An Update on Hopelessness

I came to the conclusion, after all of your helpful advice on learning how to ride a bike, that that should be first and foremost the most important step in learning how to unicycle.

So, Sunday afternoon, my mum brought her bike over, and I cracked open a Jones Soda to celebrate. Inside the caps of these soda bottles are lines from fortune cookes. Mine said, “The project you have in mind now gains momentum.”

It was a sign.

So I invited a friend to come over Monday afternoon to teach me how to ride a bike. But Monday morning, I was so insane with worry that I wouldn’t accomplish anything, that I went out at 8 AM to get started.

My mother’s bike is a monster, and with the seat all the way down, I could barely touch the ground with my toes. So I begged a next-door neighbor to lend me his mountain bike. This was also too big. So, to my complete self amusement, I “borrowed” a 9-year-old neighbor’s bike. The thing had to be about a foot tall.

By all accounts, I should be dead right now. I had no helmet, no brakes, no one around, just some extremely intimidating blacktop and my neighbor’s imminiscule two wheeler.

The process of aquiring this bike took until 9 AM, and with frequent breaks in between to nurse my steadily declining self esteem (thank you, onlookers, for pointing and staring at me), I could officially ride a bike by 10 o’clock. All in all, I estimate it took about 45 minutes.

I took a break to celebrate dramatically by calling everyone I knew and bragging to them. I even called my dad, who apologised for never teaching me, and, to my surprise, told me that there is still a fairly decent-sized mountain bike of my own stashed away in the garage of his house. He never put it together all the way because he knew I would never need it, but he promised to bring it over Wednesday for me to practice on.

I’m still terrible at steering, and my breaking is a little off. I’m proud to say that I only really “crashed” once while I was getting the hang of balancing, and 6 times after that into various trees in the back yard (again, still terrible at steering). [My favorite collision was when I was going downhill into an evergreen, with no brakes, so instead of doing something sensical, like putting my feet down and praying, I grabbed a tree limb and flung myself off the bike. Hey, it worked!] I have yet to injure myself to the point of bleeding, though, which I am very proud of. So far, I have only crashed when my self confidence inflated to the point that I believed I could do things which I, obviously, could not.

I blame my steering incapability on a complete misunderstanding of basic physics that I started to figure out today, after attempting lazy figure eights around a few recycling bins.

In any case, I didn’t need my friend’s assistance that much yesterday afternoon. She came over, saw that I was already riding the bike, and got a little upset. “You’re INSANE! NOBODY learns how to ride a bike in an hour without anyone around!”

My response: “Nobody learns how to ride a bike when they’re 16, either.”


PS–How good at biking do you think I should be before I move on to a unicycle?

I really don’t know how good you should be at biking. I would guess that you should get the feel of pedaling and the feel for the whole rolling sensation. and ass soon as you can confidently balance on the bike then i think you will be more than ready. I bet in like a day of just riding for another couple hours or so you should be more than ready to learn to unicycle.

Re: An Update on Hopelessness

Don’t listen to what the other people tell you. They’ll say that you should get comfortable on a bike first, but I’d suggest you start learning to unicycle now.

The most important thing for me when learing to unicycle was my pedalling form. Pedalling technique on a bike (push, coast, push, coast) is much different from pedalling on a unicycle (PedalPedalPedalPedalPedalPedalCrash). I certainly wouldn’t put the bike away forever, but I would recommend setting it aside while learning to unicycle. Learning to unicycle without all the regular biking habits should make things easier.

You either already know, or will soon learn, that it takes much longer to learn to ride a unicycle than a bike. Stick with it - the cheering you did after learning to ride a bike will be nothing compared to your first 50 food ride on a unicycle.

It’s a pleasure to meet you and please keep us updated,

Congratulations on your fun with the bike! I can’t imagine learning at such an advanced age as 16 (I was 16 in 1978), but I didn’t think it would take you very long.

Sorry about whatever stuff was going on when you were growing up; it sounds like there was probably a divorce in there, which is never good for kids growing up, and possibly a bit of wierdness in the case of your dad, who never told you you had a bike. Anyway, that’s past so in the cycling world, we move on.

Now go ahead and start trying the unicycle. When you get bored or tired with the unicycle, ride the bike some more. There’s still a lot to learn about it, and all of it will come in extremely handy when someone puts you behind the wheel of a car. It could save your life, or at least the life of the car.

I used to work for a driving school. Riding bikes, playing video games, or any other simulation or real-world activities that force your brain to process information about where you’re going and what you have to do–right away are very valuable. Prepare yourself for the world of driving. Unless you live in Manhattan, you’re probably going to need to drive someday.

Back to the bike:
Now that you’ve hugged a few trees, time to switch to a safer place to ride. If you truly didn’t have any brakes (try pedaling backwards), you should not have been on a hill. Seek a riding place that has:

  1. A smooth paved surface. You’ll be amazed at the difference.
  2. No hill
  3. Little or no traffic. Like an empty parking lot.

