an hour of practice riding.

So if I may go so far as to predict something else, the winners of Ride The Lobster will win on their fitness and training, regardless of what they choose to ride. However it will also be a good venue to compare different unicycles for long distance speed.

So, how do Schlumpf 36 owners/practitioners feel about this question? Presumably most of them will be on the starting line next year. Will they be leaving their treasures ($2000+!) at home??

I think the fact that crank lengths for bikes vary between 165mm to 180mm stems more from the fact that bike manufacturers don’t like having 10 different crank lengths to produce, rather than optimising efficiency for riders. There is less than 10% difference in crank lengths, yet I’m sure Tour de France riders vary in heights by much more than that. Think Pantani vs Ullrich or suchlike. There are many more gears to choose from and probably that makes up for some of it. I’m keen to shorten the cranks on my bike to 150mm because I think with my height and short legs, I’m better off spinner at high cadence. And long cranks are hard to spin even in a low gear.

From my experience, I feel much less tired spinning a Coker with 110mm cranks for extended periods, than riding the longer 170mm cranks on my roadbike for the same amount of time, even though I always use a low gear on my roadbike. I’m sure the short cranks are much more efficient for my short legs.

As far as RTL gearing goes, you really have to think of the geared 29" Schlumpfs as a 43.5" gear, not as a two geared unicycle. In 29" mode, it is practically useless for road racing unless you go with Japanese style 50mm cranks. It is likely faster than a fixed Coker only for steep inclines (say 15% or more). Of course you could try pushing a 43.5" gear with 50mm cranks on- but it would work well only on a downhill, as there is not enough leverage to get good speed on it even on the flat. For most people though, I think if you stuck, say, 125mm cranks on a 29" Schlumpf, you’re going to be stuck in the 43.5" gear the whole time. Even if the terrain changes constantly, you’re going to lose a lot of time shifting- I estimate that you’d drop about 10 secs on a group if you had to shift. The 43.5"/125mm gear is definitely faster than say a Coker with 110mm or even 100mm cranks on the flat, but if the incline goes up to say 5%, I reckon a Coker with short cranks would be faster.

So the choice would be between 36" fixed Coker, 29" Schlumpf in high gear (ie 43.5"), and the Coker Schlumpf (36" and 54"). I’ve not had enough experience on the Coker Schlumpf to say if it is faster in high gear mode on the flat. I think if you were to ride a 54" gear, you would really only be using it on the gentle downhills or on the flat. But you would need longish cranks which kind of cancels out a lot of the advantage you had with a short cranked Coker. The fact that there were riders favouring fixed Cokers over their Coker Schlumpfs at the Unicon marathon kind of gives me the impression that you would need to be very confident in the 54" mode to make it go faster than a fixed 36" Coker/short cranks on the flat. The 54" would actually be slower on steep downhills because you’d have to really hold it back either with brakes or backpressure on long cranks so it doesnt’ kill you. Much easier and faster to spin a smaller gear and short cranks down the hill. But I guess that’s that the 36" gear is for. Of course, if it’s so steep to need a 36" gear to crank down, it’s probably so steep that you would not want to ride up the same hill in 54" mode. Oh, might as well use a 36" fixed Coker and save some weight!

If I was in a team, I would use a fixed Coker 110mm for general terrain, fixed Coker 125mm for very hilly terrain, and a Schlumpf 29"/125mm cranks in high gear for completely flat terrain.

My 2c worth.


Lance Armstrong and Greg Lemond both put huge amounts of effort into optimizing their riding position, gearing and cadence. If it was plausible that 125mm cranks (or whatever) were optimal for them, I’m sure they could have managed to get their multi-million dollar teams to make them up a set.

I don’t think shifting is the interesting part; I think riding a higher gear is the interesting part. A 43" equivalent gear will be less energy to push than a 36" equivalent gear, all else being equal. (Especially because a Schlumpf 29er is probably lighter than a Coker).

No, it means that for a given speed you have to use less energy. In a long race, that’s huge.