Giraffe Unicycles

A giraffe unicycle is one with a chain, or one where the crank arms are not attached directly to the axle. Most commonly they are the tall unicycles you see in parades and shows. There are several variations on giraffes, and some of them are listed separately within the Garage.

My first unicycle. This was the first one I owned, on the day I bought it, Feb. 11, 1980 It's a Schwinn that I still treasure (Yes, I already knew how to ride). Snow? What snow? This is Michigan, man, and I wanna ride my new unicycle!

This is a "Hipo", or High Performance Giraffe. Instructions on how to customize a normal giraffe this way appeared in the Fall, 1980 issue of the Unicycling Society of America Newsletter. It was my first article in there. Gearing up a giraffe makes it faster (in this case nearly 2:1), but you lose a lot of leverage. These things were very difficult to idle, and even harder to freemount. Besides, who wants to crash a giraffe at 15 miles per hour? It served, at the time, as an inexpensive way to make a unicycle go faster. A better way is a big wheel.

A whole gaggle of giraffes from the Twin City Unicycle Club. Here they are winning the Club Show event at the 1996 NUC in Chariton, Iowa.

Wow Tall! Giraffe riders from the Wood One Wheelers, at the 1995 National Unicycling Convention in Bowling Green Ohio. This was the parade competition, in which unicycle groups show off the best of their parade skills. These giraffes are between 10 and 12 feet tall, and I still don't know the names of the two riders . . .

A custom 9 footer from the Unicycle Factory. Tom Miller built this one for and me in 1986. On the back of it is the experimental part; a white, spring loaded step. When you stand on the step, it presses down on the tire to hold it still so the unicycle can be freemounted. Though I never got better than about 30% success, I did once freemount the thing in the middle of 5th Avenue in a parade in New York City. What a rush; the crowd loved it! Now those people probably think that's how everybody gets on the things.

This six footer and a few others were built by a man in Ohio for members of the Wood One Wheelers during the early 80's. They are absolute works of art, with hand made wheels, heart shaped holes in the chain sprockets, and the rider's names carved into the frames. Unfortunately this man is no longer with us.

 Steve McPeak riding his 101' 9" unicycle in 1980 at the Las Vegas Hilton. Don't try this at home. If you fall, you might land on a neighbor's house several blocks away! This is the unicycle height record as listed in the Guinness Book. The unicycle weighed 1400 pounds, and Steve pedaled it all the way around in a big circle (with his support crane at the center). He used toeclips, handlebars and even a seat belt! This was because the crane was attached to the unicycle, not him, and he had to stay on it in the event of a fall.

These giraffes are multi wheelers, made by Mr. Tsukahara of Nagoya, Japan. That's his daughter Megumi on the left, and a guy with white sleeves on the right. These unicycles have 12" wheels, so you can estimate their height from that. Photo taken in 1980, courtesy Jack Halpern.

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