With the frame compatibility problems sorted out it was finally time to assemble the KH29 GUNI!
I’d slowly been upgrading my 2007 KH29 – Magura brakes, seat post, brake bracket and Trail Mix pedals – so as things turned out with the addition of the new 2008 frame the GUNI was more or less 08 spec.
A significant change for me was in the tire department. The Panaracer Rampage has been an excellent tire over the wetter winter months – its open tread perfect for the damp forest terrain – but for Summer I’ve fitted a Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.4 which has an tighter hardpack tread pattern, and is amazingly light, over 100gr lighter than the Rampage. It’s turned out to a mean looking GUNI!
Installation of the geared hub/wheel was no problem. I followed Florian’s guide, and used a torque wrench to tighten bolts accordingly. The 35-40ftlbs on the crank bolts certainly seemed like a huge amount of tension! I was extra careful not to damage the shifter shafts or the shifter buttons. The hub certainly seems to shift gear smoothly and the shifter buttons have a nice springy feel to them.
I fitted 137mm cranks to the GUNI as it’s the length I run and enjoy on both my KH36 and KH29 for off roading for sometime now. I didn’t really want to run longer cranks than 137’s in the 1:1 gear, but I wasn’t sure if they would be ok in 1:1.5 gear – I couldn’t imagine jumping on a 43″ wheel for the first time with 137mm cranks fitted!
So enough of the blabla… how about the first GUNI ride, and first impressions?!
When I first hopped on I immediately noticed the play back and forth in the pedals – not much in reality but unicycles being what they are, any small change that differs from what you are used to really stands out. It was a little disconcerting at first as it doesn’t feel as reliable and rigid as a standard uni setup.
After riding the KH36 off road I started to find the KH29 a little too light in how it ‘feels’. The weight of the Schlumpf hub makes the KH29 feel more grounded off road (which I like) and being in the centre of the wheel the weight of the hub has very little effect on the spin.
I headed down to the local reserve/park that includes a smooth flat stretch of dirt road, ideal for coming to terms with shifting and trying out the 1:1.5 gear. I found the answer to the 137 cranks soon enough – while I could ride in 1:1.5 the 137’s were too ambitious to begin with, especially as I wanted to get straight into the forest on the GUNI not spend days/weeks on flatter/smoother tracks. Mounting and riding off in 1:1.5 gear was very tricky, but my second attempt to shift gears from 1:1 – 1:1.5 was succesful, very cool!
On returning home I swapped the 137 cranks for 125/150’s with the pedals set in the 150 holes, being careful again not to damage the shifter shafts during the process. Using an ISIS crank puller is essential. Swapping cranks with the geared hub was no drama though, and refitting the shifter buttons only takes a couple of minutes.
Later in the day I headed out again on the GUNI. What a huge difference 13mm in crank length can make. Swapping to the 150’s was a good move. The extra leverage made a world of difference in 1:1.5. I cruised down to and around the reserve in 1:1.5 over varied terrain, working on keeping it smooth and getting a feel for this new big virtual wheel, which has a huge amount of power once out of your control. You really do feel like you’re motoring along, with your legs hardly spinning and the road zipping by underneath you.
It was time to get stuck into learning to shift. I had wondered how long this would take, I expected it could take a long time. My aim is to be able to shift up and down the two gears as the off road terrain requires.
What an absolute blast! By the end of the afternoon’s ride I could shift up and shift down reliably and cleanly almost every time. If not, very few resulted in UPD’s, usually just a shift on the next revolution of the pedals. It’s such a great feeling!
The main gear shifting problem for me to solve was how to reach the shifter buttons with the foot doing the shifting. It soon became clear that to make a gear shift ocur I had to reposition the shifting foot further back on the pedal which placed my ankle directly beside the shifter button. A inward slight twist of the foot at the right time combined with a slight easing of pedal pressure and voila! Clean, fast gear shifting. I couldn’t believe I was doing it, riding along changing gears back and forth.
So in short my first impressions of the 29″ GUNI is WAHOO!
Installing the a geared wheel and changing gears isn’t as a big a deal as some unicycle forums lead you to believe, which is a relief.
But the main thing is the speed. The extra speed on the GUNI is crazy. I came very close to riding straight into a tree on a favourite stretch of single track. The big gear makes me want to go fast, means I can go fast, but I need to also learn the skills to control the uni off road at those speeds. It’s going to take some discipline!
It’s also food for thought. I’ve wondered if 1:1-1:1.5 is too big a jump, especially for off roading. Might something around 1:1-1:1.3 be more practical, so you could have a 24″/29″ combo instead of a 24″/36″, a 29″/36″ combo instead of a 29″/43″…. don’t know, I guess I’ll find out more.
1:1.5 with longer cranks than I usually use certainly did feel good today, and I can imagine it will only feel better as the days go on.
I think starting off with a 29″ GUNI was the right choice for me.