I know we had a big discussion about the definition of XC a while ago. So, by XC, what I’m thinking of is offroad riding where covering distance quickly and elevation gain is the focus. For those of you who do this kind of riding, what kind of setup do you use?
I have a 29er with 150mm cranks and nanoraptor that I’ve taken on some trails near home, and both the uphill and downhill were brutal. I’ve taken the same trails with my 2x1 singlespeed mountain bike, so I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was. The uphill was just too steep in some parts, and I don’t know that I’d want longer cranks for my short legs. The downhill was actually felt quite scary because of all the hairpin turns and the height of being on a 29er.
So I’m starting to think a 26" wheel with a 2.1-2.3 tire would be more ideal for the climbs and descents–more manoeuvrable than a 29er and faster than the KH24 that I have for gnarly muni. Plus, 26" wheels have loads of offroad tires available. So why aren’t there many noncustom 26" munis available? Koxx is the only company I see that sells them, and they’re not really setup for XC.
I think a 29er with 150mm cranks is pretty much ideal for XC. The fear factor on descents goes away as you get more practice descending. I don’t think you’ll find that a 26x2.1 climbs any better than a 29x2.1.
Muni climbing has a lot to do with technique. Technique is more important than fitness, but fitness is a very close second.
Find a good dirt road climb and practice climbing. Practice going slow in half pedal revolutions. Practice going smoothly keeping the spin or even pedaling going as much as possible. Practice climbing while sitting on the seat. Practice climbing while standing out of the seat. Practice climbing hands free (not holding the handle). Practice climbing holding the handle. Practice.
For some trails the terrain defines what an XC muni is going to be. You can try to force a 29er on a trail that is better suited to a 24, but it’s going to be less fun and possibly slower.
A KH 24 XC and a KH 29er cover the XC muni spectrum. Pick the one that is best suited to the trail you are going to ride. Then for the buff trails you can add in a super deluxe Coker or a geared Schlumpf or the future geared KH.
If my goals were fast XC I’d have two primary munis. A KH 24 XC and a KH 29er. And the fancy Coker just because some trails are a blast on the Coker. Pick the one that is best suited for the trail I’m going to ride.
I think 29’ers make great XC MUnis but there are times when I would much prefer riding a 26" with a big tyre. Personally I think unicyclists are far too focused on 24" MUnis. They might be good for trials, but I hate using the 24" for MUni- it’s not only slow, it doesn’t roll very well because of the small diameter. Much prefer my 26".
That’s another thing I forgot to take into consideration. The difference in exertion between climbing with my KH24 and 29er is hardly noticeable because the 24" wheel rolls so poorly and has longer cranks. If only I could switch wheel sizes and cranks on the fly.
My observations at events like the California Muni Weekend is that the fast trail riders tend to float above the bumps in the terrain. If you are able to float over the terrain the rollability of the 24 XC wheel becomes less of an issue.
I wish I could ride light like that. The technique involves sort of rolling hops over bumps and depressions, but the tire doesn’t actually have to leave the ground. It just needs to get light just at the right time to float over the bump or depression.
That sort of technique would work better with a 24 XC wheel than a 29er. So in that way the 24 XC wheel would be better for trails where that is an advantage.
So riding technique when riding a 29er vs. a 24 XC would be slightly different. The 24 XC would allow for a more aggressive bump avoidance while the 29er would allow you to use the wheel size to roll over the terrain and minimize bumps.
Perhaps one of the better and faster riders, like Ben Plotkin-Swing, et al, will chime in. I’m going by my observations of faster riders and conversations with riders.
I’m not a pure XC rider, but if I was I would likely choose a KH 24 XC and a KH 29er as my primary XC unicycles. That would cover the range of XC trails that I ride. Then add the Coker in for the trails that are Cokerable.
I just used Google Earth and Google Maps to estimate the grade of road that I’ve started my rides on the past two days, and it’s about 250 feet elevation gain over 1/4 mile–around 19% grade!! I imagine that’s my problem. It really is too steep. The offroad trail is definitely less steep but is gravel-filled fireroad, and with practice I believe I can can learn to clear the trail on my 29er.
I think I’m going to be in the market for a KH29 soon.
No, no, no, the 19% is a paved road that connects to a dirt fireroad that continues for another 800 feet of elevation gain over a couple miles (I’m guessing) before hitting the ridgeline trail. Either way though, 19% is a hell of an incline.
I disagree. 29’ers tend to have skinnier tyres and lighter wheels- you need to ride even lighter over bumps or you’ll fall off or taco the rim. You don’t just roll over things because the wheel diameter is bigger. It might sound like I’m contradicting myself, but what I’m saying is that you need to ride light whatever wheel size you’ve got, but that the 29’er will roll slightly easier over obstacles.
Phlegm, it sounds like you just need to give your 29" more time so you can get comfortable on it. Of course it’s bigger, so it will not be quite as nimble as a smaller wheel. But I liked cruising my 29" on not-so-technical trails.
The big problem I had with my 29" was blowing tires. I did it twice, both in places that were very, very far from the car. Fortunately on that Downieville ride I was able to borrow a (smaller) tube and squeeze it in there! But anyway, I worry about my wheel setup. Maybe I need to change that to have a more robust ride in the future.
When we talk of 24" vs. 26", I always get bogged down in the nominal 26" size of our fatter 24" tires. To me those are all 26". Start with a 26" rim, and you can get a lighter 26" wheel, but at the cost of strength. Or you can get an even bigger 26" wheel if you put on a fat tire. I consider my Wilder with 24x3" Gazz a 26" wheel, because it is. It just happens to have a 24" rim.
But that setup is noticeably slower than my 29", which I was mostly riding with 160s on trails. Those were maybe a little long, and I think 150 would be a better size for cruising. That’s what I had on all my MUnis before I got the Wilder (140 on my old 24" street-type unis). My 29" was the perfect ride, for me, on a long and less-technical ride like the Tahoe Rim Trail. But then again, it was a mistake for Downieville, which is way too technical and really beat it up. I also rode it down Mt. Diablo (on the dirt) with 140s, which was an even bigger mistake. I had those cranks on for the ride up, but they killed my knees on the way down!
So what am I trying to offer? I guess that you have to decide between smaller/stronger and bigger/weaker first. I’d like to get a stronger 29" wheel, but I don’t think any set of equipment will match the setup I have on my Wilder for last-foreverness. The bigger your diameter, the easier you’ll cruise on the flats and downhills, but it’ll always be a bit harder going uphill, unless your smaller wheel was really heavy.