Riding a unicycle in winter – does it make any sense?
Many people wonder whether riding an electric unicycle is possible at all in winter. The answer is: of course it is! I am fully aware that this answer may come as surprising to many, so let me explain it.
What do we associate with a vehicle that is good for riding on slippery surfaces? What usually comes to mind first is the all-wheel drive. Contrary to bicycles and most cars, each electric unicycle is equipped with the all-wheel drive as… it only has one wheel. However funny it sounds, it is a fact that electric unicycles are excellently predisposed towards dealing with slippery surfaces.
Let me remind you that most electric unicycles are equipped with direct drives, transmitted from theirs motors that are integrated within rims. There are pedal brackets mounted to the main axle, having pedals attached directly to them for the user to stand on.
Such a construction makes the total weight of the device and user concentrated in one place, while the centre of gravity is placed close to the ground. There is one wheel only left for balancing – not two or even four ones that often work independently. This is why there is no way that another wheel or any other part of our vehicle could drag us along while slipping, like in the case of, say, a bike. We are only focused on this single wheel – and it is also everything we need.
The engine braking system makes a big advantage of electric unicycles, not being based on mechanical brakes (like in the case of a bicycle). Engine braking does not block the wheel and if there occurs slippage (e.g. in the case of emergency braking), its reaction is similar to the one of ABS system, despite a different operating principle, thanks to which one's wheel may regain its adhesion fast, enhancing the chance for getting out of slippage while simultaneously shortening the braking distance (a pulsating braking wheel has better adhesion properties than a wheel that has been entirely blocked by its brake, sliding like sleds do).
Nevertheless, we cannot cheat the physics. If we enter a snow-covered turn at a considerable speed or experience riding on an icy surface (even along a straight course), there will occur slippage. Still, through the adoption of proper riding technique and tyres with an appropriate tread pattern (so-called "winter tyres"), we may reduce the possibility of slippage affecting us to such a level that city rides taken in winter will proceed comfily and with no unpleasant surprises experienced.
Still – before we start going wild in the snow, we need to prepare ourselves for this in a sufficient way. In this article, I will focus on selecting an appropriate winter tyre.
Winter tyre for an electric unicycle
What properties should a winter tyre for unicycles have to be classified as "a winter one"? It is obvious that we need to properly fit its diameter and profile to our wheel (and it does not always need to be identical with those of our original tyre). It is the type of a tread pattern that is the most important factor here. It is precisely the tread that is responsible for, e.g., water dispersal, the area of contact surface, friction, while all of these also translate into adhesion.
There exist a few popular types of treads that are suitable for winter rides. Some of them have even been equipped with spikes, for better adhesion. Unfortunately, we do not usually have a of space within the casing of our unicycles and a tread of this kind may simply not fit there.
From within a number of tyres our team have tested, we have created a summary that should be compatible with most models. What they all have in common is the so-called "butterfly tread" that looks like alternately arranged tiles. Such tiles stick into the snow, increasing the adhesion.
What is interesting, this type of a tread is not classified as typically made for winter use, as it also performs great in places where one is at risk of slippage because of supple surfaces, rainfalls or mud.
Still, this one legitimate question always comes to our minds in such cases: is the difference after changing one's tyre noticeable? We have been testing winter tyres for a few seasons now and I can whole-heartedly declare that it is noticeable indeed. The adhesion experienced is considerably greater, taking rides is definitely comfortable and, above all, making me feel safe and confident.
Butterfly treads are not that perfect, though – otherwise, they would be used all around. Their main disadvantages include: giving our a sound during rides – especially with regard to hard surfaces (they may not be really loud, but still audible – and often more so than one's motor is) – and the theoretical worsening of performance (especially – on smooth and dry surfaces), due to greater tyre friction. Still, a noticeable drop in the performance of electric unicycles is doubtful, while – from the logical point of view – it is better when compared to not riding in winter at all. These disadvantages should not actually cause inconvenience to anyone while – like I said – the pros of using such a tyre are immense.
In an effort to meet your expectations, we have picked objectively – in our view – the best winter tyres, representing all the popular sizes, namely: 14", 16" and 18".
What is more, we have decided to provide the owners of 16" wheels with some colour, also introducing red and blue versions of Kenda tyres to our offer. The owners of 14" and 18" unicycles may only choose from among the types of classic black colour, while it may change next year.
You can make your choice from among the following winter tyres:
- 14" DURO - Black (14x2.125),
- 16" KENDA - Black (16x2.125),
- 16" KENDA - Red (16x2.125),
- 16" KENDA - Blue (16x2.125),
- 18" CST Eco - Black (18x2.125).
Click the links above to see pictures. All the tyres are of the same price.
The sizes of 14x2.125 and 16x2.125 are standard ones among 14" and 16" wheels. When it comes to 18" unicycles, there often appear 18x2.50-type tyres in this category. If you have precisely one of these, putting on 18x2.50 will still be possible, but making your unicycle more agile – it will become noticeably easier to take turns with it that you will also have to get used to. It also concerns the case of putting on e.g. Schwalbe Mad Mike (a comparably great tyre, by the way!), whose size is 16x2,00, on a unicycle having its original tyre of 16x2.125 – in this case, the manoeuvrability will also be boosted.
Each tyre also has its size indicated on its surface. The butterfly tread is symmetrical and this is why it is possible to apply such a tyre with any side up. If need be, feel free to contact us – we are always happy to help!
Having an all-wheel drive, appropriate tyres, warm clothes (while I put on my snowboard jacket while riding) and at least a bit of common sense, we cannot be terrified by winter! It would be too bad if we had to give up riding such great devices throughout whole winters.
If you wonder what riding technique for winter to adopt, read our second article on this.
Winter rides are great fun, while any comparison between taking winter unicycle rides and their bike counterparts makes everyone see how great the difference is – obviously, in favour of the unicycle.
I hope you'll like this! I am also curious to collect your experiences left in the comment section! Stay warm!