A unicycle is a vehicle that touches the ground with only one wheel.
The most common variation has a frame with a saddle, and has a
pedal-driven direct drive. A two speed hub is commercially available
for faster uncycling. Unicycling is practiced professionally in
circuses, by street performers, in festivals, and as a hobby.
Unicycles have also been used to create new sports such as unicycle
hockey. In recent years, unicycles have also been used in mountain
unicycling, an activity similar to mountain biking or trials.
2 Unicycles compared to other pedal powered vehicles
4 Types of unicycles
4.1 Freestyle unicycles
4.2 Trials unicycles
4.3 Mountain unicycles ("Munis")
4.4 Touring/Commuter unicycles
4.5 Other variations
5 Training aids
6 Riding styles
Unicycle team sports
8 Notable unicyclists
8.1 Known as unicyclists
8.2 Known in other fields
UNICON and regional championships
12 See also
14 External links
"If I only had a Continental bicycle tire." Advertising poster for
Continental tires showing a hobo on a unicycle with his dog running
beside (c. 1900).
US patents for single-wheeled 'velocipedes' were published in 1869 by
Frederick Myers and in 1881 by Battista Scuri.
Unicycle design has developed since the Penny Farthing and later the
advent of the first unicycle into many variations including: the
seatless unicycle ("ultimate wheel") and the tall ("giraffe")
unicycle. During the late 1980s some extreme sportsmen took an
interest in the unicycle and modified unicycles to enable them to
engage in off-road or mountain unicycling, trials unicycling and
Unicycles compared to other pedal powered vehicles
Bicycles, tricycles and quadracycles share (with minor variations)
several basic parts including wheels, pedals, cranks, forks, and the
saddle with unicycles. Without a rider, unicycles lack stability –
however, a proficient unicyclist is usually more stable than a
similarly proficient rider on a bicycle as the wheel is not
constrained by the linear axis of a frame. Unicycles usually, but not
always, lack brakes, gears, and the ability to freewheel.
A unicycle hub
Unicycles have a few key parts:
The wheel (which includes the tire, tube, rim, spokes, hub and axle)
The cranks (which attach the pedals to the wheel hub)
The hub (connects the spokes to a central point and also transfers
pedaling power to the wheel)
Saddle (the seat of the unicycle)
The wheel is usually similar to a bicycle wheel with a special hub
designed so the axle is a fixed part of the hub. This means the
rotation of the cranks directly controls the rotation of the wheel
(called direct drive). The frame sits on top of the axle bearings,
while the cranks attach to the ends of the axle, and the seatpost
slides into the frame to allow the saddle to be height adjusted.
Types of unicycles
Types of unicycle include:
Mountain unicycles (also called Munis)
Each type has various combinations of frame strength, wheel diameter,
and crank length.
Generally used for flatland skills and freestyle routines, freestyle
unicycles typically have a relatively high seatpost, a narrow saddle,
and a squared fork (used for one-footed tricks). These unicycles are
used similarly to flatland bicycles.
Wheel size is usually 20 inches
(510 mm), but smaller riders may use 16-or-12-inch (410 or
300 mm) unicycles. Some people prefer 24-inch (610 mm)
Designed for unicycle trials, these unicycles are stronger than
standard unicycles in order to withstand the stresses caused by
jumping, dropping, and supporting the weight of the unicycle and rider
on components such as the pedals and cranks. Many trials unicycles
also have wide, 19- or 20-inch (510 mm) knobby tires to absorb
some of the impact on drops.
Mountain unicycles ("Munis")
Muni with disk brake
Mountain unicycling (abbreviated to muni) consists of riding
specialized unicycles on mountain bike trails or otherwise
off-roading. Mountain unicycles have thicker, wider tires for shock
absorption. Many riders choose to use long cranks to increase power
when riding up hills and over rough terrain. A disk brake is sometimes
used for descents, the brake handle is attached to the underside of
the handle on the front of the saddle
36" unicycle with Schlumpf-gear
Used for long distances, these unicycles are specially made to cover
distances. They have a large wheel diameter, between 26 and 36 in., so
more distance is covered in less pedal rotation. A 36" unicycle made
Coker Tire company started the big wheel trend. Some
variations on the traditional touring unicycle include the Schlumpf
"GUni" (geared unicycle), which uses a two-speed internal fixed-geared
hub. Larger direct-drive wheels tend to have shorter cranks to allow
for easier cadence and more speed. Geared wheels, with an effective
diameter larger than the wheel itself, tend to use longer cranks to
increase torque as they are not required to achieve such high cadences
as direct-drive wheels, but demand greater force per pedal stroke. A
36" Commuter unicycle was used by Bob Mueller to complete a
cross-country unicycle trek from Cape Elizabeth, ME to Westport, WA on
August 8, 2011.
