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Old 2014-02-13, 08:03 PM   #1
JosephB
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New to Uni – Tips for Long-Distance Trip

Hi all,

I'm new to the community and fairly new unicycling. I learned the very basics as a teenager but didn't have a uni of my own; bought one over Christmas and have been riding regularly for the past month or so.

I'm planning a long-distance trip (4-5,000km) this spring; I'm determined to do it on a uni since it's for an important cause and I want to do something a little more 'noteworthy' than cycling or running. More on that later, but I have a few uni related questions that are increasingly urgent as my departure date approaches! Any tips and advice greatly appreciated (I feel so lucky that soliciting tips from communities like this is so easy in this day and age thanks to them interwebs!)

Questions:

I know lots of folks have done cross-country uni tours but...most of them have been unicycling for years. I feel fairly confident on the uni now but there's still major gaps in my ability; idling, hopping, long-distance w/ a hand on the seat...I'm not confident that I'll grasp these things before I leave. How foolhardy is it to set off on a long trip without them? I will be taking my time and don't anticipate lots of technical/traffic riding, but of course some is inevitable.

My ass get's sore (big surprise) to a point where I need to take a break
after two hours or so. I'm using a cheap, stock saddle on a cheap, stock 26" uni. I've been told the Kris Holm air saddle is well worth the $ and I can/will buy it (ASAP) if I must. I'm only reluctant because it's $30 more than I paid for the whole uni! And because frankly I can use every spare penny right now to make this trip happen.

The other thing I struggle with on longer-distance trips (besides traffic/lights) is just the crown of the road. Hills are no problem, but after half an hour or more of riding parallel to the slight slope of the road I get increasingly uncomfortable. It feels like I'm always crossed-up on the seat, or half-on the saddle to counteract the curve of the road. Is this something you just get used to or am I doing something wrong? I haven't found any discussion about this so I feel like I'm maybe the only one...?

Since I'm relatively new to riding and on a cheap, smaller uni I plan to carry most gear in a good ol' fashioned hiking pack with water jugs, lights and maybe some food packs strapped on the stem/beneath the seat of the uni. I'm assuming it makes sense to keep the most weight low down. Anything I should keep in mind before rigging this up, and any tips on good tools/racks to use for this?

Thanks in advance for any wise words!
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Old 2014-02-13, 08:55 PM   #2
tholub
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First, congratulations on your vision! It's an ambitious one that will put you in touch with hundreds of people you'd not have met otherwise.

Second, get a reasonable unicycle. I know you are concerned about money, but for a months-long trip, the device that has to hold your weight, the weight of all your stuff, and transport it around the country is not the place to skimp. A number of unicycle parts (like hubs, cranks, and seats) are difficult to find on the road; you don't want them to fail and find yourself stuck somewhere for days or weeks while you figure out how to replace them. We recently had a long-distance unicyclist come through the Bay Area, whose cheap Torker frame had broken at the bearing holders. He was literally holding it together with duct tape until he got somewhere that he could put in an order for a new frame, which he had to wait for.

The Nimbus 29" Road unicycle is $340. I would upgrade it to the Venture 2 cranks for a trip like yours, which would put it at about $390. You are likely to spend well more than that much catching cabs and shipping parts to yourself if you try to do a 5000km tour on a department-store uni.

I don't think anyone who does long-distance touring is using air saddles anymore; they're not comfortable even when they have air in them, and less so once they go flat. The idea of an air saddle dates back to when all of our production saddles were terrible; now we've got decent options. There are differing opinions as to whether the Nimbus Gel, the KH Fusion Freeride, or the KH Street is more comfortable. You might want to see if you can find some local unicyclists you can connect with to try out their seats before you choose one yourself.

Search for "road camber" and you'll find lots of discussion about how to deal with it. A lot has to do with the tire you're using and the pressure you're running it at. There's also a skill component, but the good tire setups make it pretty easy to deal with.

