View Full Version : Custom Unicycles - Why?

August 21st 03, 07:42 PM
I don't build unicycles and don't know jack about it.

However, many of you do and I'm starting this thread out of curiosity. I
don't expect a trend or consensus to emerge, but think it would be
interesting to hear what you all have to say on the matter.

For those of you who spend hours, in some cases countless, is it the
resulting unicycle, the process itself, or a combination of the two that
is the motivating force?

And just for the heck of it, here are some specific questions:

1) What's the longest amount of time and/or most money you ever spent on
a custom job that was a complete flop? What general principles or
specific facts did you learn from the experience?

2) Ditto 1, but for a machine that proved near or exactly what you'd
hoped for?

3) Was your first attempt at a custom unicycle motivated by a specific
need or the general desire to tinker?

4) What do your spouse, partner, significant other, children, parents,
guardian, etc have to say on the matter?

Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ

JJuggle - Last of the Dogmato-Revisionists

And the locusts sang, it gave me a chill.
Yeah, the locusts sang such a sweet melody.
And the locusts sang in a high whining trill.
And the locusts sang and they was sanging for me.
JJuggle's Profile: http://www.unicyclist.com/profile/24
View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/27308

August 21st 03, 08:09 PM
I know slightly more about building custom unicycles, having built one.
Obviously, I know less than most unicycling enthusiasts, but here's my
take on the whole thing.
The reason I like building my own unicycle is that I know that I'm going
to have it just the way I like it. Let's say I like the Miyata seat but
I don't like the handle. I can put a Reeder handle on it instead. Or
maybe I like the Kris Holm frame, but I don't like the wheelset. Why
not put a different wheelset on it? It's nice to pick and choose what
you like, and not just what someone else tells you is good. It's like
being at a salad bar. Instead of being handed a salad, you get to pick
what kind of lettuce, what toppings, and what dressing sounds good to
you. And it's nice knowing that you have the only unicycle of its kind
by the time you're through.
Of course, I'm saying this, only using premade parts. Others, like
Steve Howard, can tell you what it's like to actually build a unicycle
from scratch.

paco - Creator of the "BUni"

"One thing is for sure. Inspector Clay is dead. Murdered. And
-somebody's- responsible!"
-Plan 9 From Outer Space
paco's Profile: http://www.unicyclist.com/profile/3715
View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/27308

August 21st 03, 08:19 PM
I once spent 3 weeks welding and perfecting a girrafe uni frame, when
right before it was complete it was hacked up for scrap by someone who
had no clue as to what it was.
I spent a little over a year on and off building my custom muni. I laced
up and tensioned the wheel 6 times before I was told the spokes needed
linseed oil and had to rebuild it once again. It was worth it, though.
I now have a muni with an intense 24x3.0 DH tire on a rhynolite rim, a
suzue hub, monty cranks (158mm), Zuzu pedals (don't buy!), a yuni frame,
and a velo seat. This entire muni cost less than $300. I worked out
well, though, because I finished it right when the velo/KH seat came
out, and right when I was just tall enough to use the machine. It rides
great, even with the rhynolite rim, and Zuzu pedals. Had I bought this
muni off unicycle.com, it would've run at about 350-400 dollars. I'm now
also very proficient at wheelbuilding.:D

By the way, I had originally planned to weld together my own frame, but
then the yuni frame came out and I just gave up.

gerblefranklin's Profile: http://www.unicyclist.com/profile/4295
View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/27308

August 21st 03, 10:52 PM
I can't claim to 'build' custom unis, because I've never built a wheel,
or welded a frame. But customising a unicycle is the way to get one
that suits you. All my 5 main unis started as basic models, but the
addition of a bottle cage here, a computer there, a bit cut off the seat
post, a different seat, shorter (or longer cranks)... a handle...
grippier pedals...

Occasionally I have a wild vision of 'custom unicycles' in the sense of
low riders with wide whitewall tyres, a flared wheel arch and a massive
chrome headlight. Someone has to do it one day. Unicycle hot rods...

Mikefule - Roland Hope School of Unicycling

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we
Mikefule's Profile: http://www.unicyclist.com/profile/879
View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/27308

August 22nd 03, 12:04 AM
I started building custom unis because I was having to learn all the
skills anyway to get my unis the way I wanted them. I also enjoy
indulging my perfectionist streak without anybody telling me that I
can't. I have found that my standards are much higher now and that, for
the most part, I'm the only one that can meet them, which is a nice
feeling. I also like seeing someone on a uni I've built and like to
hear them tell me how nice and tight and responsive it feels.

