1 year of unicycling: How's my idling and backwards ability?

I’ve been unicycling for nearly a year now, and it’s been a wonderful adventure so far. When I first started posting here in November of last year, I was still pedaling while holding onto a fence. Now I can ride for 14 miles, juggle while unicycling, ride backwards somewhat, and also sort of idle. The advice and encouragement I’ve received from this forum has been extremely valuable.

So today I finally got around to filming myself doing backwards figure 8s on my 24", and idling, the 2 skills I’ve been working on the most. I appreciate any criticism or input.

Here I am doing backwards figure 8s

Here I am idling

Criticize my technique all you want, and I apologize for the quality of the backwards video, I was afraid I’d hit the camera going backwards so I went a little too far away from it. My biggest problem with backwards seems to be having a favorite side, which doesn’t happen anymore with going forwards(this used to be a major problem). It feels much easier going counterclockwise than clockwise for some reason. My worst falls while doing figure 8s were while going clockwise. I know, I just have to practice more.

My all time record for backwards is around 1/2 a mile(rough estimate) without dismounting or a UPD by doing big circles in this large courtyard, which I did on Monday. When I dismounted in the video, my legs started feeling worn out.

When it comes to idling my biggest issues are using my arms too much and that I slowly shift rightward. Maybe my idles are too big? The leg opposite the down foot is pushing me rightward? Whatever the case may be, I slowly go rightward, though it’s not as bad as before and I can sometimes reverse this if I use enough force.

Feel free to criticize my technique all you want, go ahead and nitpick. If you think I should give up unicycling because I’m too ugly for it, go right ahead and say it if that’s what you truly believe. TIA.

Your body position backwards looks strange. You lean back very far with your uppper body, while pushing your hip forward, very exhausting. You should be able to keep a more normal position, it looks like you are forcing yourself to lean back, but you should not need to, once you are at a normal riding speed, your center of gravity should be above the center of the wheel. It will make it less exhausting and maybe fix some of your turning problems, everyone has a favourite side, that’s normal and just goes away with time.

Try lowering your seat a cm, it might be to high and forcing you to lean toward your bottom foot, also try idling with the left pedal down for a change. Otherwise looking good, your idles are the right size and all.

Thanks for the advice, finnspin! Even I sometimes think I am leaning back too much, but it feels like if I don’t lean back a lot I can’t go backwards properly. I do it to get that backwards push, in other words. Will definitely try not to lean back too much, will only lean back just a little. It’s usually my legs that feel exhausted more than anything else while going backwards and this is usually why I can’t do it for more than a few minutes. I need to keep most of the weight on the seat I realize, and while I am getting better at doing this it is harder to do while turning.

Funny thing is that when I idle with the left pedal down I still shift to the right. The seat feels like it’s at the right height, it’s at the same height as my belly button. I’m still struggling with trying to use my hips for balance so I don’t have to use my arms so much.

Thanks for all your advice finnspin!

Jeez, I’ve also been riding a little over a year (year + 2 months) but I can’t ride backwards or idle. On the other hand I haven’t done much training in that. The riding backwards would be fun to learn at some point, but idling I don’t see the point. My biggest achievement is in having bought 8 unicycles and being able to ride them all from 19"-36". Mostly I just like to ride many kilometres. Unicycling is like flying :slight_smile:
Well done Acrorebel

You might try idling using a longer pedal stroke, from 3:00/9:00 all the way to 9:00/3:00. Then you can practice momentary still stands at either end of your idling stroke. It’s more easily done, I think, on a 20", but doable on the 24" (I’m a broken record: get a 20", get a 20", get a 20"…).

Your backwards riding is a bit choppy, but for one year, who cares! You’re doing great. My only suggestion, in regard to riding backwards, is to try to go a little more slowly. That might smooth out some of the choppiness in your pedaling.

Keep riding!

There are so many different approaches and styles of unicycling that I don’t think idling/backwards is an absolute necessity for all unicyclists. However, I’d feel like I’m limiting myself if I was only ever riding forward.

