Back to basics?

I started unicycling when I spent some time working in London a couple of years ago - I had one in my twenties, but never got proficient on it, and it burnt when the neighbor’s garage went up in flames so that was a fairly short experience… I’ve been practicing a lot more since september last year (travelling less helped) and I’ve been going at least once a week since. I’m really enjoying it, it’s a great exercice (I’m preaching the converts here…) and it’s almost become my weekend necessity. There is a wood not far away from my place - those who know Paris might know the Bois de Vincennes, famous for its night activity… It’s fairly flat but has a lot of paths, wide straight ones and narrow ones going under the trees.

I went for my first ride with other parisians (some of them are on this forum too) at the beginning of the year in a more hilly wood and it helped me progress a lot in one ride. But I’m still nowhere near their level.

A few months back, I bought a second hand KH29 - one of those bargains that you can’t miss, even if you know you don’t have the necessary skills yet. It came with 125mm cranks, a Big Apple tire. I used it a couple of times before deciding that I should stick to the 24" until I made real progress. Yesterday, I decided to take the KH29" to the woods instead of the 24". When I bought the 29", it came with a spare Ardent knobby tire, so I put that back on it and put the 127/150mm cranks from the 24 on it (I ride the 24 on 127, so it was an easy decision to do that swap).

That was a revelation in many ways. The good ones being that it’s much easier than I thought. After a couple of kilometers, I was able to go to almost all the places I go to with the 24". Also, the big wheel really swallow the bumps and roots and so on. But it made me realized that by doing mainly off-road, I have developed some pretty bad habits. There is always a bump or a hole waiting to send you UPD, so I spend a lot of time negotiating those by putting weight on my pedals. Since off-road you alternate a lot between short moments where you’re on the seat and short moments on the pedals, it was never really a problem. The only problem I was aware of was that I was using more energy than my fellow riders when we went to the forest. They all have between 5 and 15 years of practice though, so I decided that it was the explanation.

Today on the 29", I came across a couple of long flat stretches with no bumps, those nice lanes drawn by the park makers back in the days when the country was a kingdom, and they became hell for me! I couldn’t keep a straight line, I was drifting, my shoulders were not at a 90° with the wheel, I became aware that most of the balance was done by my right (dominant) foot, and so on. Not a great feeling. I do tend to analyse a lot what I’m doing (over analyzing some might say…) and that made me realize that I got that from doing off-road. I don’t put enough weight in my saddle and I correct the balance with my legs and flailing arm, where it should be done by the pelvis, right?

Anyway, that was a long rant about myself, and I welcome all advice on tips and exercices I should do to correct that before it becomes too ingrained in my riding.

Were those bump free stretches level? It sounds like if you were drifting and doing most of the work with one foot you might have been riding on an uneven surface, like the shoulder of a road.

But if the road was straight and level it just sounds like you need to put more weight in the seat. Basically that will stop the wheel from swiveling underneath you and you’ll ride straighter.

So yeah, just force yourself to have good posture and put your weight in the seat. I don’t think I can offer specific tips, it just comes down to practice. At least it sounds like you’ve identified the problem!

There is nothing like putting in some road miles to help you get your form back. You don’t even have to switch out your tire, I have an ardent on my 29er and have put a few hundred pavement miles on it. (Just pump it up a bit more) Work on small hills keeping your butt in the saddle, your body relaxed, and your pedal strokes smooth. This will help your overall strength and form.

Yes I forgot to add that while it was bump-less and relatively flat, but it had a bit of road-crown (an expression I learned here!).

I guess practice practice practice is the answer, and being aware of the saddle! :slight_smile:

My aim is to be able to ride a 36, and that’s not going to be off-road, so I’d better get better at tarmac!

Hi there

I’m quite new myself to the unicycling so not sure my advise will be the best. I never had that problem you mention but I always have alternated terrains etc…I have been riding a Quax muni 26 for 8 months or so. Before that I only had a basic 20" uni. It already took me a while to get used to the weight and size of the new 26". In my case, when I tackle different stretches of terrain (sometimes I do tarmac, sometimes very bumpy and muddy off road, sometimes both etc) I find that in order to compensate/adapt quickly to different surfaces, so the unicycle rides with ease, it is really useful to be confident with idling with my non-dominant foot (not just with your dominant one). I guess it becomes more natural for the body to counter balance with either foot rather than favouring the dominant one. At the moment I’m learning one foot riding (for now just with the dominant foot) and I already can feel I have got more control over the unicycle when things get tricky.

Also I definitely recommend basic juggling whilst unicycling, it is really fun, great work out and your idling and instinctive control of the unicycle improves a lot.

I’m probably talking rubbish and you might already be very good at idling with both feet but, just in case, I thought it was worth mentioning. :slight_smile:

Yeah, this has been a bit of an ongoing theme for me too. I’m getting much better at spotting where I have all my weight and switching between my arse and my feet :roll_eyes: but I still struggle to get it right…fear of UPDing probably. I become most aware though when I ride the smoother trails and want to go a reasonable distance…7km is about my limit at the moment because I’m expending energy unnecessarily by having too much weight on the feet and not enough in the saddle. Slowly but surely I’m overcoming it.

And another common experience for me. I’ve put it down to not sitting squarely, putting undue force on one pedal, wind (the wind, not my parping!), road camber or flat paths not being actually horizontal. I used to have to twist my torso to counter the drifting but now I find I can just physically lean to one side or the other and that straightens me out…it does make me put more weight on the pedals though so I’m then back to the problem above!

I always wish there was a simple explanation and ‘fix’ but, as many have advised me on here, if you just keep riding you seem to sort yourself out over time.

Welcome by the way :smiley:


the best advice

This little gem will get you through almost all problems you will encounter on your unicycle!

Great job UL

Yep, that’s what I keep saying to myself, and glad I hear it from others. I suppose that being aware of the problem is the first step to solving it… as my therapist says! :slight_smile:

that happens from time to time: suddenly you are not riding well anymore, your shoulders get a strange angle (and your uni also is not standing straight).
As a matter of fact it happened to me this very sunday while I was riding a 29" in Versailles. (I usually don’t ride this machine).
I had a terrible tour … but to try to correct that I had to:

  • ride on the left part of the road (to avoid excessive camber effect)
  • relax, relax, relax and try to put my shoulders straight …
  • slowly , slowly things started to get back in a usual pattern
    … but then the ride ended :o

Pierrox, could you try raising your seat by a cm or two? I think people tend to like little bit more height for pavement riding than for muni. That might help you to keep your weight on the seat and pedal smoother.

But it mainly sounds like you didn’t have much experience riding your 29" on roads, and the solution for that is… :slight_smile:

Thanks guys.

Bear, I know what you mean. There are days with and days without. Sometimes and you don’t know why. There are days when it all starts wrong and then you’re touched by some grace and it turns into one of the best day.

I will probably try that next time Eddie: raise the seat a bit and practice on the road or just hard packed trails.

I know the answer lies in one word: practicing. But aren’t we all a bit impatient to get better? Unicycling is a humbling experience, at the end of the day.