Novelty Unicycles (Giraffe, Ultimate, Impossible and others)
by John Foss
This category includes any unusual cycles not covered by the other articles. It may even overlap in some areas, such as the big wheels. Let's learn a little more about some of the various novelty cycle types:
Giraffe: A unicycles with a chain drive, usually 5' tall or more. These cycles put you head and shoulders above the crowd. To the average bystander, they look more difficult and imposing than a regular unicycle but they aren't really. Just as it's easier to balance a yardstick on your hand than a pencil, a taller unicycle falls more slowly and gives you more time to react. But this is “balanced” by the psychological factor of being up there. It's scary at first! But if you think about it, even on a six-foot tall unicycle, your feet are only about 3' above the ground. That's not so bad.
Giraffe unicycles are great for performers or to fill out your “stable” of unicycle types. Learning to free-mount one (getting on without outside assistance) is a very rewarding achievement for any unicyclist. Giraffes are also great platforms for juggling. Would you believe it's much easier to juggle while idling on a giraffe? It is!
Multi-Wheeler: This is also a giraffe, sort of. But the drive train is not a chain. Instead, two or more wheels are stacked on top of each other and tire pressure provides the friction. With an odd number of wheels you go forward, but with an even number of wheels you go backward! So to ride one of those, you must learn to reverse all of your riding reflexes. For performers, putting decorations in the wheels makes it easy for your audience to see the rotating motion and understand just what you're doing up there. Multi-wheelers are popular parade vehicles due to their visual nature.
Ultimate wheel: The ultimate in simplicity. Just a wheel with pedals on it! Hard to learn and great exercise! You won't believe how much work it is to hold yourself up on bent legs with no place to sit down. There is a whole range of stunts that can be done with an ultimate wheel:
- Kick-Up Mount (Start with the unicycle laying on its side, no hands!)
- Rolling Mount (jump on while it's rolling)
- 180 Mount (jump up, turn 180 degrees in the air, land on pedals)
- 180 Reversal (While riding, jump up and turn around to land facing the opposite way. Then either continue in the same direction by pedaling backwards, or switch to riding forward, back the way you came
- Jump from one ultimate wheel to another one rolling in front of you
Big Wheel: Something with a 36” or larger wheel is a novelty in itself. Big wheels move gracefully and are beautiful to do spins on. A large-wheeled unicycle is a great addition to any show.
Tiny Wheel: How about an adult on the smallest kid's unicycle available? This can be hilarious and it looks even harder to ride than the ultimate wheel to your non-riding audience. Plus you can even let the kids use it when you're not doing shows!
Kangaroo: What do you call it when you put a unicycle together with both crank arms pointing the same way? We call it a Kangaroo. This is something you can do with any cotterless (square taper) or splined unicycle for a new riding challenge or as yet another novelty cycle in a performance. Being able to ride with one-foot helps when learning to ride the kangaroo!
Novelty Bikes: Now there's a novelty, how about two wheels on the ground at the same time? What a concept.
Penny-Farthing: Named for the size difference between the old English penny and the much smaller farthing, these are the old-school bikes with the huge front wheels. Also known as Ordinaries, the retro look of one of these bikes is only one of the cool things about it. By riding the bike on its front wheel, you are retracing the roots of the unicycle’s invention! Yes, the penny-farthing came first. They had a dangerous tendency to flip over to the front. Back in the 1970s or so, some riders figured out how to ride the front wheel only and the unicycle was born.
There are many other types of novelty cycles. The ones listed above are what we have available at the present time. Keep checking back for new additions!