This page was written to give insight into the gear necessary for cross-country unicycling. If you are already a unicyclist, in fact, perhaps it will still impress you.
All Rigged Up and Nowhere to Go…
Before I describe my setup, I must insist you don’t try to steal the ideas for the panniers themselves. I doubt anyone can do as good of a job as my mother, a professional sewing technician. Instead, I would ask you consider having us create custom cross-country panniers or travel bags for your 29er or 36er upon request. Email me directly with serious requests (go to the “Contact” page of this site). You will have to manage your own fender setup, however. It will cost what a set of custom panniers should cost, but they will never fall apart. It would include a huge rain-fly, just like mine. Or, best of luck finding a mass produced set on the market.
I have a 36 inch Kris Holm unicycle with 110/127mm cranks, a hydraulic disc brake, and a crossbar with T-handle and aero bars. It is un-geared, and I have found out the hard way that it is best to stretch 29 inch mountain bike tubes onto the rim.
I use the T-handle crossbar that came on the old nimbus 36ers, but I’ve since replaced their horribly inadequate seat undercarriage. I installed the KH forged, non-adjustable seat stem, to which I attached the crossbar directly. Both pieces of the crossbar are bolted together, with vertical support from the front and back parts of the seat (KH aggressive plate installed to hold the supporting bolt). More recently, I bolted on a reinforced bracket in the lower front corner of where the crossbar attaches.
The set eof aero bars are basically a regular set, but instead of the carbon fiber or aluminum bars, I used the original removable nimbus handles, shortened to remove the curvature. I then added PVC, heated to mold into shape. The PVC has proven to be sufficiently strong and light, as well as readily available in case of breakage (the handles protrude off the front the most, and are the first things to hit the ground upon falling). The plastic pads were replaced with more durable, longer and narrower wooden pieces.
The seat is a KH Air seat, with a couple adjustments. The 20 inch folded tube was replaced with a 16 inch tube from a little girl’s bike, which I found next a dumpster. (The brake lever was the ONLY thing broken on it – what a pity.) This leaves the front section empty, instead of bulging up into my future children. The demin-like material used to hold the tube in a folded dog-bone shape was replaced with micro-fleece, which is softer and doesn’t cause sharp, crinkled edges. I tore apart an old foam seat and used a thin slice of the padding underneath the tube. This gives extra padding, and acts as a back-up in case the tube deflates before I’m able to fix.
The bags have grown over time, but have begun to serve me well in every possible way. Originally, I was faced with the issue of how to attach them and where to even put them (can you make a front pannier? I wondered). The issue was solved by simply sandwiching them between the crossbar and the fender. I welded the fender out of steel to be rigid, bolted it into the underside of the fork, and attached two sets of support rods, which clamp on to the frame (maybe KH frames will have attachment points welded on in the future?). The bags are not rigid, so they must be filled to hold shape. Both bags have reinforced seams, heavy-duty sports zippers (horizontal, full-length, both sides), and adjustable clip-on straps for the crossbar and fender. The rear bag holds a 20 degree sleeping bag and an ultralight 2-person tent. To finish filling, the ground cover and my puffy insulating jacket are stuffed in, and a travel size muscle foam roller fills the top rear stiffly. The front holds a rolled up trail-lite sleeping pad (fills length of bag perfectly, which helps hold shape well.) on top, and below – bag of clothes, pot/bowl/stove/gas, and miscellaneous items like camp towel and spare tubes. The front bag is sewn to be narrow closest to the stem, so that it would fit between my legs. In order to keep the stuffed bag from bulging, 2 thin pieces of wood (masonite, or that wood paneling that peels off your grandma’s 1960s kitchen cabinets) are placed on on either side before zipping up. It magically goes from round to square, and the zipped bag is then strapped in the center of the enclosed hard plates, which cinches everything together. Good knee clearance, no chafing. Knee braces help, though. Especially during crooked riding days with high winds.
On the back, there originally sat just the box-y, grey bag. More recently, I had my personal seamstress (My mother, bless her heart) attach wing panniers draped off of both sides. These act more like classical bicycle panniers – with easy accessibility from either side. Below, these bags clip to the fender support rods. They hold soft things: rainfly, raincoat, long-johns, jacket, spare shorts. They stick out on both sides quite a bit, which makes mounting more challenging, but it not noticeable while riding. In the grey bag goes a 5-liter dry bag with my electronics, and in the side zippers go snacks. Atop that, my day pack, in a stuff sack, is clipped down. The zippers face out the opening of the sack, so they are accessible from the rear. My solar panel clips easily on top this setup. The day pack was too much weight for my sore butt, so that’s why it’s clipped on back. But, it can still be worn like a back pack in case of high winds, going on a hike, or stocking up for a couple consecutive meals.
A small, clip-on duffel bag hangs onto the front of the front bag. It has a drawstring for easy access to snacks, and I can slip my 3 liter camel back bladder in and out pretty easily. Between this and the rest of the front bag, my water bottle is slipped in. Along the top left edge of the front bag are my tent poles, strapped onto the crossbar with the bag. The poles are too long for either pannier, and would bend/break upon falling if they protruded out. On top of the front bag sits my “console.” I fits between my seat handle and my handles, underneath the aero pads. Inside go daily essentials like sunscreen and anti-chafe cream, as well as phone and wallet. It is strapped directly to the front bag below it. Attached on top is a harness for my kindle (directions and music). There is a never ending supply of abandoned bungee cords along the sides of highways and major thoroughfares. One of the most exciting things I’ve ever found was an red, industrial-sized rubber band (thick as a noodle, and bigger than a headband). I use it to lock the brake by pulling it tight on the lever. I also chock the wheel with my foot, but even with a boot this can get painful. It seems one of the most annoying things about cross-country unicycling is trying to set it against a wall to access an item. Usually, when it won’t stay upright, I have to tilt it down onto the handles, or back onto the rear bag. On the other hand, a fully loaded bicycle will lean right against a wall, usually very easily!
Everybody asks me what is hanging off the pedals. They’re bags, and also counterweights. They hold the pedal horizontal, which makes mounting much less dangerous (many times I have to run up a hill or against wind, jump up while lifting the heavy rig, and blindly place my feet on the pedals. But simple weights would have been pointless bulk, so instead they have emergency items like mylar blankets, which don’t need daily accessing.