There are many different types of unicycles. Here we explain the different types and their special features.
Trial / Street / Flat
The term Muni is the abbreviation for Mountain Unicycle, i.e. off-road unicycle. In the two-wheel sector, this would be comparable to a mountain bike. Municycle is a different spelling, here the unicycle is spelled out and only the "M" for Mountain is abbreviated. The term muni alone doesn't mean much to an outsider. With Municycle, on the other hand, it is immediately clear that it is about a unicycle.
Anyone who only has dirt roads and easy single trails in mind will not miss a brake so quickly. But if you want to go downhill well, a brake helps immensely. As soon as you have learned how to use the brakes, you can let them slide when driving downhill and thus relieve your legs. The ride is also much smoother. Without a brake, your feet must create counter-pressure on the pedals. This only works in a certain position of the pedals. So the drive can only be decelerated alternately right and left every half turn. It's constant driving and stopping. With a brake that continuously decelerates, the ride becomes smoother and smoother.
Rim brakes are more suitable for occasional brake users. They are sturdy and easy to adjust. However, the braking performance depends heavily on the surface of the rim and the weather conditions (rain, snow and sandy soil). With disc brakes, these weather conditions are almost imperceptible. The braking power is always there. On the other hand, the disc can bend in the event of a fall (this rarely happens) and sometimes it is not easy to adjust the brake without dragging.
Downhill riders with long descents should consider that the constant dragging of the brakes generates a lot of heat, which has to be dissipated. This is not a problem for bikers as they tend to brake short and hard. Some standard disc brakes are overwhelmed and lose braking power. More powerful brakes such as the Shimano XT should be used here.
The length of the cranks depends on many factors. Driver's strength, condition and ability, brakes yes or no, route (flat dirt road versus steep slope with roots and rocks), size of the bike. Munis usually come from the manufacturer with a crank length for all cases. If you don't know which crank length is right for you, leave it as it is. With more experience you will later know what length you want to ride.
Shorter cranks mean more speed (your feet only have to make a smaller circle and you can pedal faster) and the riding becomes smoother and more fluid. On the other hand, you don't have as much control over the bike and the shorter lever means you need more power for braking (if you don't have a brake installed) and going uphill.
Wheel size does not depend on rider size! Of course, small riders can only ride bikes of any size within the limits of their leg length. The larger the wheel, the faster it can be driven because more distance is covered with each revolution. On the other hand, small bikes are more manoeuvrable and agile.
Larger wheels are therefore preferred in munisport (XC, downhill, etc.). In the leisure sector, where the journey is the goal, the wheel size is purely a matter of taste.
In the Muni range, there are wheel sizes between 24 inches and 29 inches. Smaller (i.e. 20 inch, these unicycles can be found in the "Trial" category) are really only ridden by children who are still too small for 24 inch unicycles. At 29 inches speaks more of cross unicycles than munis.
Munis has tires from 2.35 inches (entry-level Muni) to 4.8 inches (Fat-Muni). Since there is no suspension on unicycles (wouldn't make sense given the constantly fluctuating seat height), the tire is the only means of cushioning. Most Munis come from the manufacturer with a 3.0 inch tire, which is also a good choice. Thinner tires mean less suspension. Thicker tires feel spongy and sluggish. Tires have a major impact on the driving characteristics of Munis. Diameter, profile, material in combination with the rim width influence the feeling for the wheel and the ground.
The fork is one of the most important parts of a freestyle unicycle. The fork bridge is particularly important here. It should give your feet good footing and support for standup tricks. Opinions differ as to whether the base should be flat or ovalized. The fact that the foot is not always in the same position speaks for an oval shape. If the foot tilts forward (e.g. to stop the tire with the sole of the foot at the same time), no hard edge presses through the thin sole of the shoe.
Freestyle forks are usually available in a longneck version. The seat tube, into which the seat post is inserted, is then very long. Ideally, the tube goes just below the saddle. Thus, compared to a fork with a short seat tube, the clamp "wanders" directly under the saddle. That looks good, but above all the clamp is not in the way and you don't get stuck on it. These longneck forks come in a variety of lengths (or can be customized) and should be ordered to match the inseam.
If pair and group freestyle are run, one should choose silver or chrome for a uniform image.
Aluminum forks are lighter and stiffer and therefore have a more direct feel.