Giraffe, a chain-driven unicycle. use of a chain or multiple wheels in
a gear-like configuration can make the unicycle much taller than
standard unicycles (note that multi-wheel unicycles can be described
as giraffes). Standard unicycles don't have a chain, which limits
the seat height based on how long the rider's legs are, because there
the crank is attached directly to the wheel axle. Giraffe unicycles
can range in heights from 3 feet to over 10 feet high.
Geared unicycle , or GUni, a unicycle whose wheel rotates faster than
the pedal cadence. They are used for distance riding and racing.
Multi-wheeled unicycle, a unicycle with more than one wheel, stacked
on top of each other so that only one wheel touches the ground
(nicknamed stacks). The wheels are linked together by chains or direct
contact with each other. These unicycles can also be called
Kangaroo unicycle, a unicycle that has both the cranks facing in the
same direction. They are so named due to the hopping motion of the
rider's legs, supposedly resembling the jumping of a kangaroo.
Eccentric unicycle, a unicycle that has the hub off-center in the
wheel. Putting an eccentric wheel on a kangaroo unicycle can make
riding easier, and the rider's motion appear more kangaroo-like.
Ultimate wheel, a unicycle with no frame or seat, just a wheel and
Impossible wheel, or BC wheel, a wheel with pegs or metal plates
connected to the axle for the rider to stand on. These wheels are for
coasting and jumping. A purist form of unicycle, without cranks.
Monocycle, or monowheel, a large wheel inside which the rider sits (as
in a hamster wheel), either motorized or pedal-powered. The greater
gyroscopic properties and lower center of mass make it easier to
balance than a normal unicycle but less maneuverable.
Self-balancing unicycle, a computer-controlled, motor-driven,
Freewheeling unicycle, a unicycle in which the hub has a freewheel
mechanism, allowing the rider, to coast or move forward without
pedaling, as a common bicycle does. These unicycles almost always have
brakes because they cannot stop the way traditional unicycles do. The
brake lever is generally mounted in the bottom of the saddle. These
unicycles also cannot go backwards.
Other variations include:
Suicycle, a unicycle with no seat, the rider standing on the pedals
which are located at the end of the vertical shaft
Training aids are sometimes used to make it easier to become
comfortable with riding a unicycle. One method for training is using a
spotter to make riding easier. Another method is finding a narrow
hallway that can be used to help alleviate left and right balancing
while allowing a beginner to focus on forward and backward balance.
Equally, riding back and forth between two chairs, faced back to back,
whilst holding on to the chair backs allows the user to gauge how to
appropriately position oneself before setting off. Using props such as
sticks or ski poles is generally discouraged as they hinder balance
and create dependence. A fall onto props could also cause serious
Jess Riegel grinds a rail, a street unicycling skill
Commuting-style riding on a 36er at the Five Boro Bike Tour
Traditionally, unicycling has been seen as a circus skill which has
been performed at events to entertain the public in the circus or
during parades, carnivals or street festivals. Recent developments in
the strength and durability of bicycle (and consequently unicycle)
parts have given rise to many new activities including trials
unicycling and mountain unicycling. Unicycling is arguably now as much
a competitive sport and recreational pursuit as an entertainment
The principal types of unicycling are:
Perhaps the oldest form of unicycling, traditional freestyle riding is
based on performance. Freestyle tricks and moves are derived from
different ways of riding the unicycle, and linking these moves
together into one long flowing line that is aesthetically pleasing.
Competitions look very similar to figure skating
Along with freestyle it is a performance style of unicycling. Often
employed by clowns and other circus skills performers. Comedy
unicycling exaggerates the perceived difficulty of riding a unicycle
to create a comedic performance.
Trials unicycling is specifically aimed at negotiating obstacles.
Analogous to trials bike riding.
Street unicycling as a style involves riders using a combination of
objects found in urbanized settings (such as ledges, handrails, and
stairs) to perform a wide variety of tricks. Many tricks are similar
to those performed in other extreme sports, such as
Off-road or mountain unicycling (abbreviated to 'MUni')
Muni is riding on rough terrain and has developed as a form of
unicycling in recent years.
