36" and turning

Just been for a second ride a my new KH36. That’s makes only four 36" rides in total with most of my time being on a KH29 with the big fat Crux tyre.

Mounting, riding, basic hopping, all OK. Not great, but no problems. Very different to the 29 so lots of re-learning to do.

But can I turn this thing?? No :slight_smile: …not very well at all.

Just doing your basic U turn or figure 8, not wide or tight so about maybe 6 to 8 metre radius, and off I come almost every time.

Best description of the problem is the unicycle just wants to keep banking. I usually have to apply counter balance (motorbike riders would know what that means, leaning the body opposite to the bank) just to try and stay in control. End result is at best a contorted riding position with very little control. Usually ends badly, either for me or the terrified people around.

The experience is clearly worse turning left than right. Makes me wonder if there is some gyroscopic effect from the big wheel.

Tyre pressure is about 45 psi, just above the minimum recommended. Lower pressure is not better although the uni is less responsive as expected.

Anyone else had this experience or can offer some advise for a 36" novice?


You can do slow sudden turns timed with the downstroke of the inside pedal, or you can do wider smooth turns.

Keep your head upright, look where you want to go, not where you’re afraid of going.

Don’t lean too far. The angle of lean on a taller unicycle is less than on a smaller one.

I agree with Mikefule, practice.

I went from a 24" (with a 50 year break) to a 36er. It took awhile till I could turn even gentle turns and a little longer for sharp turns.

Also depends on what surface you are riding on but I’d suggest the max tire pressure (65 psi) for paved surfaces. Lower tire pressures makes it harder to turn and also creates more drag just riding straight.

Although i rarely ride my 36 because i find it difficult to mount and it is a heavy uni, i do have like a preferred side of turning. I believe to the right i can turn at a small circle but not to the left. When turning i move my upper body to where i want to turn often with 1 or 2 arms up in that direction.

Also in my trainingssessions i found that with a low psi it is harder to roll. 35psi i use for nearly all my unis

Speed up, don’t slow down.

Try accelerating through the corner or at least maintain your speed.
I’m guessing that you’re slowing down throughout the turn and just falling in the hole.

Opposite actually, as it starts to get a bit unstable, I naturally peddle more to compensate.

Thanks for the feedback everyone.

I’m clearly banking way too much, or at least more than I can handle at this time. Interesting comment about the larger uni not needing to lean as much.

I need to go back to basics and practice turns just like I did when I started on my 20" years ago.

Find a nice empty car park and ride in squares. That keeps turns to just 90 degrees for now. Learn the feeling but not let it get out of control. As things improve turn the 90 into 180, 360 and so on. That’s the plan, just got to find the empty car park.

Out on the road corners aren’t a problem. I guess the turns are wide but also there a clear place to look (as mentioned very, very important). It’s just a problem when I have to turn in smaller areas. Those places we are “afraid” of start to looking menacing and become a distraction.

I put the tyre pressure up to 60psi today. Better ride but no change to turns.

But the worst part is when I got back on my 29" for a 20km ride and I started to loose it in turns as well. :angry: It also felt so slow !

Yesterday I did 6 km going around and around in circles in a car park.

But, that day I also packed shoes to match my 2 left feet. Says something about my current state of unicycling :astonished:

Otherwise, good practice session. I feel there are no mysteries here, just bad techniques become a problem with such a large wheel.

The counter-lean is normal for starting out on an unfamiliar wheel. It keeps your centre of mass above the contact point while there is a lean on the wheel to make it turn. When riding no hands on a bike we counter lean to initiate a turn because we can’t counter turn the handlebars.

Sounds like you might be trying for too much too soon.

Gyroscopic forces tend to make the wheel steer in the direction of its lean.

Which hand do you hold on with? Sometimes this can prevent the rider getting their body as far across, especially on the opposite side to the hand they are holding with.

Thanks for the feedback OTM. For sure, trying too hard, over compensating and reacting too late. A self induced negative feedback loop is how I would have described this during my old flying days. I guest that means more practice!

Currently just holding the seat, no T-bar for now, and only holding the seat with my left hand. Generally this turning practice is with no hands. Holding the seat distracts me from moving my body, does not prevent, just distracts. Interesting I’m much better at sharp “twist” type turns to the right than the left, always have been, which in contrary to holding with a left hand.

After yesterday’s session I did enjoy some nice control for low speed 90 degree twist type turns. It’s these continuous turns that are showing I do not have good control of the lean with the less agile handling of a 36" over that of the 29" or 24". Perhaps I got away with bad technique on the smaller wheels, but the slower and more powerful motion of a 36" needs to be practiced.

17 years of unicycling, and my turning still feels better to the left then to the right. (Mostly because I tend to have my right hand on the seat, left hand free.) It’s normal to prefer one direction, especially when learning new skills. The difference will decrease over time.

A gyroscopic effect would be on either side.

