Tuesday, February 21, 2012

24in Unicycle / Mountain Conversion

Hello and Welcome,
The simplest of cycle designs and yet most difficult cycle to master. About 45 years ago my friend Mike and his brother Ron received a unicycle as a gift. And we all "tried and tried" to ride that #%&@ thing! Everyday that summer I was over there trying to ride the unicycle. Eventually I got so that I could ride it down the drive then turn and head down the road. Learning to ride the unicycle was probably the toughest thing I had ever done to that point in my life. Eventually Mike got another unicycle and sold the first one to me! Sometimes on Saturdays when the Detroit News was thin, I would use the uni to deliver my paper route. Even on Saturdays It was much easier to deliver my papers on my converted Schwinn Sting Ray though.
Above: This unicycle is badged (for lack of a better word) "SAVAGE" which I am pretty sure means absolutely nothing. Because last year I had a 20inch that was the same frame and design badged "LANDIS". Other than the wheel size, tire, quick adjust seat post bolt and saddle they are basically the same unicycle.
Above: Here is a close-up of the hub area on the 20 inch Landis unicycle. It was a smaller frame, built for someone I would guess about 5ft 6 inch max . Even with the saddle height maxed out it was too small for me to ride comfortably. And after riding a 24inch wheel I really have no interest in riding a 20inch wheel.

Above: A close-up of the hub area on the 24 inch unicycle. I am reasonably sure that at least the main frame, hub, wheel and crank/pedal arms were all made at the same place.
Above: I have noticed these past few years a trend in uni cycling towards fatter tires, both on and off road. So I poked around in the shop and came up with this Kenda 24 inch mountain bike tire complete with an inner-tube. I think it looks pretty cool on the uni. I also found these pedals in the "pedal box". One was missing two screws which I took off a real rusty beat-up pair of identical model pedals. Unfortunately one of the threaded holes in the pedal frame is stripped-out. So I will have to find another suitable pair. At this point the unicycle looks clean. But all I really did was wipe it down real good with Armor-All cleaning wipes.
Once I see that it is going to work with the "phat tire" and the new (different) pedals I will break it down and clean it up properly.
Above: These pedals were a BIG mistake. For starters they have a top and bottom side, and only work properly with the top side up. Riding a unicycle is tricky enough without complicating it more. Also these pedals locked my feet into position. I was unable to adjust my foot position on the pedal once I started to ride. That was also partly because of the Nike Trail Shoes I was wearing. They have a saw-tooth jagged tread that really made it impossible to move my feet once on the pedals. So I am going to swap-out the pedals for some old style block pedals. And while I`m at it, I`ll just go ahead and break the thing down for rust removal. The rust is much worse than it looks in the above photo.
Above: Removing the pedals using a 15mm Gear Wrench. Both pedals tighten by turning them towards the front of the bike or unicycle. It is important to use the left pedal on the left (usually marked L) and the right pedal on the right. (usually marked R). How do you tell left from right on a unicycle? On this one it is easy. The seat-tube (frame) where the collar clamp tightens has a slot cut in it. This slot always faces the rear. And like any bike, left and right is as if you were sitting on the bike. Also the pedal arms are marked (R and L) on this unicycle as well. I only mention this "pedal thing" because it is a typical beginner mistake to mix-up the pedals. When this happens you end-up with one pedal cross threaded and the other that loosens it self and falls off while riding. You really want to avoid doing this.
Above: Removing the wheel assembly is simple, just remove the two bolts on each side of the frame/fork (A & B). After which the whole wheel assembly is simply pulled out of the frame/fork. I took the extra precaution of marking one side with red tape. Just to make sure I did not accidentally turn the whole thing around during re-assembly.

