The KH Freeride 29er has already got me riding familiar trails harder and faster. I’m also trying out stuff on the 29er I wouldn’t have before, I guess due to the steamroller go anywhere feel the 29er has with the wider rim. Is it all in the mind? Who knows! The question is do I keep running 137mm cranks which are a great XC length or go back to 150mm and experiment with more confidence and control on difficult terrain.

I thought I’d give the 137’s a couple more rides before deciding either way and headed out into the forest with Lulu the dog in toe. She used to be a hardcore MUNI dog who could handle a 15km ride no worries. Maybe it’s too many beers over the summer… Doggone it, she’s slow nowadays 🙂

Lulu cooling down on the trail
Slosh-stop on the Trail

Crank length is such a fuzzy thing. It’s all simple and clear until you change crank lengths the first time, you just ride what you’ve got and progressively becoming more comfortable and skilled with that setup. But then you change crank lengths and wow, it’s like a completely different ride, a different mix of speed and control, think of the endless possibilities!

Ride the new crank length for a while and before you know it, your body memory of the old crank length is replaced, the new length feels like home. It’s amazing how readily the body and mind adjust. It’s easy to end up chasing your tail.

While a few guys in the unicycle community are obsessed with riding the shortest cranks possible, often as some measure of coolness, there’s no doubt crank length is very much a personal thing which isn’t just about the size unicycle and terrain you ride but also the size circles you naturally feel comfortable spinning… it’s got to be naturally comfortable as one thing you do endlessly on a unicycle is spin the cranks!

Heading down towards single track
Heading down towards single track on the Freeride 29er with 137’s

Spinning 137mm cranks off road feels a lot more natural to me vs 125mm but with more speed than 150mm’s without loosing too much control.  So much so that 137’s have been on my single speed 36 and 29er since late 2008. They’re also knee friendly after a long ride.

Lately though I’ve been riding 165mm cranks on my 36 GUNI and have really been enjoying it, especially in high gear. While spinning 165’s in 1:1.5 on a 36er might have a similar mathematical ‘Total Gear Ratio’ to running ~100mm cranks, the 165’s FEEL so much different – not dinky little circles like short cranks, but big slower MTB like circles that really allow you to grind in 1:1.5 and have lots of fun and control off road in 1:1 making the 36er feel light and nimble! It’s not surprising the 137’s feel dinky ATM.

The 137 cranks spin up well along the fire trails in today’s ride – far more fun to motor along with shorter cranks the 137’s remind me – but when the going got steep, rough and technical I think of the 150’s sitting in the spare parts box at home. The 137’s reply, saying just relax and you’ll be fine, which is true to an extent – I almost make it down a steep rough section I’ve never managed to clear by doing just that. Plus consider how much more ground clearance you have using 137’s vs the 150’s. Good point I thought.

Singletrack Challenge
Relax and you’ll be fine

All of which left me feeling the need to tidy up the issue. I already ride the both the GUNI and single speed 36 off road on all the trails I previously rode the 29er on, effectively making the 36er my XC machine of choice, leaving the 29er without a purpose in life, until now at least. Running 150’s with the bigger rim will make the 29er more well… a dedicated freeride machine!

Look Ma! I'm about to eat dirt
Look Ma! I’m about to eat dirt

It’s enough to make you take a self portrait while riding followed by eating dirt, so I did 🙂

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