Another Pesky Lesson in Humility

Another Pesky Lesson in Humility!

Hello out there in the Unicycling Community. I’m an enthusiastic 53 year old beginner. This is my first attempt at a post on any internet forum, so if I should inadvertently commit any serious cyber blunders I trust that y’all will set me straight!

I have been fascinated by unicycles and admiring of unicyclists since the dawn of my own self awareness. Quite logically, I’ve also assumed that only exceptional beings on the very highest rung of the evolutionary ladder could ever hope to master such an inherently instable and seemingly irrational device!

One evening last fall, while doing my daily 20 miles on the old Schwinn Airdyne, my mind was wandering (as it is wont to do) and it occurred to me that I could investigate unicycles on the internet. At the conclusion of my ride I hopped off the bike and onto the information super highway at 26 KBPS. After typing “unicycles” into Google, I hit the search button and fell through the looking glass into an amazing world whose extent and diversity exceeded anything I could ever have imagined.

My unicycling “research” soon consumed all my spare time (and then some!) as I feverishly followed links and absorbed information. (If only I had applied myself so diligently in school my bank account might be a little less emaciated today!)

I discovered, to my great delight, the Unicycling Community here, where I was pleased to note the encouragement given to beginners, inspired by the activities of older unicyclists, and eagerly followed the progress of Dude With a Sock.

I began to believe that with patience and perseverance (of which I have a great store) even a post middle aged and slightly overweight wanker like me, with no exceptional athletic ability, might just learn to wobble around with some measure of control.

I began to develop ambitions! UDC’s online catalog monopolized my thoughts. I studied its offerings with all the intensity of Navy carrier pilot on final approach.

Concluding that a 24"er would be appropriate for my 5’11"s, I agonized over all the possible choices. Finally, my compulsive cheapskatedness prevailed and I decided to go with a Torker LX 24, although my secret heart’s desire was the United XL 24 trainer. Gathering up my courage, I finally launched this new adventure and ordered the Torker.

Hardly had I hit the submit button but I began to have doubts. Would the Torker be stout enough for my 210 pounds? In a sudden flash of financial schizophrenia I called UDC and changed the order to a United XL 24 trainer. Now my bank account was battered but the adventure was properly underway!

Just a day or two later I chanced upon Unityler’s negative review of the XL Trainer. Oops! Having now received it however, I have no regrets - it’s a pukka machine. That chromed and curvaceous unicrown frame over the stoutly built 48 spoke Kovachi wheel, while it may not be quite as alluring as Daisy Fuentes in a short skirt, isn’t far behind!

While waiting for the XL 24 to arrive, I read so many assertions that it was easier to learn on a 20"er that I experienced another episode of fiscal irrationality. Telling myself that I ought to take advantage of every available assistance, I thought, “In for a penny, in for a pound,” and ordered a Torker LX 20. Obviously, my obsession with learning to ride had superceded what little sense I may once have possessed! Still, I was realistic enough to purchase a set of elbow and knee pads, plus wrist guards, in anticipation of my date with destiny.

Finally, the glorious day arrived; UPS appeared bearing a box full of unicycle. With almost unendurable excitement I assembled the XL 24, then headed for the backyard to attack the (0,0) point of the learning curve. Since I was certain that, at this stage, every take off would terminate with a UPD, I decided to start on grass. My procedure was to curb mount using a portable plywood box built expressly for this purpose, get stabilized and comfortable while hanging onto a tree limb with my right hand, lean forward, release my tree limb, and start pedaling.

Now I certainly wasn’t progressing like these precocious teenagers who are freemounting by sundown on their first day, but I was doing well enough to keep my level of optimism elevated.

On day two I made a significant discovery. Although I thought I was sitting up straight, I realized that pressing my hips forward just a bit shifted my weight off my crotch and onto my bottom on the wide after part of the seat, instantly reducing the tension in my legs. Eureka!

By the end of the second day I was occasionally making 3 revolutions of the pedals. Most of my rides were ending with the right pedal stuck straight down, leading me to suspect that the further I went the more my weight was shifting back to the pedals. Not an unexpected tendency!

The initial part of the 3rd day was spent attempting to regain the 2nd day’s proficiency. For the first time I had an audience, which was causing me considerable self conscious discomfort. I much prefer to blunder about incompetently apart from the pressure of observing (even if friendly) eyes.

On my final test flight of day 3, after a couple of pedal revolutions, I found myself listing to starboard and pitching aft. The usual UPD ensued.

As my right foot hit the ground I heard a most disquieting “crunch” and was precipitously deposited upon my backside. Now, I’ve never before broken a bone, but that crunch was all too self explanatory. I knew with a sickening certainly that the carefree mobility I’ve casually taken for granted had suddenly suffered a shattering blow.

