From Academic Kids

Missing image
A juggler riding an unicycle

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



Unicycles comprise a few key parts: the wheel and hub(axle), the frame, the seat, and cranks and pedals. The wheel is the main part of the unicycle; it is essentially a bicycle wheel with a special hub so that the frame and cranks can attach to the side. Unicycles use direct drive, with the crank's rotation directly connected to that of the wheel, although some modern unicycles are using gears in the hub to increase riding distance. The frame sits above the wheel, and the seat is located on top of the frame.


Riding a unicycle typically takes between 10 and 15 days at the least to learn, unless one has an inherent natural ability for riding one. Compared to a bicycle, the rider must maintain balance in two dimensions rather than one, and at slower speeds steering motions need to be exaggerated.

Balancing a robotic unicycle or a eunicycle forms an interesting problem in control theory.


Unicycles are thought to descend from the penny-farthing bicycles of the late 19th century. These bicycles had a large wheel in front, to which the pedals were attached, and a much smaller wheel behind for balance. When these bicycles hit a bump, or the rider attempted to slow suddenly, the rear wheel would come off the ground, forcing the rider to balance on one wheel. Early unicycle photographs, which show unicycles with very large wheels, support this explanation.

Recent developments

In recent years unicycles have gained a following as a means of everyday transport. Unicycling has also gained popularity as a sport. The bi-annual world championship UNICON holds Unicycle races. Riding a unicycle in off-road conditions is known as mountain unicycling, commonly called MUni. In unicycle trials the unicyclist aims to negotiate a series of obstacles, usually done by hopping, without any part of the rider touching the ground or using the hand to grasp onto an obstacle. Freestyle Unicycling contains a style of tricks seen in skateboarding, aggressive in-line skating, BMX, and freestyle biking including jumps, spins, and grinds. The newest style of riding is street unicycling. It is a mix of unicycle trials and freestyle unicycling. It consists of stair riding, jumps, grinds, spins, and rail riding usually on urban obstacles.

Unicycle hockey

Unicycle Hockey is a growing niche sport, with 5 members on each team and played with ice-hockey sticks and a street hockey ball or a deadened tennis ball as favoured by the Germans (some clubs have been known to use a puck). A league operates in Germany/Switzerland; in other countries, clubs typically meet and play individually, and competitively at Uni and club meets and conventions. The world championships take place at the biennial Unicon event.

International rules: http://www.mpch-mainz.mpg.de/~sander/uni/iuf_03e.html


  • Giraffe unicycles: tall, chain-driven unicycles.
  • Mountain unicycles: unicycles made for the sport of mountain unicycling.
  • Kangaroo unicycles: unicycles with an off-center wheel and cranks that face the same direction. The rider of a kangaroo unicycle appears to be hopping about like a kangaroo, hence the name.
  • Ultimate wheel: a unicycle with no frame or seat, just a wheel, cranks, and pedals.
  • Impossible wheel: a wheel with pegs sticking out for the rider to stand on. Theoretically, this works like log-rolling.
  • Coaster Uni: a unicycle where the hub freewheels, giving a cross between a traditional unicycle (where one pedals to maintain forward velocity and balance) and an impossible wheel (where instead of standing on pegs or platforms, the rider stops pedalling and stands on the pedals.)
  • Multi-wheeled unicycle: Still a unicycle since the wheels are stacked on top of each other so only one touches the ground. The wheels are linked together by chains or friction.
  • A quick list of other variations: Tandem, Recumbent, Hydraulic Giraffe, Unibike, Motorized unicycle [1] (http://www.gizmag.com/go/2350/), Suicycle
  • Monowheel (also known as a monocycle) : a large wheel in which the rider sits inside (like a hamster wheel) and either pedals an internal drive or is motorized. It is not plagued by the normal unicycle balance problems because of the greater gyroscopic properties and lower center of mass.
  • Eunicycle : a computer-controlled self-balancing unicycle.

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