The XC GUNI Bar Project
06 May 2009

The XC GUNI Bar Project

Not long after my KH36 arrived in early October 2008 I started thinking

06 May 2009

Not long after my KH36 arrived in early October 2008 I started thinking about XC handle bars for unicycles. The KH36 is so much fun to ride off road and the longer rides, higher speeds and nature of the 36″ wheel seemed ideally suited to XC style bars of some sort.  The arrival of my Schlumpf MUNI Hub a couple of months later – first built into a 29 wheel, then 36 – with its awesome bike like grinding in top gear and high speed reinforced the idea that the front bumper handle wasn’t really enough to control and enjoy the GUNI off road. A good handlebar also makes road riding more comfortable too!

Custom KH 24 GUni and 36'er

Custom KH 24 GUni and 36’er

 

GUni Bar - loving it!

GUni Bar – loving it!

 

The unicycle handle bars commercially available – the T7 Touring Handle, Coker Pi Bar and more recently the Kris Holm  T-Bar Touring Handle – are primarily made for road touring and didn’t meet my requirements for an XC handle bar:

  • Retain ability to mount brake lever under front bumper
    This is by far my favorite position for braking, which I mainly use when descending rough terrain. I prefer the control offered by gripping the front bumper and braking at the same time, with the same hand vs having a brake mounted away from the seat on the bars. Having the brake mounted under the front bumper also reduces the likelihood of damage to the brake lever assembly during UPD’s.
  • Seat base mounted, not seat post mounted
    Not all riders, especially shorter (me!) & younger riders have seat post to spare on a 36″. Most seat post mounted designs don’t cater for shorter riders, nor do many allow the brake lever to be mounted below the front bumper. Plus I prefer the look of seat mounted bars, and not many seat post mounted bars appear to be UPD friendly – it’s easy to catch body parts on bars during a crash.
  • Retain front bumper functionality
    The front bumper (or similar functionality) should remain available. Some bars interfere with use of the front bumper, some even make it completely unusable due to a central support tube running close underneath the bumper.
  • Uses standard MTB bar ends
    Bar ends (versus rigid welded tubes) allow the rider experiment with different bars, adjust position to suit themselves and also provide a weak point during heavy UPD’s, so the bar ends take the impact and bend/break vs the handle bar. The rider can always replace bar ends if they get damaged.
  • MTB Rider Position, not Road
    Just like MTB generally has a more upright position vs road biking, the bars shouldn’t extend the rider forward excessively but create an open off road riding position. As part of that the bars should also be wider apart than something like a T7 but not so much that they interfere with the rider during UPD’s.
  • Sturdy design
    The XC handle bar should be sturdy enough to survive UPD’s, which occur more often riding off road on a unicycle vs on road. The handlebar itself should be significantly stronger than the bar ends, such that the bar ends take the impact of crashing and fail first.
  • Light weight
    The handlebar should be light weight but not so much so that durability is compromised in an unacceptable way, 400-450 grams being the goal.
  • Ride & UPD friendly
    The handlebar shouldn’t interfere with natural riding style. e.g. leg rubbing. It should also be UPD friendly, able to safely pass through the rider’s legs with no sharp edges, protruding bits and pieces etc.

So like other DIY unicyclists the only option was to design and make my own, and as the months have rolled by the GUNI Bar Project has taken shape. It’s been a bit of an obsession TBH!

GUNI Bar Plans

GUNI Bar Plans

Back to the Future: History of the XC GUNI Bar

The GUNI Bar started as sketches in my work notepad in November 2008. Lots of sketches but all based around mounting the bars to front four bumper bolts.

Early in the year I finally got started on building the first GUNI Bar. Due to the design I decided to build the bar out of Alu, purchased the tube and plate and prepared the parts at home… using my wood working tools! An Aluminium workshop did the welding. They usually make off road accessories for dirt biking and 4×4 so a unicycle handlebar was well… offbeat!