Walk the bike there if you have to. Learning on grass, on a hill, was a little silly.

Use the same place for the unicycle too. Don’t try to learn to ride on grass (either kind). Put the unicycle on top of the bike and walk both of them down there.

Have fun!

First things first: learning to ride a bicycle at the age of 16 is a huge achievement. In some ways, it is more of an achievement than learning at 6, because when you are 6, you know no fear, and do not understand that bicycling is difficult. So, well done!

Now, at the risk of sounding personal, it seems from your posts that you have been encouraged by those around you to expect to fail. It is up to you to show them wrong. Barring physical disability such as missing limbs or a neurological problem, there is no reason on Earth why you shouldn’t be able to ride a bike, climb a cliff, drive a car, or ride a unicycle, just like anyone else. These are all skills that need to be learned - but the first skill of all is the skill of making a genuine effort to learn.

You’ve made that step. You’ve proved a point. You’ve crossed a threshold. Brilliant!

You are publicising this success in a forum frequented mainly by people who are lucky enough to have the confidence and determination to ride unicycles, and who are to some extent biased by their own experiences. In the past, you have let other people set your limits; don’t make the opposite mistake of letting other people set your goals.

In your position, I would work on the bicycling for a bit. It is a great exercise, hobby, activity (call it what you will) in its own right. It’s good enough for Lance Armstrong, it’s good enough for you.

Skills to develop: steering, braking, stopping under control. On a safety point, you need to know that front wheel skids are more likely to result in a fall, but rear wheel skids are much more likely to happen. Get into the habit of using both brakes, applying them smoothly, and progressively. Practise riding slowly. Look where you want to go and the bicycle will follow your gaze.

If you get no further than this, you have still made a huge step in your personal development. If you draw from this the belief that you can succeed where others have led you to expect failure, then all the better.

And unicycling? I truly hope that you will give it a go. It’s a fantastic hobby and you’ll meet some great people. It isn’t easy, though, and most people who try don’t take it as far as the enthusiasts in this forum. One step at a time, but don’t rest on your laurels. At 16, everything is possible if you choose to make it so.:slight_smile:

I learned to ride a bike sort of late ( i was 10 or 11) I never really got into it and never got good at it. The balancing wasn’t a problem I just didn’t like turning or riding in a small space. I sucked at riding bikes when I started unicycling but i don’t think it made too much of a difference. Even now, I am pretty good at riding a uni but I still don’t feel confortable on a bike because it’s a completely different feeling.

Congrats on learning to bike!

Just for a tip about stearing it you don’t have to turn the handle bars. You just have to lean into the turn a little (not too much of you may find yourself kissing the blacktop). Alfo for the size of a bike you are not supposed to touch the ground when your are sitting on the seat. Your led should actually be almost straight.

About unicycling, go for it! I’m sure that there are many people who know how to unicycle and have never ridden a bicycle.

Re: An Update on Hopelessness

Excellent, insanity is a good start. And learning to ride a bike isn’t even a necessity to ride the unicycle, so you can start learning the unicycle before too long. Just get the feeling of rolling along. Also, when you do start to ride a unicycle, put the first foot on the bottom-back pedal, not the forward one. It’s different from a bike, and most people don’t get that right away.


Well, that was the problem that occured when I was little–there were no apporopriate places nearby for me to learn, and I had to rely on others (namely, my dad) for transportation, who was of no help in assisting.

But our driveway was recently paved, so I did start off there. But it’s small, and still tilts at an odd angle. The only really flat area was a small patch of grass in the back yard that sits on top of about a foot of mud.

I went careening through that (sans brakes) anyway.

But now that I have a handle on balancing, I’ve been using my mum’s monsterous bike, and it’s a lot more comfortable. I spent most of today maneuvering between recycle bins, a bird bath, a few trees, and a very expensive convertible (which kept me on my toes… or… wheels, rather). My breaking still needs work, but I’m no longer taking any dirt samples with my schnozz when I turn to the left or right, which I count as a major improvement.

Sometime this week, I’m going to brave the open road. If you’re in the area, and driving a motor vehicle, please take pity on me if I obstruct your way.

I plan to spend this last week and a half of summer vacation biking my arse off in hopes of proving to my mum that I am dedicated to getting a unicycle. I have it all planned out in my head… I just need her approval.

So I’ll suffer these shredded calves, and being whapped in the face with tree branches, until tomorrow or the day after, when I will swallow my pride, and expose my ineptitude to the world of automobiles.

I hope to start unicycling as soon as possible… you all have been so helpful and encouraging. It’s wonderful.

Updates soon to come, when internet access again rears its magestic head.


No brakes!

