Big or Small...What's the Deal With Wheel Size?

"A unicycle is just a unicycle," you might say, "They're all the same."

Actually, wheel size is one of the things about unicycles that make them different from one another. It affects many things such as:

  • Speed
  • Maneuverability
  • Difficulty of riding
  • Look of the unicycle


Age plays a big factor in choosing the right size that fits you best. Obviously, this is common sense - why would a young kid who is say 7 years old start learning to ride with a 36"?

That just wouldn't make sense. He would have to be one really tall 7 year old!

On the other hand, would an adult want to get a 12" unicycle to start learning to ride? Of course not!

Take a look at the table below. It shows the appropriate leg lengths for each size of unicycle.

Choosing the Right Size for Your Leg Length
From Unicycle.com

Minimum
Leg Length
Maximum
Leg Length
12"
Unicycle
19.5" (50cm)
24" (61.5cm)
16"
Unicycle
23.5" (60cm)
29"(74cm)
20"
Unicycle
28" (71cm)
33" (84cm)
24"
Unicycle
31" (79cm)
36.6"(93cm)
26"
Unicycle
32" (81cm)
36" (92cm)
29"
Unicycle
34" (86cm)
39" (100cm)
36"
Unicycle
29.5" (75cm)
40.5" (103cm)

Follow the table above only if you're buying your first unicycle. This is because you want to get a unicycle that fits you when learning.


Speed

The biggest thing the wheel size of a unicycle affects is the speed. Simply the bigger the wheel you have, the faster you can go. Likewise, the smaller the wheel you have, the slower you can go.

Below is a simple table showing different speeds of 4 unicycle wheel sizes:

Wheel Size
Average
High
20"
4 mph
8 mph
24"
5 mph
10 mph
29"
7 mph
14 mph
36"
11 mph
22 mph

If you want a lot of speed, choose a bigger size, simple as that.

Maneuverability

The next thing size affects is maneuverability. How so? Well, as the size gets bigger, it gets harder and harder to turn. You basically lose some control of the unicycle.

You cannot make sharp turns on a big unicycle, like you could on say a 20". You become one of those tractor-trailer trucks that make wide turns.

Big wheels are definitely not for indoors such as in a gym. It just wouldn't be worth it. On the other hand, a 20" would be superb to ride in a gym.

Difficulty of Riding

Size of the unicycle plays a big role in the difficulty of riding. As the wheel gets larger, it also gets more sensitive to ride. You would have to make small adjustments to fix your balance.

Also, the bigger the unicycle, the harder it is to slow down. So, if you're going to have to wait at a crosswalk while riding a big wheeled unicycle, you better start slowing down early. No one likes crushed unicycles flying about in the road!


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