The first GUNI Bar actually worked out much better than I thought it would. It sat too high which due to the angle also limited access to the faux bumper handle. The basic concept seemed to work well though – no issues hitting the bars with legs and room to use the faux front bumper handle. At less than 300 grams it was also light, too light as it turned out, requiring thick tube to mount the bar ends to.

At this stage it was also clear that a saddle with a plastic seat base wouldn’t be adequate going forward. The handlebar worked but with too much flex – comfortable in a suspension-like way but didn’t inspire confidence under load so I got to work setting up a Carbon Fibre seat base.

The Carbon Fibre seat base was an excellent upgrade – stiff and light. The GUNI Bar really came to life.

Lots of changes were made with MKII – millimetres here and there, thicker material and most of all the bend in the side ‘forks’. Compared to a T7 the forward hand positions were slightly further forward and lower, as well as being further apart, creating a less crowded riding position IMO without being extended too far forward.

After a month or so of riding, crash testing and enjoying the GUNI Bar I began working on plans for MKIII, tidying up a few details, loosing some weight, changing material thicknesses etc. I delivered the plans to the Alu fabrication shop and was just about to head away for holidays when Kris Holm announced a new saddle and stiffener plate (and T Handle Touring Bar – seat mounted!) – great timing as basing the design on a standard seat was a far better option if it was stiff enough. So the project went on hold as the GUNI Bar would most likely need to be modified for the new KH09 seat and stiffener plate.

As luck would have it Unicycle.co.nz received stock of the new seat and stiffener plate in within days of the KH announcement, and by the time I got back from holidays new saddles and stiffener plates were waiting at the post office. Thanks Tony at Unicycle.co.nz!

The MKII handle worked well with the new KH saddle and stiffener plate which was great news. The  underside of the seat had been cleaned up a lot and now offered a useful flat mounting area, and more importantly the seat and plate are stiff enough to support the bars – a lot less hassle than a Carbon Fibre seat base for sure. Some changes to the MKIII design would be needed due to altered position of the GUNI Bar when mounted on the new setup, but no worries! A few hours on the drawing board and the revised plans for the MKIII were ready.

The MKIII bar turned out great! It works better, weighs less (~415 grams), and looks better too. One downside is that the handle bar is no longer compatible with the carbon fibre seat base, and that it now requires a Kris Holm 2009 Saddle and Stiffener Plate. The upside is going forward the new KH saddle will be the standard imo.

A good bar should provide a wide variety of hand positions. On the GUNI Bar you can grip the rear cross bar with one hand and be able to brake with one or two fingers, grip either or both of the two side forks, grip the front cross bar with one hand (or fit stuff there like bell, computer, camera etc) and grip one or both of the bar ends  in various positions. The front cross bar on the GUNI Bar also provides a relatively protected place to mount accessories like bike computers, bell, lights etc.

I’ve experimented a few different bar ends and busted a few too!  The ones I like most ATM are relatively long and run perpendicular to the front cross bar then have the horns that curve in towards each other. I cut them down with a pipe cutter to fit width wise. It’s a bummer that bar ends are no longer fashionable in MTB as it limits the choices available.

It’s a relief to have the GUNI Bar out of my head and developed to a point where the main thing left to do is enjoy riding with it.

If you’re interested in getting a GUNI Bar – WOOHOO! – use the contact form to get in touch with me. If enough people are interested I can do a small run of them.

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  1. Nurse Ben May 7th, 2009 11:34AM

    Can you give us some idea as to how much one would cost? Also, I’d be interested in hearing more on your impressions of riding a 36er off road, i.e. types of terrain, your previous riding experiences, etc..

    Thanks!

    BTW, nice fab job 🙂

  2. admin May 8th, 2009 10:37PM

    Heya thanks NB!

    The cost would probably be similar to the KH Touring Bar, which is ok I think given this is genuinely LOW volume i.e a batch of 5!

    I love riding the 36 off road, either single speed or GUNI. The 36 lets you cover good distances of course, but it’s surprising the terrain you can tackle on the 36 – that big wheel just rolls over stuff.

