Presenting the final cut of KH36 Rollercoaster! There are quite a few changes all up, especially in the last quarter, plus an extra goodie at the end. I’ve had a lot of fun shooting and editing this and might even continue on and make it part of a longer 36’er POV movie. Hope you enjoy it.Read More
Browse a Schlumpf MUni (Mountain Unicycle) Hub thread and it’s not long before you come across a post or two discussing gear shifting techniques and concerns. Like using a brake on a unicycle, shifting gears – done by tapping axle buttons with the side of your feet while riding – sounds like a death wish on one wheel.
Just like braking though, it turns out shifting gears on the Schlumpf MUni hub is a lot of fun and not as difficult as you would assume. Like just about everything else on a unicycle I reckon it comes down to practice and how bad you want it. This is where a off roading with a smaller GUni has a major advantage – you can ride a 24 GUni like a 2 speed mountain bike during off road rides and clock up a ton of gear changes just as part of the ride, improving your technique and success rate, compared to relatively few gear shifts needed when riding on the road. On a smaller GUni your speeds in low and high gear are also a lot slower compared to something like a 36’er GUni so you can explore gearing with less risk of major UPD drama.
Apart from mojo and terrain there are of course a bunch of other things that also influence gear shifting – pedals, shoes, crank length, wheel size, etc. If after a lot of practice it’s still not coming together take a look at those things, especially shoes. IMO a high level of shoe/pedal grip is not a problem but an advantage, allowing decisive gear shifting action (rear of foot) without interrupting rhythm (front of foot). Five Ten Karvers are excellent GUni shoes with padding in the right places, for me anyway.
Sometimes before heading out on a GUni ride I trundle around cycling through a few gear shifts to get some mojo flowing and to double check the uni is right to go. I had the GoPro HD with me yesterday so took some gear shifting footage before the ride kicked off – C.R.A.P. Movie Warning! If you can’t be bothered watching it there is more bla bla below.
C.R.A.P. Gear Shifting Technique
I don’t think shifting gears on a unicycle will ever be as mindless and automatic as on bicycles, but then riding a uni isn’t as mindless either. Don’t fret, there’ll still be ample gear shifting related mishaps, UPD’s and all the other unexpected disasters unicyclists enjoy. So here are a few things that have helped me exorcise some gear shifting demons – my very own crap technique!
So enough of the CRAP, something practical.
A handlebar is close to essential on a GUni IMO. It adds a huge amount of control, acting as an extended variable lever you can use to offset the increased/variable forces both going into the pedals from you and going into your feet from the pedals in high gear, and changing back and forth between gears. The longer the lever the finer the control, the less effort, but the more awkward so it’s a compromise.
To the people who say a handlebar gets in the way during MUni I call BS. Unless you’re out on the trail doing unispins chances are the handlebar won’t get in the way and the benefits of having it on a GUni far far outweigh anything else, plus there’s the significant kickback of dramatically increased comfort on longer rides. You can haul along singletrack in high gear confident you have the leverage to handle dramas as they come along.
Where to start with a handlebar? The ideal handlebar position for each rider is going to be a little different, and slight changes here and there seem to make all the difference. For that reason I’d recommend starting with a KH Touring Bar which is ultra adjustable, and fine tuning the setup that suits you by which stage your head will probably already be full with your own dream handlebar design, without the hit and miss of positioning. There is nothing as sweet and satisfying as your own handlebar creation! 🙂
Which part of the shoe is used to shift gear? Really that depends on your own preference.
I started off using the inside edge of the sole (Five Ten Sam Hill’s). Because sole rubber is dense and narrow shifting requires ultra precise timing and just the right amount of foot action, creating a situation where you often need to prepare yourself for the shift – not always possible in the real world. Successful shifts are sweet though as the action is so positive and clean but shifting failure rate is too high for off road riding.
I also spent a fair amount of time working on shifting with my ankle which for me worked better and felt more natural but wasn’t especially comfortable over time, bones and shifter buttons probably weren’t made to whack into each other.
I was dreaming of the perfect GUni shoe, a low shoe with extra mid height padding on the inside creating a large smooth contact area for the shift button and Shazaam! along came Five Ten Karvers. Almost instantly shifting was how I wanted it to be – readily accessible while off roading where often terrain etc changes at short notice. Just awesome fun.
Other tips… hmm… Adjust the position of the shift buttons to suit yourself. I’m phobic of accidental downshifts at high speed so set the downshift button into the crank arm a little deeper than the upshift button. It’s surprising the difference a half turn or two of the button thread can make. Also, upshifts seem to be cleaner with a nice snappy shifting action, downshifts with a lighter action. Remember to ease off pedal pressure, easy to do on the flat, on downhills light braking (not leg, use a brake) can be the trick. Just like on an MTB, don’t wait until you’re grinding away heavily to change gears – shift before it gets terminal.
All this doesn’t mean there aren’t mis-shifts or UPD’s due to shifting now and then but generally as they say ‘SHIFTS HAPPEN! 😛
Bottom line: If an average joe like me can shift gears on a unicycle, anyone can.
The recent ride at Woodend got me thinking… of going back and riding more of the singletrack. The MTB trails in the Wombat Forest at Woodend are awesome for MUni, almost as if they were custom made for mountain unicycling!
With the Freeride KH29’er ready to roll I took the video camera along to record some of the fun:
Once the video camera battery went flat there wasn’t much else to do but ride for the steeper more difficult section of trail, crash many times and eat copious mud. The trail whooped my butt — by the time I got back to the van I was dripping in mud and realized my Gorillapod had fallen out during one of the UPD’s somewhere along the trail, ARGH!
Scorecard: Trail: 1 Gorillapod, Pete: Copious mud
A highlight of the many kilometres of twisty narrow single track are the numerous log obstacles that can be taken at speed.
The steeper section of singletrack traverses hillsides before dropping in and out of steep gullies and includes man made obstacles such as raised timber bridges, skinnies and jumps.
Riding the steeper singletrack loop reminded me of the benefits of staying relaxed and focused in difficult terrain, and going with the flow as much as possible. Sometimes on the trail you’ve got to remind yourself to relax.
A great MUni loop, only 4km drive off the Calder Freeway at Woodend.
With an average heart rate of ~160bpm there wasn’t much slouching around on the ride which included 20 or so express stops to shoot some video.
Five Tens, say hello to mud…
I’m already planning a return trip to Woodend to ride the final section of MTB singletrack! 🙂
With the KH 29″ Freeride ready to ride and a beautiful Autumn afternoon calling I headed out to a challenging stretch of single track in the Wombat Forest. This particular track has always felt a little beyond the combination of my skill and the standard 29’er, and is also too far from home to ride out to on the 24″ which would probably better suit sections of the trail. It seemed like an ideal place to road test the Freeride 29’er.Read More