Sure enough, after gingerly removing my shoe and sock, I found my foot to be wobbling about in a disturbingly disjointed manner beneath a swelling and increasingly painful ankle.

Now I was glad for that audience, as it provided me with a ride to the emergency room! The nurse who first examined my then grotesquely swollen ankle said, “Oh, that looks bad!” The Xray tech, who was pretty doggoned cavalier in the way that he wrenched my traumatized appendage about, said, “I’m not supposed to give out information, but I’m gonna tell you, that thing’s broken!” The doctor who read the Xray said, "This doesn’t look good. You have a right distal tibia and fibula bimaleolar fracture. (a “bimal” in orthopedic surgeon slang!) When I asked him how such an seemingly innocuous fall could have resulted in such a spectacular fracture he shrugged and said that it was just an unfortunate combination of vectors.

Twelve days later the swelling subsided enough for the surgeons to slice into it. (I’ve since been informed by an experienced anesthesiologist that the swelling decreases much quicker in patients who have insurance. In President Bush’s “Ownership Society” I fear I’m just a renter!)

Now the Xrays look like a hardware store has taken up residence in my ankle. I’m sporting a titanium plate about 4" long with 9 screws on the fibula side and 2 screws in the tibia maleolus. I’m facing 6 weeks in a cast with no weight on it whatsoever, followed by a month or so in a walking boot. The doctor forecasts some 6 months for it to become as strong as it will ever be and says that I won’t need the weather channel to know when the barometric pressure is changing. I asked him if it would be OK for me to take up skydiving but he didn’t seem to see the humor in that!

I am, by nature and training, a modest and humble fellow. My years as a motorcyclist, an ocean going tugboatman, a sailor, and a whitewater canoeist have delivered me innumerable lessons in humility, some of which were so emphatic as to be almost fatal! Why the fates find it necessary to remind me once again of my own frail mortality is a mystery to me!

Now I have no intention of letting this fractured ankle mark the end of my unicycling ambitions, although it will certainly set them back for more months than I care to contemplate. When I do resume my one wheeled efforts, I believe that I’d best take all prudent precautions. This injury has rendered me unable to drive and essentially useless for the time being. More importantly, it’s placed a considerable burden upon my family and friends. This time they’re sympathetic - if it happens again they may well be derisive!

I’m thinking that I will forgo the “free range” method in favor of riding alongside a wall or fence until I become a bit more competent. I’ve even drawn up plans for a 4’ wide plywood training track with handrails on either side for “maximum protection and peace of mind.”

A search of these forums for “broken ankle” revealed that others have limped down this road before me. I will certainly be wearing ankle braces like the ASO ankle supports recommended by Tellurider, whose Xrays looked a whole lot like mine. If only my unicycling skills looked a little like his I’d be happy!

I send this story along to y’all in the hope that the Unicycling Community will read it with more understanding than my strictly nonunicycling family and friends, most of whom thought that I was flipping goofy for wanting to take up unicycling in the first place. (Although the evidence might seem to indicate that they were correct, I still contend that this fracture was a fluke!) I hardly dare to tell them that I intend to continue!

Crippled but still keen,
I salute you!


First of all, welcome to the forums! :slight_smile:

Secondly, very nice write-up. Reading through your post was more interesting than even some Muni write-ups I’ve read on these boards. :wink:

Third, don’t ever let your fluke accident push down your ambitions. Although, as I read that last statement again, it seems quite obvious that it wasn’t even necessary to type - you’ve got more ambition and energy than quite a few of my own peers. According to what I’ve gathered from reading your post, Destiny is fighting a losing battle against you, my friend, and couldn’t hold you back from your dreams if it killed her. I’m sure that by the time you’re ready to climb back on that that one-wheeled mechanism of the greatest joy a person can feel, you’ll have read up enough on these forums to know all the mechanics of a stand-up, backwards, one-footed wheelwalk before being able to ride 10 feet with a support! :stuck_out_tongue:


Yes. My god, I could read your writing on and on. Really great. Please write about what ever you like.

Yes, Welcome!

Two unicycles, the gear, 3 revolutions, I’d say your an official Unicyclist.

What a horrible beginning, it can only get better from here. So sorry to hear of the break. Have a speedy recovery.

Holy cow!! As a fellow beginner, I salute you.

Keep us posted!


Great write up! Thank you.

I also enjoyed your story. I’m sorry for your accident and am pleased that your story didn’t end with a listing of some slightly used equipment for sale. I look forward to hearing more from you.