One of the reasons I’ve worked so hard on idling and backwards is because even after I had been riding enough to ride for several miles, I always felt this unease at the back of my mind. I had no obvious issues, but I still felt awkward, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable or in control. This was especially true unicycling on hills.

Learning to idle and go backwards has pretty much solved this problem. I no longer feel any serious awkwardness since I have so much more control now. Certain situations that might lead me to lose control or UPD can be avoided thanks in part to my idling/backwards ability. Idling and backwards, but more so idling, also helps you learn many other skills.

A person who has been unicycling for over a year should have little problem learning to idle or go backwards; it feels weird saying this to someone with more experience than me. The benefits are enormous, though if you’re mostly riding big wheels it may be impractical to learn idling or backwards, based on what I’ve read and my tiny bit of experience idling with a 29". This is probably also true of municyclists. So cool than you have 8 unicycles! I only have 2, a 24" and a 29". I sometimes wish I had a 36", but can’t afford it right now.

Thanks for your input and have fun!

I just watched your vidz. It is amazing how well you’re riding backwards. The muni-trip I was on in Germany was certainly a challenge and I can see from your techniques that especially at times just being able to roll back one rotation would save me from a UPD. Surely you didn’t learn to ride backwards on that parking lot. You’d need a wall to hold on to first.

I have unicycled for a bit over a year and I think I idle a bit smoother than you but you are way better going backwards. For me idling got way more stable after I started concentrating on where to put my weight on, you seem to put alot weight on the upper foot. I would suggest try lighten it and make the idle more “swinging” :slight_smile: And as already suggested, work on the left foot down idling also, it will help alot.

I also have noticed being able to idle and go backwards a bit helps alot in overall uni-balancing.

Interesting advice. I thought maybe my idles were a little too big at first. I’ll see what I can do.

When going backwards, I get more choppy when I slow down. I’m smoother going backwards fast but it’s scarier and I feel unstable.

Today I deflated my tire a little to make backwards practice a little more challenging, based on the idea that we learn faster when we vary slightly how we practice(thanks OneTrackMind for that research). I could barely do a few circles and did only 2 figure 8s. I can usually do 10 or more figure 8s and dozens of circles when the tire is inflated all the way, though not continuously. I think all this struggling should make backwards unicycling a lot easier when I inflate the tire properly. It’s even kind of difficult doing small circles forwards at this tire pressure, though I can do them without fail.

Thanks for the advice, elpuebloUNIdo.

Just to clarify, your idling is nice looking; I was merely suggesting that idling could be practiced in a fashion where it created a bridge to another technique (still stands).

I agree that you’ll be jerkier when riding backwards slowly. I want to make a distinction, however, between performance and practice. There are plenty of things we can do to degrade our performance; some of them, however, will help us in the long run. I’m suggesting that if you ride more slowly, it will be jerkier, but that this may help you in other situations. I find that practicing harder things makes the less-hard things easier.

Speaking of hard things, awesome riding after one year!

I’m in no position to give advice - I’ll just say that if I can do that after a year I will be very happy.

Wow, you are a lot smaller than I thought (backwards video). Do you know Ant Man? :stuck_out_tongue:

This is normal for most of us. If you want to strengthen your weaker side, just spend more time riding that way than the other, and that side will learn. In fact, beyond a natural dominance that most people have, I think we probably spend more time practicing on our “comfortable” side than the other; Unless we really pay attention, the other side isn’t being given equal time.

Your actual riding quality going backwards is excellent. I am reminded of once upon a time when we tried adding a “Compulsory” event to what we then called “Artistic” competitions. I think this was at Unicon III and IV. To win in Individual Freestyle or Standard Skill, you had to have the highest combined score for that event, plus the Compulsory. It included backwards figure-8s (or one-foot backwards figure-8s at the top level) and it was surprising to see all these “top” trick riders struggling to do them without choppy pedaling and point-deducting arm movements!

Your backwards riding posture is a bit odd, but you can adjust that with more time. The posture isn’t bad; if anything it’s a little on the extreme side of “good” posture in general. Other things you can do are practice going slower (while working to make it smoother), faster, smaller and bigger.

