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Riding a unicycle can be great fun, and learning to do tricks is relatively easy. However, riding one of the wrong size can be uncomfortable, and will also make it difficult to handle. There are a few guidelines for finding the right size, depending on the size of the person using it and its intended use. Most suppliers carry a wide range of sizes and are able to order unusual sizes when requested.
Unicycle size is dictated by two things: wheel size, and post length. The wheel size refers to the diameter of the wheel, which can range from 12 inches (30 centimeters) to 26 inches (66 centimeters) in size. The post length refers to the post on which the seat is mounted. The post length comes in three varieties: standard, shortened, and lengthened. These two factors can be adjusted to create a unicycle of comfortable size for the rider.
When measuring for a unicycle size, the rider should measure his or her inseam. The inseam is the inside length of the leg, measured from the crotch to the floor with shoes on. Individuals who wear loose pants may want to measure their inseams in underwear or shorts to get an accurate length measurement. In addition, cycling shoes should be worn so that the inseam length reflects the proper shoes. Once inseam length has been determined, a unicycle can be selected.
The 20 inch (50 centimeter) unicycle is the most popular among circus performers and others. This size is sturdy, easy to manipulate, and capable of doing tricks. They can be used indoors and outdoors, and are suitable for individuals with inseams between 24 inches (61 centimeters) and 33 inches (84 centimeters). Individuals on the shorter end of this spectrum will need to shorten the post, while longer legged cyclers will need to lengthen it.
12 inch (30 centimeter) and 16 inch (40 centimeter) are good unicycle sizes for children who are just learning to ride or those with very short legs. For most adults, these unicycles will feel awkward and unbalanced. Larger sizes are available for longer legged cyclists. Generally, the larger sizes allow unicyclers to move more quickly, and are also capable of additional tricks. The post lengths can be shortened to a certain extent, allowing moderately short legged riders to use them.
Most suppliers provide size charts, and are happy to assist cyclists in selecting the correct unicycle. For speed and tricky moves, larger sizes are better. For versatility, the 20 inch (50 centimeter) is the best choice, while children should be given smaller ones.
@umbra21 - It's true that you need to make sure that you have a unicycle that's going to be comfortable for you to use and that isn't going to hurt your muscles or anything like that.
But you also have to be safe. Particularly if you are planning to ride on the road.
The unicycle has to be one of the most dangerous vehicles to use on the road, since it has so little room for lights and it's so small, it would be difficult to see on the road.
The one advantage is that when you are sitting on the unicycle you are sitting quite high, so if you wear good reflective gear, you'll be visible. So, if you're planning to go on the road, you'll need to make sure that you've got a unicycle that's high enough for that to happen.
@pleonasm - People always seem determined to use their unicycles for everything you can use a bicycle for. I've seen people run races using a unicycle, riding for miles and miles using it, going up hills and even on dirt tracks.
I think it must be really difficult to maintain your balance for that long. It must take a lot of core body strength to keep going for hours, keeping yourself upright and balanced.
It would be so much more difficult if you didn't have the right size of unicycle.
I've also seen people who commute every day on a unicycle and I think the same thing applies there. I know if you aren't using the right size of bicycle, it can be very hard on your knees.
That probably goes even more for unicycles.
I would suggest that you try to have lessons before attempting to buy a unicycle.
Not so much because you might not enjoy it, as far as I know it's pretty fun.
But, if you've never used one before, it's not like a bicycle where you can straddle it in store and get a really good idea of what is going to be comfortable.
If you take a bunch of lessons and maybe try a couple of different kinds of unicycle you'll have a much better idea of what size will suit you and what you'll want it for.
I've seen people riding unicycles that were so high they needed a running start to get off the ground. It's possible to ride all sizes of unicycle, but you aren't going to know which one is right for you unless you get some practice.