600+ mile municycle beginner problems

I rode my first few hundred miles on various tires and surfaces.
Then, I got “into” distance for a month which taught me a better spin.
After that, I decided to dedicate myself to off-road until a reach 1000 miles.

I rode 5 miles yesterday on an intermediate trail and it felt like 13 miles of road.
I put the hookworm on my unicycle last night, and learned that I could barely ride on pavement anymore.
The problem is that I backpedal too much (to avoid UPDs).
Imagine riding standing up for 5 miles (it’s much harder).

Aside from consistent practice, can anyone give me some tips on how to be more efficient off-road?
Has anyone else felt the weird feeling of riding on the road after a lot of riding a lot off-road?
Speed, leaning more forward, and lower air pressure has helped (and hurt) some - but there has been no significant breakthrough.
Currently, I am so inefficient that I am limited to about 5 miles off-road (and all of the trails around are about 7 miles :frowning: )

P.S. Hopefully some of those who bust out 12+ miles off-road will respond.

ive been on some 10+ mile rides, and the best advice i can offer is to do the least amount of physical work necessary. See if you can ride without standing up the whole time. Try standing up only for the roots, drops, and other small obstacles. And dont grab the seat too tightly when theres no reason too…I hardly ever hold the seat (only when im standing up). im not sure exactly why you backpedal…maybe if you clarify that ill get a better sense of why ur limited to 5 miles


hey drew -

i think by “back pedaling” you mean that you are sometimes putting pressure on the rear pedal (slowing down) so that you regain your front-to-rear balance. am i right?

it would be more efficient if while wanting to move forward we never tried to slow the wheel. i think what needs to be fine-tuned is the amount you lean forward and a steady forward pedaling. if you pedal too hard forward (or jerky), the uni may get too far ahead of you forcing the need to “back pedal” to allow your body’s momentum to catch up.

what do you think?

I rode 10 miles in rocky mountains and the best advice i can give is bring alot of water it wont last as long as youd think

I think that you are both correct.
Still, if when I try to lean forward and do “as little work as possible” I soon get surprised by a quick UPD - it can be anything a single rock, a small incline in grade. It is a “vicious ‘cycle’” (gotta love that pun). Once I relax, I UPD, once I tense up, I lose energy too quickly, so I relax . . . .

Tomorrow, I will just try to pedal the speed that I am going rather than accelerate or slowing down. I noticed that raw speed seems to help as well - it is just tough to maintain the 6 mph average that I need.

Part of the problem is that I have a rearward riding style - which ain’t good for rolling drops, climbing or anything but downhill.

Have any of you evolved from a rearward style to a more forward one?
Has anyone had an “energy problem” with off-road and grown out of it?

when i first started unicycleing i had little energy from going down hills and up but now i barley notice it and my legs are just sick and rock solid lol I TURN GREEN WHEN ANGRY (HULK MAN)

If you can train your legs to relax where possible this will help. Instead of pumping your legs up and down move them in circles and sit heavily in the seat. I find really agressive spiked pedals help with this and shoes that lock into them nicely. It will also smooth out your riding and give you better control when tackling the difficult routes.
The other option to doing your 7 mile rides is take a break after 4 before you are wacked, take in the scenary, enjoy the day… then do the last 3 with renewed vigur. :slight_smile:
I have no problem doing 20mile + off road rides, but I do normally take a break or 2 during these rides even when riding by my self.


I’m not entirely sure what you mean by a ‘rearward’ riding style, presumably you’re saying that your body tends to hang back rather than commiting your weight forwards.

You also mention that small inclines are causing UPDs.

It could be worth finding a steep road hill and work on riding up it every day. Find one you can’t get up and work on it till you can. A road hill will be better so you can focus totally on the right technique for climbing, without having to worry about falling off due to bumps etc.

The only way you’ll get up a steep hill is to commit fully to getting your weight forward, so it should help not only with inclines, but also in shedding your ‘rearward’ riding style.

When you can get up the hill, find a steeper one and tackle that.