That video was almost as boring as a Stillstand competition, where nowadays it’s one person at a time with an electronic apparatus. :slight_smile: To be honest, I fast forwarded it. To cure your drifting to the right, practice going to the left. Yes, you can idle in whatever direction you want (as long as it’s sideways). As you get comfortable going to the left, your natural drift will fade to nothing.

Idle size is a matter of what you’re trying to do. Performers tend to idle extra large, to show movement and make it look hard or unstable. People who are doing it for long periods of time will idle really small, which takes less energy. Put on some music, and you can practice idling to that. Don’t forget to change up the beat!

To get your arms under control, start trying to not use them at all. Your goal is to get where you don’t need to move them at all. Try with your arms glued to your sides, hands in back pockets, arms crossed, etc. Probably the ultimate form of all that will be to idle while juggling. This is quite a bit harder than juggling while riding, as it relies on a solid idle where you don’t need your arms.

Can’t tell; you are way too tiny to make out. :slight_smile:

I think it’s obvious that I spend a lot more time practicing backwards than idling :D. I’ll occasionally skip an entire week of idling practice because I often find it boring or I want to focus more on distance riding or running.

I think you’re right about putting too much weight on the upper foot. The idea of one foot idling at this point seems impossible and I’ve never attempted it. I really should put more weight on the lower foot and on the saddle.

Thanks for the advice Kalervo! Good luck to you with your unicycling.

I always said I was very small! :smiley:

I’m surprised to hear about so many top level unicyclists struggling with going backwards at these events. While I couldn’t compete with them when it comes to just about any other skill, it’s odd thinking their backwards ability is only a little better than mine. I’m probably just 2 or 3 months away from riding backwards with grace if I practice enough. I may not attempt to break Steve Gordon’s 68 miles backwards record, but I will get better. It’s sad that Steve Gordon is no longer with us. Has anyone tried breaking his record recently?

As far as idling goes, I’ll just keep my arms on my lap no matter what. I’ve tried juggling a bunch of times while idling, but I can only do a 3 ball flash before dropping everything or UPDing. I’ll attempt juggling again once I master keeping my arms on my lap. The rightward shifting should be easy to resolve.

Thanks for the advice, John!

I understand better now, thanks for clarifying. For how long can you do a still stand? I just looked up the still stand world record: 65 minutes, 13 seconds set by Ana Schrödinger of Germany in Montreal in 2014. I didn’t realize it was possible to still stand for that long!

Another thing I do to worsen my backwards performance which seemed to help me improve the next day: Carry heavy balls while going backwards.

I have these 3 heavy 2 lb balls I use for juggling and I held on to 2 of them one day(one in each hand) while going backwards. I kept screwing up and UPDing at first because they put me off balance and I could feel that little bit of extra weight. But soon I got used to them. When I unicycled backwards without them the next day, the figure 8s were a lot easier. Thanks for the advice!

Consider those videos as what you’ll be doing in about a year. I honestly believe you have the potential.

You’re right, I used a long fence at first to learn how to go backwards. Some people may think that is not the best way to learn but it obviously worked for me(and many others).

After a couple of weeks I started going backwards out in the open and felt lucky if I could do just 2 or 3 backwards pedal strokes. Eventually I went well beyond that and started estimating the distance, and was stuck around 10 feet for the longest time.

Lookin’ great. I’ve been riding for 30 years, and I can’t ride backwards that gracefully, but granted, it’s not a big priority for me. Good job!

+1 on the fence thing. While I learned to ride backwards using a different method, I did use a fence to learn to ride, and I recently used a fence to learn to ride with the seat in front in about two hours. As long as it’s not a crutch, it can be a great tool.

I’ve been riding since January but I had knee surgery in July so I’ve been out of commission for a bit. I just started riding again about a week ago. I can only ride about 30’ backwards before a upd. I haven’t tried to learn to idle yet. After I can go backwards good I’ll start to learn to idle. I can hop pretty good so I do that now when someone else probably would idle.

Well, Unicon II was 30 years ago now (!). We were next door to Hofstra University, and slept in their dorms. I mention this because today’s presidential debate took place there today.

On average, top riders today are much, much better at making backward circles and 8s, if they are interested in performing those things. :slight_smile: