Unicycles are a fantastic mode of transport. They are quirky and fun and a surprisingly good way to get you from A to B but I’ll bet you’ve not seen many people actually commuting on a unicycle. In fact, I’d stick my neck out and say that you’ve probably never seen someone riding to work on a unicycle.
So why is that? Are unicycles bad for commuting? Are they only good for a bit of backyard fun and not meant for travelling any useful distances? Maybe it’s just that people have never even thought of unicycle commuting before. Read on and see why this could be the best way of getting to work that you’ve never even heard of…..
Can You Commute On A Unicycle?
Put simply, yes!
If you can ride a bike on your commute then you can just as easily ride a unicycle. In fact, unicycles can even go some places where two wheels can’t so some people (me included) would argue that unicycles are an even better choice for certain commutes.
As great as cycling is, sometimes there are parts of a commute where bikes are just not practical. . Maybe you live out of town and it’s just too far to ride all the way to work. Or maybe you need to hop on and off public transportation to navigate a particular part of the city.
One of the (many) wonderful things about unicycles is their compact size so you can simply hop off, pick it up and take it on board with you. You can also take a unicycle inside most buildings and businesses too which is great if you don’t have time to (or just don’t want to) mess about finding somewhere to safely lock it up while you make a quick stop.
Benefits Of Unicycle Commuting
Apart from the go-anywhere nature of having a smaller mode of transport, unicycles are really very simple when you think about it, and a simple setup means simple maintenance.
Simple, low-cost maintenance = cheap and reliable transport for years to come. Public transport seems to cost more and more every year and bicycles can be incredibly expensive to buy brand new. Even if you get your hands on a cheap second-hand bike the maintenance and servicing alone can cost you as much as buying a unicycle outright!
Coming back to the size of a unicycle, not only does it make more places accessible to you, but there’s also a good chance you’ll be able to store it under your desk or beside a coat rack right there in the office.
No more leaving work to sit on a soaking wet saddle after a mid-afternoon shower and seeing a unicycle proudly displayed in the office is sure to be a conversation starter!
The riding position of a unicycle leaves your head much higher than on a bicycle so you have much better visibility of what’s going on around you which means you’re much less likely to be caught off guard and end up having an accident.
Disadvantages Of Unicycle Commuting
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to commuting I’m afraid, and not just because it means you actually have to go to work either.
Learning to ride a unicycle properly is hard work. Most people learn to ride a bike when they are kids so switching to a cycle commute is pretty straightforward, but if you’re new to unicycling it’s going to be a while until you get to the level where you can negotiate a busy urban environment safely.
It can take months of practice before you can stop safely, go up or down curbs and steer accurately enough to get around some of the tight twists and turns of your average city.
No freewheeling also means you’re working the whole time you are riding. This is one area that bikes beat out unicycles and I’ll admit that coasting down a hill can be a nice break from pedaling and give you chance to catch your breath so you don’t show up to the office looking like a red-faced, sweaty mess.
Another area bicycles prevail in is pure speed. Bicycles are more mechanically efficient than unicycles and the range of gears on most bikes lets the rider hit a higher top speed on a flat or downhill section or save energy and pedal more easily when they reach a hill or incline.
Is Unicycle Commuting Safe?
You’ll notice safety wasn’t in the benefits or disadvantages sections and that’s because there are pros and cons when it comes to commuting on a unicycle.
Busy cities can throw up unwelcome surprises for commuters at every turn, and these surprises can be particularly unwelcome, not to mention dangerous, for commuters on wheels – whether that’s one, two, or more wheels.
Most unicycles don’t have brakes (although models with brakes are available), so when presented with an unexpected obstacle such as a car pulling out at a junction, a unicyclist will instinctively ‘bail out’ and simply jump off the unicycle. This is actually much safer than the same scenario on a bike as you’ll instinctively squeeze the brakes and potentially throw yourself over the handlebars and into the very thing you were trying to avoid!
Until you’re an experienced unicyclist though, this method of avoiding obstacles brings its own risks. While it’s certainly preferable to flying over the handlebars, you can still get hurt pretty badly when bailing out if you slip or land on a delicate area like your wrists or skull!
With time (and a lot of practice), braking and turning will become second nature and you’ll easily slalom between people, shopping carts, and anything else in your way but until then be sure to stick to a speed where you are in control.
Speaking of speed, the relatively low top speed of unicycles only adds to their safety. You’ll have plenty of time to notice and react to any oncoming dangers, and hopefully avoid them altogether!
Safety really is the most important thing when unicycling and you should always wear the right safety equipment to protect yourself. At an absolute minimum this means wearing a helmet but, particularly when you are less experienced, it’s probably a good idea to invest in some wrist guards too, and if you’re particularly accident-prone consider elbow and knee pads for even more protection.
Is Unicycling Faster Than Walking?
A proficient unicyclist will easily be able to travel at least twice as fast as someone walking. Average speeds for unicycles vary based on the wheel size but as a rough guide, a 20-inch unicycle will go around 6mph, and a larger 36-inch unicycle will hit 10mph or more.
Compare that to the average walking speed of 3 to 4 miles per hour and you can see that unicycling is much faster than walking.
That extra speed can make a huge difference that quickly adds up over time – for the same 1 mile route travelled twice per day for 5 days per week, unicycling could save over 2 hours per week! If you add that up over months (or years), just think what you could do with all that extra time, and if you travel further or more often your unicycle commute is only going to reap more time back.
What Is The Best Unicycle For Commuting?
Best, as ever, is subjective here. The best unicycle for your commute will depend on several factors;
How far will you be riding? What kind of terrain is there? Where will you store your unicycle?
Cost is also a factor to consider – travelling to work on a unicycle everyday isn’t for everybody so, unless you already own one, it’s probably best to get a budget friendly model for now if you are just trying it out. You can always upgrade later on once you are sure you want to carry on.
So what do you think? Does unicycle commuting sound good to you?
Riding a unicycle to work is certainly unconventional and I can guarantee that you’ll get a lot of extra attention, and probably a few comments, from passers by.
It’s also a skill and a workout that can be quite demanding on both your brain and your muscles. If you struggle to get going before your third coffee of the morning this could be just the thing to fire up your brain and body before you arrive at the office. I’ve never been a fan of hitting the gym in the morning but going for a quick spin on the unicycle somehow doesn’t feel like a workout but gives me the same boost of energy.
So more time, more energy and more fun on the way to work – sounds like a win-win-win to me, why not give it a try – you just might like it!