Here, an indoor tire should be chosen that does not leave black stripes on indoor floors. Either a colored tire or (especially when pair and group freestyle are run) a white tire. No tread as the tire should roll easily and smoothly. The tire must be hard to inflate, so it should be able to withstand at least 4 bar (preferably more) air pressure.
The saddle should be hard and flat, telling the rider what the rest of the bike is doing.
Whether grip or not is a matter of taste. But you should keep in mind that a grip lengthens the saddle (more or less depending on the model) and you get caught on the front of the saddle when doing certain tricks.
Very short cranks are used in freestyle. Typically 75mm to 102mm. For beginners also 114mm. With short cranks, the feet do not have to make as large a circle as with longer cranks, so the movements of the feet and legs are less. Driving looks smoother and more elegant. Spins are easier to perform. However, starting and stopping the unicycle becomes more difficult and requires more strength. Here it is important to find the right compromise. It should be 89mm for most people.
The pedals should not offer too much grip. In this way, the position of the foot can be changed quickly and without much additional movement on the pedal. Only plastic pedals are used here.
In hockey, 20 inch (like freestyle unicycles) and 24 inch unicycles are used. 24" wheels can be ridden faster (more distance traveled per crank revolution), but are not as manoeuvrable as 20" wheels.
Shorter cranks (around 100mm) are often used in order to be able to pedal faster. However, shorter cranks also require more responsiveness and more power to start and stop. Here it is important to find the right compromise.
Indoor tires should be chosen that do not leave black stripes on indoor floors. Either a colored or white tire. No tread as the tire should roll easily and smoothly. The tire must be hard to inflate, so it should be able to withstand at least 4 bar (preferably more) air pressure.
The connection between the axle and the crank is heavily stressed by the frequent hard starts and stops. Here you should choose a stable multi-tooth system such as ISIS or Q-Axle. Crank and crank clamping screws should be tightened regularly!
Racing unicycles are mostly used for competitions and for competition training.
Here it is important that the regulations of the IUF are observed:
Maximum size (smaller is allowed - larger is not allowed) of the fully inflated tire:
For 20" unicycles: 41.6cm (20.333")
For 24" unicycles: 61.8cm (24.333")
Minimum crank length (longer is allowed - shorter is not allowed):
For 20 inch unicycles: 100mm (4")
For 24 inch unicycles: 125mm (5")
Two rim sizes are used for 24-inch wheels:
24 inch - ETRTO (i.e. rim diameter): 406mm
26 inch - ETRTO (i.e. rim diameter): 559mm
Since the diameter of the rim has no meaning in the regulations, but only the actual outer diameter of the wheel, 26-inch rims are also used in the "24-inch" class. However, the remaining space between the rim (559mm) and the permitted maximum (618mm) is very small and only very thin/narrow tires can be used: 26 x 1.0 inches or ETRTO: 23-559. Bigger tires overshoot the mark.
With 24 inch rims (ETRTO: 406mm) thicker tires are used to get to the maximum diameter. This goes well up to about 24 x 2.0 inches (50-507) or a bit thicker, depending on the tire.
Effect of crank length:
The shorter the cranks, the faster you can ride because the feet have to make a smaller circle per revolution. This means you can pedal faster = more speed. Therefore, you should aim for the minimum of 125mm here.
Steel cranks are only available in 127mm. Aluminum cranks, on the other hand, are also available in 125mm.
Effect of tire diameter:
The larger the wheel, the more distance is covered per revolution of the cranks = more speed. Therefore, the maximum of 61.8cm should be aimed for.
Advantages of the two rim sizes:
24 inch rim: more robust, better suspension, rides more smoothly even with less practice:
26 inch rim: Lighter, more agile, less rolling resistance:
You should not store a racing unicycle with fully inflated tires. This could expand over time and grow beyond the maximum diameter. You should also not leave the bike fully inflated in the sun. The tire could burst from the heat with a loud bang.
The smaller the distance between the bearings, the closer together the pedals are and snaking movements when riding are reduced. Rolling movements increase the distance covered by a meter or two and should be reduced to a minimum.
However, if the distance between the bearings is too small, the lateral rigidity of the impeller decreases. It becomes softer and more unstable.
92mm bearing spacing is ideal. 100mm are also widely used.
The saddle can also be hard. The harder the saddle, the more binding you feel on your unicycle. You will also be able to ride more effectively on a hard saddle.
If one-leg races are also to be completed with the unicycle, a square fork to put one foot down is important, unless the fork has extra resting areas for the feet.
Aluminum forks are stiffer and lighter than steel forks.
