Backwards (or idling)?

I’ve decided the next thing I have to learn is backwards riding (or idling, although I think the two are connected?). What’s the best way to start about doing this? Anytime I come to a stop and try to start riding backwards, I end up dismounting instead. Should my feet be at clock positions 3-9 or 12-6? Yadda yadda yadda, etc. etc. etc., I don’t have a clue in the first place.

Idling and reversing are closely linked skills. I’d start by learning to idle. You will almost certainly find that as you gain in confidence, you will start to do short distances in reverse - just a pedal stroke or two. Reversing will develop from there.

Idling is a vital skill; reversing is a useful skill.

In idling, the work is done with the bottom foot. In the early stages, you will almost certainly use the top foot to help out. Don’t hold the seat/handle.

The bottom pedal swings from about 4 to about 8 on the clock face. Ideally, it swings from about 5 to about 7, but that comes with practice and confidence.

You need to push the pedal down, then let it rise. An easy mistake is to push it down with such force that your leg stops it rising. You sort of lock at bottom dead centre, and fall off.

Idling is a pendulum motion. Your centre of gravity (around the solar plexus; higher for girls; lower for beer drinkers;) ) hardly moves, and the wheel passes beneath you.

The wheel goes so far one way then stops. You are ‘hanging there’ for a split second, then you move the wheel back the other way before you fall. Don’t try to be balanced all the way through the move. You should move from nearly falling forwards to nearly falling backwards, using the movement of the wheel to support you.

I practised by riding up to a line, stopping, doing a part turn back, then riding off. Repeat that lots of times until you can do it confidently. Just go for a small part turn.

Then try adding 2 extra ‘pumps’ to the movement, then 2 more, and so on. Until you can do maybe 7 or 8 pedal strokes confidently, don’t go for big numbers.

Once you can do 7 or 8 pedal strokes, it is good for morale to try for a ‘high score’.

Look a long way ahead. The further the better. I practised beside the River Trent (a wide major river) fixing my attention on something on the opposite bank. The further you focus, the more intuitive the balance.

Good luck.

Re: Backwards (or idling)?

I am currently trying to learn how to ride backwards, too. I am also =
trying to to learn how to idle. I would like to give one advice that I =
have notice that works really well for me when trying to ride backwards. =
I am in my garage and hold my hands to the wall for balance. My left =
hand is clutching the seat and then I just go backwards as best as I =
can, but always making sure that my left hands CLUTCHES the seat. =
Otherwise both of my hands will be flailing wildly and it will throw me =
off balance. I can now do about … 2 or 3 full pedal revolutions. =
Pretty soon, I will have to go outdoors to practice. It took me a 3 =
weeks (or so) to finally get a little better at riding backwards. I =
practice about 3-4 times a weeks. I do it off and on through out the =
day with 10-15 minutes sessions. I have barely improved on the idling. =
I like to go back and forth (idle then ride backwards).

Actually I think you would have better balance with both hands free.

Whoa! I am also trying to learn how to idle/go backwards, and I had just started trying only two days ago! I was just about to ask this same question. Thanks for the tips. I find that when Idling I can go about 3 pedal movements and then I lose momentum and fall over, though a couple of times I actually did 5! When attempting to go backwards, I can only go one pedal rotation backwards before dismounting involuntarily, but in unicycling everything is progressive (I think). It seems like learning to go backwards is just like it was learning to go forwards, at first you only go one pedal rotation, then 3, then 6, then 20 feet, and then bam! I’ll keep trying until I get it.

My backwards riding is progressing. I now can regularly ride 30-40 feet and then ride forwards instead of UPDing.

My advise: Practice idling with either foot down. My greatest leap of progression occured after practicing weak foot down idling for a couple of minutes.

I don’t know if this next is good advise or not, but its what I did:
Riding backwards is a series of 1/2 cranks. I’m now trying to smooth out my pedalling. But can go pretty far. The jerkyness leaves after about 5 feet.

me too!

i’m trying 2 learn 2 i did bout 3 idles yesturday then fell off, onme day i will get it… good tips cheerz;)

analyse your mistakes and learn from them
u r falling at either 3 or 5 idles
that means, if u do it same foot down all the time, that u essentially run into the same mistake/problem that causes u to lose your balance and end the idle, ungracefully
following mike’s advice ref practising your weak foot, will help u find what it is u do around the 3idle mark that causes this.
u might bend at the waist or look down or bring a hand in to grab the seat
ask someone to watch u and ask them to note what it is that u consistently do at or around the three idle mark
once u’ve found this mistake, correct it
that’s why having a coach works

I’ve been using the method Mike suggested i.e. extending the idle to learn going backwards. Also:-

----- Memphis Mud

My advise: Practice idling with either foot down. My greatest leap of progression occured after practicing weak foot down idling for a couple of minutes.

I’ve practiced idling on weak side and it’s been really helpful.
Yesterday, after the usual weak side idling, and extended idle practice, I rode bakwards, only a few revs, but for the first time I got the feel of it i.e. it felt very similar to riding forwards.

My advice for those beginning to practice idling is to get away from the wall, I spent a lot of time a year ago idling whilst holding a wall and didn’t make any progress until I switched to open space and freemounted into idling.

I learned to ride backwards way before I tried idling. I don’t think clutching at walls or the seat would help much because sooner or later you will need to break loose into the open. I think that if you can find short grass in a flat open area (like a soccer field) it is good to practise there. The slightly uneven surface is more challenging but if you fall over backwards you are not as likely to damage your tailbone. After overcoming the riskiest initial stage then any flat surface free of obstructions can be good to use. Its a bit like solving a puzzle. You have trained your body to react to balance going forwards and you have to forget all that for a moment and re-program a new set of instructions for backwards. It is easy to say its all in reverse and you just do the opposite, but its far easier said than done. Once you get the feel of going backwards and turning and reacting etc it becomes less of a puzzle and it fits into place as a new skill.

Well I do not know how to ride backwards but I noticed
there are two different schools :

  • torso slightly leaning backwards (the “reverse” position)
  • torso leaning forward (and seat post backwards)

I am wondering wich are the advantages of each school?


Besides all the good advice above, practice two things: riding back as far as you can, and riding back a fixed number of revs.

First go back a half rev, then continue forward. This is actually on the skill levels, indicating that it is a good thing to learn and is the skill you should learn as an introduction to both idling and backward riding.

You may find it easier to go back a full rev than forward., depending on your foot dominance.