Another newbie with issues!

Hello everybody.

I am a very keen bicylist, I ride around 12,000 miles a year and have always focused on high cadence with an FTP of around 310 watts, I am 6 ft 1 and 50 years old… *So I ride alot and am quite powerful)

I bought myself a 20 inch training Unicycle, and have been following the tutorials, guidance etc… My expectation is it will be hard but not impossible, but my falls are too frequent and starting to get painfull (Unicycle is shooting out underneath me and I am ending up on my arse), this is what I am doing…

  1. Going out for 20 minutes or so twice a day.
  2. I am getting reasonably comfortable riding alongside a wall about 15 feet long, not really long enough to get a rythum.
  3. I am finding difficulty controlling the pedals, I am used to 175mm cranks and these seem very short, I also find the Uni is shooting out underneath me and I end up falling backwards on my arse.

I believe I need to lean forwards more, but I am just not getting it, and the falling is hurting, so I am loosing confidence from trying to launch myself into the yonder…

Should I stick with hanging on to a wall untill I stop falling backwards?

Does riding two wheels and one wheel not mix?

should I have gone for a bigger wheel straight away, are the crank lengths my issue?

Should I be looking at trying to slow my cadence down?

When I try this I inevtibly end up doing one revolution then I am back with cranks horizontal…(And I am knowhere near idling)

Or is it just a case of man up and keep at it?

I have set myself a goal of riding around the local park at Xmas, although I am getting the occasional ‘ohh that felt right’ I am not sure if the feel is correct!

I feel that the Uni is pulsing along under me, and like I said, I am thrown of the back onto my arse…I would prefer to step off the front…

Should I practise literaly stepping off the front?

Any advice is welcome…

I think the short answer is put on safety gear including tail bone protection and keep after it. I’ve been able to ride about 60 years and remember only falling on my butt about once, it is something to try to avoid at all cost.

Your 175mm cranks seem long to me and it may be harder to make quick reactions with the longer cranks. On the other hand coming from bicycles the longer cranks may work for you. It may be because I ride my 36" all the time but I find my 36" with 127mm cranks easier to ride then a 24" with 170mm cranks. As for speed, normally riding faster is easier to maintain balance then riding slow.

Even though you may not see progress all the time, it just takes putting in the time. Keep at it.

Welcome to the wonderful world of one-wheel riding!
It sounds like you have a great training regimen already set, keep it up!
If you are riding alongside the wall with your hand out, holding the wall or using it to balance yourself, I would say that would be one thing to change. Riding along a wall or fence is really only useful for getting the feel of sitting/riding on one wheel. After a very short while it will hold you back. I suggest using the wall to mount the uni, then turn away and launch yourself out into the great beyond. It will be scary at first, but it’s really the best way to learn. It’s all about training your brain, and repetition is how that happens.
Get protective gear! Here’s what I wear: knee pads, shin guards, elbow pads, heavy gloves with plastic wrist protectors, helmet, heavy shoes with flat bottoms. If I’m going to be doing technical downhill, then ankle supports as well. Every item on that list is there as a result of some injury. (I now rarely get injured.)
Some folks advocate for practicing falling by intentionally bailing out. I’ve never done that, but it seems like a good idea. I know some people who also wear padded shorts for hip/tailbone protection.
The 20 inch size is a good size for learning (the most common, actually). At 6’1", you would probably do fine on a 24" as well, but the 20 is fine.
Unicycle cranks are typically shorter than bicycle cranks. You will get used to this pretty quickly and after a while (with experimentation) you will find the length that suits you best. There are also cranks with multiple holes to allow different settings for different uses.

Good luck! Remember the unicyclist mantra: “Hours in the saddle.” That usually solves the majority of problems. :slight_smile:

As a fellow Adult Onset Unicyclist and past passionate bicyclist, I figured I’d chime in.

Besides having a seat which can be uncomfortable, a frame, wheel, cranks and pedals, the bike and unicycle don’t have a lot in common. (As an aside, I used to be able to ride a bike including my track bike easily no hands. No so anymore.)

I suggest leaning forward more and “falling” off the front. It is a much better way to fall because 99.9% you walk or run off of it. Your brain needs to unlearn the concept that you pedal to go forward that works great on a bike but not on a unicycle. For the unicycle, you need to lean forward and then pedal just enough to bring the unicycle back under you and so forth. It really is like a child learning to walk. And just like that toddler, you’ll learn not by people telling you how to do it but rather trial and error

While learning, I had some bad falls off the back including flat on my back after my feet got tangled in the pedals. Soon your brain will figure out if you stop pedaling or at least change the pressure, momentum keeps you from falling backwards. Unfortunately, it just takes time in the saddle.

Keep putting that time in the saddle and enjoy the journey. You are going to find it’s an awesome workout that will approach those 300 watts soon. Don’t worry about weight on the saddle, that will come naturally. Just flail your arms like crazy and keep at it. You should be riding around the park by Christmas but probably not in the next three weeks. :slight_smile:


Whereabouts are you located? a quick 1/2 hour with someone who knows how to teach unicycling will probably have you progressing well.