I think I experience what you describe when I am on trail rides. I wouldn’t say that I develop a rearward style, but I definitely catch myself getting over-cautious. After riding through a particularly technical section unscathed (small victory) I will tend to be light on the seat with my weight a little forward. Maybe we can call it riding defensively.
I recommend just visualizing your good unicycling form, on the street and on the road. You should be able to smooth things out by sitting up straight and looking down the trail or the road and trying to accelerate. I like really non-technical mtn biking trails with simpler, less frequent obstacles so I can ride long sections of trail without any UPD’s. On smoother trails you are less likely to ride so defensively and it is possible to accelerate here and there.

This is great advice. In general, try to relax as much as possible when you ride. Start with your shoulders, arms and hands… use the handle as little as possible. Relax your lower back and thighs by putting as much weight as possible on your seat… a good pair of shorts and a comfy seat make a difference here for big distance. And do use good posture! You’ll end up with a sore back if you’re hunched over the seat the whole time; sit up with a straight back, and keep your head up!

You can conserve energy by using your legs as efficiently as possible. Ride with the balls of your feet at the pedal’s axle. This will allow you to use an optimal combination of thigh and calf muscle throughout the pedal stroke (you are using lots of calf muscles, right?). As in the above quote, imagine spinning circles with your feet and toes; this will begin to feel fluid when you get it down.

Navigating tricky terrain doesn’t have to be tough. I find just by gripping the seat between my thighs and “twitching” my hips one way or the other, I can make it around roots and rocks with little effort. Again, keep as much weight on the seat as possible, even through little roots and drops; your tire will take up a lot of the shock of small obstacles.

Lastly, remember that you are a fine-tuned engine and you need fuel, water and air. Carry lots (at least 1 liter, 2 is better) of water and drink it. Eat a good meal or two before you ride, and snack lightly while you ride to make sure you don’t run out of steam too early! And take huge, deep, gulping breaths of air instead of “panting” on those uphill climbs. Your muscles will appreciate the extra oxygen.

Have fun!

Re: 600+ mile municycle beginner problems

I recall John childs’ advice that working on level 4, 5, & 6 freestyle
skills can help Muni riding.


Well, there is good news and bad news.

Today, I tried everyone’s advice through 5 miles of very sticky mud.
The mud taught me to sit up straight and conserve energy.
I made it 5 miles and felt like I could have gone seven - especially in dirt.

I learned that I was “racing” rather than “riding” and settled for 4mph.
I learned to relax, keep my hand off the handle, & pedal the speed that I am going rather than slower or faster. I am now content with a lower speed (but not low enough to the point that it is more work).
It was a nice ride - I went a different way than normal and it seemed like a completely different trail.

The bad news is that I left prior to maestro8’s post:
“And do use good posture! You’ll end up with a sore back”
During the ride everything was fine. Shortly after cool down, deep pain set in to my mid-back. The way it feels, I can’t tell if it is muscle, spine or both.
It’s pretty bad.

I also fell late in the ride - the tire didn’t have any traction on moss.
My left hand sat me down for a bit. Oh well, I am hoping the hand will itch and the back will heal by the time I wake up. I’m all beat up.

I don’t know which I prefer:
A sore back (and hand) . . …
or the muscle cramps that I usually endure about now.

I know I’ll get better in skill and health - just hope it’s soon.
Thanks for everyone’s help - the advice yeilded noticable improvement.

I used to have the same problem as you. That is, I leaned way too far back on downhills and tried to control my speed too much. Doing this always ends in the tire losing traction and the rider landing on his @$$.

I found that just holding the handle and sitting on the saddle helps. Do this and just go the speed the hill wants you to go. You need to keep it limited though so you can catch the unicycle up when you hit that rock you didn’t see.

If you’re going over really gnarly stuff it helps a lot to learn to keep fluidity in your wheel. You want to roll out of everything and just keep moving. Practise rolling out of small drops…it helps keep the fluidity if you can just rotate the wheel to one of the hopping postions for any small drops you have to take.

So, basically the method that works best for me is sitting whenever not dropping or torquing uphill and going at a good speed as determined by the steepness of the hill.