I still remember my first big crash as a kid on a bike… The training wheels had come off my Huffy the week before or so, I was 5 or 6, we were in a campground somewhere, my dad and I were going down a hill… Now, at my parent’s place in the stix, there are no curbs to speak of, so if I went off the driveway onto the grass, no biggy. Campground had curbs. It’s amazing how much momentum a 5 year old can get on a slight hill, considering how I ended up crying on the grass with my huffy lying on top of me :wink: If only we had a camcorder we would have won the $15,000, and I’d be riding a Kris Holm Muni instead of a Nimbus :wink:

my sister recently learned how to ride a bike, shortly before her 19th birthday.

Good for you!!

Chedd - you are to be commended.

I got quite a chuckle reading your submissions. My guess is that you live somewhere in Great Britain. Most American 16 year olds haven’t developed that sort of self-deprecating wit.

You have a great attitude and that will ensure your success. In the meantime, be sure to wear a helmet!

As you have no doubt discovered, the folks on this forum are very generous with prompt and helpful guidance. As a newbie myself, I’m gratified to have such a resource a few keystrokes away.

If you get the chance to hook up with an experienced unicyclist, do so. Monday evening was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to ride with someone else (met through this forum). We did 8 miles and he was able to provide me with invaluable pointers.

Every day I learn something new. Last night, I learned that changing a flat tire is far more involved than on a two-wheeler and that my local sporting goods store has never carried 28" tubes…

Good luck!


my friend learned at 18. same kinda situation. but alas she wont go near a uni. oh well. congrats.

Re: An Update on Hopelessness

“patmoore” <> wrote in
> Chedd - you are to be commended.
> I got quite a chuckle reading your submissions. My guess is that you
> live somewhere in Great Britain. Most American 16 year olds haven’t
> developed that sort of self-deprecating wit.
Naw he/she must be Stateside: how many Briteens refer to cars as
automobiles? And Jones Soda, neighbors, etc etc
Bright kid though. Congratulations are due to overcoming the fear and
getting on with the bike rides. The uni must now appear far less daunting.


For the record, I’m from Connecticut. ((Speaking of which, anyone know of any cycle shops around that sell Uni’s?))

My dad dropped off “my” bike yesterday. Apparently, he got it for me a few years ago, along with a matching, boy’s version for himself. It’s some blue Huffy mountainbike with terribly loose breaks and a seat that has rusted itself into a position that is much too low, but it’s mine, and that’s all that really matters.

I read my Unicycling proposition to my mum, who isn’t outwardly opposed to it, as long as I cover myself in protective gear and possibly a cushioned Sta-Puft Doughboy outfit for safety’s sake. And a football helmet.

My dad just told me, “As long as it’s not illegal. Or seriously life-threatening.”

All sounds well.

Anywho, I’m off to do some more research on models. I found one for about $144, and one for $162… I think I should go with a 20" wheel with a 300mm seat, but I don’t want to pay much more that $180 for it. If at all possible, under $150 would be fantastic. Ebay isn’t much of an option.

If anyone has any input as to what specs would be appropriate for my stature… ((Female, 150 lbs, 5’5")).

Again, thanks for everything, and I’ll keep you all informed!

Bloomfield cycles has some, also check shops (link) and select Connecticut for a full list.

What?! not a Michelin(sp) man, uh, woman outfit? Sta-Puft Doughboy would squish to nothing.:smiley: :astonished: :wink: And a full face motorcycle helmet is more protection.

Connecticut bikeshops

I just saw a 20" uni in Ray’s Bicycles on Franklin Avenue in the south end of Hartford. Ray’s number is 247-0191.

I think I’ve seen them at Suburban Sports in Berlin as well.

Best of luck to you!


Choose your wheel size based on the kind of riding you would like to do. 20" is good for tricks (and playing hockey), but it won’t get you anywhere very quick. If you want to go places, consider a 24" or 26". The difference in learning is very minor.

I think I would have learned much more easily on something larger than the 16" children’s P.O.S. I learned on. My one ride on a 24" Schwinn during that time was like gliding on air. I rode 100 yards or so, in one try, while I’d only ridden the other one about 30 feet.

From personal experience (Female, about 150 lbs, 5’8", over twice your age) I would tell you to avoid 20" inch wheels like the plague! They are evil, malicious, little beasts who lull you into a false sense of security with their responsive handling and deceptive closeness to the ground. Then - WHAM! Off you fall and no unicycling for 4 - 6 (as per doctor) or 6 - 8 (as per physio) weeks. BUY A COKER!

Joking aside, as somebody living in a country where we have 2 options for unicycle purchases - “Take it” or “Leave it”, I can strongly recommend getting yourself to a shop that sells a variety of unicycles (take two friends to support you unless you pick a shop with VERY helpful sales staff), or getting yourself to a club where you can try out a variety of unicycles.


A female who voluntarily publishes here weight in a public forum? What is the world coming to? :wink:

Look at www.unicycle com
I suggest something not too specialised as a first uni. A 20 inch wheel, definitely.