Any tips on riding in circles?

Hi, a noob here with two months of experience. At the moment I try to learn some random stuff from the IUF skill levels list, and I can already ride backwards/idle/hop on curbs/hop standing on the wheel etc.

However, I have major problems with simple smooth riding in circles :slight_smile:
I mean, I can not even validate level 2 because of “ride a figure 8 with Ø < 3 m”.

What would be a routine to tightening circle radius? I can only imaging riding in circles for hours straight, but I wonder if I missing something.

Ideally, I’d like to learn spinning/pirouettes, but for now I am aiming quite low!

After two months you can hop standing on the wheel? That means that I, after five years, have no excuse and must go learn that skill immediately!

Turning, unlike some of the skills you have learned, does not require any specific workout routine, just a bit of riding around. Maybe you haven’t done much of that because you have been working on developing these other skills instead?

Beginner unicyclists sometimes tend to slow down their pedaling and swing their arms and shoulders to rotate their wheel for a turn, rather than leaning their whole body into the turn and accelerating. You aren’t like any beginner I ever heard of, but that is really the only pointer I can give you about turning.

It is pretty easy, in fact, it took me few practice sessions in total (I practice 1-1.5 hours a day). I had a major fear issue at the beginning, being close to 40 years I do not want to break any bones, and I weigh about 100kg, and I am not particularly fit. What helped me is to learn the first hop on a grass. I found a hole in the ground so I was sure the wheel won’t go sideways, and I developed muscular memory for the first hop that blocks the wheel. Then few hours on asphalt and it is done.

You are right. I have ridden few times 10-15 kilometers just to be sure that I can do it, but I have found that I progress very little doing long rides (since I am a beginner, I see progress every day, even if it +1 meter riding backwards). So my usual routine is a 30x30 meters patch of asphalt.

After 5 years of riding, can you do spinning? I find it insanely difficult!

A unicycle or bicycle turns by leaning. Leaning is not caused by the turning; the turning is caused by the leaning. The further the wheel leans, the tighter the turn.

To make a tight turn, lean the wheel. To allow the wheel to lean further, try to keep your body as near to upright as possible. (It’s to do with centre of mass.)

Any tight turn starts with your head and your eyes. Turn your head and look at where you want to go.

For a sharp sudden turn, it helps to time it with the downstroke of the inside pedal.

I used to practise on my 20, trying to get pedal strikes on tight turns. I was able to do it consistently.

Each skill will come with practise, and soon you will wonder why it was ever a problem.

I understand well the physics, however I fail to find good workout routine. Every time I try to do a tight (for me it is 3-4m diameter) circle, I fall halfway through due to some jerking motion. For riding forward/backwards it does not pose any problem, just reiterate! However for riding in circles I find that an hour of circling attempts is quite nauseating and surprisingly causes pain in the crotch area.

By any chance, is your unicycle like a giant tractor wheel with really low pressure? Or a 36"? :slight_smile:

It helps to have a smooth-ish tire, and plenty of pressure to reduce the friction. A tire with lots of tread/knobs will resist turning more than a smooth one, but if it does have big treads, just pump it up hard. Pump it up hard anyway, especially if your surface is rough.

A beginner changes directions kind of like a sail boat, by tacking. 30-degree course change, 45-degree course change, etc. What you want is to get where the turn is constant, not with corners.

So start big. Try making big circles with constant pedaling (no pauses) and not too much arm movement. Twist your upper body toward the inside of the circle; this will help the unicycle follow in that direction.

Go both ways. Most people are better at going one direction than the other, but working on both will keep you closer to being even. As your big circles become easy make them smaller, but without losing the smooth pedaling. When it’s working right, you can feel it; all the forces are balanced into a continuous turn.

As you get smaller, you may find yourself crossing the “center”, where you might have to ride backwards to keep moving. That means you went too small.

If you can ride backward, practice doing it backward as well. It will help your body to understand what’s happening to make a turn. For backward circles, you turn your outside shoulder in the direction of the turn, so your upper body is facing outward. Start big and slow, then look for smoothness.

Enjoy the process!

No, not yet! Wheel walking is my best skill so far, I think, and I do a bit of one-footed and seat-out stuff.