Getting your skills up to speed should be no problem; the skills you need will come along with your training. When traveling with a lot of weight, idling and hopping are quite difficult, anyway, so you may find yourself just holding on to something at stop lights, or getting off and remounting. (You do want to have good freemounting skills, as freemounting with weight is also a lot more difficult) You definitely will want to get comfortable riding with a hand on the seat or handle, because riding with weight is bad enough on your butt.

I don't think you'll find that strapping weight to the uni works as well as carrying it on your back. If you look at mountain bike seatpost racks, there are some options which can give you some carrying capacity, or if you are using a handle there are some handlebar or bike frame bags which can work. It's more important to keep weight close to your center of gravity than to keep it low; if it's low and way out in front of or behind the uni, it'll make riding difficult.

For training, I would recommend doing at least one fully-geared-up ride, at the longest single-day distance you intend to ride on your tour, at least two or three weeks before you intend to depart. That will get you a better sense of how your configuration works, and give you some ideas about how to make it better. Don't head out on the road with an untested setup.

And in any case, good luck with your adventure!
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Old 2014-02-13, 09:16 PM   #3
davejh
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Although I havent done more than day tours i can give you a couple of pointers.

Skills - dont worry about the hops. Idling is a nice skill to have but not essential. I would reccomend some road practice, quite often stops can be avoided by strategically slowing down and signalling in advance so you can get a clear line. If in doubt on a road take the car position, if more in doubt, dismount. Freemounts are essential

Saddles - Many tourers actually go the opposite way to the air saddle, towards KH street/slim or impact naiomi. This is coupled with a good pair of bike shorts to give a much better ride.

Camber - Tyre pressure and practice do most of the work. Schwalbe BAs on the nimbus road 29 work well at around 50-55psi. On the other hand mountain bike tyres are harder work as they are grippier at the edges than the middle and make the camber worse.

Racks - People have tried all sorts of ways to carry stuff. While a rucksack is ok it needs to be secured well, it will sway with you and if heavy really ruins the ride. Water bottles on the seatpost is a good plan as water is probably one of the heaviest items to carry. People have used racks that clamp on to seatposts to store bulky items like sleeping bags. If you go this way, try to find one that is tough enough to take a drop.

Unicycles - Although you havent asked i will give a little advice here. For a tour that long assuming mostly road with some occasional off road i would suggest a 29 or 36. A 36 is the best distance tourer but if you have a mechanical it would be a nightmare. With a 29, new tubes and tyres can sourced easily. Handlebars are a big plus, they allow you to take your weight off the saddle or to anchor you down for hillclimbs and also make the saddle stiffer. Bakes are a take em or leave em thing. On a KH29, Oracle or Qx fitting a disc brake is either quite easy or done for you. Other unis can be easily fitted with hydraulic rim brakes.

Last edited by davejh; 2014-02-13 at 09:22 PM.
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Old 2014-02-13, 11:18 PM   #4
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I don't road ride but if you're planning on riding 4-5000 km's I would for sure get a 36.
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Old 2014-02-14, 01:50 AM   #5
JosephB
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Thanks so much for the great advice. Glad I didn't shell out for an air seat yet; I will research the other options more thoroughly.

Also, glad I asked about the camber issue; I never would have thought to use those search terms. I do have mountain bike tires so that's probably what feels strange; I don't remember it being an issue on other unis I've ridden before.

The uni I have is a Sun 26". FWIW I'm surprised the beating it's taken (used, workhorse/practice unit with lots of drops, and the only thing I've had to replace is the quickrelease on the saddle). Having said that, I understand the argument for shelling out for a better ride. I'm reluctant to spend big $ on a uni that I might not be able to get comfortable on before I leave; Is a 36" much harder to mount than a 26"? 29" the best compromise? For the same reason I'm reluctant to try a handle although it has been suggested by some folks.
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Old 2014-02-14, 02:16 AM   #6
tholub
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JosephB View Post
Thanks so much for the great advice. Glad I didn't shell out for an air seat yet; I will research the other options more thoroughly.

Also, glad I asked about the camber issue; I never would have thought to use those search terms. I do have mountain bike tires so that's probably what feels strange; I don't remember it being an issue on other unis I've ridden before.