It will come with time. A couple of years ago I was really comfortable on the 36 after a few months on it. One evening I rode with some considerable speed into a Macdonalds carpark with a couple of sharp ninety degree turns and stopped. A man and his son were looking at me with their jaws dropped.

I realised how far I would have leaned to take those corners at that speed and how it would have looked to someone who had probably not even seen a big unicycle before.

I stopped riding last year for a while after a sustained illness and since then mostly rode my 26 as I built up fitness again. I have only recently got back on the 36. For a while I nearly crashed every time I tried to turn even gradually.

I think turning while holding a t-bar is a whole different level. Occasionally i manage some big cicles but mostly hold the seat and point with the other hand to where im going.

Sounds like you are describing what American motorcyclists call countersteering. That’s where you use pressure on the handlebar to create the lean, which subsequently starts a turn. It’s called “counter” steering because pressing on the right handlebar causes the bike to lean to the right, which makes it curve to the right. This seems counter-intuitive.

So it sounds like you are going relatively fast, and getting into a nice bank when making your turns. But then you finish turning and the uni is still banked. So your turn can’t end without some contortions. To finish the turn, you have to turn the wheel a little extra inward, to bring it back to upright. For best results, this little extra turn has to start before you get to your desired direction of travel.

With more practice, you’ll be able to blend this in as a part of your turn, and it’ll look and feel really nice.

That, or just try riding a lot slower. Both would be good for practice.

Body position for tight turns is to turn your outside shoulder toward the front. In other words, to turn right, turn your upper body to the right. The smaller the turn radius, the more this matters.

After riding a 36", most any other uni will feel extra light and twitchy. In your case, it may also be trying to help you with your turning technique; to practice it on a smaller wheel and then work on translating that to the bigger wheel…?

Thanks for great response, i will use that advice today in my favourite car park… Quite correct about going too fast.

Actually I do mean counter balance, not counter steering (no handle bars to push counter on my unicycle, not sure of reaction if there was.). For a left leaning unicycle, body is over to right to counter balance. Valid technique for slow turns on motorcycles where the opposite weight allows a greater lean and hence turning force.

Counter steering on a bike/motorbike is when you push the right side of the handlebar to turn right. Some unicyclists use the same term to mean that to turn right, you initiate the turn by turning (or more like twisting) to the left. It makes you fall into the turn faster - and fall during the turn when you start practicing, but that’s another story! :smiley:

Countersteering according to Sheldon.

That’s a good description. I think it works a little differently for bicycles than motorcycles. There’s a lot less mass, and less centrifugal force in play, so it’s a smaller thing. Sheldon says you turn the wheel momentarily to the right to establish the lean, then turn left to continue the turn. On a motorcycle (big or small), all you do is push on the side you want to turn toward, and that’s it. The lean is created, and that steering position remains good for a curving road. For turning a street corner it would be different, but I always enjoyed demonstrating this for my motorcycle students. I think a lot of that difference is due to the throttle position being maintained for the curve (not the street corner). :slight_smile:

We’ve gone off topic, but hey I started the thread. I’ve been motorcycling for 40 years, and at best I’m an average rider. Still alive though.

4 years ago, at age 47, the wife said she wanted to get to her motorcycle licence. Hmmm, competition for being cool. Well, she did and did it very well. I was her part time motorcycle sensei, limited mostly by how much you can tell your wife what to do. My wife is somewhat “vertically challenged”. In Australian language that’s a polite way of saying she’s short. Can’t get both feet on the ground, even with a Honda Grom fitted with a lowered seat.

So, I really pushed car park practice. Most drops will occur at low speed with low speed handling issues. U turns were a big part of this. While teaching the wife, I really learned a lot about what I have just been doing naturally for years.

Now I never miss a chance to practice these turns, and I can assure you trying to make an 20 year old Ducati turn in less than 6m (20 feet) is not easy. Not that the bike should be my excuse.

I’d like to share a couple of youtube videos that have been a great inspiration for my practice of slow speed turns. The English is not good, but the techniques are simple and effective. These may not address “counter balance” and “counter steering” as such, but these are just terms. The fundamentals are done by most motorcycle riders every day, they just don’t notice.

Watch for the counter steering to get the bike leaned over.

That just starts the lean, at low speed the wheel must turn in direction of the turn for the motorcycle to turn. Use counter steering the get the lean. At low speed, the lean of the bike actually moves the wheel in the direction of turn so it must turn. Counter balance can be used though the turn.

Also, at low speed, it’s not just handlebar movement it’s body movement that also gets the lean going (perhaps this is important for unicycle and bicycles). Lean means wheel turn.

This guy can turn his bike tighter than I ever can, and with no hands.

Back to topic, sometimes there is large counterbalance to control the turn. This is extreme way to turn, not really the best way, but looks at bit like me on my 36" :frowning:


And yes my wife is short, but not this short !