Wheel sizes for learners

Having read the many threads and other advice on which wheel size is best for learning, there seem to be conflicting opinions.

Various advice says -

  1. The 20" is better to learn on for all.
  2. Others say, up to a certain height the 20" is best, but if your height is above X then the 24" (or larger) is best.

So, either the 20" is best for all or it really does depend on your height. Apart from perhaps looking a bit silly on a 20" if you are say 6’ 3", what are the advantages of either school of thought?

I am 5’7" and learned on a 24. I got a 20" later and found it tricky initially. If you are 6’3", I would go with a 24".

The other bit of “wisdom” that seems to have collected over the years is that, unless you’re too small for a 24", it’s not a big difference. In other words, don’t agonize over what size is good for learning–they’re all going to seem impossible at first. Don’t blame the equipment. Your wheel size choice should be based on what size wheel you would prefer to ride on once you start actually riding.

Would you say that rule would work if your goal is to 36er commute?

I’m 5’10 and I learned on a 24", purely because it was the biggest ‘cheapo’ unicycle I could find (26" and above is when the choices are limited to ‘brand name’ uni’s, which depending on your budget might be a bit too much for a first try), and I was looking to learn to ride for distance-riding as opposed to for tricks. That being said, I could ride my 29er the second I assembled it (That is, there was no ‘additional’ learning required for the larger size), so I guess wheel-size might not be TOO important for learning to ride, within reason. I’ve never tried a 36er, and think that jump might have been a bit harder from a 24"… And might be a bit too much to take in for a beginner :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m fairly certain that the comment to learn on a wheel size you plan on riding was limited to just the 20" and 24" sizes. Like if your end goal were flatland vs. muni. People have learned on larger wheels (29/36) but for the majority it’s far, far easier to learn on smaller wheels. If your goal is 36er commuting a much less discouraging path would be to buy a very cheap smaller sized wheel just to get you to the point you can ride, then move up to the 36 once you’ve learned to ride.

I don’t think you’re going to come up with a definitive easiest size to learn on for everyone. Most people have found that it’s just as easy to learn on a 20 as it is a 24 and vice versa.

The other points… Why learn on a 24 if your goal is trials or some other discipline that predominantly uses a 20? and Might as well go 24 if you have the height, the difference between a 20 and 24 isn’t likely to speed up/slow down the learning process.

Similar experience. I learned on a 24, much later got a 20, and found it very squirrely at first… but that’s only because I was accustomed to larger wheels by then. I’m sure if I started out on a 20 I wouldn’t have ever noticed.

This is impossible to answer because each person only learns once. No one here has learned on one size, unlearned how to ride, and then learned to ride another size. Klaas Bil tried to quantify the learning difference by polling riders asking their age, which size they learned on, and how long it took them to learn. It was as complete a study and analysis as could be done given the small cross section of this forum and those members who actually responded. I searched but couldn’t find it.

The positives I found of learning on a 20" Uni were:

  • they’re cheap and seem to be much more common than 24ers (basic trainers rather than something tarty).
  • you’re two inches closer to the ground when you fall. Sounds stupid and irrelevant but actually when it comes to trying to be brave and taking a risk I liked being able to almost touch the ground while still in the seat…I still do when learning new things.
    I’m mostly riding my 26er now but still revert to the 20" Uni for learning tricky new things.

I’m 183cm tall in case it’s relevant.

No, I should have clarified that in relation to the age-old 20" vs. 24" question. Though I do remember reading about someone, in the early days of Cokers, who learned to ride on one, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Not really because, as Harper says, each of us only learned to ride once. Probably very few of us had access to multiple wheel sizes to try during the process, but even if we did, it would only serve to blur the results. In my case, I (mostly) learned to ride on a 16", solid plastic tire piece of crap. But during that period, I took one ride on a 24" Schwinn. On that one, single attempt, I rode about 100 meters. That turned out to be the longest unicycle ride I would do for another 3 years or so. {In other words, don’t follow my learning path as an example!}

True. If I am inspired to do Trials or Flatland I should start with a 20", even if it’s just a cheapie. A 24" might be just as easy to learn on, but then what? Of course, same as the cheapie 20", loan it out to your friends so they can learn, of course.

Me too. I mostly rode 24" wheels in my early years, but then switched to 20" for Freestyle, in order to do a wider range of tricks. I was an “advanced” (by the standards of 1984) Freestyler then, and got super-frustrated with the 20" wheel for not behaving like its larger, heavier counterpart. Once I got used to the differences, I learned to make it cooperate and went on to win several Unicon Freestyle championships on 20" wheels.

I believe that’s what people refer to when they say 20" is the easier to learn on. This may only translate to the fact that more of the surveyed riders learned on 20" wheels. I remember also that, in the end, 20" did not have much of a margin over 24".

I would add that 24" is still an “odd” size in bike tires; there are less choices available. 20" and 26" give you an outrageous range of tires to choose from.

I have a 20" and a 24" with cotterless setup
I have 125mm and 102mm cranks.

One of the teachers at my school(physics) wants to learn to uni (says he would love to be able to use it to demonstrate ‘center of gravity’)

He is about 6’ 1-2" tall.
I’m not sure whether to lend him 20" with 125mm cranks, or 24" with 125mm cranks? (probably 'll keep 102 cranks)

And that question brings us back around to where we started. He’s tall enough that it doesn’t matter. 20" is slightly less intimidating, so if he’s “old” or non-athletic, I’d recommend the 20".

Not to discourage him, but there are much simpler ways to demonstrate center of gravity than with a unicycle. I like the old ruler vs. yardstick balancing comparison as a more simplified example…