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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 unicycling. 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.

A unicycle


"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[1] and in 1881 by Battista Scuri.[2]

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 street unicycling.

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. Given these differences, the injuries that can occur from unicycle use tend to be different from that of bicycle use. In particular, head injuries are significantly less likely among unicycle use compared to bicycle use.[3]


A unicycle hub

Unicycles have a few key parts:

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

Off-road unicycles
Trial unicycle

Types of unicycle include:

Each type has many combinations of frame strength, wheel diameter, and crank length.

Freestyle unicycles

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) wheels. Many freestyle unicyclists will use white tires to avoid tire marks when riding indoors.

Trials unicycles

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 (480-or-510-millimetre) knobby tires to absorb some of the impact on drops.

Mountain unicycles ("Munis")

Muni with disc brake

Mountain unicycling (abbreviated to muni or mUni) consists of riding specialized unicycles on mountain bike trails or otherwise off-roading. Mountain unicycles have thicker, wider tires for better traction. Riders may occasionally lower air pressure for increased shock absorption. Many riders choose to use long cranks to increase power when riding up hills and over rough terrain. A disc brake is sometimes used for descents; the brake handle is attached to the underside of the handle on the front of the saddle.

Touring/commuter unicycles

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 (660 and 910 mm), so more distance is covered in less pedal rotation. A 36″ unicycle made by the Coker Tire company started the big wheel trend.[4] 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.

Other variations

Giraffe unicycle
Multi-wheeled unicycle

Training aids

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, while 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 injury.[11]


Riding styles

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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[weasel words] now as much a competitive sport and recreational pursuit as an entertainment activity.

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, with riders performing routines to music.
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
Trials unicycling is specifically aimed at negotiating obstacles. Analogous to trials bike riding.
Street unicycling
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 BMX and skateboarding.
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-millimetre) wheel cruising speeds of 10 to 15 mph (16 to 24 km/h) or more can easily be reached.
Flatland unicycling
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 BMX and skateboarding.

Unicycle team sports

Unicycling is also performed as a team sport.

Unicycle basketball

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

Main article: Unicycle hockey

Unicycle Hockey

Unicycle hockey follows rules basically similar to rink hockey, using a tennis ball and ice-hockey sticks. Play is mostly non-contact. The sport has active leagues in Germany, Switzerland, Australia 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.

Notable unicyclists

Known as unicyclists



Skeeter Reece, former member of the King Charles Troupe, performs in 1983

Known in other fields

UNICON and regional championships

Start of the 100 km race at the UNICON 16 in Brixen 2012

UNICON, Eurocycle and APUC are regular international unicycling conventions.

The biennial 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 Archived 2008-05-09 at the Wayback Machine, 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.[39]

The Eurocycle (EUROpean uniCYCLE meeting) is a similar convention but based in Europe.

APUC, the Asia Pacific Unicycle 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).

EUC, the Extreme Unicycle Championship, is the convention for urban unicycling (Street, Trials and Flatland). The event is held in two editions: summer and winter. Winter EUC is usually held at Cologne, Germany, while locations of the summer edition vary.[40]


Unicycle Race 2013

The world's first multi-stage unicycle race, Ride the Lobster, took place in Nova Scotia in June 2008. Some 35 teams from 14 countries competed over a total distance of 800 km.[41] 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:

See also


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  2. ^ "US 242161 A". May 31, 1881. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
  3. ^ Wang, Marvin L. (October 2013). "Unicycle injuries in the United States". The Journal of Emergency Medicine. 45 (4): 502–507. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2013.05.024. ISSN 0736-4679. PMID 23871477.
  4. ^ ""To Coker" is a verb with one wheel and tire on it!". Archived from the original on 2008-03-16. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
  5. ^ Foss, John. "Multi Wheeled Unicycles". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
  6. ^ Holm, Kris; Schlumpf. "Schlumpf Geared Unicycle Hub". Archived from the original on 2012-01-30. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
  7. ^ "Multi Wheeled Unicycles".
  8. ^ "Embrio One-Wheel Concept". 4 June 2004.
  9. ^ a b "Been there. Done that. - Unique Unicycles". Archived from the original on 2009-04-17. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
  10. ^ "Recumbent Unicycle".
  11. ^ Wiley, Jack (1973). The unicycle book. Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-0416-5.
  12. ^ "On this day 1976". BBC Archive on Twitter. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
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  14. ^ "ABOUT". zmiketaylor. Retrieved 2021-03-26.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "Unicon « International Unicycling Federation". Retrieved 2021-03-26.
  16. ^ "Wendy's Shameless Surprise Stunt: The King Charles Unicycle Troupe". The Wendy Williams Show. November 11, 2011. Archived from the original on 2014-01-10. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  17. ^ "Built to Amaze: King Charles Troupe". Ringling Brothers & Barnes & Bailey. Archived from the original on 2 October 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  18. ^ "King Charles Troupe: Unicycle Basketball Troupe". Blue Moon Talen. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  19. ^ "April 26 "Lisa Tolliver Show" features Ray Aydelott, Joe Franklin and David Reid". Lisa Tolliver Show. April 24, 2006.
  20. ^ 'Dancing With The Stars Eliminates Adam Carolla'
  21. ^ ohne Autor (15 July 2009): 9 Fun Facts about Rupert Grint! Extra TV (retrieved 16 November 2015)
  22. ^ [1] Mark Ruffalo unicycles on the Graham Norton show
  23. ^ 'Mika Häkkinen bio'
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  25. ^ 'Eddie Izzard'
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  27. ^ 'Chris Martin Rides Unicycles'
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  30. ^ 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)
  31. ^ 'Miles Plumlee Rides a Unicycle at Duke basketball game'
  32. ^ 'Donald Rumsfeld On A Unicycle'
  33. ^ 'Claude Shannon obituary' Archived 2012-10-22 at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ 'Take That Unicycle (BBC)' on YouTube
  35. ^ a b Babylon By Bike Don Snowden (7 April 1988). Andrew Tosh Shoulders Reggae Legacy. Los Angeles Times (retrieved 16 November 2014)
  36. ^ 'Hope You Like Jamming Too (Review of Peter Tosh biography)
  37. ^ 'Quarterback always called right plays'
  38. ^ Paul Vitello (15 November 2011). Ilya Zhitomirskiy Dies at 22; Co-Founded Social Network. New York Times (retrieved 16 November 2014)
  39. ^ International Unicycling Federation
  40. ^ "Extreme Unicycling Championship". Retrieved 2021-03-26.
  41. ^ Ride the Lobster Archived 2008-07-26 at the Wayback Machine