Saddle hieght: leg not quite straight when crank is at the bottom

Posture: weight on seat, sitting upright like someone is pulling you up by the hair (but still with weight on seat)

Eyes: look straight ahead, if you look at the ground that’s where you’ll end up!

Thats a few basics that’s worked for the many riders I have trained over the years. If you are anywhere near South Wales (doubtful) I’ll happily help you out.

Practice, practice, practice… and don’t give up. Unfortunately it is a difficult process in the beginning and therefore very frustrating. Eventually you will be able to ride it. The only advice I can give you is to try not to think too much about how impossible if feels, what you are doing wrong etc… Think about it this way: deep down it is the same as learning to ride a bicycle is just takes much longer and it is a bit scarier (because we think we are going to hurt ourselves…)

Most of us went through the same process: it feels feel impossible to master in the beginning and you fall off a lot… I actually gave up after a week or too… A moth or so later I saw my teenager neighbor riding a unicycle (what are the chances!!). He made it look easy. Man pride kicked in: I had to get back to it and learn to ride it!.. finally after a long learning process I managed to master it… it wasn’t an overnight process that is for sure…

Falling backwards is really tricky.
As you take off try to commit to falling / leaning forward, then follow it up by pedaling.

Consider this:
If you sit up stiff like a broomstick and start pedaling you will propel the unicycle forward, from under you.

By initiating a forward lean, just before you start pedaling you’ll have your center of gravity in front of the axis.
Then literally you’ll have to pedal to keep up :slight_smile:

I learned at age 43 and do not get a lot of seat-time.
I’m still not “good” at it but within a couple of months I was able to ride bits and pieces off-road, something I never expected to be able to as I started out.

Just keep at it and you’ll figure it out.

I’ll repeat my mantra: Commit to that initial forward lean

As a beginner, I mounted against a curb backing up to a fence. I started with the pedals at the 3 and 9 o’clock position. Once I felt somewhat balanced, I let go of the fence then leaned forward until my center of gravity was in front of the hub. This made me automatically apply pressure to the front pedal. The important point was that I leaned first, then pedaled, not the other way around.

The topic of falling backwards was covered in a fairly recent thread. Can’t remember which one…

Should I stick with hanging on to a wall untill I stop falling backwards?

Does riding two wheels and one wheel not mix?

should I have gone for a bigger wheel straight away, are the crank lengths my issue?

Should I be looking at trying to slow my cadence down?

When I try this I inevtibly end up doing one revolution then I am back with cranks horizontal…(And I am knowhere near idling)

Or is it just a case of man up and keep at it?

You can DEFINITELY do this. (I learned five months ago, at 60 yrs.) The trick is persistence, make small improvements, for short periods each day (20 minutes is good, 45 worked for me). It’s a mind/body coordination thing, and you’ll find that all of a sudden things CLICK. I had more success launching myself from a post because I relied on the wall too much for support. I also found filling my lungs improved my posture and I had better balance because of it.

I have set myself a goal of riding around the local park at Xmas, although I am getting the occasional ‘ohh that felt right’ I am not sure if the feel is correct!
You’ll definitely figure this out by Xmas if you keep at it.

I feel that the Uni is pulsing along under me, and like I said, I am thrown of the back onto my arse…I would prefer to step off the front…
Stepping off front is fine, whatever works.



Learning along a wall has a big drawback: you’ll never find the rhythm of peddling and I would say that the long cranks must add to this. For me the proof is that you fall backward. As you are 6’1, your legs are around 30” long and they have to move up and down 14”, half their extended size. I believe that, if you fall backward, it is because you’re stopped in your leg rotation up. Even if as a cyclist, your use to this, the position and freedom of your legs is quite different on a uni.
You certainly could find cheap 150mm cranks which would take that welcome 2” of the equation. The cheap solution would be to push your seat up to the very maximum of your leg length to give them all the freedom they need, but this one is scary. My second suggestion is to find somebody to help you find the rhythm. They must hold you by the elbow and hand only and follow you riding. Your goal is to make complete revolutions and not stop at 3-9 or 6-12. Don’t throw the blanket you are one turn of pedal away from success. Send us a video for Xmas

Thank you guys

You have all made sense…

I think I am starting to understand my problem, I am trying to pedal forwards, and not leaning, cycling is all about efficent pedal strokes, pushing on the forward and pulling on the back…

I see Unicycling is about pedal control pushing on the forward, and controling with the backward…

I need to relearn how to pedal, at the same time as learning to lean forwards, and not fall off the back…

On top of that the last fall has shajken me up and I cant let go, I am also pig headed so cannot/will not give up!

I hope I can look back at this post and laugh at myself!

BTW The carnks on my Uni are not 175 mm, I was stating that I am used to 175 mm cranks on my road bikes :slight_smile: The cranks on my Uni seem like childs bike cranks…

I will press gang my wife to help lead me away from the safety of a wall!