Touring or commuting
This style concentrates on distance riding. With a 29-or-36-inch (740
or 910 mm) wheel cruising speeds of 10 to 15 mph
(24 km/h) or more can easily be reached.
As of 2009[update] This style of unicycling is similar to freestyle in
that various tricks and movements are performed on flat ground.
Flatland, however, does not have the performance element of freestyle,
but instead has tricks that are similar to those in
Unicycle team sports
Unicycling is also performed as a team sport.
Unicycle basketball uses a regulation basketball on a regular
basketball court with the same rules, e.g., one must dribble the ball
while riding. There are a number of rules that are particular to
unicycle basketball as well, e.g., a player must be mounted on the
unicycle when in-bounding the ball.
Unicycle basketball is usually
played using 24 inches (610 mm) or smaller unicycles, and using
plastic pedals, both to preserve the court and the players' shins. In
North America, regular unicycle basketball games are organized in
Berkeley, San Luis Obispo, Detroit, Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Toronto.
Switzerland, France, Germany and Puerto Rico are all field teams. The
Puerto Rico All Star Unicycling Basketball Team has been one of the
dominant teams and has won several world championships.
Unicycle hockey follows rules basically similar to ice hockey or
inline hockey, using a tennis ball and ice-hockey sticks. Play is
mostly non-contact. The sport has active leagues in Germany,
Switzerland and the UK and international tournaments held at least
bi-annually. Tournaments in the UK are held by various teams across
the country usually in sports halls, but occasionally outside. Each
tournament lasts a day and around 8 teams normally compete in a
round-robin league with the winner being whoever has the most points.
If two teams have the same number of points the winner can be decided
by goal difference or a penalty shoot-out.
Unicycle handball uses a handball-sized ball. The teams aim to throw
it into a vertical hoop placed about 6 feet (1.8 m) above the
ground. It has been played in the Polish village of
the late 1970s
Known as unicyclists
Kris Holm and George Peck, pioneers in mountain unicycling
Rudy Horn, a German juggler
Ernest Montego, a German juggler
Jiang Yan Jing, Chinese acrobat
Lucky Diamond Rich, a tattooed performance artist
Michael Goudeau, an American juggler
Amy Shields, an American freestyle unicyclist
Edward Pratt, A British unicycler attempting to be the first to
circumnavigate the earth by unicycle
Known in other fields
Adam Carolla, American comedian and actor
Rupert Grint, actor who played
Ronald Weasley in the Harry Potter
Formula One racing driver
Formula One racing driver
Eddie Izzard, comedian and actor
Leslie Mann, American actress who performed on The Ellen DeGeneres
Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay
Demetri Martin, American comedian and actor
Ulrich Mühe, late German actor, best known for his role in The Lives
Michael Nesmith, former guitarist of The Monkees
Miles Plumlee, American professional basketball player
Formula One racing driver
Donald Rumsfeld, former United States Secretary of Defense
Claude Shannon, founder of information theory
Take That members Mark Owen, Jason Orange, and
Howard Donald unicycled
for the circus-based video for their song "Said It All"
Andrew Tosh, son of Peter and also a Jamaican reggae musician
Peter Tosh: Jamaican reggae musician from The Wailers (1963-1974
Steve Young, former
National Football League
National Football League quarterback
Ilya Zhitomirskiy: Russian-American software developer and
UNICON and regional championships
Start of the 100 km race at the
UNICON 16 in Brixen 2012
APUC are regular international unicycling
UNICON (International Unicycling Convention), sanctioned
by the International Unicycling Federation, comprises all major
unicycling disciplines and is a major event on the international
unicycling calendar. Events include: artistic (group, pairs,
individual, standard skill, open-X), track racing (100 metres, 400
metres, 800 metres, 30 metres walk the wheel, 50 metres one-foot), 10
kilometres, marathon (42.195 km), muni (cross-country, uphill,
downhill, North Shore downhill), trials, basketball and hockey.
Eurocycle (EUROpean uniCYCLE meeting) is a similar convention but
based in Europe.
APUC, the Asia Pacific Unicycling Championships, are held biannually,
alternately with Unicon. The first APUC, in 2007, was in Singapore.
Subsequently, the event has been held in Hong Kong (2009), Seoul
(2011), Canberra (2013), and Singapore (2015).