Muni is unique among most sports that require endurance. In muni skill trumps fitness when it comes to endurance. In MTB riding I’d say skill and endurance are more evenly matched. In road cycling it’s almost all fitness. In sports like running it’s almost all fitness. How many other sports are there where skill plays such a vital role in endurance?

You can take a novice unicyclist who is incredibly fit and they will have a very difficult time on a technical 12 mile muni ride. Take a very skilled muni rider who is not very fit and they can do the ride. Take a very skilled muni rider who is also incredibly fit and they can absolutely breeze through the ride.

The skilled muni rider is able to minimize their energy expenditure during a ride. They are able to minimize the energy wasted in balance corrections. They are able to maintain constant forward momentum when riding over bumps and logs and rocks. They almost float over the bumps and roots and rocks. They have very good technique for climbing. They are able to ride relaxed. Everything is easy for them. It’s all in the skills and technique.

Watch a rider like Kris Holm or Ben Plotkin Swing or Ryan Atkins on an intermediate level muni trail. This is on intermediate level trails, not the extreme North Shore or extreme downhill stuff. Then compare a rider like me on the same trail. There is a world of difference (there is a world of difference when compared to almost every other muni rider). Kris, Ben and Ryan are a lot smoother than I am. I’m not too bad when it comes to long muni rides, but I’m nowhere near the level of Kris, Ben or Ryan.

So, what does this mean? It means that if you want to increase endurance it is better to focus on the riding skills rather than building fitness. After you have the skills then fitness becomes more important.

Some things that I have found important for efficient muni riding:

When standing on the pedals learn how to dance on the pedals rather than mashing the pedals. When you are dancing on the pedals you are able to maintain a good smooth pedaling. When you are mashing on the pedals you are wasting energy.

Point the toe down when at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Don’t keep the feet flat. This helps you to pedal through the bottom of the pedal stroke and helps to keep you from mashing the pedals.

Learn some freestyle skills like one foot riding and wheel walking. These skills get you more in tune with the balance point on the unicycle and they teach you better balance and control. I know that my muni skills improved when I started playing around with basic freestyle skills.

Practice rolling over small obstacles and work your way up to rolling over bigger obstacles. The good riders can float over the small stuff and flow smoothly over the big stuff. Learn to roll over the small obstacles in any pedal position. When rolling over obstacles think of floating over them rather than plowing in to them. When you approach the obstacle you unweight the cycle (I can hear George Peck saying those exact words right now) and give the mass of your body some upward momentum as you go over the obstacle.

When going on short muni rides, practice rolling over all of the small obstacles on the trail that you can find. Pick the hardest line on the trail and take that line. Don’t look for the easy lines. If there is a rock in the middle of the trail then roll over the rock, don’t zig zag around it. On the long muni rides you can save energy by looking for the easy line, but on the short muni rides take advantage of the opportunity to practice rolling (or floating) over obstacles.

At the Vancouver Island Muni Weekend, Kris Holm demonstrated a technique of using almost rolling hops to get over roots and similar obstacles. They don’t have to be actual rolling hops because you don’t actually have to leave the ground. It’s yet another technique for learning how to float over obstacles. Compared to the way that I plowed through those same roots and the way that Kris literally floated over the tops of those roots, the difference is night and day. Kris’ method is more efficient and allows him to maintain speed so it is much faster. To be most effective you have to be able to do this technique from any pedal position. You also have to learn where you want to aim for. For some roots you’ll want to aim for the top of the root. For other roots you’ll want to aim just a little beyond the top. This is one technique that I still can’t do very well. It’s not as easy as Kris makes it look. I suppose it would help if I took the time to learn a smooth and consistent rolling hop. One of these days Kris needs to do a video where he demonstrates and describes these magical techniques that he has. He’s got more in his bag of tricks beyond this little skill.

Learn to relax as you ride.

Learn your ideal pedal speed and then work to increase that ideal pedal speed.

I know there are more tips, but this is what I can come up with from the top of my head right now.

