Adventures in Freewheeling

Freewheel Unicycle Jumping Tutorial

I had originally intended the footage I shot for the video below to be part of a video tutorial on freewheel unicycle jumping but not all the video came out. Here’s a written writeup of the tutorial in case there’s anyone out there who may benefit. Let me know if you have any questions or if any of it is unclear.

In order to practice jumping on a freewheel unicycle I recommend the following skills as prerequisites:

  • Coasting with pedals horizontal and weight off the seat
  • Hopping (as distinguished from jumping)
  • Coasting then hopping at a specified location (it helps to have at least a small bump that you can feel)
  1. Location

Find a suitable practice location. Ideally this will be a jump 1-2 feet high with a good amount of curve to the launch and has a contiguous landing. It will help if it’s slightly downhill leading to the launch and the path before and after the jump is reasonably smooth.

  1. Rolling Over

Practice riding over the jump by pedaling up to speed and then coasting up and over the jump. You want a sufficient speed to carry you through without forcing you into the air. Extend your legs right before the jump and then compress them as you hit the jump. There will be a balance adjustment as you go from the launch to the landing. Pay attention to this small window of time you have to make the adjustment. Don’t lean forward and watch that your rear foot doesn’t move above horizontal. The unicycle frame should be tilted slightly behind vertical. Get to the point where it feels natural and easy to ride over the jump in this way before moving on to the next step. This step can be a warmup when you’re already proficient at step 3 or may be an essential step when you move to a new jump.

  1. Jumping

Once you find it easy to roll over the jump and can make the necessary balance adjustment between the launch and landing section of the jump you simply need to add a small hop at the right time during that adjustment coordinated with a slight pulling up of the front handle. Make sure to maintain the same speed you practiced in step 2. And also like in step 2 don’t lean forward and watch that your rear foot doesn’t move above horizontal. The unicycle frame should be tilted slightly behind vertical. If you’re not making it past the jump you may be starting the hop too early. If you have a series of unsuccessful jumps where you’re not making it past the jump at all try rolling over to remind yourself of the necessary speed and to feel the adjustment window. Once you’re landing 80% of your jumps you can work on (1) pulling up higher with the handle and (2) going over the jump with more speed.

Wow, I’m blown away. Thanks for sharing your awesome knowledge and videos!!

Yesterday, as I was practicing at the park, a guy came up to me and asked if there was a freewheel version…
As far as my knowledge goes, (as of yesterday) I replied, it probably had been tried, but I dont think anybody was successful. Wow, was I wrong…

Freewheel Unicycle Helmet Cam - Hazard Peak 6-8-2014

Chad may be working on a real video, but here’s some raw helmet cam footage from a ride we did yesterday on Hazard Peak Trail and Manzanita trail at Montaña De Oro in San Luis Obispo County, California. Most people are not going to want to suffer through this!

Your freewheel skills are impressive :slight_smile:
Last week I was in a bikepark with my muni for some days and I also took my freewheel with me. I tried an easy trail and had a lot of fun. But it was really hard. And once it gets too fast I’m scared and jump off :o

Thanks for the comment! Riding a freewheel is a proficiency skill just like regular riding on a fixed wheel unicycle. If you practice enough you get it!

Thanks! Jumping off is good practice! I do that a lot. With time you’ll get more comfortable riding at faster speeds. Have you taken any video? It’s fun to look back at earlier times to realize how far you’ve advanced. I put together a list of freewheel unicycle skills I’m going to post as a separate item. I’d be interested if you have anything to add to the list!

Freewheel Unicycle Skills

Here is a list of freewheel unicycle skills to practice to improve your freewheel unicycle riding on pavement/concrete, trails, and skateparks. Ideally these would be practiced on flat, reasonably smooth terrain.


  • Static mount.
  • Coasting with one pedal mostly down. Transitions to and from pedaling with and without a brake. Controlling speed with a brake.
  • Coasting with pedals level and weight off the saddle. Transitions to and from pedaling with and without a brake. Controlling speed with a brake.
  • Pedaling over rollers with and without braking on the down side.
  • Switch stance versions of #2 and #3.
  • Coasting through turns in both directions (one of which will be switch stance). Coasting berms.
  • Hopping using the brake.
  • Coasting then hopping. Hopping at a specified location.
  • Coasting over rollers.
  • Jumping.
  • 180 turns on a bank.
  • Leg out coasting. Rolling mount. [/LIST] #2 is my basic, conservative riding style. I revert to this when I’m pedaling around hikers and dogs, or going down a very steep descent.