In general, only plastic pedals are allowed in unicycle races. These must also not have any metal pins. The Myiata Cross pedals, which are available in black and white, are very popular with German drivers. These offer a lot of grip with little weight.
Trial / Street / Flat
Definition/explanation of these disciplines (excerpt from the IUF rules).
The goal in unicycle trials is to ride over obstacles without touching them with any part of your body (e.g. putting your foot down or holding on with your hand). Only tires, rims, spokes, crank arms, pedals or bearing shells may touch the ground and obstacles.
Trial Video (Unicon 18)
At street events, a course made up of ramps, railings, steps and platforms is set up, on which tricks are shown, similar to skateboarding. The drivers are judged on their ability and creativity in the processes and combinations presented.
Street Video (Unicon 17)
In flatland competitions, riders compete on a flat surface with no obstacles or props. Music and costumes are not taken into account in the scoring; the focus is on the areas of originality and creativity.
Flat Video (Unicon 18)
Unicycles for these three disciplines are very similar and differ only in details. With a few exceptions, 20-inch trials unicycles are used here. In addition to their special stability, these are characterized by the particularly thick tires, which have their origins in bike trials. The weight of the unicycle should be as small as possible so that it can react spontaneously to the movements of the rider and so that as little mass as possible has to be moved when jumping. However, the stability must not suffer from the weight, as many parts of the unicycle are heavily loaded.
The rim is a bit smaller than on normal 20 inch unicycles (normal diameter 406mm, on trial / street / flat unicycles only 387mm). The tires are made specifically for these smaller rims and come in 2.5", 2.6" or 2.7" widths. When buying a spare tyre, always pay attention to the ETRTO specification: 67-387 means that the tire fits this 387mm rim. A tire that says 50-406 is for 406mm rims and will not fit!
The thick tires also require wide rims from 40mm wide.
A flat saddle is preferred here. It should be easy to hold from all sides (not just the front of the handle).
Special cranks (e.g. QX BlackZeroQ Knobbed) or crank accessories such as the Rollo-Discs from Kris Holm simplify "crank-roll" tricks in the flat.
Cranks and hubs are heavily loaded in these disciplines. Therefore, stability is paramount here. Square axles are no longer to be found. Stable ISIS or Q-Axle axles are mandatory.
The length of the cranks is usually between 125mm and 140mm. In the flat area, possibly also a little shorter.
Very grippy pedals are used in the trial in order to have a good foothold. In the flat/street area, the pedals have less grip in order to be able to move your feet quickly on the pedals and to be able to quickly release them from the pedals. Very stable pedals are required in trials so that they can survive hard pedal grabs (here a pedal is landed on the obstacle).
The larger the impeller, the faster and smoother it can be driven. Smaller bikes are more twitchy and the distance traveled per crank revolution is less. Therefore, large wheels in 29 inches, 32 inches and 36 inches are preferable. Bigger bikes are slower. Starting, braking and cornering require more physical exertion and strength.
Saddle tastes vary greatly. A soft saddle is not necessarily the more comfortable one. We have received a wide variety of feedback. One uses a very flat and hard saddle, which was actually developed for trials and tricks. The other pads an already soft saddle with additional foam.
We cannot make a recommendation here without running the risk of being wrong.
When touring, you want to be particularly easy to roll along. Therefore, slick tires (without profile) or tires with only a light profile are an advantage. Whether you drive this with a lot or little air pressure is a matter of taste. Highly inflated tires roll easier and offer better puncture protection, but they also bounce less and the ride can get very hard and rough.
When touring, brakes are usually only used to relieve the legs downhill. Large wheels like 32 inches and especially 36 inches are very sluggish. Here a brake helps to stop the wheel faster. But braking on the flat should be done with great caution as the unicycle will quickly tip forward and cause a fall.
Rim brakes (Magura brakes) are robust and easy to adjust. However, the braking performance depends heavily on the surface of the rim and the weather conditions (rain, snow and sandy soil). With disc brakes, these weather conditions are almost imperceptible. The braking power is always there. On the other hand, the disc can bend in the event of a fall (this rarely happens) and sometimes it is not easy to adjust the brake without dragging.
Touring handles are a useful accessory, especially for touring unicycles. By applying light pressure to the grip, the rider can push the front of the saddle down, relieving the pressure. When riding uphill, a touring handle can be pulled more effectively than a normal saddle grip, so you can put a lot of pressure on the pedal. The long lever of the touring handle also gives the rider greater control over the unicycle. Sudden tipping forward with small obstacles and bumps can be counteracted quickly and easily.