Above: Removing the unicycle saddle and seat-post is done in the usual way. Just loosen the quick release collar clamp and pull-up while turning. The post should slide out of the frame/seat-tube. If it is stuck you will want to apply a little penetrating oil to the bottom of the post so it can flow into the tube/frame. Sometimes it will help the oil to penetrate if you pry the slot open with a large slotted screw-driver. You will want to remove the collar bolt before trying this.
I find it easier to remove the seat-post if I leave the saddle attached.
Above: Here I have started to remove the rust on the unicycle frame/fork. Because this is not a high quality chrome plating job, I will not be using the power brass wheel-brush. Instead I will be using "Turtle Wax" Rust Remover/Chrome Polish on the entire frame/fork. I will touch up the upper frame/fork by hand with a copper wool pad. Chrome of this quality
"or lack there of" will flake-off like paint. And the brass wheel brush would likely do more damage than good. How do you tell cheap chrome from quality chrome? Experience. But if you see the tiny paint like flakes of chrome when cleaning that is not a good sign. Also if even light amounts of rust expose bare metal when polished, that's are real strong sign of cheap chrome. And just over all appearance, good chrome just looks better!
Above: Here I am using the copper scrub pad on the upper frame/fork to remove very light rust. I am very careful not to rub too hard or too long. If you look closely you can see the tiny flakes of chrome on the work-bench. They photograph white for the most part.
Above: Here I am removing the saddle rails for polishing. On these I use the copper pad and a little "Turtle Wax" Chrome Polish/Rust Remover. These are easily removed with a 10 mm wrench. These rails being high-up on the unicycle are in pretty good shape rust wise.
Above: One of the pedal arms is rusted real bad, the other just regular bad. I will use the copper pad first, very gently on the badly rusted arm.
Above: Here I have applied a generous amount of Turtle Wax Chrome Polish & Rust Remover to the pedal arm. I won`t let it set long before I buff it off with a paper towel or clean rag.
Above: Although pitted and scratched this pedal arm still looks much better polished up.
Above: About 1/4 of the rim was badly rusted. I brushed the entire rim with a brass detail brush concentrating on the bad part. Afterwards I did the whole rim with the Turtle Wax.
Above: Here is the better part of the rim and the nicer of the two pedal arms after rust removal and polishing.
Above: To the right of the valve stem is the worst part of the rim. Considering how bad it looked (rust) I am quite pleased with the results. Also, For the sides of the rim (breaking surface)I first used the copper pad then polished with the Turtle Wax C.P./R.R. Theses came out very good.
Above: These are the block cruiser pedals I am going to use on the unicycle. I will clean them up a little first. I know these will be a huge improvement as every unicycle I have ever owned had similar pedals to these. This is by the way my fifth unicycle and my second with a 24inch wheel.
Above: After cleaning up the spindles with the copper scrub pad, detail brush and Turtle Wax C.P./R.R. I cleaned-up the blocks with this little scrub brush and some liquid hand soap.
I did the end caps with the Vermont American fine brass wire wheel brush on the low-speed 18volt drill. The brass wheel brush will remove those asphalt scrapes although it does take a little time.
Above: The block pedals all cleaned up. Not to shabby :)
Above: The saddle I cleaned-up with "Armor All Cleaning Wipes" when I installed the phat tire. I polished the seat-post with the Turtle Wax C.P./R.R. Now all I have to do is the easy part, put it together and go have some fun!
Above: Here I am reattaching the wheel assembly to the unicycle frame. I put a little blue thread-lock on the bolts threads just for good measure. I used the red-tape to make sure I have put it back together correctly.
Above: The left pedal clearly marked. Always remember both pedals tighten turning the threaded post towards the front of the bike. If the left pedal was not reversed threaded, it would loosen itself while riding and eventually fall off.
Above: As always a little bit of grease on the threaded post before installing the pedals. I like to start screwing them into the arm by hand, just to be sure I am not cross threading them.
Above: I never removed the saddle from the seat-post. So re-inserting the post was simple since this unicycle has a quick release type seat-post collar bolt. (no wrench required)
Now to see if I can ride this thing with the proper pedals and shoes on.
Above: Pretty good riding for an Old, One eyed, Fat man! :) I`m really rusty, but being this unicycle is so comfortable, I think I`m gonna keep it and sharpen-up my unicycle skills a bit. I really like this saddle. Most comfortable unicycle saddle so far, hands down. Maybe it`s all the extra padding I now have!
Below: (A-B) Attachment holes for Lollipop bearings. (C) The cotter key. (D) Pedal or crank arm. (E) Lollipop bearing (F) Spoke. (G) Axle. (H) Hub. (I) Flange. (J) Valve stem and cap. (K) Spoke nipple. (L) Rim. (M) Rim side-wall or breaking surface. (N) Kenda off-road tire.
NOTE: You will probably need to click on the above pic to enlarge and see my markings.
Above: There are a few reasons I chose to leave the crank and Lollipop bearings alone. First the bearings are smooth, and it does have cotter crank arms (C). So why should I go looking for trouble? Another reason (not that I need another) is the bearings. It does not appear to have bearing caps. (I have since learned these are called lollipop bearings) It looks like the bearings are encased in a one piece sealed unit (E). I don`t know if these are serviceable or if replacements are even available.(have since learned these are obsolete and difficult to find) So seeing no real need or "up-side" to taking this mess apart, I will go with one of my favorite expressions. "If it ain`t broke, don`t fix it". I was going to say something about the government, and how they should learn that. But this is about bikes so I will keep quiet. Oops!
Yesterday in the early morning I heard Geese flying over honking. I test rode the unicycle in the driveway in the late afternoon. Last night on the news they were talking about the Detroit Tigers in spring training down in Fla. All signs that spring will soon be here. This morning Winter came back to north west Oakland County. Reminding me that "SOON" does not mean Now.. So it goes. Today was a good day to finish this post :)
Until next time, Please Ride Safe and Remember to always.. RESCUE,RESTORE and RECYCLE


