A Free Mounting Technique

You’ve gotten past the stage of learning to ride. Pedaling feels good and
lasting more than a few feet. Yet inevitably you dismount. It’s tiring having to
walk the unicycle to some unsuspecting mounting point, be it a wall, ladder,
garbage can or something else. Free mounting is the answer. It is also the next
natural step in becoming a more skilled rider.

To more experienced riders, free mounting is almost second nature. They find it
difficult to breakdown their fluid mounting motion into discrete steps. While
the goal is to reach that point, inexperienced riders are often frustrated by
the limited number of suggestions they get when asking for help in learning to
free mount. They watch someone mount in an effort to learn the trick but it all
seems to happen so quickly. As with watching someone play a music instrument,
juggle, or drive a car–seeing it done isn’t quite all that’s needed.
Duplicating the motion would be much easier if more step by step instructions
are presented. Hopefully the following description will be of help to you.

First of all, I’m assuming you can ride a little and your unicycle seat is
adjusted high enough. Most beginners have their seats much too low. If you’re
wobbling a great deal, try raising your seat a quarter of an inch. If you find
that you aren’t putting much weight on the seat as you ride, try raising the
seat a little more. Warming up is another tip that is overlooked by many
beginning riders. The older the rider, the more this is true. Stretch and loosen
up before you ride. Now you’re ready to practice free mounting.

Put the unicycle underneath and slightly in front of you. The pedals must be
horizontal with the pedal cranks. The ball of one foot (for me it’s my left) is
on the pedal closest to you. Now you must position the other foot. Picture an
imaginary line on the ground before you, in between the wheel and you. The heal
of the foot on the pedal is touching the line. The toes of your other foot on
the ground are also touching the line. Got it?

The unicycle may be slightly leaning over with the seat leaning toward the foot
on the ground. Remember to keep the seat tight between your legs. What direction
is your body leaning? It should be neither right or left, leaning slightly
forward. The foot on the ground should be directly underneath you with the knee
slightly bent. You other leg will be very bent, but put as little weight on the
foot that’s on the pedal that’s closest to you as possible.

When you hop up to mount the unicycle should be held against your body the whole
time. It would be hard if the unicycle is leaning away from the foot. Feel the
unicycle beneath you. It is being kept in place by the seat being squeezed
between your legs. Now prepare to hop up. Your arms will be at your sides.
You’ll go upward and forward slightly if you swing your arms up as you push up
with the foot on the ground. As you swing your arms remember to look forward.
Look at a point in the distance you intend to ride toward once you mount.

An important tip is to aim your body in the direction over the forward pedal
(meaning slightly off center), not directly over the tire. Moving your body in
this direction counteracts the tendency of the unicycle to move in the direction
toward the pedal closest to you, the one with your foot on it already. The laws
of physics are at work here making the unicycle move toward the foot on the
pedal as you hoist up your body because no matter how you try, a slight amount
of your weight is going to be put against the pedal with your other foot. When
you aim straight in front of you, as one would expect you should do, you may
find yourself facing in a sideways direction or having to keep your legs
together to hold the seat as it turns along with the unicycle. If you are
squeezing the seat with your legs, it will be more difficult, if not impossible
to raise your foot to the forward pedal.

As your body lifts up, move the foot on the ground to the pedal as quickly as
possible. If you are learning to mount, practice the unicycle set up a few
times. Next add the upward motion a few times, allowing the foot on the ground
to go up over the forward pedal. As your foot again hits the ground be sure to
reach back a catch the unicycle if possible. Initially its more important to get
used to the motion. Don’t worry about the falling unicycle. You can always buy a
new one. Your body is irreplaceable.

Remember that you’re probably not going to learn how to free mount in a day. One
strategy is to set milestones on your journey to free mount:

  1. Position the unicycling so it doesn’t fall when your hands leave the seat

  2. Hop up and bring the foot on the ground over the pedal

  3. Catch the unicycle so you can quickly make another attempt

Once you get the hang of it, you can move to step four and have your foot land
on the pedal instead of going over the pedal.

Step five is to begin riding forward. Unless your body is moving in an upward,
slightly forward direction that sends the unicycle in a somewhat forward motion,
it will be tough to get going by pushing down on the pedal as you mount. Some
people actually send their unicycles in a reverse direction for a half pedal by
the force of their weight on the pedal closest to them and then stop and begin
in a forward direction. I find this technique to be more difficult.

The final bit of advice for free mounting is to continue practicing. I was stuck
between steps three and four for quite some time. The more I practice, the more
frequent I successfully mount and begin riding forward. As I improve the
positioning of the unicycle and the mounting motion are becoming a single more
fluid effect rather than separate discrete steps.

Does this description of free mounting help?