1. I haven't had a complete flop but I have spent days just building a
single wheel (the Strongest Coker Wheel). The Strongest Coker Wheel
project took me about a year total, doing a lot of research, developing
skills, working through popular misconceptions, and the like. I have
also spent days developing the skills and tools to do a single specific
task on a uni, such as shortening a frame, or applying the Yoopers fix
in a seat rebuild. Counting travel time, time spent on the phone and on
email, and the like, it can take me days to build a single unicycle.

2. See the answer to #1.

3. My first attempts were to correct weaknesses in my Pashley, which was
my first unicycle. Changing cranks, tires, adding a CF seat with
handle, and the like. After that I wanted to completely improve every
aspect of my unis that I could without going to the "machinist" stage.

4. The significant others think that it's cool.

You don't have to weld frames to build a custom unicycle. Similarly,
you don't have to make your own spokes. To me, a custom uni is one
that: a) is built specifically for a given rider; b) directly takes the
rider's dimensions, riding style, and intended use into account, c) is
built to significantly higher standards than a unicycle built for mass
sale, and d) is accompanied by a very high standard of customer support.
Often, building a custom unicycle involves a great deal of interaction
between builder and customer before the final product appears. Usually,
that interaction results in a very high degree of satisfaction on the
customer's part. It is also often the case that significant aspects of
a custom unicycle cannot be purchased off-the-shelf for various

For example, Raphael, building your unicycle involved:

-- several rounds with suppliers to get the proper parts
-- rebuilding your Miyata seat with completely new stainless steel
-- many steps of alignment, proper torquing, and adjustment
-- trimming the frame and seatpost to fit your dimensions precisely
-- building the wheel from scratch to a high standard with high-quality
components, such as double-butted spokes
-- delivering the uni to you personally and ensuring that everything was
correct for your initial rides
-- loaning you a 29er tire when the new Nanoraptor proved to have a
factory flaw
-- supporting you now and in the future with free wheel truing, advice,
crank replacement, and the like

To me, that's what custom building is all about.

Anybody can contact me for a quote on a custom uni. There's a lot I
don't know, but then, there is some that I do. Moreover, I have
excellent bicycle builders that I go to for advice when I need it.

U-Turn - Mounting a Revolution

Weep in the dojo... laugh in the battlefield.

'Strongest Coker Wheel in the World'

-- Dave Stockton
U-Turn's Profile: http://www.unicyclist.com/profile/691
View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/27308

August 22nd 03, 12:17 AM
Not yet had a total flop - I have some interesting designs about which
have proved too flexy/heavy. The only real flop was the full susser
which suffered too much from pedal bob

My Blizzard design muni, my trials frame, my custom coker and my new
flat-crown muni

bit of both - that and the fact that a decent frame is REALLY expensive.
Having built some I can see why.

They all think I'm mad. More specificly the GF thinks MUni is mad and
dangerous but it makes me happy so it's tolerated.

JoeRowing - MUni Animal


' Pedal.me.uk -The home of EMu' (www.Pedal.me.uk)
JoeRowing's Profile: http://www.unicyclist.com/profile/1544
View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/27308

August 22nd 03, 09:22 PM
> the miyata handle is starting to fall part!
A little off-topic, but my Miyata seat is bent at the end. I hold it
diagonally so the nose is twisted up to the left. I haven't yet had any
ripping problems though.


andrew_carter - www.unicycles.com.au!

andrew_carter (at) mail (dot) com
http://www.unicycles.com.au - Opening soon!
andrew_carter's Profile: http://www.unicyclist.com/profile/1052
View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/27308

Ken Fuchs
August 22nd 03, 09:55 PM
JJuggle > wrote:

>For those of you who spend hours, in some cases countless, is it the
>resulting unicycle, the process itself, or a combination of the two that
>is the motivating force?

For me, building custom unicycles is motivated by primarily by the total
lack of stock unicycles of the type I want. Reduced cost and knowing
exactly how the unicycle is constructed are also strong motivating
factors. The custom unicycles I built are 7 big wheels, 4 two wheelers,
2 ultimate wheels, a giraffe, a forward-only drive standard, a
tightwire standard and a BC wheel (only completed cycles are counted).

>1) What's the longest amount of time and/or most money you ever spent on
>a custom job that was a complete flop? What general principles or
>specific facts did you learn from the experience?

I made a frame and rim for a 44x1 3/4" air tire big wheel. The next
step was making the tire and tube. The idea was to take two 24x1 3/4"
tires, cut them in half and solder the bead wires together at the proper
length, overlap the tire ends, glue them and stitch the sidewalls where
the two tires joined. I never got around to building the tire or tube.
The tube would have simply been two 24x1 3/4" tubes cut in half with one
half of each inserted into the other half of the other and patched.
When there is nothing more interesting to do, I will complete the
project, so its not a total flop yet. However, Greg Harper's hub and a
Coker (54 gear inch) might make this project somewhat obsolete.

The tightwire unicycle wasn't a total flop. It had a 27x1 1/4" rim
which should fit nicely over any tightwire up to 1" in diameter. Minor
problems were that the nipples became tiny bumps as they came into
contact with the wire and the steel (tightwire) against steel (rim)
coefficient of friction was less than ideal. I later heard that
professional tightwire unicycles were made with 2?x1 3/4" or 2?x1.75"
rims with some rubber-like compound applied which sets with perhaps a
half buried cable of the desired size all around to make the groove.

>2) Ditto 1, but for a machine that proved near or exactly what you'd
>hoped for?

All my other custom unicycles were exactly what I hoped for except the
forward-only (coaster-no-brake) standard unicycle. The clutch bearing
would fail after a few months use, but otherwise it was what I hoped

For the big wheels, all the spokes were custom made from 36x3/32"
stainless steel welding rods. An old style S bend was used for the rim
end and the other end was cut to length and threads were cut with a 3-56
die. Old style S bend spoke end:

| |
+---------------+ |
| |
| +----------------------------------------------- ...
+--------------------------------------------------- ...

The S bend end of the spoke is inserted into the flange at a right angle
to the flange and thus is held securely in place by the spoke simply
remaining close to the plane defined by the wheel. A flat piece of
steel with 1/8" holes drilled into it become the tool to make the S
bend. Making the S bend took about 30 seconds or a total of 40 minutes
for 80 spokes. To simply cut 35-42 threads with the 3-56 die by hand
took about 7 1/2 minutes, so threading a set of 80 spokes for my 56" big
wheel took about 10 hours. I didn't make a jig for cutting the spokes,
but simply made a benchmark spoke whose length was used to gauge each
cut as it was being made, so simply cutting a spoke took about 30
seconds. Thus total labor for making a spoke was 8 1/2 minutes or 11
hours and 20 minutes for a set of 80 spokes for my 56" big wheel.

>3) Was your first attempt at a custom unicycle motivated by a specific
>need or the general desire to tinker?

My first attempt at a custom unicycle, was to go faster. It was a short
giraffe with 16" wheel geared up to 40" initially. However, it was very
hard to ride, so I backed it down to a 29 gear inch. This demonstrated
(to me at least) that a big wheel was superior to a geared-up giraffe.
The custom unicycles I built most thereafter were big wheels, following
the faster and further!

>4) What do your spouse, partner, significant other, children, parents,
>guardian, etc have to say on the matter?

Generally, they think it is great. Occasionally, they might say I'm
spending a little too much time on the subject of unicycles and


Ken Fuchs >

August 23rd 03, 12:37 AM
Don't worry, it will rip. My seat first began bending up to the right
and then began ripping. My handle is now a stick and about 1.5 feet of
duct tape. The KH is doing fine, though.


If life had a meaning, would you want to know it?

gerblefranklin's Profile: http://www.unicyclist.com/profile/4295
View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/27308

August 25th 03, 04:19 PM
1) What's the longest amount of time and/or most money you ever spent on
a custom job that was a complete flop? What general principles or
specific facts did you learn from the experience?

My custom MUni took over three months to be completed. I had a frame
builder build it for me that was @2,000 miles away. I didn't know
anything about dimensions for the frame, but asked tons o' questions
here. The news group helped build the frame. It wasn't a flop, just
heavier than I had wanted. We were shooting for 1.5 lbs with a steel
frame. It ended up being well over two pounds. I was a little
disappointed, but below that of the cheaper KH frame.

Cost was $200.00 with $40.00 added to weld on the brake mounts.

I learned to go with a frame builder that has experience building uni
frames, not just a bike frame builder. Also expect it to take more time
than you bargained for. Have the builder, if possible send images as
the frame progresses.

My biggest frustration was finding out later that my image of oval
tubing was different than the frame builders. I thought oval tubing
like on a sem XLW frame, but the frame was being built with tear drop
oval tubing. This created some technical problems. The crown had to be
mitered to the blades because it was so tough to work with.

2) Ditto 1, but for a machine that proved near or exactly what you'd
hoped for?

I was disappointed, initially, when I got it out of the box, I expected
smooth welds, like a mass production frame. What I got was too
different looking welds on both sides and the brake mounts were not
symmetric. When I put the wheel in the frame, it was off center. Early
riding indicated, what I thought was, frame flex. Through,
experimentation, I used shims to correct this problem and that is now
eliminated. The brakes work very well after some minor adjustments
despite the problem with the brake mounts.

My biggest regret was not having built the frame with a wider hub, like
a Schwinn hub. I had it built with a Suzue hub because I wanted to save
money, so I had the frame designed around the Suzue hub of my Sem XLW
MUni in order to save some money and not buy a whole new wheelset. It
has come back to haunt me. I have now outgrown the hub and need
something stronger. Anything stronger is also wider. So, I can't reuse
my frame. Which means I have to purchase whole new frame, wheel and

After getting over the early glitches in the frame, I really enjoy my
MUni. It rides well on the trail and does well on light trials. I have
lots a fun! It rides as well as any mass produced frame. The best part
is knowing - it's unique - it is the only one like it in the entire

3) Was your first attempt at a custom unicycle motivated by a specific
need or the general desire to tinker?

My desire was based on trying to get a light weight steel frame with KH
brake mounts and for less than $200.00. At the time, you couldn't buy a
mass produced frame with KH brake mounts.
I was also motivated by a general desire to create something - I have a
creative bent. We were also talking about making this a prototype for a
small run of frames, but that “went by the wayside”.

Views are here:

4) What do your spouse, partner, significant other, children, parents,
guardian, etc have to say on the matter?

My wife isn't into unicycling. She didn't know too much about the
project when it was going on, but she would have gotten upset if I had
spent a thousand dollars on the project, but she puts up with my hobby.
My boys want to ride, though very young.

teachndad - The Munieer

Rod Wylie

You don't have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things -- to
compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to
reach challenging goals. - Sir Edmund Hillary

teachndad's Profile: http://www.unicyclist.com/profile/56
View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/27308

August 26th 03, 12:41 AM
I prefer having someone else build a custom uni for me, but sometimes I
have done the work myself. Usually the purpose of a custom model is to
make something different from what's otherwise available, though I have
also done things to customize my "normal" looking unicycles to make them
stand out from the crowd.

Most of my hand-work was done in the days when there were few unicycles
to choose from; you either rode those or made your own.

1. My biggest flop was my "piece 'o Schwinn." People have
mis-interpreted that name when I use it. All Schwinns are not pieces o.
Only when you take a flexy old frame and try to cram a 26" mountain bike
wheel in there. To try to make more room, I jammed a spacer between the
two halves of the frame, used the lowest-profile, skinniest MTB tire I
could find (within reason), and added a hose clamp at the crown to try
to hold it together more solidly. But I still ended up with a flexy
thing with not enough clearance. Whenever you pedaled hard, the tire
would rub the frame. And you only have to pedal hard to go uphill or
downhill, so what's the problem? :)

2. A more successful project was the "Excessory Cycle." This was a 24"
Schwinn to which I added a huge amount of reflectors and bike
accessories. The challenge of the project was to fit everything on there
and still have room for feet and legs to go around, while still having
everything be functional. A flat tire derailed it for many years, as it
had to be completely dismantled to get the new tire in there (Schwinn
design). It is currently in several boxes in the garage, waiting for me
to clean up all the parts and re-assemble it.

3. My first custom project was motivated by the desire to go faster.
With limited tools and resources, the way to make a unicycle go faster
is to put a bigger sprocket on a chain-driven one. This meant putting a
48-tooth top sprocket/chainwheel on my Schwinn Giraffe and adding a few
links to the chain. This makes it go faster, but with less control.

Since performing is a much more useful (and lucrative, however
infrequently) use of a giraffe, it's been back to 1:1 for over 20 years
now. For speed I have a big wheel and now a Coker.

4. My wife started a "club" called the Unicycle Widows. It's not really
a club, maybe it's a movement?

johnfoss - Now riding to work

John Foss
the Uni-Cyclone

"Where's my kids?" -- Amy Drummond
"Where's my unicycle?" -- Andy Cotter
spoken one right after the other, mostly to themselves, at NAUCC 2003

johnfoss's Profile: http://www.unicyclist.com/profile/832
View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/27308


Home - Home - Home - Home - Home