  1. Hi Hugh -

    Glad to see that you are moving away from the training wheel. ;-) Looks like you are doing fine.

    The bearings on your uni are so-called "lollipop" bearings, no longer used as far as I know. I think unicycle.com used to carry them, but they don't seem to anymore. You could check with them about sources, however. One major problem with this design is that the drilled attachment holes through the frame will eventually cause the frame to fail.

    You make a good point about pedals and footwear. It's essential to be able to adjust the position of your foot on the pedal. Skilled riders (not me) can take either foot completely off the pedal if they wish. Even so, most riders use fairly grippy pedals, and smooth-soled shoes. Chuck Taylors are very popular. My feet require more support, so I use skateboard shoes. I was by far the oldest guy in the skate shop when I bought them. For pedals, I really like the Odyssey Twisted PC pedals. Plastic pedals have the advantage of not damaging the gym floor.

    Speaking of bikes & unicycles, don't try this at home:


    1. Hey Jay,
      Thanks for the info. I was looking at countless diagrams of unicycles trying to find out what those bearings were called. Lollipop bearings! The name sure fits. I`ll check-out the Odyssey Twisted PC pedals when I get a chance.
      I have never been able to think of one positive thing about resin (plastic) pedals. Now I know there actually is one.I don`t know that it will change my opinion of resin pedals as far as typical bikes go. But at least now I know they do serve a useful purpose. Not damaging the gym floor. (who would ah thunk?)
      And the Video was Unbelievable! I`ll have to put it on the "Video of the Week" list. Thanks again for the excellent comments.
      Cheers, Hugh

  2. Fat man? Obviously, you are grading on absolute terms and haven't looked around to see what the "curve" is telling us all!

    1. Hey Steve,
      You make a good point, in comparison I`m not really in all that bad of shape. But playing hockey as a kid and working in the trades all those years. Well my Hockey and then my work always kept me in shape. Now I have to work at it. I really need to make fitness part of my daily routine. That way (hopefully) it won`t seem like work at all.
      Cheers, Hugh

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Finally,a fixed gear I can get on board with!

    1. Hey J,
      I hear you, I almost titled the post "The Original Fixed Gear Bike" (:


Cycling Blog Directory