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Have you ever seen someone commuting to work on a unicycle and thought to yourself, “I could never do that”? You’re not alone.
Unicycling is definitely an acquired skill, but it’s not impossible. In fact, if you’re looking for a fun new way to get to work, unicycle commuting just might be the answer.
Read on for some tips on commuting by unicycle!
Can You Commute Using A Unicycle?
If it’s capable of transporting you, you can commute on it. So, yes, you can commute on a unicycle.
Unlike most bike types, however, you’re not going to just hop on a unicycle and be on your merry way to work. You must learn how to ride one, first.
Why would you even think about commuting by unicycle? Perhaps surprisingly, there are some valid reasons.
Just because you’re only riding with one wheel, it doesn’t mean you’re missing out on fitness. A unicycle gives you a somewhat different workout to a regular bike, but it still keeps you fit.
Unicycling and unicycle commuting count towards the 150 minutes of moderate exercise that are recommended for maintaining good health.
Video: High-Performance Unicycling
Core Strength & Balance
Riding an ordinary city bicycle in an upright position doesn’t do loads for your core strength. A road bike does a little more, but a unicycle does more still. On a unicycle, you’re forced to use your abdominal muscles constantly to stay balanced.
Maintaining a strong core helps to promote good posture and avoid joint and muscle injuries in day-to-day life. Exercises in core strength are often desirable for cyclists, though some forms of cycling help a little with core strength in their own right.
Video: What Happens When You Learn to Ride a Unicycle
A unicycle requires a little more focus than trundling along on two wheels, so it has the potential to hone your mental acuity.
You’ll arrive to work feeling switched on and maybe, alongside more sedentary activities like reading and doing crossword puzzles, unicycling will help you stay sharp.
Read more: The positives of commuting by bike
Make People Smile
Your apparent eccentricity or individuality as you unicycle your way into work is likely to attract attention and make a few people smile. That’s never a bad thing!
Guide To Commuting With One Wheel
Let’s assume the idea of riding to work on a unicycle has piqued your interest. How do you make this happen?
Setting The Unicycle Up
The first conundrum you’ll face after acquiring a unicycle is how to set it up. How high do you set the saddle? What tire pressure do you need?
Put your heel on the lowest pedal at the six o’clock position and set the saddle so that your leg is almost straight (i.e., with a slight bend at the knee).
As for tire pressure: tires can be very firm once you’ve learned to ride and are on the road. Typical unicycle tire pressures range from 30 to 65 PSI. Pay heed to any maximum pressure displayed on the tire.
Note: It’s wise to have the seat a little lower and tire pressure a little softer until you’ve learned to ride. Falling off a unicycle is less harsh on body parts when the saddle is not at maximum height ….
Learning To Unicycle
It takes 10 to 15 hours to learn how to ride a unicycle on average, though some people manage it in less time. Beyond that, it’s best to get in plenty of practice before you contemplate riding your unicycle into work.
You need to accomplish balance on a unicycle before you can “free mount” it. The first goal is to ride forward, after which you can learn to free mount and idle (stay upright in one spot) if you wish.
This is the process for learning how to unicycle:
- Find a wide open space with a walled perimeter (e.g., garden, car park, sports rink). Make sure you are wearing a helmet before starting. You’ll usually land on your feet when falling off, but you should allow for worse.
- Holding onto the fence or wall, try to move gradually along it by pedaling. To begin with, you’ll lose balance repeatedly and fall off the unicycle. Persevere!
- As you become more confident, move away from the wall and try to cycle unsupported. You’ll need to flail your arms around to stay balanced, which you’ll do instinctively anyway.
- Lean forwards slightly and always look ahead of you when riding—not down! Leaning forward is also safer, unintuitive though it may seem, as it’s hard to land on your feet if you tumble backwards.
- You’ve done it! Now practice riding around the block a few times before attempting a ride into work. Take inspiration from “municyclists”, who ride off-road over challenging trails on one wheel.
Video: Unicycle Commuting In Winter
How Do I Stop?
Unicycles don’t usually have brakes or a freewheel, so you stop when you stop pedaling.
A unicycle that does have a freewheel and therefore allows coasting and backpedaling will also have a brake. Some unicycles have a brake but no freewheel.
How Fast Will I Go?
You can expect to travel roughly twice as fast as you would when walking and about half as fast as would on two wheels. The precise average speed you’ll achieve depends on the size of your chosen unicycle’s wheel.
A 20” wheel is a popular choice for unicycles and is a forgiving size of wheel to learn with. However, you’ll only travel at around 5 mph with a top speed of about 8 mph. A 24” wheel is still small enough to learn on but a bit more practical for commutes.
Once you’ve gained confidence in unicycling, you can progress to a 36” wheel, which is great for commuting. You can average 11 mph on this big-wheeled unicycle, easily surpassing the speed you could walk or run to work.
What Unicycle Does The Job?
For commuting purposes, you’ll probably want a unicycle with at least a 24” wheel. That’s a good all-rounder for learning on and commuting on.
For Learning On Only
A unicycle with a small 20” wheel is great for learning on, and because unicycles are generally cheap, it won’t cost you a fortune to move onto a bigger wheel. Something like the Fun 20” Unicycle With Alloy Rim is useful for first-time riders.
Learn & Ride Short Distances
If you want a machine that you can learn and ride to work on at slightly greater speed, the Club 24″ Unicycle from Unicycle.com is a fine choice. At this size, unicycles start to transition from trick bikes to bikes you can practically move about on.
Full-Speed Dream Machines
Either 20” or 24” unicycles are great for beginners and you’ll have a lot of fun learning to ride them. When you’re ready, you can move on to a bigger wheel and faster speeds. Be prepared to get yourself noticed and make people smile!
The Nimbus Oracle 36” Unicycle is more advanced than the two bikes previously mentioned. It’ll take you a day or two to get used to the bigger wheel. Unlike most brakeless unicycles, this one has a Shimano hydraulic disc brake.
It’s not unheard of for enthusiasts to tour on 36” unicycles, so this type of machine is more than capable of getting you to and from work. And you’ll be a relative speed demon, having earned your unicycling go-faster stripes!
3 thoughts on “Unicycle Commuting? You Bet!”
Hi commute regularly on a 29 inch. That’s a common 700 C wheel. 29ers are generally considered “commuters“ if they have a road tire on them.
In general, a 36 inch is not considered a commuter. It’s much more difficult to deal with in traffic, and harder to free-mount .
Been riding in London UK for 30 years so it’s possible,not only possible but ridiculously good fun, you mentioned that people smile at you, you didn’t mention that they will also be extremely interested in the wheel & will invariably talk to you, so your experience of city life changes ,I know so many of the people in my area in East London UK due to my Unicycling.It has made life better in do many ways
Haha Martin, we love to see these cheery comments. Keep on riding!