Sunday, September 2, 2012

Borrowed Nimbus

With my muni temporarily out of order, I spent the time to painstakingly compile and sort a list of every single muni rider in the area who might have an off-road unicycle I could borrow.  After four exhausting seconds, I had my results:  Mj or Jamie.

I ended up borrowing Jamie's 26" Nimbus.  He assured me he wouldn't be riding it this weekend and it was fine with him.  This was pretty cool because I've been wondering if I should get a bigger wheel.  My 24" wheel is the smallest size for muni, but 26" and 29" are commonly used also.

A bigger wheel interests me because it would increase my speed when I'm in my low gear.  And it rolls over obstacles easier.  But a bigger wheel scares me a bit because it would increase my potential speed when I'm in high gear, and will make climbing hills more difficult.

So I headed back to Whiting and Webster park this morning with Jamie's ride.  This is the first time in my 3 years of muni that I've ridden on a trail with a wheel that wasn't 24".

It didn't feel all that different.  Like my old Onza, his cranks are 165mm, the longest typically used.  My current uni has 150mm cranks.  It's kind of surprising how the 1.5cm difference can feel like a lot.  Obviously the circle path your feet move in is bigger.  Generally this makes for a slower cadence, but with the wheel diameter being bigger, I couldn't definitively conclude a difference in speed.

I did feel like the rolling over roots was a bit easier, as it should be.  The 3" wide tire, like I had before lightening my load, helps rolling over bigger bumps too.

I tried all the tough hills and my results were not far off from my normal ride.  At times I did feel like I had extra leverage with the longer cranks, but I questioned if there was some power of suggestion at play.  I didn't feel like the bigger wheel was necessarily holding me back when climbing.

I missed not having my Schlumpf hub.  Some of those long flat sections were begging for a high gear.  I also missed my brake.  I was able to descend most hills without a problem, though with a bit less control.  But there are a good number of hills that are steep and also have something of a step down in them.  Without a brake, the momentum gained has to be controlled with back pressure on the cranks alone.  But back pressure can only be applied most effectively when the cranks are in the right position.  Any extra drops on an already steep hill, with cranks positioned sub-optimally, caused me to dismount out of fear.

For now my conclusion is that a 24" and 26" wheel are similar enough that with different cranks and tires, their performance overlaps significantly.  I think I need to ride a 29er to feel a bigger difference.

Thanks for the loaner Jamie!  Both your cranks are still in one piece.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2012-09-02

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