Another beginner - Devon UK

I’ve had my unicycle just over a week, practicing in short bursts through the day as i work mainly from home.I can definitely get on it and move along a wall more confidently than I could at the beginning. I can’t even make a single revolution unsupported, though. I have also tried using walking poles, and that does help and at least lets me get a little feel for how it might go. I know people say poles are not a good idea but I’m used to them from XC skiing, they have safe handles and rubber ends and I don’t put my hands through the straps. A longer wall would be ideal but I only have a short section of wall, about three full revolutions, which is not really enough to get a rhythm going. The surfaces I have are a rather uneven flag patio and a lawn. I don’t have anyone to help - my partner thinks I’m crazy to even try at my age (I’m 60) but I’m determined to get it somehow.
Like I say, I’m definitely improved from the beginning when supported, but I am absolutely nowhere unsupported - in fact I feel like I have gone backwards (not literally - that would be great!). I’m almost sure that in the first day or so I accidentally managed a whole revolution, maybe even two, but not since then. I feel like I can’t pedal past the vertical without faltering.
I don’t suppose there is anything anyone can say except ‘keep trying’, but I’d be interested to know if there are any other beginners out there in Devon (UK) - the nearest group seems to be Bristol.

Oh yes, also, I have a 20 inch Indy Trainer unicycle and I find the seat twists really easily. It is screwed up as tight as I can get it and there is no movement of the seat post up and down, but it twists far too easily - I can twist it accidentally just mounting awkwardly and then I can twist it back to straight while sitting on it just with thigh pressure. The seat post has a knurled finish, but that doesn’t seem to prevent it twisting. I was wondering whether maybe a bit of rubber or something round the seat post would help.

Hi, Spinningwoman, and welcome to the forum!

There’s a lot of info to be found here, especially using the search feature at the top of the page, and of course, there’s plenty of advice from long time members. As everyone gives different advice, I’d recommend searching around to find what others have said. Your question is a common one that has been responded to many times. We all have different ways of learning, but there are common things we all pretty much have to deal with.

First, I think it’s critical that you find a good place to practice. Generally, grass, or uneven surfaces are very challenging for learning. Ideally, you want to practice on a firm, even surface like smooth concrete, or possibly packed, even dirt.

For me, and probably for most people, we start by doing exactly as you have to familiarize ourselves with the unusual feeling of setting on a unicycle and then trying to pedal while using something to support ourselves. I used a trampoline rail and just pedaled around it while holding onto the rail. Some people prefer a wall instead.

Eventually, as you become more comfortable pedaling with support, there is a “leap of faith” if you want to call it that. You’ll have to let go and try to pedal unsupported. You will fall, get back up, fall again, and that will likely repeat itself for some time. The idea is that each time, or over time, you will get further and further as you program your brain to balance and control the unicycle. You can’t force it, it will just happen naturally as your brain learns. There’s no way around this step. It takes everyone a different amount of time to get this. There is no standard for how long it will take. The important thing is that you can see progress as you practice and get a little more distance, even if it’s small. Setbacks are also normal, so don’t be discouraged if it seems you’re going backwards. We’ve all gone through that in some way or another, and it’s just the brain’s process of adjusting to the unicycle.

I also think this step develops an excellent skill, which is to learn to fall, or UPD, which stands for “unplanned dismount”. Unicycles today are usually built with plastic protectors on the saddle and are designed to handle most contacts with the ground. The protectors may be scraped, but the saddle should remain largely undamaged. The most important thing is that you learn to step off the unicycle without being hurt.

Usually, starting with a smaller unicycle with a wheel size of 20" puts you close to the ground, so you only have to step down a few inches to reach the ground. You don’t really want to fall, if you can help it, but rather just step down and land on your feet. I wouldn’t worry about catching the unicycle as it falls in the beginning. You will probably lean to catch it after a while, but the most important thing is your safety, not the unicycle’s.

You also want to consider proper padding and protection. I recommend wrist guards, knee pads and elbow pads. Some also recommend a bicycle helmet, but I personally don’t think it necessary, so use your own judgement.

The protective gear not only protects you, it may help to give you a feeling of confidence while practicing.

I would also encourage you not to give up. It’s quite an accomplishment to learn to ride, and today there are so many different styles of riding and both local and international communities to belong to, not to mention the amazing health benefits to enjoy. The only real way to fail is to give up.