Unicycle Race 2013
The world's first multi-stage unicycle race, Ride the Lobster, took
Nova Scotia in June 2008. Some 35 teams from 14 countries
competed over a total distance of 800 km. Each team consisted
of a maximum of 3 riders and 1 support person.
Unicross, or unicycle cyclocross is an emerging race format in which
unicycles race over a cyclocross course.
Unicycle makers include:
Kris Holm Unicycles
Bicycle and motorcycle dynamics
^ "US 87355 A". March 2, 1869. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
^ "US 242161 A". May 31, 1881. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
^ ""To Coker" is a verb with one wheel and tire on it!". Retrieved
^ "Oakland man completes cross-country unicycle trek". Kennebec
Journal & Morning Sentinel. 2011-08-20. Retrieved
^ Foss, John. "Multi Wheeled Unicycles". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
^ Holm, Kris; Schlumpf. "Schlumpf Geared
Unicycle Hub". Retrieved
^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-04-17.
^ Wiley, Jack (1973). The unicycle book. Pennsylvania: Stackpole
Books. ISBN 0-8117-0416-5.
^ How it started in
^ Pictures of handball played by former and current members of
Chrzelice unicycle team
^ Pratt, Edward. "World
Unicycle Tour, About". World
Retrieved 19 March 2018.
^ Cable, Simon. "British teenager bids to become first person to
travel around world on a UNICYCLE". Daily Mail. Retrieved 19 March
^ "Wendy's Shameless Surprise Stunt: The King Charles Unicycle
Troupe". The Wendy Williams Show. November 11, 2011.
^ "Built to Amaze: King Charles Troupe". Ringling Brothers &
Barnes & Bailey. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
^ "King Charles Troupe:
Unicycle Basketball Troupe". Blue Moon Talen.
Retrieved 29 September 2013.
^ "April 26 "Lisa Tolliver Show" features Ray Aydelott, Joe Franklin
and David Reid". Lisa Tolliver Show. April 24, 2006.
^ 'Dancing With The Stars Eliminates Adam Carolla'
^ ohne Autor (15 July 2009): 9 Fun Facts about Rupert Grint! Extra TV
(retrieved 16 November 2015)
Mika Häkkinen bio'
^ a b
Lewis Hamilton relishing reunion with old unicycle rival Nico
Rosberg, Guardian, 15 March 2013
^ 'Eddie Izzard'
^ Stephanie Palumbo (September 2012). How
Leslie Mann Lives Her Best
Life. The star of the new animated film ParaNorman talks about her
love of unicycles, her kids, and all things supernatural. O, The Oprah
Magazine (retrieved 17 November 2014)
Chris Martin Rides Unicycles'
^ Eric Spitznagel (7 April 2011).
Demetri Martin on Twitter Battles,
Kurt Vonnegut Asterisks, and
Unicycle Regret. Vanity Fair online
(retrieved 16 November 2014)
^ Paul Cambra (7 February 2013). Jess Riegel makes documentary about
Unicycle World Championships. 'Unicon 16 Brixen' available at three
Auburn bike shops.
Auburn Journal (retrieved 16 November 2014)
Miles Plumlee Rides a
Unicycle at Duke basketball game'
Donald Rumsfeld On A Unicycle'
Claude Shannon obituary' Archived 2012-10-22 at the Wayback
Unicycle (BBC)' on YouTube
^ a b Babylon By Bike Don Snowden (7 April 1988). Andrew Tosh
Shoulders Reggae Legacy.
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times (retrieved 16 November
^ 'Hope You Like Jamming Too (Review of
Peter Tosh biography)
^ 'Quarterback always called right plays'
^ Paul Vitello (15 November 2011).
Ilya Zhitomirskiy Dies at 22;
Co-Founded Social Network.
New York Times
New York Times (retrieved 16 November 2014)
^ International Unicycling Federation
Ride the Lobster
Ride the Lobster Archived 2008-07-26 at the Wayback Machine.
Wikibooks has more on the topic of: Unicycle
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Unicycles.
International Unicycling Federation
History of the bicycle
History of cycling infrastructure
Utility and slow
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Bicycle poverty reduction
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Bike Week (
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27.5 Mountain bike
Downhill mountain biking
Enduro (mountain biking)
Flat bar road bike
Glossary of cycling
Small wheel bicycle
Rowing (fixed seat)
Hand and foot power
Rowing (sliding seat)
Snow and ice
Alpine touring skis
Fatbiking (biking in snow with bikes with wide tires)
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