I remember when I was like you, learning something new on almost every ride, but now it takes a lot longer. I will follow your instructions for hopping on the tire, though. Did you wear shin guards? I have some cheap ones for soccer, but they are too hot, especially if I add the calf protectors that I made to go with them.

It is amazing you can do all of that in just 2 months of learning. It took me 3 weeks to learn to ride and another full week to freemount. Im still learning the ride hop ride thing and hopping on a kerb I mostly can’t do because I fear I will trip. Im sure I can do it if I can stop thinking.

As for turns, I learned them by riding a lot, though I’ve never tried a figure 8. Occasionally I can do very sharp turns, mostly when Im too lazy to step off and also when I think too much before making a 90 degrees turn, I sometimes fall off. Those times where my mind is elsewhere I make very smooth turns. I’'ve been riding 3 years, but can’t idle or ride backwards. So far I don’t see the point in learning those skills. Mostly just like to ride and explore somewhere. A uni is easy to take around with you.

Try accelerating slightly while leaning.
Body straight and head up and straight.
Lean, don’t bend.

Get better, then bender.

Years ago, I taught a friend to ride and he struggled with steering.

I set up six chairs as follows in an oblong a few metres long. We did it indoors in a village hall, but a space the size of a badminton or tennis court would do. Take the net down, of course.:smiley:

 2          4          6

 1          3          5

We then did pursuit races, starting at opposite ends of the oblong and both riding in the same direction.

He, as the new rider, only had to do simple circles passing on the outside of all six chairs.

I, as the more experienced rider, went outside chairs 1, 2, 5 and 6 and inside chairs 3 and 4. Therefore, I was following a slightly longer and slightly tricker route, which made the race closer.

At first, my friend was trying hard not to let me catch him, then later he was trying hard to catch me, but in both cases, he was so busy racing me that he forgot that corners were difficult. Soon, his pride made him determined to follow the same route as I was. Without ever practising it, and without realising what he was doing, he had learned to steer smoothly in both directions.

Clever trick, thank you. I think that indeed I have to alternate both directions.

Personally I wear only gloves for protection, I have quite a few marks on my legs (pin pedals!) but nothing dramatic.

Nan, I do have a 29" road nimbus for distance rides, but all the learning is done with a 20" qu-ax profi. It has a very smooth 1.95" tyre with 2.4 bars max pressure allowed.

Yup, right. I can do 180° no problem, but (tight) constant is still elusive.

That I do not understand. Do you mean an accident backspin?

Thank you!

Sounds perfect.

No, because a Backspin is a single move you do, rather than part of a circle. Hard to explain; easier to say give it some time, and you will suddenly see what I’m talking about.

And in case it wasn’t clear in my previous post, your pedaling motion should be steady and constant, without stops or pauses.

All mu unis except my 20 have pinned pedals.

On a ride, I wear cycling gloves and a bike helmet.

I own or have owned KH leg guards, wrist guards, and a full face helmet. These days, I would only consider putting all this stuff on if I were riding on uneven rocky surfaces. For general cross country, road and trail, helmet and gloves are enough.

For practising skills away from traffic, and for occasional performance, I don’t wear the gloves or the helmet.

Yes I bought shin guards, but they are too warm to wear and even when learning to hop I rarely tumbled off badly enough to tear something open. In the forest I ride with a helmet and gloves and when riding with my family in the park only gloves. I’ts been a few times that I landed on my hands last year and the year before, but never on my head.

I guess my problem was the speed, I tried turning while pedaling too fast. Slow and steady pace gives nice 3m diameter figure eights.

1.5 m diameter (IUF level 3) is definitely doable, but for now it is not smooth, it is more like I ride in 1m squares instead of 1.5 m circles :smiley:

It also depends very much on the tire. With my 29" nimbus muni turning on asphalt is harder than on sand. Too much friction

Yup, I train on a very rough asphalt (three months in unicycling, buying third tyre in a month), it is a bit more difficult to turn than on a smooth asphalt or sand.

There is an outdoor basketball court near me that I practice on sometimes. I think it’s useful to ride around the painted circle in the center. Following the line helps me concentrate on keeping the turn smooth, and not jerky.

In general, you have made tremendous progress in a very short time. Congrats! :slight_smile: