AskDefine | Define unicyclist

Dictionary Definition

unicyclist n : a person who rides a unicycle

User Contributed Dictionary



unicycl(e) + -ist


u*ni-cy*clist YU-nih-sai-klist


  1. A person who operates a unicycle.


Extensive Definition

A unicycle is a one-wheeled human-powered vehicle. Unicycles are similar to, but less complex than, bicycles.


The unicycle's history began with the invention of the bicycle. Comte De Sivrac first developed bicycles during the late 18th century. His device, called a celerifere, was a wooden horse that had two wheels joined by a wooden beam. Germany's Baron von Drais improved the design by adding a steering mechanism, introducing his Draisienne or "Hobby Horse" in 1818. Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a Scottish blacksmith, added cranks and pedals to the rear wheel in 1839, and called it the Velocipede. The first mass-produced riding machine, the Michaux Velocipede, was designed in 1863. In 1866, James Starley developed the penny-farthing, a bicycle with a very large front wheel and a small rear wheel.
One theory of the advent of the unicycle is based on the popularity of the penny-farthing (or "Ordinary") during the late 19th century. Since the pedal and cranks were connected directly to the front axle, the rear wheel would go up in the air and the rider would be moved slightly forward. Many penny-farthing owners discovered they could dispense with the frame and just ride the front wheel and handlebars. Evidence for this theory of development can reportedly be found in pictures from the late 19th century showing unicycles with large wheels.
Over the years, unicycle enthusiasts have inspired manufacturers to create new designs, such as seatless ("ultimate wheel") and tall ("giraffe") unicycles. During the late 1980s some extreme sportsmen took an interest in the unicycle and off-road unicycling (MUni) was born.


Unicycles are composed of a few key parts: the wheel (which includes the tire, tube, rim, spokes, hub and axle), the cranks, pedals, fork-style frame, seatpost, and 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. The seatpost links the frame to the saddle.
There are many different types of unicycles, which can include (but are not limited to): freestyle unicycles, trial unicycles, MUnis, giraffes, and long distance unicycles, which all have special components unique to that type of unicycle.

Types of Unicycles

;Trials unicycle: Designed for unicycle trials, trials 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. A recent development in trials unicycles is splined cranks and hubs, a feature that is very useful and somewhat expensive. Many trials unicycles also have wide, 19- or 20-inch knobby tires to absorb some of the impact on drops.; Touring Unicycles : 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 by the 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 for control, as the speed comes from the gear ratio, not the wheel itself.


  • Giraffe Unicycle: a chain driven unicycle, usually very tall (but includes multi-wheel unicycles).
  • Geared Unicycle ("GUni"): a unicycle whose wheel rotates faster than the pedal cadence. 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 touches the ground (nicknamed stacks). The wheels are linked together by chains or direct contact with each other.
  • Kangaroo Unicycle: unicycle that has both the cranks facing in the same direction and the hub off-center. They are so named due to the rising and falling motion of the rider, supposedly resembling the jumping of a kangaroo.
  • Ultimate Wheel: a unicycle with no frame or seat, just a wheel and pedals.
  • Impossible Wheel (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 unicycling. There are no 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.
  • Eunicycle: a computer-controlled, motor-driven, self-balancing unicycle.
  • Freewheeling Unicycle: a unicycle in which the hub freewheels, allowing the rider to coast or move forward without pedaling, as a bike would. These unicycles almost always have brakes because they cannot stop the way traditional unicycles do. These unicycles also cannot go backwards.
  • Other variations include tandem, recumbent, hydraulic giraffe, unibike, suicycle, and motorized unicycle.


A unicycle is a form of inverted pendulum. It is also a nonholonomic system because its outcome is path-dependent. Balancing a robotic unicycle or a Eunicycle forms an interesting problem in control theory. (See Segway.)


The pedals of a typical unicycle (e.g. not a giraffe or guni) are connected directly to the wheel. This means that there are no gears to shift, as there would be on a bicycle. It also means that wheel size is a major factor in unicycle speeds:


Traditionally, unicycling has been connected with parades or the circus. This is because the unicycle requires a great degree of skill to ride, and many people who could ride them became entertainers. Recent developments in the strength and durability of bicycle (and consequently unicycle) parts have given rise to many riding styles such as trials unicycling and mountain unicycling. Unicycling has therefore developed from primarily an entertainment activity to a competitive sport and recreation.

Riding styles

; Freestyle unicycling: "Freestyle" means to do skills, stunts, or tricks. Not only is freestyle a well-known term in BMX bicycling, it is also the name for a competition event in unicycling.; Street unicycling: Street unicycling (or simply "street", as it's known within the sport) is a style of unicycling where riders use combinations of objects found in urbanized settings, such as curbs, ledges, handrails, stairs as well as flat areas to perform a wide variety of tricks.; Touring or commuting: This style is meant for distance riding. With a 29-inch or 36-inch wheel cruising speeds of 10 to 15 mph can easily be reached. However, the smallest wheel diameter to fit within the "touring" category is 26 inches.

Extreme unicycling

Recently, unicycling has gained popularity as a sport, and as a general means of transport. In the last 10 years, unicyclists have taken unicycles out of the traditional parade, gym, or circus setting and have created new forms of unicycling. These forms can be described broadly as "extreme unicycling":

Equipment and safety

;Knee and elbow pads: The second most common impact point are the knees followed by the elbows.;Shin guards: Shin guards become a necessary piece of equipment when using metal or pinned pedals. These types of pedals grip the shoes better, but can cause injury to the legs.

Notable unicyclists

International Unicycling Convention

The biennial International Unicycling Convention (UNICON) consists of unicycle track and field events — high jump, long jump, novelty racing (1 foot, wheelwalk, coasting, juggling etc.), slowboard, and the obstacle course.
Freestyle events include pairs, individual, club, group, and Standard Skills.
The 2004 UNICON was held in Tokyo, Japan. The 2006 UNICON was held in Langenthal, Switzerland. The 2008 UNICON will be in Frederiksberg, Denmark. The 2010 UNICON will be in New Zealand.

Unicycle manufacturing companies


External links

unicyclist in Arabic: دراجة أحادية
unicyclist in Bulgarian: Юнисайкъл
unicyclist in Czech: Jednokolka
unicyclist in Danish: Unicykel
unicyclist in German: Einrad
unicyclist in Spanish: Monociclo
unicyclist in Esperanto: Unuciklo
unicyclist in Persian: یک‌چرخه
unicyclist in French: Monocycle
unicyclist in Korean: 외발자전거
unicyclist in Icelandic: Einhjól
unicyclist in Hebrew: חד-אופן
unicyclist in Luxembourgish: Eerad
unicyclist in Hungarian: Egykerekű
unicyclist in Dutch: Eenwieler
unicyclist in Japanese: 一輪車
unicyclist in Norwegian: Etthjulssykkel
unicyclist in Polish: Rower jednokołowy
unicyclist in Portuguese: Monociclo
unicyclist in Russian: Юнисайкл
unicyclist in Finnish: Yksipyöräinen
unicyclist in Swedish: Enhjuling
unicyclist in Turkish: Tekteker
unicyclist in Chinese: 單輪車
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