Yup, I did. Why? My Norco died. I was trying to go up a curb one evening and noticed that my pedal seemed loose (again). "I welded the cranks on just last week!" I thought to myself. I got off and inspected it, everything seemed in good order. I rode a few feet further and my pedal fell off, unceremoniously dumping me on the ground. The axle snapped where the cotter pin went through.
Upon dismantling the Norco, it turned out that the frame was cracked up both sides, right through the bolt-holes where the lollipop bearings are held in.
"I thought this was a Bedford unicycle review," you say to yourself. Well, it is. I just have to set up the mood. :)
I told my tale of woe to the wonderful people on rec.sport.unicycling and they had many helpful suggestions on a new unicycle to buy. The problem was, I was short of cash. Greenbacks. Moola. Dinero. You see, here in Canada by the time you end up getting a unicycle from unicycle.com (great site, keep up the good work guys) it gets quite expensive. The United is $149usd, which converts to $225cdn, plus 20% duty to import it plus shipping brings the total to about $300cdn. However, they only rate the wheel to 160lbs. I weigh 180lbs and have a propensity for breaking things.
So, one of my friends (Mike King) suggested that I talk to Darren Bedford about a unicycle. One of the bunch here in Calgary (Brad Davis) rides an older model Bedford unicycle, so I figured I'd give Darren a try.
2001 model Bedford
Upgrades/changes from standard model
I called him up, and found Darren to be both friendly and helpful. He was willing to put different parts on the unicycle, so I decided on a longer seatpost, 6" cranks and a Gazz 2.6" wide tire. Darren had problems getting the Gazz tires in from Finland so after a few weeks he suggested that I go with a Kenda 2.6" tire instead. I agreed and the unicycle arrived on my doorstep a few days later, before I had even paid for it! Final cost, including shipping, was $325cdn (approx. $216usd). I believe he gave me a good deal because I waited a few weeks for the tire issue to be resolved.  If you buy something similar, you might pay a few extra bucks.
So, here are a couple pictures of the Bedford:
Kenda tire, Sun double wall rim, 6" cranks, quick release and a nice
fat tube... The only parts that didn't come with the unicycle were
the pedals, they're some old GT BearTrap pedals I had on my Norco crapcycle
before it died.
Here are some close-ups of the hub and bearing holder:
These bearing holders are generally considered to be a good design. My old Norco used the lollipop style of bearing holders and the frame was cracked up both sides by the time I junked it. The bearing holders on the Bedford are a lot less likely to crack the frame, even if the bolts are tightened too much. You can also see the hub from this angle, it looks like a hub (wow!).
Astute viewers will notice that the cranks are no longer 180 degrees opposed to each other (more on this later).
When I talked to Darren on the phone, I told him I didn't want a quick release on my unicycle. The one I retrofitted on my old Norco kept bending on me and was absolutely useless. I ended up buying a meaty bmx seat post clamp with a hex bolt and had awesome results. Well, Darren convinced me to try the quick release, as you can see. It definitely is stronger, my old quick release had a 3/16" shaft whereas this one has a 5/16" shaft. It has worked satisfactorily, to the point where you can see all those dents in my seat tube caused by overtightening the clamp to try and keep the seat from twisting (did I mention I'm not a very good rider? :) ). My only complaint with this setup is that the seat clamp itself is *welded* to the unicycle. I can't put my meaty bmx clamp on without first cutting this seat clamp off. The bmx clamp might not cause the denting like this one because it is solid aluminum and would distribute the pressure over a larger area on the seatpost.
Assorted and miscellaneous thoughts:
The first few weeks required a lot of attention to the mechanical aspects of the unicycle. I carried tools with me on every ride, as almost every connection came loose at one point or another.
I am hard on this unicycle. I weigh 180lbs and have very strong legs (I look like a tank when I ride), so I think I have found most of the weak points in this unicycle:
Tire pressure on a Kenda 2.6" tire. The lower the pressure you
can ride with without hitting the rim or folding the sidewall on the tire,
the better. This is also why a wide rim is good, putting more tire
area on the ground and allowing you to run at a lower pressure.
I rode with 18psi and found it was too soft, I was hitting the rim all
the time. I increased it up to 25psi and that worked up until I
got hopping figured out last week and started hitting the rim again.
Yesterday I increased the pressure to 30psi and I don't expect to change
it for quite a while. I have noticeably lost some bounce in the
tire but at the same time know that it will be much more reliable.
Coincidentally, 30psi is also the minimum rated tire pressure printed
on the side of the tire. Maybe those numbers actually mean something.
:) I love the downhill tube because it has been pinched by the tire
hitting the rim numerous times, but is tough enough to survive.
This is an good unicycle and I love it. From friends who have ridden it, they say it feels a lot like a Miyata, very stiff and rigid. It does have some weak points, namely the hub and axle, but you have to remember that this is a $325cdn unicycle. It is not a Hunter or Wilder. For anyone looking for a starter unicycle, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. Spend the extra money and avoid a Norco, you won't regret it. For anyone without a lot of money looking to replace their broken Norco, I would also recommend it. It is tougher than other starter unicycles and starting in 2002 it should be able to take a 3" wide tire. My rule of thumb is that you would have to spend about $500cdn to get a unicycle that is significantly better than the Bedford (Include exchange, shipping and import on a Semcycle XLW or Pashley). I don't know how big the Canadian unicycle market is, but unicycle.com would be more attractive if they were able to ship from within Canada and avoid the stupid Canadian import duties.
I am in the process of getting a Suzue hub for my muni to replace my existing hub that is bending. Once I get it put in I will see how well it hops and drops :). Until then, I'm saving up my pennies for next year when I can buy a Bedford with a 3" wide tire. This unicycle has been the biggest bang for the buck that I have encountered in quite a while. It has taken me over obstacles and dumped me onto dirt that I didn't even know existed. :)
If you are buying a unicycle from Darren, take the time to talk to him and communicate what your needs are and he will do his best to accomodate you. He will ship other parts to you if needed. I found him very helpful in answering my questions about unicycles.
I hope that you found this review helpful. Now for the shameless plugs: :)
Darren Bedford contact information:
Calgary Mountain Unipsychos - I hang out with these people and Mike is working on a video where you'll be able to see Bedfords in action! :)
Unicycle.com - The definitive source for unicycles. What else is there to say?
Copyright 2001 Jerry Seutter (yello at home dot com) all rights reserved. Photos taken by Mike King.
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