Unipacking: Designing Panniers for a Unicycle: Research


In April 2017 I’m planning on riding the Arizona Trail via my unicycle. This will involve unipacking: carrying all my supplies for a self supported off road adventure over the course of hundreds of miles. First I needed a better custom handlebar that is more comfortable for long distance muni riding. In “Creating a Custom Unicycle Handlebar Part 1” I talk about my goals for the handlebar and compare it to some old designs. In Part 2, Fabrication I have a video of me fabricating the new handlebar. Definitely watch that if you are interested in creating your own designs. I encourage you to copy what I did and expand upon it to make it better for you!

Now, it is important to never ignore what other people have done before you. There have been discussions on unicycle panniers from as early as 2003.  Back in 1992 Mark Schimmoeller road across the country on his unicycle and wrote a book, “Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America.” I’m not the first person to do unipacking or unitouring, and there are a few notable people out there that have done awesome trips. Unipacking is doing an offroad unicycle trip on a smaller wheel; usually a 26” or 27.5” mountain unicycle. Unitouring is a mostly on road tour on a 36” unicycle. The setups need to be slightly different, as a mountain unicycle will encounter more rough terrain, steeper terrain, and difficult tight switchbacks. 

Cary Gray and his massive unitouring.

He has taken his 36” unicycle over 15,000 miles, so he definitely knows what he is talking about. Check out his unicycle details page and the video below detailing his unicycle setup:


I first learned about Cary Gray back in 2013 when he won the Kris Holm Evolution of Balance Unicycle Grant. One of my close local friends, Nathan Hoover, helps support the grant, and I recall him talking about this crazy adventure that some guy proposed. Check out details on the grant at http://evolutionofbalance.org

Cary is one of the first people to create unicycle panniers, having done so in 2012. His panniers are massive, but allow him to take all weight off of his body and put it on the unicycle frame:



The general idea is to strap on some custom panniers to the front and rear handlebar that can distribute the weight. The front panniers have to be thin enough to not rub on your legs, and the rear can be larger but might make it more difficult to mount.

Having weight off your body is a huge win: you will get less “saddle sore” and less overall fatigue. I know this from personal experience: if you have a heavy backpack, then any additional pedal effort is multiplied as you stand up on the pedals and take your weight out of the seat. When your weight is in the seat, it is a TON more than usual, and over time this wears down your buttocks and crotch.

Also be sure to check out Cary’s older wordpress page on “My Gear”. It has a lot more details and pictures on exactly what he has done. Cary: Thanks for sharing! It is inspiring. I hope to meet you some day.

Ed Pratt and his World Unicycle Tour

Check out Ed’s Facebook page and Ed’s YouTube channel. He also has a page highlighting his unicycle kit. I’m going to copy a few pictures here in case the site ever goes down. Ed got ahold of Cary and had him make some custom unicycle panniers:

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Cary’s sewing skills are lightyears ahead of mine, and they they are packed with a ton of great ideas on how I should make my own. The attachment mechanism can be seen below; a straight bar that supports the main weight of the bag with a fender to prevent it from rubbing on the tire, along with maximizing vertical space. 



This type of setup seems to work pretty well for people. It does require a taller person to be able to ride it; you can’t lower the seat anymore than shown in the pictures, so a person of my height at 5’6” wouldn’t be able to ride it. If you are taller it will also waste some space under the seat.  

I hope to try and meet up with Ed once he reaches North America.

Divide By One: Gracie Sorbello and Matt Burney

Website: http://divideby1.blogspot.ca

Back in 2009 Grace and Matt did the Continental Divide on unicycle. This is an awesome self supported adventure that preceded Cary’s efforts but were also supported by the Kris Holm Evolution of Balance award.  They choose to go on ungeared 29’er mountain unicycles, and carried most the weight in traditional backpacks with a few bits of water bottles attached to the frames:


This was an incredible feat of strength and endurance and goes to show you that you can do long distance mountain unicycling adventures without heavily modifying the unicycle itself. 

Matt’s video below shows a lot of awesome shots of them riding and their setup:


I’m going to opt for more weight off of my body and onto the unicycle; it is way more comfortable. 

I met Matt and Gracie in Berkeley a bit after the adventure. 


Sid and his 3000 miles from Northern Alaska to Montana

Check out Zero Point Sid’s Facebook page. I met Sid back in 2008 the we did “Uninam”: A supported 500km unicycle tour through Vietnam. Sid has consistently done insanely long adventures since 2006. His last adventure is along the historic Dalton Highway.  Sid is mainly doing what I consider unitouring. Check out one of his first few pictures:

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He has a rear rack that allows strapping stuff on top, along with a typical backpacking backpack for carrying the rest of the stuff. The video below shows him in action along the highway:





Anne-Sophie: Monocyclette – One Wheel Across Patagonia

Anne So’s website used to be at http://monocyclette.ca but it seems to currently be down. Luckily you can still go to https://www.facebook.com/Monocyclette.ca/ and find a lot of cool stuff about there 2013 4600km trip through Patagonia. Anne So is one of the first people I know of to do true unipacking. A lot of the paths she did through Patagonia were on paved streets, but a ton of it was also offroad and required a wheel smaller than the standard 36. She went with a 29er, which is a nice alternative to the 36 for steeper off road climbs and also provides a ton more tire options.

You can also find her on twitter.

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She had a custom frame made that goes with a front and rear rack system. This is actually a great idea, and I have plans to make a dedicated custom unitouring frame that incorporates some of these ideas.

An iconic picture of her on the start of the adventure illustrates how hard it is to ride with a full pack and strong headwind:




Last year in 2016 Anne-Sophie Rodet joined forces with Kelli Jenkins Carley and did a true lightweight unipacking adventure through the Swiss alps.  In 2016 they won the same grant that Carry won.

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They went super lightweight by dropping down to the bare essentials, but went with the rear mounted rack system on (I think) 26” unicycles. This is one of the first true unipacking adventure: small wheels, self supported, weight on the frame, and all insane off road without hardly any pavement.

I’ve been friends with Anne-So for many years, and it is always a pleasure to hang out with her. 

Jamey Mossengren and the Colorado Trail

Jamey is the reason I’m going to do the Arizona trail and he is spearheading the effort. Back in 2015 he unicycled the entire 500 mile Colorado Trail; all self supported and a lot of it by himself.  Check out Jamey’s Blog for some great details on the adventures.

His unicycle has a rear rack supporting the weight, and a front bag that fits underneath the seat:

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Jamey is tall, very tall. That allows him to run a handlebar bag vertically under the seat post. There is no way that someone of my height could do something like this. This is some true unipacking: lots of weight on the unicycle, and out on the trail for long periods of time.

I’ve known Jamey for many years, and I’m looking forward to doing the Arizona trail with him!


I know a lot of other people who have done supported and unsupported unitouring and unipacking, but the above people have more of an internet presence and press coverage.

Next, we will see my designs and efforts!



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[…] a bunch of research, and making a new handlebar, I decided to start up on some prototype unicycle panniers and […]

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