    We’re fortunate to live on the edge of a state forest – 30 seconds out the door and I’m riding the forest – and there aren’t many suitable or appealing sealed roads nearby so almost all my riding is in the forest.

    The forest trails are a mix of everything, from dirt road, dirt track, fire tracks, single tracks (put in by dirt bike riders), animal tracks etc. It’s in foothills of the Great Dividing Range so it’s generally quite hilly, a good mix of ridges and gullies, cruising and thrills.

    The 36er is GREAT for much of forest, and is my main ride. The GUNI makes it all that more challenging. The tracks I’ve been avoiding on the 36er I’m returning to now on the 29er, love that wider rim! Some of the trails suit a 24″, but riding all the way out to them on the small wheel… I’d rather not!

    I’m slowly working on my trials skills on the 20″ too, I do that around our yard on fallen tree bits etc. So in order of most ridden off road it would be 36 GUNI, 29/36 Single Speed, 20, and last the 24 which I might end up selling.

  3. Scott Wilton June 15th, 2009 1:35PM

    I’m quite interested in buying one of these for my KH29 offroad, it is a possibility that this could happen anytime soon. Also, could you lookup shipping from Oz to USA(53703 post code)?

  4. admin June 15th, 2009 5:32PM

    heya Scott, great! It’s take a while longer for the first batch to be made. I am hoping to collect them later this week. Might also have some cool news by then about the bars generally. Will check on postage too.

  5. Scott Wilton June 16th, 2009 5:29PM

    Sweet! I can’t wait to hear. Is the price still looking like you said about $80, same as a KH Bar? Also, do you need a KH stiffener plate to go with it? If you want, you can PM (scotthue) or shoot me an email (givemecheese [at] gmail [dot] com). Thanks bunches, I’m really excited about this.

  6. admin June 19th, 2009 6:18AM

    heya Scott, unfortunately the first batch of bars were messed up apart from one which I need to keep to work the problems out. The guys are making the bars again, and hopefully won’t take anywhere near as long this time. Bummer but what can you do!

  7. Scott Wilton June 19th, 2009 7:28AM

    Yeah, too bad. I would just like to get one as soon as possible (like everyone else) =).

  8. admin June 19th, 2009 5:04PM

    Hey thanks Scott. Can’t do much about it but wait and hope they get it right this time.

  9. Scott Wilton September 19th, 2009 6:11AM

    Any progress on being able to buy on of these?

  10. admin September 21st, 2009 6:05AM

    heya Scott, working on it still. Should be some on sale within the next month.

  11. Scott Wilton September 21st, 2009 5:58PM

    Sweet, thanks for the update, I can’t wait.

  12. mark lavis (napalm) September 27th, 2009 4:03PM

    Hi lunicycle,
    I too am hooked on the 24″ guni- unfortunately my hub is making the long trip from Oz to Switzerland atm so i’m back on single speed for the next few weeks. I’ve been thinking about handle set ups for my type of riding and would like to pick your brain. For my 24″ i have two wheels- a single fixed one for really technical DH where the KH front bumper and magura on a rail adapter is optimal, and my geared wheel for more moderate, long distance off roading. What i am looking for is a handle that i can attach and remove from my seat to suit these two varied types of riding. So i guess i have some questions- is the bolt pattern to fix the handle to the seat base the same as a regular KH four bolt handle? If not, would it be possible to have a truncated handle made (where the closest handle also has fixing points for the bar ends) so the one handle can be used for both types of riding and the bar ends simply attached or removed? I unfortunately have a few weeks to think about all this before my hub gets back but i would be interested to get your feedback.
    Cheers,
    Mark

  13. admin September 28th, 2009 4:25AM

    Mark sorry to hear your geared hub is away on hols!

    My handlebar uses the same four bolts as the front bumper (and requires the KH09 saddle and stiffener plate).

    The rear cross bar of the handlebar replaces the front bumper in terms of gripping it with your hand for jumps, using the brake etc. It’s not as comfortable or versatile as the front bumper and took some getting used to but it works well enough for me.

