The best bang for buck upgrade for a 36″ unicycle is to replace the heavy 36″ tube with a 29″ tube. The reduction in weight makes a significant difference in the energy required to accelerate and slow down the wheel. You will definitely notice the difference!
Fitting a 29″ tube to a 36″ wheel is cheap, easy to do and doesn’t compromise reliability if done correctly. Plus 36″ tires are so thick and heavy there’s no real need for an ultra thick tube.
So here’s the easy way to do it, no pinches, no dramas. Apart from step 1 it should all be over in a few minutes, no tools required.
1. Make a Huge Donut
Take the tube out of its box and inflate it to LARGER than the size of the 36″ wheel – that’s one huge donut. Leave the tube sit like this overnight to get it used to stretching to the larger diameter.
This is also a good time to assess the quality of your tube. Better tubes will inflate evenly apart from around the valve stem. You should be looking at an evenly inflated hoop. Poorer quality tubes can look like they’ve gone through a sausage machine, thick and thin, unevenly inflated. Fwiw I use Schwalbe tubes.
2. Powder it All Up
The next day with the tube still inflated like a giant donut, thoroughly but lightly powder up the tube and the inside of the tire using Baby Powder or similar.
Powdering the tube and tire will make it easier for both to slide around as needed later on. Tap the tire if needed to gather up and remove any excess powder.
3. Fit one side of the Tire to the Rim
Your tire is probably already on the rim, if not fit one side of the tire to the rim, pushing the sidewall of the tire against the rim wall that is away from you so there is ample room for the tube to fit in.This is easier to do now vs later.
4. Fitting the Tube
The fun part! With the tube sitting over the tire as if you are about to fit it, slowly let small amounts of air out of the tube until it’s only just slightly larger vs the rim/tire.
Start at the valve. This is really the only awkward bit as it can be a squeeze. Pay attention, the valve stem should not be at weird angle stressing the tube unnecessarily, but perpendicular to the rim. Adjust if necessary by rotating the tube in the tire – the powder makes this easy.
Fit the tube into the tire, working your way around in both directions away from the valve. As you do this, gently roll the trailing tire sidewall on using your palms. To do this easily let small amounts of air out of the tube as you work your away around with your hands – NO TOOLS! – keeping in mind the tube is still essentially the same diameter as the rim/wheel.
It all should have been quick and easy to this point. As you approach the last difficult section of tire, gently push the remainder of the tube into the tire, letting out air as needed to make it an easy process. The tube should not be bulging out of the tire at this stage but sitting neatly in the tire, filling it lightly, giving the tire a semi inflated appearance.
Work your way around the tire that is fitted to the rim squeezing (using hands) the bead on both sides into the centre of the rim, to gain some/any advantage for the final section of tire.
5. Fit final section of tire
Don’t use ANY tools. Palms ONLY. Work your way along the final section of tire to be fitted, alternating either side, small amounts at a time, rolling it into place with your palms. A new Nightrider tire can seem like a tight fit on a Stealth rim but don’t sweat it – it will roll on with a little effort.
If it feels too difficult have a break and again work your way around the tire that is fitted to the rim squeezing the bead on both sides into the centre of the rim.
After the short battle the very last section of tire usually slides into the rim without any fuss.
6. Inflate & check valve stem
With the tire fitted, inflate the tube to around a riding pressure. Check the valve stem. It shouldn’t be a weird angle. Make a note of any correction needed.
7. Deflate, correct valve stem if needed and fit wheel to unicycle.
Deflate until you hear the sidewalls come off the rim. The initial inflation/deflation/inflation gives everything a chance to settle into place. If you need to correct the valve stem angle this is the time to gently rotate the wheel around the rim – one hande on the tire, one holding the wheel.
Fit the wheel onto the unicycle. The deflated tire means you won’t need to loosen your brakes to get them out of the way of the tire – just squeeze the tire using your hand between the brake pads.
8. Inflate. Check Seating. Job Done.
Inflate the tube to your riding pressure. The tire should seat itself correctly but be sure to visually check it has seated evenly around the tire. If not, deflate as needed, adjust the tire by squeezing with your hands and re-inflate.
9. Wait and Ride
I usually let the uni sit for a period of time, just to double check the tire is good to go, and then ride!
Hope that helps!