Choosing a Unicycle Based on Interest and Intended Use

Choosing a Unicycle Based on Interest and Intended Use

06/22/21

Fans of the one-wheeler are committed. Learning to ride, and becoming proficient in the sport, are both very difficult. Like any other sport, it’s really a lifelong pursuit, and as athletes, we’re never finished learning. Like so many other things, it’s about the journey.

But, if you’re new to this sport, then you’re quickly going to become aware of the fact that, despite being united by the fact that they all have a single wheel, unicycles are highly varied in design. There are many different styles of specialized unicycles here on our site, and many riders who get serious about riding don’t just own one, because one unicycle just can’t do it all.

Still, starting out, it can be intimidating telling the difference between all of these different types of unicycles, and which one will be best for you. Luckily, beginners can usually start, obviously, at the beginning. The rest comes after.

Beginners

So you’re interested in learning how to ride a unicycle. Starting with a unicycle that’s well designed for beginner riders is probably a good way to get started, as some of these are more forgiving and easier to control.

Unicycles that make a good choice for beginners are usually unspecialized models, and many of them are not suitable for jumping or hard use. For example, many of our smaller Club cycles are suitable for beginners, especially young learners (these are not recommended for individuals over 140 pounds) and children.

Learning to ride a unicycle is a challenge, and it comes with its share of unplanned dismounts and other mishaps, but as they say, you have to get back up and get in the saddle in order to keep trying. It’s a lot easier to do that when your equipment is conducive to your resolve.

Generally, these beginner cycles have smaller wheels, which some riders find easier to control, start and stop because they carry less rotational momentum. This also makes them fairly agile, compared to unicycles with larger wheels.

Consult the collection of beginners’ unicycles on our website and feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about any of them. You’ll also find a number of freestyle unicycles in that collection, which are suitable for some learners as well as adults.

Freestyle Riders

Freestyle unicycling is a form of extreme unicycling that is typically conducted indoors or in a course. Oftentimes, freestyle riders perform tricks, set to a track of music. In addition to unicycles marketed as beginner cycles, freestyle unicycles are very popular among learners.

They usually have fairly small wheels which are easy to control, making them highly maneuverable. Freestyle unicycles have tire sizes ranging from as small as 12 inches to as large as 24, with 20-inch tire sizes probably listing as the most common.

Freestyle unicycles often have smoother tires or very modest treads which makes them more suitable for trick riding. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for freestyle unicycles to have square crowns, which gives the rider a place to rest a foot or a hand when performing tricks.

While beginner freestyle cycles tend to have longer cranks (which helps with control) more advanced freestyle cycles may have shorter cranksets, which are harder to control, but in the hands (feet) of an experienced freestyle rider, will enable greater agility.

You can find many suitable freestyle one-wheelers in our collection of beginner unicycles, but we have a separate collection of purpose-designed freestyle unicycles on our site as well.

Trials Riding

Trial riding is a very challenging sport that involves riding, jumping over or navigating difficult obstacles, such as stairs, low walls, rails, benches and tables. Because trials unicycles get ridden so roughly, they’re characterized by a few traits that enable them to shoulder such hard use.

One way to identify a trials unicycle is by its wide tires. Trials cycles typically have very wide, tough tires (sometimes up to 3 inches in width) that help to soften and absorb the impact from jumping over obstacles and landing. The wide tire also helps to improve traction on uneven or angled surfaces, making these unicycles more suitable for navigating tough terrain, a feature they share in common with mountain unicycles.

All of our trials unicycles have 19-inch wheels, and many of them have very tough, reinforced rims that, like the wide tires, help to absorb the force of impact. For example, our Impact Athmos trials unicycles have strong, doublewall aluminum rims.

Because they’re subjected to great deals of force, trials unicycles typically come with ISIS cranks and hubs, which are much stronger and more durable than square taper cranks, and less likely to deform under pressure.

These features, and others, make some trials unicycles more suitable for this style of riding than many other unicycles - you can learn more about the specific models we offer on the page via the previous link.

Road and Commuting

Commuting unicyclists are after one general goal - to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Sometimes touring unicyclists have the intent to accomplish the goal of covering a trail or crossing a certain area of the country, but the general purpose of commuter cycles is to get from point A to point B.

For this reason, commuter unicycles, also called road unicycles, can usually be distinguished by one central feature: the size of the wheel. It would be downright frustrating to crank to work on a 20-inch unicycle, but there are unicycles sized for the job.

Many road or commuter unicycles have tires in excess of 27 inches, like 29 inch, 32 inch and even the largest 36-inch unicycles. An experienced rider with a 36-inch unicycle might even be able to top 20 miles per hour, with 32-inch unicycles topping out a few miles per hour behind that - but not much

The large tire sizes of these unicycles make a higher top speed possible, and carry a lot of rotational momentum, making it easier to maintain a cruising speed once it has been reached. However, because they are larger and typically have shorter cranks for better control, they are usually not suitable for inexperienced riders. Learn on a smaller unicycle, and then graduate to a commuter one-wheeler.