    #3 is a foundational skill which will vastly improve your ability to coast for longer distances, faster speeds, and over rougher terrain. I found that at first I used my upper body for balance, pivoting slightly at the waist and shoulders. Over time I improved my base and was able to balance by pushing the wheel forward and backward slightly, moving up and down from the saddle and moving my upper body as little as possible.

    #7-12 are optional but can make for more interesting rides. #7 can get you over terrain you cannot roll through (I myself rarely do this). #8-10 provide the sequence necessary for jumping. #11-12 may be useful in skateparks but I have little experience at this.

  • I was curious about this - basically doing what the bmx’ers call a hang 5 - they ride on the front wheel only, one foot on a peg, the other waving around for balance. They can do some amazing lines, and it seemed like it would work the same way on a unicycle (except that the free pedal risks getting in the way).

    Here’s a nice example (that I noticed while looking at the Paul Sergent video posted over in the video forum):

    At my local skate park I once had a guy ask me to race him round the easy ramps, saying ‘don’t worry I’ll one-wheel it too!’ And he hang-5’d the whole way round. I’d never heard of it before then, it looks insane! :slight_smile:

    Thanks for posting this video! It’s always good to know the names of things. That’s a long run! I can do the freewheel unicycle version of a hang 5 for a short time and can improve with practice. It’s a variation of fixed wheel coasting with one foot on the frame:

    I originally started practicing this because when I make my 3.8x geared freewheel unicycle I may not be able to mount it the normal way and may need to do a rolling mount or skate mount (pushing with the foot a few times). It may also be one way to drop into a ramp or bowl. The unused pedal does get in the way a bit but it’s not too bad. It’s a little more challenging because the pedal with the weight on it is not as stable a base as a fixed peg but it’s lower than a peg. Obviously you’re not using the handlebar to balance as on a bike but you also don’t have the weight of a bike behind you. Overall the difficulty is probably similar to or a little easier than the bike version.

    Switch stance

    In my post listing freewheel skills I included riding switch stance as a mandatory skill. This was because my stance is goofy foot (right-foot-down / right-foot-forward) and I found that frontside (clockwise) coasting was extremely difficult compared to backside (counter-clockwise) coasting. I’ve been practicing switch stance for a couple weeks which for me is regular (left-foot-down / left-foot-forward) but I also recently switched my tire from a Duro Wildfire Leopard 24x3.0" to a Felt Thick Brick 24x3.0". I had originally ordered a Felt Berm Master 24x3.0" but substituted the Thick Brick when it was spending too much time on back order. Both the Felt tires have a rounder profile than the Leopard. While I was practicing switch stance I was trying to figure out how coasting through a series of sharp turns would work if it was necessary to keep switching stance. Pedaling half a revolution forward might not work well since it could give you undesired forward motion so I started practicing pedaling half a revolution backward. Then I started thinking how carving would work and realized it would not be very practical to constantly switch stance on each carve. This led me back to trying to turn frontside while coasting. This time around I found it much easier and since I’m turning on flat ground the rounder profile of the tire made a big difference. It may not matter as much on a trail with berms. The upshot is that while riding switch may be a fun and useful skill it may not be a mandatory one for riding a freewheel unicycle. In my list of optional skills I added:

    • Pedaling in reverse.
    • Carving.

    Transitioning from coasting to braking to coasting

    I’m still tinkering with my freewheel unicycle skills list and one of the new entries I’m planning to add is transitioning from coasting to braking to coasting. I feel this is an important skill and should be practiced in order to improve riding down extended declines. I find that it’s easier to do at a higher speed, that is, coasting to 10-12 MPH and then bleeding off 2-3 MPH. At slower speeds it’s far easier to overbrake and have a UPD over the front. When going at slower speeds like 6-8 MPH it’s easier to transition from coasting to pedaling since there’s less of a jolt to absorb and it’s easier to pedal at the lower speed. When coasting downhill it’s important to be aware of pedal position as you transition from coasting to braking. Keep the front pedal above horizontal. Also keep the frame of the unicycle behind vertical.