    One challenge with adding bar end fittings to the outside of the rear cross bar would be available width and room generally. Even though the handlebar looks long/large-ish in photos, with a rider on the uni it’s a neat fit without much room to spare anywhere.

    As the bars are ATM there physically isn’t room ‘outside’ the rear cross bar for bar ends due to legs, body, hands. I wanted maximum room ‘inside’ the handlebar while leaving comfortable leg clearance. It took a fair amount of fiddling around to find an ok balance. The design would need to be changed quite a bit to create enough clearance for bar ends back there.

    (Of course this is all based on a rider my size!)

    The front cross bar position is lower and a little more forward compared to a T7, as well as quite a bit wider. I use the bar ends a lot and love that position for off road cruising and climbing. I also grip where the bar ends attach to the cross bar quite a bit. I wouldn’t want the bar end position any closer.

    If you have the two wheels, maybe just having two separate complete 24’s is the way to go vs swapping wheels etc, and then have a handlebar more suited to the GUni?

    What I have here is a spare seat/seatpost (with brake bracket) ready to go for if/when I don’t want the handlebar, only takes a minute or two to swap. Swapping out the handlebar for a front bumper could be done too, but wouldn’t be much fun after the first couple of times as it’s a bit fiddly.

    I really love my bars, they work ok and survive my crashes and I have one fitted on my 36’er too, but for sure there’s a lot of personal preference there.

    I hope something there is useful to ya.

  14. Scott Wilton November 7th, 2009 9:39AM

    Any news? It’s getting mighty close to NZ and UNICON and I was wondering if I’ll be able to get a bar before then? Also, are you going to be there?

  15. cevin November 30th, 2009 10:08AM

    again, like everyone else who has commented, i would LOVE to buy one of these i ride a KH freeride 29er and think this is perfect please email me @ CEVINB@mac.com

    the shipping would be in so cal 92592

    thx!

  16. Nick Clarke December 9th, 2009 10:15PM

    One more interested buyer here… please let me know (or just comment here) if/when you have any of these to sell.

    I’m riding a 29er muni and I think this would be a great addition! Also, it would be cool to have something custom-made on my uni.

    I’m in Wellington NZ.

  17. Alex Waters April 6th, 2010 2:21PM

    Hey there,

    mee toooo! I’d love to buy your handle bar for my 29er! I’m in Santa Cruz, CA 95062. Send me an email and let me know!

    Thanks much,
    Bright moments———–>

  18. admin April 17th, 2010 12:53AM

    Thanks Alex! It is taking some time but one way or another a few handlebars will be for sale. I’ll post to the blog when it is sorted.

  19. Alex April 30th, 2010 3:19PM

    Sounds Grrreat! I’m as down for a handlebar as I can get! Rock on!

    afreiman3208@gmail.com

  20. Travis July 17th, 2010 5:46AM

    Hi there,

    It seems a lot of us would be interested in purchasing handlebars. Any word on if or when these might actually be available? It looks like you’ve been working on getting these going for a while. Do you have any timeline for completion of them?

    Cheers, Travis

  21. admin July 17th, 2010 6:10PM

    Hi Travis, sorry yeah it has taken some time. There has been a lot going on in our lives since mid last year – the handle bars and a bunch of other stuff has had to take the back seat.

    Apart from that it’s taken a while to source the right Alu for the two cross tubes. Prior to that the cross tube the bar ends attach to was a drilled out solid bar. Even though the handlebar is already light (lighter than the KH bar, Pi Bar and T7) there’s quite a saving to be had there without loosing strength, plus it’s just the way it should be.

    I’m just about to post a handle bar up to another Alu fabricator, quite a distance away but I’m hoping he’ll be the one for the job of making a few of these, along with some improvements along the way.

    Some good news is that the strength/reliability of design seems to be ok. I’ve been using the same handle bar for a long while now, lots of crashes during that time and it’s still fine.

    So that’s where things are at, thanks for your interest and patience too.

  22. Alex Ward December 5th, 2010 8:23AM

    Please put me on the list when you sell them. Looks great.

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