One final word of warning: Unicycling is EXTREMELY addictive! People who learn to ride are usually hungry for more and wind up going in all kinds of directions with it. There is never a shortage of something to learn with it, and these days, people of all ages are doing all kinds of things on them. You have been forewarned! :slight_smile:

Let us know how you’re doing and good luck!

Thanks, Bradford. So far I have been doing pretty well with the falling off part! Seriously, I have mostly ended up on my feet and only actually hit the deck a couple of times. Like you say, you are not that far from the ground and I’m only 5ft with about a 27-28 inside leg so my saddle is pretty much as low as it will go. The first video I looked at had a ‘step-over’ exercise as the first stage which was helpful. I am wearing a helmet as my paved area is surrounded by a low stone wall. So far nothing has happened that would have been improved by shin-pads etc - because I’m taking odd moments to practice I don’t want to put myself off by taking too long to get ready.

I think you are right that a better practice area would make a big difference but as far as I know the only tennis courts etc round here are ones you need to pay to use or be a member of a club. I feel like once I can do it a bit there are places I can go, but nowhere that I can think of for the hanging on the wall stage.

I’m not generally a speed-freak. This is probably a disadvantage for something where slow=harder. When I first learned to ski I made myself stay in control ALL the time at first and virtually wore out my snowplough muscles. And I am officially the slowest snowmobiler in history. But I do ski, downhill and XC, so I don’t see any reason why I can’t get this too. My husband wants to know why I would want to learn to ride a unicycle whereas I’m more like ‘Why would anyone NOT want to learn to ride a unicycle?’

I really like your outlook, Spinningwoman! :smiley:

You will definitely get this. What Bradford said is correct – you need to find a flat, hard place to practice. A car park is handy, or maybe a school basketball court. Forget hanging onto the wall or fence. It only helps at the very beginning to help you get the feel of it, after that it’s counter-productive. Find something to mount next to, then just launch. Wear gloves and kneepads, because you will land on these a lot.
Always great to see another “senior” getting into the sport! I think it’s great, and is a fantastic form of exercise.

Good luck, and post pictures/video of your progress! You have a big cheering section here!

Top lady, excellent and welcome to the community. I am a new one on here as well. I sympathise with your learning dilemma enormously. Three guys, myself included purchased 20" uni’s about twenty years ago. I was then in my mid-forties. The youngest chap had learnt the basics at school, even so, he took three days to get the hang of it again. The second eldest was a amateur kick boxer and all round fitness freak, he took about ten days before he could pogo all over the place. I spent a painfilled three weeks getting the hang of the thing, then as if by magic, something clicked and I was away. Lurching from hand hold to post and the elongated scaffold pole rail we used. So, about a month in, we were broom stick handle jousting and that sort of stupid fun blokes have.
I eventually needed a newer guitar, the uni got sold on to a street busker/performer chap and I basically forgot about my time spent.
During the last few weeks I have obtained a cheap 20" unicycle. Re-learning has come harder this time due to my being now in my mid-sixties. I am back up in the seat but the capabilities of a cheap 20" are limiting. I asked a few questions on here and have recently taken charge of a brand new 24" Muni, this is altogether more comfortable, safer, stronger and better able to take the punishment. Being over sixty means that I am maybe a tad more careful about taking risks. Older/wiser etc etc… I have to say that the learning curve for a beginner is steep, plus that thought that I may hurt myself at the back of the brain keeps coming up. I am afraid there is nothing much anyone can help you with that but to simply encourage you. Please stick with it, you do eventually learn, honestly, I have been there, twice… If you have limited areas to learn, then use those small areas just to simply sit on the thing, gently rocking back and forwards with the pedals for ages each day, it really helped me. Try, stepping over a pedal whilst the other foot is stepped onto the lowest opposite pedal, while doing this, move your body onto and over the seat as well, all at the same time until you feel comfortable doing it. I found this amazingly helpful.
Yes, I fall off every day but with skill now that means I do not get hurt or discouraged. My wife thinks I am nuts as well, but it comes with the territory I am afraid…
Stick with it for your sake because, when you succeed, and you will, people will be open mouthed in amazement…
As a ‘macho’ loony, I was against helmets etc, but not any more, they are the most sensible thing ever for a learner and beyond, although why concrete keeps rising up and smiting me mightily on the rump is anybodies guess. I like to think I am over that part of the learning process now though.
It just clicks eventually so do not despair, ever, even when it is soreness personified…!! !!!

