Even if you didn’t catch it the first time around on Channel 4, if you have ever flopped in-front of the Discovery Channel you will probably have watched an episode of the history/restoration program, Salvage Squad. (Frankly, you can barely avoid it because it’s shown on a seemingly endless loop.) One of the Salvage Squad presenters was Jerry Thurston, a guy who openly describes himself as being “the lanky, obsessed one with the glasses and ill-fitting overalls”. On the other side of the camera Jerry is no different to his screen persona; he’s an inveterate tinkerer with a passion for anything on wheels.
Jerry’s latest obsession is Munis- Mountain Unicycles, Jerry freely admits that he can’t and probably never will ride a Uni (just wait, we’ll get him!), but his Son Ed does. That was all the excuse that JT needed to get weaving, and when Jerry commissions a build you had better believe that it is going to be something special. The brief given to unicycle.uk.com was to work with him to build a Unicycle that was at home off road but also equally useable in an urban skate park setting. To fulfil these criterions it needed to be tough, light and suitable for a youngster to ride effectively. Oh, and it also had to be adaptable enough to grow with him over the next few years... Tough call, thanks Jerry!
Before starting to consider the detail of the build there were some questions tht needed to be answered. The most important being which wheels diameter was most suitable for it. It’s the Unicycle conundrum. The larger the wheel is the more you can roll over and being a fixed wheel the faster you can go, conversely the bigger a wheel is, the harder it is to push off-road, especially for a youngster.
After some discussion it was decided that 24 inch rim fitted with a decent sized tyre would gave a great compromise between the ability to steam-roller over rough terrain and still be easily pushed by a juniors legs. Trawling through the various frame options both Jerry and Ed loved the quirky look of the Oregon 26” and its big 36”sisters the Impulse and the Stealth, so it was decided to use this design as the basis for a one off chassis.
The result is that his, or rather Ed’s new Mountain Unicycle is no mere ‘kit’ bike, while it looks a little like the existing Nimbus Oregon Muni it’s completely different, compare the two machines and you’ll soon realise that no two parts are the same... This is a total one-off.
Most of remaining build detail was easily sorted, an ISIS splined hub as cotters wouldn’t cut it, the biggest, fattest and meanest tyre we could shoe horn into the frame, to help find grip when the going got tough and cushion the blows from serious hops and drops and for maximum strength a double skinned trials type wheel rim to mach.
A brake? Definitely, however, Jerry is somewhat parsimonious and try as they might to convince him to go with a disc to use a he insisted on saving a few quid by re-using a tried and trusted Magura set up.
Being a one-off machine the frame needed to be built from scratch. Well, almost. Taking a 36 inch Nimbus frame we, (for this read Roger) shortened the frame legs, re-positioning the bearing housings and the brake mounts to suit to suit a 24” diameter wheel. The newly truncated frame with its shorter than normal tubes was now far stiffer than standard so there was no need to add the usual side-bracing, huge strength with light weight, that’s what we call a win-win situation. The chosen colour was Electric-Orange Pearl, it’s a long-winded three part paint process but the results are stunning, blue accents within the wheel-set give the Unicycle a slightly retro feel, think 1970’s Gulf Racing team colours.
Weight or rather lack of it was one of the key elements in the build, we needed to keep strength but lose as much weight as possible without busting the budget by fitting titanium or carbon-fibre parts. This meant using alloy wherever they could and super-tough but slightly heavy chrome-moly parts in the areas that needed maximum strength.
The need to add lightness prompted the decision to build a 36 spoke wheel rather than upping the ante to 48. The thinking behind this was a 24 inch wheel (especially a double walled trials type) because of its large width to diameter ratio is very strong in itself. 36 spokes would be more than adequate to support it fully, 12 more spokes is extra weigh for very little gain.
The chosen wheel combination consisted of a CrMo Kris Holm ISIS splined hub fitted with chunky 42mm sealed bearings spoked to a Dominator trials type rim which in turn was wrapped with ultra tough nylon rim tape to resist compression punctures from big hops and drops. It was then topped off with a high quality inner-tube and a big 24x2.6 Halo Ception tyre. No Carbon-Fibre? Well... Who could resist a couple of Carbon wheels spacers?
Massive 150mm polished alloy ‘Moment’ cranks by Kris Holm would tread the line between power and knee-under-the-chin syndrome, pedal-wise it deserved nothing less than set of tasty Kris Holm studded platforms, ultra lightweight polycarbonate with anodised blue studs and axle to match the blue accent theme of the cycle. Being a little superstitious Ed wanted to retain something of his old unicycle and having just bought and got used to a Kris Holm seat, he asked that his existing perch be transferred over, five minutes fitting the latest design of Kris Holm Freestyle seat cover (Orange accents of course) and it was like new again. In keeping with the weight saving theme his saddle was provided with heavy-duty but light-weight Nimbus alloy seat post which was secured with a tasty Nimbus double bolt seat clamp that just happened to be coloured the same shade of orange as the frame (what a result!). This guaranteed nothing would move during the inevitable, bum-meets-seat harder than intended moments.
Final touches included fitting the Magura brake set and dropping it on the scales to see how light it was. At 6.9 Kg it compared very favourably with the commercially available 24 inch machines and as expected dipped well under the weight of its bigger ‘sister’ the 26” Oregon.
We let Roger to give it a serious test ride. The fact that it he knew that it was such an immensely strong Uni gave him enough confidence to give it some severe torture. Considering that he normally rides a 26inch machine off-road he was really surprised by just how easily it rolls even on very rough ground, he also commented that its comparative lack of weight and the 2.6 inch tyre allowed him to get some big hops in. After extended ‘testing’ (see mucking about and trying to break things) he was visibly chuffed with his creation “We describe the Oregon as the Hummer of the unicycle world on our website, I reckon that we’ve just built the Land-Rover”.... Enough said.
So to the thorny question, what has it cost to build?
The unmodified frame needed several hours of specialist re-working to adapt it, plus the paint job. Its total cost coming in at almost exactly £200. The new parts needed for the project added up to a fraction over £290 which included the £15 for the wheel-building. Jerry twirled the spanners when it came to final construction so that cost nothing, not that the assembly would have added much to the overall cost, we’d done all the difficult stuff when the frame was modified so it only took about an hour to get it all together and riding nicely. We also need to consider that during the build Jerry bolted on about another £100 worth of parts like the brake and saddle gleaned from the Ed’s previous unicycle
The final total for this machine (taken as if everything was bought new and the labour farmed out) would be around £600, which is a fair amount of money granted, £550 will buy you the awesome Nimbus Oregon and you would still have a chunk of change. But that’s not the point, one-offs are never cheap, exclusivity is the name of this game and that’s priceless.
Will unicycle.com build one for you? Err, of course... Yes. But not exactly the same, we promised Jerry that this one will remain unique. But then why run with the herd? Frankly, we’d far rather build you something completely different, the possibilities as they say are limitless.
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