Re: 600+ mile municycle beginner problems

I’ve just raced for 12hrs off-road. I’m still working on being more efficient, but I’m certainly feeling much better than when I rode for 12hrs last year.

-Stay relaxed- the more tense you are the more energy you expend, and the less flexible you are to correct your balance on uneven terrain, and the more energy you end up expending to correct for large deviations of balance.
-Keep one hand on your handle at all times- but keep it relaxed, except when you hit bumps/steep downhills
-You can stand up on your pedals, putting your weight on the handle, for short steep hillclimbs- like a rider on a bike getting off the seat.
-Ride more
-When steering- especially on big wheels like Cokers, use pedal pressure to help you turn. ie more pressure on the inside pedal of a turn.
-Look ahead- pick your best line and anticipate bumps
-Equipment- a stiff seat helps- there is less flex when you are pulling, which helps the wrist a bit. Also adds more power to your pedal stroke. Lightweight is nice too. On the other hand, a 29’er is very light but often not as nice to ride on bumpy stuff as a big 26" off road.

Hope that helps.


This is an old thread, but it has some nice pointers, now that I want to focus more on muni. The funny thing here is that noone mentions the brakes. I found as I rolled downhill, that with so many bumps and drops, I don’t have time to slow down and need all my concentration of swirving around roots and staying on the uni. Some drops seem too scary and I bail out, but I’m sure I can physically do them.
On flat downhill rides, I have the trouble that I’d be going too slowly with the brake. I suppose like all uni skills, it will just take time and persistence to get the hang of them.
And I also noticed it drains me of energy. Even though downhill should make it easier, a few hundred metres gets me plumb tuckered out.

The OP is going to be really pissed, having to wait 14 years for my answer, below.

Anyone alive in 2004, when this thread started, may remember how unicycles then were made from stone using primitive tools, like this one. Remember the first generation KH gloves, the ones made from saber tooth tiger skin? The evolution of balance actually began when Kris Holm unicycled out of his cave and started walking on two feet. Anyone finding the 2004 forum posts rather quaint must remember those were prehistoric times. It’s a strange habit of some riders on the forum, using the search button and resurrecting ancient threads, as if there is anything to be learned by such old information.

Answer: If the OP is still riding, they should trade in their stone unicycle for an up-to-date model; that’d help with off-road efficiency.

They were still fairly novel at the time, and not as good. All rim brakes, relying on a true wheel for good function. Disc brakes are a lot stronger and more consistent.

Me too, even after all these years. Or maybe because of all these years? Nope, no “age” excuses (yet)!
quote=Setonix]And I also noticed it drains me of energy. Even though downhill should make it easier, a few hundred metres gets me plumb tuckered out.
Muni uses your energy in different ways, and it takes a while to get used to all the differences. A technical downhill can be almost as taxing as a not-so technical uphill, especially if you aren’t comfortable using the brake!

I haven’t seen it in a long time, but in his first appearance in a MTB video, he was wearing a pair of shorts, shoes, and that was about it, and riding a 24" Schwinn. Which I believe broke at some point in the film. :slight_smile:
Those were the days!

My Muni in 2004, was the one I got in 2003, a Wilder 6160. Profile hub, 170mm cranks, handmade aluminum frame (no brakes). Super-light frame, but bomb-proof Sun DoubleWide 24" rim with Gazzalodi tire. State of the art for the time, and I only stopped using it in 2016. My original “Muni” was a 24" Miyata with 1.75" tire running 60 pounds of pressure. Go much lower than that and you would get pinch flats!

What John_Childs said.

I’ll add to be ambidextrous (or symmetrical) and use handlebars.
Learn to roll anything in any pedal position.

It happened several times that I posted questions where people point out those subjects have been touched in other threads, so this time I finally use an old thread and again it is not good. Like the story of the boy, his old man on a cart and the donkey. In every town they say something different, like don’t let the donkey pull them, but let the donkey sit on the cart and let the boy pull.
Next time I will just post new threads.

Anyways some of the things written in the thread about hanging forward or backward when going downhill, and how much speed to use are still actual, especially for a beginner muni-rider like me.