Thanks, everyone. I have a video I took the other day - I didn’t take any at the very beginning unfortunately. I’m not sure how to post it here, or whether it needs to be up on Youtube or somewhere first. If I can, I will. I’m wondering about checking out the local skatepark for practice - round the fence rather than on the pipes! It’s at the edge of a big carpark near the beach, so if I find a time it’s not too busy, that might work.

The video!

Sounds like you are doing great. Keep it up.

For Videos it is easiest to put up on YouTube and then just put the link in here or embed it in a message.


Keep it up Spinningwoman! Definitely find a space that allows you more revolutions so your brain doesn’t get habituated to only doing 3 before coming off. I feel the same way about unicycling…if people understood the immense joy that comes from it, everyone would want to at least try it. But, I can’t seem to get many folks past the “you’re crazy” reaction. Their loss. Have fun :slight_smile:

Hi SpinningWoman,

Welcome to the wonderful world of unicycling.

Just wanted to chime in as fellow older female. Keep up the practice. You really should try to find a good practice area. A paved school yard or playground with a fence would be ideal. Like others have mentioned it’s time to launch yourself off and pedal like crazy until you can ride a few revolutions without holding on. Go ahead and use your arms for balance if needed. Wearing knee pads and wrist guards is a very good idea. I didn’t and ended up with bruised and skinned knees. I got some knee pads afterwards.

I’m curious about your user name. Do you spin wool? I ask because not only do I unicycle but I also spin wool on a spinning wheel and/or spindle.

Thanks for posting the video, SpinningWoman.

I would have given you different advice, had I not seen it. I would have said, like most everyone else typically says, “Ditch the Wall.” However, what you’re doing against the wall looks pretty productive. I could tell that you were throttling the speed of the unicycle to keep it under you. In other words, your forward-backward balance seems to be working. And the way the fingers of your free hand were splayed, it looked like you were really using them for balance. So, if staying against the wall is good for you, keep it up, because it seems to be working.

I would say practice both ways. Not just from left to right, but from right to left (if you already do that, it wasn’t apparent from the video). That also applies to the starting foot during a mount. I think there’s huge value to learning techniques on both sides of our bodies. When I have attempted something on my weaker or less-coordinated side, it has caused me to have to think harder about what I was doing. I spent longer learning this way, but arguably it set the stage for learning other hard stuff later.

You mentioned under your video:

"On a unicycle you can fall over in four directions at once, and there seems to be no way it can possibly work... but I'm assured that if I keep practicing, something will click in my brain and it will."

It is possible that “the wall” is inhibiting your experience of two out of the four directions, specifically the left and right directions. The way a unicyclist achieves right-left balance is not totally different from a bicyclist. The unicycle needs to be turned in the direction it’s listing, just like a bike.

You could do a few things to practice this right-left control … without yet having to “ditch the wall”. Find something to hold onto with both arms, then from this stable position, practice twisting the unicycle clockwise and counter-clockwise under you. Also, from this supported position, you can practice extending your hips to the left and right, which causes the unicycle to list (not turn) to the left and right. Another thing you can try is riding along a wall which takes an immediate 90 degree turn. Learn to pedal through that turn, making the turning force originate from your lower body.

One way a bike is different from a unicycle: On a bike, the goal is to apply the force of your feet to turn the pedals in exact circles. Kind of a two-dimensional motion. On the unicycle, the forces applied to the pedals can also turn the unicycle. The wall, if you’re not careful, can keep you trapped in a two-dimensional practice space, where you’re unable to experience the left-right turning necessary to unicycle riding.

Bottom line: if you feel you’re making progress, you probably are! Welcome to the forum!

The problem with ski poles is that you learn to ride with ski poles… it then becomes very difficult to get rid of them because your brain is happy with the way they work.

Not much to add to my fellow unicyclists - find a slightly longer wall so you can do more than 3 revolutions, and then try to sail in the big open world. The guys at Voodoo Unicycle have some good videos about that, Google/Youtube should find them.