    Unicon17 in Montreal

    I brought my 24" freewheel unicycle to Unicon17 in Montreal and had a lot of fun with it. My primary focus was unicycle basketball (my team won Bronze in the A group) so I had to beg off the muni practice days and cross country event that I had signed up for when half our team’s luggage was delayed in arriving and we had to scramble for practice time. I did manage to ride the Beginner Downhill event and placed last in my age group. I feel with a couple of practice runs and (1) not stopping to answer people’s questions about my freewheel during the race and (2) not being polite and waiting for people to pass me I could have shaved a couple minutes off my time. I rode my Felt Thick Brick tire which was fine for the course since it was dry and I had a lot of fun coasting down the green circle trails. Besides riding at Mont-Tremblant I rode my freewheel in the WNBR and around Parc de Maisonneuve. I brought it out to the Trials finals and a half dozen people gave it a try and I also brought it to the gym a few times and let people try it there. I was hoping to do a freewheel workshop but unfortunately my brake cable broke when people were trying it out at Mont-Tremblant and I found that bike shops were closed on Sunday. Special thanks go to Jakob F. for truing my wheel which got bashed around pretty badly during my flight to Montreal!

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    Nimbus Drift Trike busted after about 1000 miles

    I’ve previously bent an axle on a 20" drift trike wheel and messed up a Huffy Green Machine hub but today I finally busted one of Nimbus Drift Trike hubs after an estimated thousand miles of riding. There were a few symptoms over the last six weeks or so that this was going to happen; the hub would skip one or two clicks forward going up steep sections and today it broke completely on a small steep section so that it freewheels in both directions now. I’m going to see if it can be serviced but I have three other freewheels in the works, one of which is more or less a direct replacement for this one.

    Do you have a name for a vehicle in such a condition? I propose: “Double-free-wheeling-hi-lo-BC-wheel.” :smiley: I’m sure DFWhi-lowBC’ing will catch on in no time. I imagine that’s much harder to ride now.
    Seriously, good luck with the repair/replacing.

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    Thanks! I know Roger had a freewheel unicycle that had the same issue. I don’t have much experience with skatepark riding or pump track riding and those would probably be the best places for it. One of my new freewheels is going to be a 20" I’m hoping to take to the skatepark so I may leave the 24" as-is for a while.

    I hope you’ll be taking your camera with you to the skatepark :wink: I’d love to see some more freewheel action!

    There sadly just isn’t enough freewheeling videos available on the internet at the moment :frowning:

    Me, too! I’ve found freewheel videos to be few and far between. I’m overdue myself for doing another video because I’ve been waiting on my fat wheel in order to shoot a downhill video. I’m crossing my fingers it will be done soon and then a video should soon follow. It may take several months before I get even mild success at the skatepark but I’ll almost certainly shoot a skatepark video. As soon as I receive and then gain proficiency on my high-geared freewheel I’ll make a video of that, too. What are you looking for in a video?

    To be honest, I’d be quite happy to see anything. I’m just coming up to one month of training on my freewheel in a few days, and I’m still pretty lousy at it, so even just basic riding is enough to inspire me :wink: but I’d love to see some of the more advanced stuff you can do.

    High geared sounds pretty awesome, where did you get a geared freewheel hub??

    Is that the one your discussing in this thread?

    If so i would very much like to see that in action!

    Yes, that’s the one. The project’s a little behind but I think they’ll be shipping out the pre-orders in the next few months. I’m going to save it for the road given my propensity to break hubs.

    One of the things I like best about freewheel unicycling is that there are only a few basic things to learn and the rest is just practicing them. At Unicon I got some experience giving about a dozen people an introduction to freewheel riding but I could do a video to show these basic things. Types of riding:

  • pedaling
  • brake coasting
  • coasting
  • transitions between above [/LIST] Postures:
    • foot position (pedals horizontal or not)
    • body position (and angle of the frame relative to the ground)
    • position relative to the saddle (weighted, unweighted, completely off)
    Ultimately the goal is to use the brake for decreasing speed when necessary but not for balance correction although this is harder with the onset of fatigue. Balance correction should be done by pushing the wheel forward and backward although on rough terrain all bets are off and you want to stay balanced however you can: body leaning, braking, and pushing the wheel.