Actually I am not a million miles away, I am Chippenham Wiltshire…

I have taken you advise and have asked one of my daughters old school friends to come and help…

I am starting to suspect my issue is one of trying to pedal forwards, as I would a bicycle, where as here I need to control the stroke…I will persist, once I have got over my fear of falling!

Thank you Todd that one statement which now seems obvious is my issue, I am going back to lesson 2, the half rotations and balance, as I now realise this is teaching me to control with the rear pedal…

And I now relise the moment I try and ride without support I immediatley switch back to bicycle heave ho mode…

Another thing I’ll add is that when I was just learning the very basics, I noticed that using the wall or a fence or a rail or just about anything had a tendency to cause me to fall backwards. The thing about using a wall, is that it will actively slow you down and throw you off if you are actually riding the unicycle correctly. Since falling backwards generally comes from not leaning forward, and not leaning forward tends to come from moving slowly, I would imagine a lot of your backwards falls can either be attributed directly to the wall, or indirectly from learning on a wall and having gained a tendency to try to move as though you are on a wall.

My suggestion would be to use a wall for nothing more than learning the motions of the legs for one complete rotation, then to immediately start practicing using the wall or fence only to start on, but quickly move away from the wall and just keep trying that until the forward motion really clicks. Hopefully, it should take no more than a few days with your current training style otherwise left intact.

Not really. Focus more on leaning forward and putting the wheel under where you would fall, where you would put your foot if you were walking. You can use some of the same brain pathways you use for walking if you follow this notion. Push just enough to get the wheel where it needs to be. They to pedal smoothly.

Those who focus too much on back pressure are more prone to develop a stilted action. Learning with supports tends to make some focus too much on the back pressure.

Push just enough to get rolling is a good one.
When I started out I had a tendency to push way too hard (on both pedals) which consumes a lot of energy. Pushing hard also increased the risk of getting caught in the dead spot; getting stuck with the pedals at 6 and 12 o clock position.

Ideally there is no force on the back pedal when cycling forward.
But as a beginner you’ll need it for stability.
After one year I still struggle with riding efficiently, I still have too much force on the back pedal.
I contribute this to too little saddle time.

Consider this:
if force on the back pedal was required then one-footed riding and freewheel unicycling would not be possible.

For those talking about the crank length:
The topic starter has 175mm cranks on his bicycle, those one the unicycle are much shorter.
So no need to change anything on the unicycle cranks.

Actually saddle time doesn’t fix your freemounting. If you ride 20km in one go, which I often do, you will never learn to mount lightly on the back pedal. Also there are peeps that mount with a small rollback, push the unicycle under them, instead of moving themselves on top of the uni. I find that a strange feeling and merely step on. Sometimes I have more power on the backpedal than other times. Most important here I guess is that you can get on and ride away into the sunset.
For beginners they have to go with anything that works. Adjustments can be tackled at a later point.

I absolutely agree!

But in this topic we are not discussing freemounting, we’re talking about riding :slight_smile:

You mean you have too much force on the back pedal when riding? Like using the acceleration pedal and the brake at the same time?

I think in any ride there are situations where you have to use some force on the back pedal to keep your balance, like when riding very fast or when riding over a bump or maybe when shifting on the seat.
I noticed this very much when giving the freewheel uni a try. I could easily go 20m, but then I’d put force on the back to maybe slow down or whatever, but there is absolutely no control when rotating backwards on a freewheel uni.

Having cramped legs is naturally a beginner stage in unicycling and saddle time will fix that as you say. :slight_smile:

My 2 cents:

I would say stick to using a wall as a support, until you are able to pedal a few smooth revolutions.

It does mix. I have never seen anyone having issues going back and forth inbetween unicycling and bicycling.

No and no. Lack of practice is likely your only issue.

Since we don’t know how fast you pedal, we can’t answer this one. I guess probably not.

I am guessing you mean vertical (so at top and bottom dead center). Probably means a bit more speed would help.

Yes. If your seatheight is correct, there are no miracle fixes.

No. Just keep at it, you will learn to fall soon enough.

Don’t think to much, practice can’t be replaced. Some folks on this forum have different methods, but my series of practices that have been very succesful at teaching people how to ride is:
1.) Mounting, and riding with assist on BOTH sides. Makes sure you get comfortable sitting on the uni, and helps learning what happens with your forward and backward balance when you pedal.

2.) Riding along something with support on just one side (like a wall). Make sure you are using only ONE hand on this support, the other one is free.

3.) Mounting, riding a meter or so along a support, then leaving the support and ride into free space (a corner of a house works nicely for this.)

2.) and 3.) can be alternated, to mix up your practice.

Motivated children with average balance need 7-12 hours of practice to ride freely in my experience (once you get 20 meters, it’s usually not far away from doing 200…) , young and fit adults sometimes manage to ride in just 3 hours. People over 30 generally tend to take a lot longer.