Vertigo, I thought the same thing, but just assumed it was because of my own reference point as a craftsperson. Are you a weaver? I have several friends here who are weavers and potters. I’m a furniture builder and dabble in blacksmithing from time to time. Anyway, just curious and wanted to say hello.

Spinningwoman, I forgot to mention the ski poles…I tried using those early on when I first started riding away from a fence. After getting tangled up with them on more than one occasion, I decided to put them away. By far, the best place for me to practice as I was progressing was along side the nets of tennis courts. I had access to 4 tennis courts side by side in the dead of winter, so I had it all to myself. I would start at one end beside the net and start riding with my hand grazing the top of the net. It wasn’t offering much support, but it gave me the feeling of being supported. At first, I would dismount and remount at the end and beginning of each court. Then the day came when I had the courage to “ride the gap” between courts. I was on my way at that point and soon was riding circle all over the courts. Anyway, that’s what worked for me. When I am fully recovered from my broken foot (yes, from unicycling), that’s where I will start back.

Good luck, and happy spinning!

I learned in the living room. I live alone, so I moved all furniture to the side. I started against the wall and eventually, after 2 weeks or so I found that it was better to steer away from the wall, because it drew me to it like a magnet.
Once I could do 4-5 rotations, I found a parking lot from where I learned everything I know now.
Just be patient, Spinning, and keep at it. Unicycling can be extremely frustrating, but eventually it all works out.
As for ski-poles, I’ve never used them, but I’m still searching for a cheat way of free-mounting the 36". Last time I tried this week, I practiced mounting for 45 minutes and only managed riding off 4 times. I hate the thing, but it rides so comfortably.

This is a great group! Yes, I’m a spinner, knitter (and machine knitter) and weaver - oh, and archer and ukulele player. The last two will combine nicely with unicycle riding if I get good enough!

Spinningwoman has been my username ever since I became an early adopter of the idea of internet groups back in the days of Compuserve and modems that downloaded emails at a snail’s pace while you went and made several ups of tea. As soon as I realised that my crazy little hobbies were actually big hobbies when multiplied by the size of the internet, i knew I had found my place! I remember the days when I started spinning and weaving and the only place you could find information was your local library. My husband claims that I take up a new hobby every time I run out of stuff to buy for the last one, but I know that’s not true as there are still some ukuleles and bows and spinning wheels in the world that I have resisted buying (so far). I am already hearing myself trying to convince myself that it would be much easier if I had a second unicycle to keep in the car, but I am practicing delayed gratification. I do have plans for a 24" muni as a reward for perseverance when finally I get this, though at my height I may have to get a specially cut-down version.

I tried the poles when I started and got tangled up, but then tried them again after a week once I had the basic balance down and they seem to work well and give me a bit of range. I can also feel how I would naturally get less dependant on them as well, hopefully, and they are good for developing an ‘almost free’ mount which feels like it could develop into a free mount so if I find a good surface somewhere I can use it without needing a wall or a fence. A tennis court would be idea, but this is holiday season and I don’t know of any that would be free. I’m planning to find a park tomorrow and see what areas I can find. Unfortunately I have a very public job locally, so I have to go off my patch if I don’t want it to be the local topic of conversation, which I would rather avoid until I can be just a tiny bit awesome! If I can hit the outskirts of awesome by the end of August, that would be great as my kids are coming for the weekend and I will get a severe 'Oh, Mum’ing from my daughter if I can’t demonstrate that it isn’t completely impossible. My son will probably pick it up and ride it after 5 minutes. My daughter and my husband are soulmates in the ‘let’s keep mum from doing anything else crazy’ department. They mean well.

Yes - I’ve moved our couch away from the wall so I can get behind it and idle away while I watch TV!

Yay! It may not be much, but I just made 3 ‘steps’ (ie I suppose 1.5 revolutions) unsupported, in a way that actually felt like unicycling rather than just taking a couple of seconds to fall over. That was on grass.

Now that’s a good phrase. Grabbing that for a sig.

This is a great group! Yes, I’m a spinner, knitter (and machine knitter) and weaver - oh, and archer and ukulele player. The last two will combine nicely with unicycle riding if I get good enough!

Is this an indication that Unicyclists do normal stuff too… ?? Well swipe me, I never knew that…!!

Keep it up, it sounds as though you are nearly there…