There must be an increased gravity cycle happening on our planet right now. First Ken Looi, then you get pulled off and break your ankles. I will be exta careful, now, until this cycle has passed.
Take care.

Best first post I’ve ever read.

Great post - sorry to hear of your accident.

If rep was still available, I’d give heaps!

Sorry to hear of your bad luck, hope it heals quick.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone buying two unicycles before they’ve even ridden one, you obviously mean business! Maybe your next unicycle purchase should be a Ti frame to match your ankle :smiley:

I’m just about to go out for a ride, thanks to this comment I’m now extremely nervous!

Superb reading.TU.
I have started uniing at 65yo.I am short and heavy.I am managing still at 70-ty but I find riding on the grass very difficult(inspite of having range of unis to choose from).Suprisingly,it is mych easier to learn on the tarmak.UPD with the guards you have just make a lot of noice.Do not give up.Cheeeeriooo!

Dear Ronnie,

Welcome and thanks for the great post! Youre right on this point:

Glad that you have realized that you’re in residence on the top rung, too!

I hope you ankle heals very well and quickly. OUCH. You are in good company. Read the current posts in the Rec Sport Unicycling forum about Ken Looi’s hospitalization.

I am a strong advocate of late learning. I was one of those kids that was always good at everything. It kind of built up an internal pressure to succeed. Now as an adult I’ve been learning all kinds of really challenging things from the ground up (cello, fencing, began grad school in a completely different field at age 32) . I learn much more slowly, but it’s so much more fun to learn for pleasure and not for success like when I was young.

Heal up really well before riding again, you don’t need any recurrences! I’d also recommend a fence (I learned on a picket fence) and pavement. Smoother pavement means less unexpected bumps and impediments to throw. I have been riding since I was a kid and remain to find a tufty-old lawn in need of a mow an extremely difficult ride. Hold it on the freemounts until you get the swing of controlling the unplanned dismounts (UPDs) to some degree.

Keep us posted and welcome!

that was one of the best write ups i have ever read on this forum…sorry bout the injury yes i am hoping it heals fast so you can master the single wheel

^its from that flipin jump day now the gravity is all screwed up…jk

I agree, Ronnie. Excellent Post!

While you’re waiting to heal, feel free to post anything you want on Except for maybe how to ride without hurting yourself. :wink: You will be a welcome addition to our masses, and judging by the frequency of some of the posters, you’ll probably be riding as often as they do!

You have the ambition. You have the enthusiasm. You have the unicycle. All you really need now is a leg that isn’t broken. Good luck!

hey great post. I noticed that you said you were a whitewater canoeist, i love whitewater canoeing. Im glad to here there are more c-boaters. keep up the unicycling.

Excellent write-up! U definitely have the adventure aura going. I enjoyed that story as much as reading a Mark Twain novel. :wink:

I’m a beginner as well, (Jan 2006 Uni born on date) like most things I jump into with naive enthusiasm I didn’t do any research. To my suprise when I found this Uni Community Group, about a week or two into starting to learn; there were a lot of stories and ideas on my similar blunders.

Something that helped me learn was using PVC poles, these are cheap and easily available and you won’t need them for long. Anyway, even when I could ride without holding on to anything, these poles helped me mount while riding on paved trails, where there was nothing to assist the mounting start. Within a week or so I was able to throw away the poles. Whatever method you use definitely take it slow to figure out the basic balance technique for yourself.

Hope you heal quick and good Uni’g.
Can’t wait to hear your comeback story.

HAHA thats funny. Welcome and i wish you an as painless as possible recovery.


You are a great writer. I love your analogies and wit. I am sorry for your less-than-stellar luck learning to one wheel.

Best of luck in your recovery and in future unicycling endeavors.

Re: Another Pesky Lesson in Humility

Ronnie, welcome to the community! That’s bad luck indeed, but you’re
set to overcome it.

Your foot may have hit an irregularity in the grass field,
contributing to the bone snapping. Apart from that, because of those
same irregularities, and generally more rolling friction, grass is
more difficult to (learn to) ride on. I recommend taking it to asphalt
(pavement), or a gym floor, at the time when you can go back to
practice. That’s soon, hopefully!

Good age to learn! I was 47 when I started, 52 now.

Welcome. welcome. I hope you don’t get put off by your injury.


Congrats on becoming a unicyclist!!!

Forget the naysayers. They are secretly surfing

One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve read on this forum is that a beginner should start with practicing how to dismount. Once things aren’t going as expected, just dismount and start over. Don’t fight it. Sometimes dismounting actually happens with dignity intact, but it doesn’t matter. A roll on the ground during a upd IS a part of unicycling. At least in my world. Practice rolling.

If you’re ever in the Tulsa area, let me know, we’ll ride.