The good adjustability of the handle is important here in order to get the maximum comfort.
In addition to all these unicycles for the individual categories, there are also very special unicycles: high unicycles/giraffes, Twice, Trice, Ultimate Wheel, Impossible Wheel, Freewheel and unicycles for slow riding.
Many of these unicycles are more difficult to ride than normal unicycles, and the risk of accidents is higher. Protective clothing such as a helmet and gloves is therefore always advisable.
Riding a giraffe is just like riding a normal unicycle, you just have to have the courage. It looks impressive and is a lot of fun due to the height. Only the ascent and descent is a bit tricky.
Video "Mounting a giraffe"
Two-Wheeler / Twice
A Twice is something very special. It is also particularly difficult to drive!
The cranks turn the upper wheel, which drives the lower wheel. This reverses the running direction! If you step forward, the Twice moves backwards. In order to drive forward normally, you have to pedal backwards. So far still ok. But any compensatory pedaling movement to get balance is also reversed. The automatic reflex will kick in the wrong direction and you will fall. It's practice, practice, practice...
Tire pressure: The bottom wheel, which brings the entire weight of the unicycle and rider to the ground, is inflated hard. The upper wheel is inflated very softly. If a Twice is difficult to pedal, it may be due to too much air pressure in the upper wheel.
Video with a Twice
Three-Wheeler / Trice
A trice is a normal unicycle with two more wheels underneath. With the cranks you turn the top wheel. This drives the middle wheel and this in turn drives the bottom wheel. A Trice can be ridden like a normal high unicycle without a chain. You step forward and then (in contrast to the Twice) drive forward. everything is normal It's a bit harder to step on because of the resistance of the tires, which drive each other.
Tire pressure: The bottom wheel, which brings the entire weight of the unicycle and rider to the ground, is inflated hard. The two upper wheels are inflated very softly. If a Trice is very difficult to pedal, it may be due to too much air pressure in the two upper wheels.
Video with a Trice
Ultimate Wheels are unicycles without a fork/saddle. You drive standing up. The bike keeps trying to tip over. This tipping is prevented on a normal unicycle by the saddle clamped between the legs. To prevent tipping, the load on both pedals must be equal at all times on an Ultimate Wheel.
In principle, you can also remove the fork from a normal unicycle and you have an Ultimate Wheel. The advantage of special Ultimate Wheels is that the pedals are much closer together. The lever that tilts the wheel to the side is significantly smaller. Ultimate Wheels are therefore not as sensitive to uneven pressure on the pedals and therefore do not tip over as quickly.
The larger the Ultimate Wheel, the easier it is to drive. 20 inch Ultimate Wheels are one of the harder sizes to ride. 28 inches is the easiest. The golden middle is the most popular: 24 inches.
Video with a Ultimate Wheel
Take a bicycle front wheel and mount a footplate on the right and left. An Impossible Wheel is ready.
An Impossible Wheel is already very far away from the technology of a normal unicycle. There is no drive. You roll either with momentum or downhill. You just have to balance (forward/backward) by shifting your upper body weight. Both foot plates must be loaded as evenly as possible so that the bike does not tip to the side.
Often seen ascent: Let the Impossible Wheel roll away with momentum, sprint and jump up afterwards.
Video with a Impossible Wheel
A Freewheel unicycle has a hub with a freewheel, just like on a bicycle. If you step forward, the wheel turns with you. If you step backwards, you have a freewheel. You can let yourself roll without pedaling. BUT you can't make compensatory pedal movements backwards if you lose your balance forwards. You just have to balance (forward/backward) by shifting your upper body weight. Difficult! It is therefore recommended to always equip unicycles with a freewheel hub with a brake. In addition to shifting the weight of the upper body, the brake can also be used to restore balance (like doing a wheelie on a bicycle).
Video with a Freewheel Einrad
Unicycle for slow race
The "slow driving" discipline is about driving as slowly as possible on a 10m long and 15cm wide (up to 10 years 30cm) bike. However, the wheel must always be in rotary motion. Whoever takes the longest wins.
Here a normal 20 inch unicycle is used very often. However, a wheel that is as small as possible, which covers the smallest distance per wheel revolution, is optimal. For this you take a 12 inch unicycle with a long seat post to be able to sit normally on the saddle.