Who built and rode the first "Big Wheel?"

I realised the other day when looking at an old photo taken when I was age 15 that it might have been me! Yes, there were bigger ones built starting a decade or so later (for those later examples see http://www.unicycling.com/garage/bigwheel.htm ) but I really want to know if anyone in the world of Big Wheel unicycling can prove they built one earlier than 1968 - the date on my photo?

Mine is a 40" diameter wheel with a no-air rubber rim that my father and I made from a cast-off Amish buggy wheel - and I learned to free-mount it to start. It was quite heavy, actually, but I loved that I could really get up some speed and momentum. And no one ever thought of wearing a helmet in those days! Luckily I always landed on my feet if I came off. (I still have it stored in my brother’s barn near the old home place, though it should probably go into someone’s museum.)

So, here I am with my three younger brothers, taking off from home near Bremen Indiana, after deciding one day to ride together the whole four miles to school after we had all learned to ride our home-built unicycles – just to see if we could do it without stopping. There was a hill going up into Bremen near the end which took its toll, as I recall, so I had to take a break there, but we all made it in one piece. We did it again a time or two later until the novelty wore off.

I currently live in Australia and still ride a Big Wheel at the ripe age of 60, but it’s a fine custom-built model built by a skilled fellow who sold it to me just before he left northern Indiana to go work at Unicycle.com - I brought it over with me on the plane when I came over to work here five years ago. I also keep a 20" model in my office to help me get around more quickly sometimes between the various buildings on our large campus at the Canberra Hospital - and to have a bit of fun with the kids on the paediatric and adolescent wards. (I’m the manager of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care Department, but when dressed as a clown my character is “Clair de L’uni” !)


That is very cool!!!

Check this out. I think it was the first coker unicycle with an air tire.

Great post. Love the old pic and story. Made me smile. That’s what unicycling is all about.

I’m afraid you would have to go back to the 1870s to find the first big wheels/unicycles. All the unicycles had big wheels in those days. Somewhere floating around on these forums is a photo from an 1886 unicycle race (in Germany, I think) with at least six guys lined up to go. They have what look like penny-farthing front ends; unicycles with handlebars and not necessarily any seats.

Entertainers were building all sorts of sizes and shapes of purpose-built unicycles by the 1890s. Ultimate wheels, you name it.

Bill Jenack, the founder of the Unicycling Society of America, also had an Amish wagon wheel unicycle (46" or so). That sucker was heavy! I think he got it in the 70s though. Not sure of the date.

I was hoping someone would chime in with the specifics, but I always thought Unicycles came about by people realising if they leaned forward enough on their Penny’s they could ride it without the back wheel (And subsequently removed the back end), so nice one! :smiley: I’d be interested to see the Penny-Farthing wheel Uni’s, they sound terrifying :astonished: