The World of Unicycling
When we hear the word cycling often the first thing that comes to mind is the bicycle. Frame, handlebar, seat, two wheels, they’re pretty straight forward and odds are you’ll see someone cycling about the streets almost, if not every day of the week. Bicycles are the most common vehicle in the world so it’s no wonder that is what comes to mind, that being said there are plenty of other cycles out there, tricycles, quadricycles and of course the difficult cousin of the bunch, the bizarre but lovable unicycle. Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking a unicycle is only for clowns and juggling acts in the circus, often that the only popular form of presentation it often gets but actually there’s far more to them.
The first US patent for a what was titles a single wheeled ‘velocipede’ was published in 1869 by Frederick Meyers. At this time the design would have been quite simple, the singular wheel would have had crank pedals attached meaning there would be no ability to freewheel, in fact this design still employed on many unicycles still today. In fact, the biggest change for a standard model is likely the addition of tyres and probably a comfier seat, I can only imagine how rough a ride might have felt in 1869. That is not to say however that no changes have been made at all and several different models have experimented with the design since.
Yes, the unicycle now comes in a variety of shapes and sized and each are made to fit different purposes some of which may surprise you.
For example, were you aware of Mountain Unicycling?
That’s right, traversing the rough mud on a kitted-out unicycle. These are nicknamed “Munis” and are quite different to the standard, here you’ll find thick knobbly tyres for shock absorption, a wider crank for help up steep climbs and most notable disc brakes that are operated via a handle situated under the nose of the saddle.
Next up we have the trial unicycle, very similar to the regular model, these are however much sturdier with wider and thicker tyres. These are built to undergo all the pressures that come with the sport. In trial unicycling the cyclist makes his or her way through a series of obstacles using certain tricks to do so. It’s a sport that was inspired by things like BMX trials and skateboarding. It’s also gone on to inspire street unicycling which is very similar only using the natural obstacles of the environment as opposed to a set up course.
The unicycle is a serious piece of kit and is used for all sorts, it hasn’t quite left the world of the performing arts though and there have been designs made to help put even more of a show on than you might be used to. One somewhat curious contraption that perhaps reflects this the most is the multi-wheeled unicycle. A somewhat paradoxical name, it has several wheels stacked on top of each other with only one touching the floor. It’s an impressive sight that proves there’s plenty more to these little fellows than we might first think.