The uni I have is a Sun 26". FWIW I'm surprised the beating it's taken (used, workhorse/practice unit with lots of drops, and the only thing I've had to replace is the quickrelease on the saddle). Having said that, I understand the argument for shelling out for a better ride. I'm reluctant to spend big $ on a uni that I might not be able to get comfortable on before I leave; Is a 36" much harder to mount than a 26"? 29" the best compromise? For the same reason I'm reluctant to try a handle although it has been suggested by some folks.
I think a 29" is the most flexible size for touring, if you're looking to do moderate daily distances. It has more parts which can be fixed by local bike shops, and it fits inside cars and on ferries and such. But it's definitely slower. If you want to do days over 50km, it would be hard on a 29er.

Transitioning from 26 to 29 isn't hard. Transitioning to 36 is a bit harder but not too bad, except for mounting, which some people struggle with for quite a while.
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Old 2014-02-14, 03:19 AM   #7
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I agree with tholub about the flexibility of the 29. If you are comfortable free mounting your 26 the 29 shouldn't be any problem. Shorter cranks can make it a bit trickier to mount, and that may be a bigger part of the equation. I say that because it's likely that you will want shortish cranks whether you are on a 29 or 26. I don't think I would want anything longer that 125's.

As much as you are leery about holding a handle at the moment I suspect that by the time you are into your trip you will be happy you have it. So I would recommend a touring handle of some sort. It will help to take weight off of the saddle, and you will be able to go longer with it.
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Old 2014-02-14, 03:57 AM   #8
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Another +1 for going with a 29er. If something breaks on it (and it will, no matter what uni you're riding), a bike shop should be able to help you out.

Not to mention if you run into any hills on the way, the 29er is going to be easier to climb with.

I'd suggest a handle, and a thin seat.

Be safe and have fun.
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Old 2014-02-14, 07:48 AM   #9
Drillem
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Joeseph,
Can't give you much long distance/touring uni specific information. I have however rode numerous Doubles and one Triple( two and three hundred miles in one day) on a road bike. As a result I have some experience with saddle sores. My recommendation to you is to pick up several good pairs of Bib shorts for cycling and use lube very generously, and even re-apply during your ride. As soon as you are done for the day get out of the bibs ASAP and get a shower. Make sure you are good and dry before getting dressed. If your days in the saddle are long I would even change to a fresh pair of bibs mid ride. Trust me when I say nothing will take you out faster than a good saddle sore. The key is prevention. Good luck, Steve
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Old 2014-02-14, 09:14 AM   #10
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I would suggest trying to get some rack to store at least some of your stuff. Then a bungee net over it is good thing as you can quickly put something under it (e.g. a jacket you don't need anymore) or some spare food. You can read much more about racks on this forum.
Also it will be hard not to spend the money as lightweight equipment is expensive. I was able to ride with a backpack just under 10kg for two weeks in a row, but I would be cautious with packing much more. And if you are going alone (I was not, so I was lucky) you need a tent, sleeping stuff, cooking stuff, some spares, tools, medicine (I used lots of baby powder for saddle sores), some clothes for all types of weather you expect, and food and water for a bit more than you expect to find a next store (which usually take much more space than you expect).
As for uni size, 29er seems the best option, but you can do it on 26er as well. You will just cover less distance daily, so it depends on the time you have. And the slim saddle would be your best friend (with a handle preferably). But if you want to go cheap - read about saddle modifications on this forum (flattening by cooking (2nd best seat thread) and cutting the foam).

And whoa! You are crazy to take such trip as a newbie Good luck!
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Last edited by vookash; 2014-02-14 at 09:15 AM.
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Old 2014-02-14, 11:22 AM   #11
onewheeldave
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Another good reason to go for the 29-er rather than the 36-er is safety- the extra height and speed of a 36 can lead to injuries.

36-ers seem way more problematic for safety- I've seen several accounts on this board of legs broken coming off a 36-er, but can't recall any from 29-ers.

And I do speak as someone who owns both a 29-er (which is my main ride) and a 36-er (which is in a cupboard).

Given your relative inexperience, I feel that safety could be a important factor.
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