It’s been almost 3 months since my last ride on a mountain unicycle, forgive me father! I’ve been back on a mountain bike and loving it. Doesn’t mean I won’t be doing MUni (Mountain Unicycling) any more though.
It’s not a good sign when Didj, our kelpie, starts digging his way to China in the back yard. It’s been too hot some days for a run lately and kelpies need em. The temperature was in the mid 30’s and rising, too hot for a MTB ride, but maybe a cruise along the shaded Baco trails on the big wheel — the Kris Holm 36″ uni — with the pooch would be fun.
I wondered what it would be like after not just three months off the uni, but three months on a bike. They both have a wheel and pedals in common but the brain and body wiring required to make them go is a different thing altogether.
First thing I was reminded of is how brutal and primitive uni saddles are compared to a correctly sized and shaped MTB saddles. I’ve had some problems with my under carriage in the last year and ended up getting my sit bones measured, and a Specialized Body Geometry Phenom saddle to suit. The Phenom saddle is BLISS to sit on, hour after hour, day after day. It’s been a revelation for my tired old arse. With the Phenom you know exactly where your sit bones are, exactly where they should be placed on the saddle. Saddle discomfort is a non issue. Even the Selle Italia Flite I rode with for most of 20 years on the Stumpjumper feels brutal compared to the Phenom.
Uni saddles are so wide compared to MTB saddles and put a fair amount of pressure on your undercarriage and junk. It took a while on the ride to find the sweet spot today. Obviously riding a uni regularly for years your body gets used to things like this… but yeah, it’s got me thinking about fitting an MTB saddle on my MUni like some guys do.
It took 10-15 mins to find my spin, the light smooth pedaling spin that makes unicycling fun. Initially it felt strained and heavy, especially the 360 degree nature of pedaling, i.e. your legs are always doing something actively on a uni, every revolution, 100% of the time. It’s a sweet feeling once you get your pedaling groove on a big wheel uni.
The momentum of the single big 36″ wheel is fantastic fun and combined with the angle of attack it rolls smoothly across rough terrain. It’s not something you can feel on a 24″ MUni, you can vaguely just feel it on a 29″ MUni but on a 36″ you can’t miss it. Point it down a hill for example and it wants to accelerate real bad.
A 26″ MTB can accelerate rapidly and with little effort, but it doesn’t have that big flywheel feel of the 36″ uni. I guess this is part of the 26″ vs 29″ MTB debate, and why some MTB guys are drawn to the larger wheel size. There’s always a trade off with wheel sizes though as uni guys know full well (most own 3-4 uni’s of different sizes) and just like on a 36″ wheel there’s energy required to get it spinning initially, energy required speed up and slow down, compromises with wheel strength etc.
One Wheel, Much Effort
Mountain unicycling is physically and mentally tough, tougher than MTB for sure. For a given level of fitness you can do way more on an MTB, go much further, ride for more hours compared to on a uni. That’s not to say you can’t push yourself to physical and mental limits and beyond on an MTB, of course you can. It’s more that you hit those limits much sooner on a mountain unicycle.
Flow makes up a big part of the fun of being out on a ride, flowing with the terrain, carving the trail. On an MTB flow is a natural part of the ride, love it. On a uni flow doesn’t come so easy. Smaller wheeled uni’s have little if any sense of flow, traveling so slowly along. For me it’s only been larger wheeled uni’s like the 36″ or geared uni’s that flow on the trail, where there’s sufficient speed and momentum to get the mojo flowing.
Next uni to be wheeled out when the time is right – the 24″ Kris Holm/Schlumpf 2 speed MUni. Wonder how crappy my gear shifting technique has become!