Muni Riding

Muni riding is short for mountain unicycle riding, and like the other disciplines covered here, is typified by specialized equipment. As you can imagine, if you have never ridden a mountain trail, these can be extremely tough on cycles, and mountain unicycles are typically very tough.

They typically have tires that range in size from 24 to 29 inches and have very wide tires with noticeably aggressive treads. Both of these features serve to absorb the force of impacts and jumps while increasing a unicycle’s traction. It is not uncommon for mountain unicycles, like freestyle unicycles, to have very tough rims. They also usually have stout, durable frames.

Mountain unicycles also usually have longer cranksets, which gives the rider greater leverage throughout the rotation and can be a benefit when trying to maintain control downhill or to conquer a slope when going uphill. While you can find mountain unicycles with square taper cranks, the heavier, more durable models usually have splined cranks, like ISIS cranks.

Stunt Riding: Giraffe Unicycles

For stunt riders and those who are looking to impress a congregation, a giraffe unicycle is tops. If you don’t recognize them by name, you certainly will by description. They’re (usually) tall unicycles - so tall, in fact, that a rider’s legs wouldn’t be able to reach the pedals if they were connected directly to the hub. More specifically, a giraffe unicycle is one with a wheel that is actuated by a chain drive.

It’s actually been said that giraffe unicycles can be easier to control than other unicycles, despite the fact that the rider sits higher off the ground. With that said, giraffe unicycles still require some practiced talent to master, and they’re not for beginners, as falls can be dangerous.

Giraffe unicycles are tops for experienced unicyclists looking for ways to further expand their skill set, and without a doubt, a rider in the saddle of a giraffe unicycle will be sure to draw and impress a crowd.

What about the Size?

Regardless of what unicycle you’d like to learn how to ride next, not all unicycles will be suitable for your specific dimensions. Since most unicycles are, unlike bicycles, not powered by a chain drive, you must sit directly over the wheel in order to reach the pedals which are directly attached through the cranksets to the hub. Therefore, your individual dimensions will limit the size of the tire you can realistically use.

Despite the fact that many adults find that they can start with a 20 or 24-inch unicycle, the size that is actually appropriate will vary according to the rider’s inseam length. This can easily be measured with a book and the help of another person.

In order to measure your inseam length, get a book and squeeze it high up between your legs tightly, as if to simulate sitting on the saddle of a unicycle. Then, measure from the floor up to the top of the book. This will give you your inseam length and will help you choose an appropriately sized unicycle. One note - make sure you do this while wearing shoes like those in which you will make a habit of riding.

You can learn more about the minimum inseam size for any given unicycle on the product page, but there is one more way to adjust the height of the unicycle, by cutting off the bottom of the seatpost so that the height can be adjusted in the future.

Cutting Down the Seatpost

Cutting off a unicycle’s seatpost will make it easier for you to adjust the height downward, especially if the seatpost is too long for you to begin with. There are two main ways to cut down the post - with a hacksaw or with a pipe cutter.

To cut down your seatpost with a hacksaw, first measure the amount you need to cut off and make a mark that encircles the seat post. The use of a guide is suggested but not required in order to keep the course of the saw true through the seatpost. When you’re done cutting through it, round off any sharp edges with a file to keep the seatpost from cutting anything or hanging up.

To cut your seatpost down with a pipe cutter, measure and mark the seatpost, and then tighten the blade of the cutter to your mark. Clamp it down before rotating the seatpost, and then tighten it slightly every revolution until you have cleared the metal.

You can also use a seatpost clamp for the purposes of making height adjustments, but be sure that you get the right size if you intend to replace the one that came with your unicycle!

What Type of Seatpost Clamp Do I Need?

At Unicycle.com, we sell three sizes of seatpost clamps in two basic configurations. We have a 24.5mm seatpost clamp (available in a quick-release configuration), 28.6mm seatpost clamps available in bolted and quick release configurations, and 31.8 seatpost clamps, also available in bolted and quick-release seatpost clamp configurations.

You can see on any given product page just what size of seatpost clamp is necessary for a given unicycle, generally being either a 28.5mm or 31.8 seatpost clamps, but be aware that the clamps themselves have specific requirements. It is important to note that many 28.5mm clamps fit 25.4mm seat posts, and 31.8 seatpost clamps fit 27.2mm seatposts.

Again, you can check the product page for the specifications of the unicycle model in question, if you want to replace your seatpost, but you can also ask us for answers to more specific questions.

Need Help? Have More Questions? Call Us!

Whether you’re looking for some recommendations for your next unicycle or you’d like our help determining an appropriate size and fittings for your first one wheeler, we’re here to help. Call us at 678-494-4962 and let us know how we can help. We would be glad to do so.