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Freestyle Unicycles

by John Foss

Freestyle means to do skills, stunts or tricks. Not only is freestyle a well-known term in BMX bicycling, it is also the name for a competition event in unicycling. Competitions are held in Individual Freestyle, Pairs Freestyle and Group Freestyle. Other competitions where you would use a freestyle unicycle are called Standard Skill, Open –X and Club Show. If you have aspirations to be an entertainer, or already are one, you’ll want a freestyle unicycle for performing.

What makes a freestyle unicycle special?

  • Generally has a 20” wheel
  • Optimized for indoor use with a few or no metal parts that can touch the floor
  • Precision made and strong, to withstand unusual forces placed upon it
  • Usually has a fork crown designed with foot placement in mind

Why can’t I do freestyle on another type of unicycle?

You can, but a freestyle unicycle is intended specifically for this purpose and might be better suited for ease in learning new skills, strength to hold together, and floor friendliness (this will keep you on good terms with the owner of the gym).

  • Non-Freestyle unicycles are not as good for freestyle because their tires often leave marks on floors.
  • Though a trials unicycle can be a decent alternative freestyle unicycle, the long crank arms that work well for Trials can get in the way for many tricks, or the Q-factor (distance between the pedals measured from the unicycles centerline) may be too wide for good maneuverability.
  • Non-Freestyle unicycles may have unicrown or sloped forks, which are less convenient for one-footed skills.
  • Metal pedals, or pedals with teeth or spikes are something you may want to avoid when practicing new skills. If you’re riding indoors they probably are not allowed.
  • Cruising, touring and commuting unicycles with their larger wheels make some skills much harder to learn.

Why a 20-inch wheel?

20” is the generally-accepted size for most Freestylers, based on the overwhelming majority of competitors and entertainers who use this size. Smaller wheel sizes are obviously the norm for riders not large enough to fit a 20” wheel comfortably. A 24” wheel can also be used and is even used by some top performers but this is less common. Though a 24” wheel can offer an advantage for certain types of tricks, such as spins, the 20” wheel offers advantages for the vast majority of unicycling skills due to its smaller size and lighter weight.

Another advantage to the 20” wheel is that it allows you to perform the same skills in a smaller space than a larger wheel. In any given riding space, such as a small stage, you can fit more wheel turns on a 20” before running out of room than you can on anything larger.


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