Best advice for getting over the wimp factor

I imagine I’m like most people in that what holds me back most from progressing is fear of crashing and injury and most of these fears are completely overblown. When I first rode down a curb, I did it spontaneously. I’d been wanting to learn it for months and instead of riding down the grassy hill I’d been practicing on I just turned the other direction and rode down the curb instead…and crashed and ended up on my hands and knees. But after that it seemed like a mental barrier had been broken. I did it again and barely nailed the landing, then did it again and crashed, then got it right on the fourth try. The next day I did it four times. Today I did it ten. Soon I’ll try it on the 36er, but I haven’t quite psyched myself up for that yet.

Anyway, what are your tips for getting over the fear of trying something new on one wheel?

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Proper PPE, Personal Protective Equipment. Just gear up and go for it.

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It might not look like it now, but that is something I have dealt a lot with in the past. (and still sometimes now, but I know my process pretty well now.)

I’ll start with the very beginning: Looking at what I want to do, visualizing, running some of the worst case scenarios through my head. With riding down a curb, I admit there isn’t a massive amount of things you’ll get from this, but I have sometimes found issues that I managed to avoid from this. (Tree branches that would have hit my head on a jump, or maybe moving a rock to the side because it would be right in my landing area.)

Then: Making the decision to do it. Sometimes I look at something and say “that will work” - get on my uni and do it. Sometimes that means riding up to it multiple times, doing something similar but easier to get the confidence up (like riding down a lowered curb). Sometimes I’ll decide to walk away from it, if you don’t feel right it’s no shame to let it be. I’ve done jumps on my muni that I looked at for half a year or more until I decided I’m now confident enough that I can do it.

Finally: get all thoughts and fears out of your head and do it. The hardest step. It doesn’t feel like it, but this is a skill you can learn. Some people are just naturally good at it, but even if you are of the more fearfull type, you can get better at this.
I used to not manage to get all my fears out, despite “knowing” that I pretty much 100% safe. Now once I’ve made the decision, I can almost always get my head clear.
A random thing that has sometimes helped me is music. Concentrating on the music sometimes helps me to get all other thoughts out of my head, and into that “flowstate”.

Wearing the proper protective gear obviously helps, and is important. But I tend to think that is only half the job of doing things safely, because there are a lot of injuries where pads will not help you. You should wear a faceshield and gloves while using a chainsaw, but if you are wearing them, that doesn’t mean you can safely cut the branch you are sitting on.

I had an awkward fall the first time I rode over a curb. Between the pedals falling out from under me…and getting bounced against the seat, I lost connection with the pedals while still quasi-balanced on the saddle.

On the one hand, I “went for it”; on the other hand, I didn’t put a lot of thought into what might happen. I didn’t think about what prerequisite skills would’ve helped (standing up in the saddle and holding the grab handle, for example). So, there was an element of stupidity in me riding down that curb.

For beginners, I think, the emergency dismount is the most frightening aspect of riding. Practicing mounting will, in my opinion, help riders dismount at the correct time (at the correct part of the pedal stroke, at the correct time).

One fearful situation, for me, is a small drop-off followed by a short section of committed, fast pedaling. What happens right after I hit the slope, after the drop-off, is entirely in the moment. I can’t predict in what pedal position I’m going to land (I roll off the cornice) or how fast I’ll have to pedal when I hit the ground. I struggle to maintain self-confidence in this situation.

While I have acquired a fair number of riding skills, my riding style is still pretty risk-averse. For example, I practice wheel walking entirely on grass. The most dangerous thing I ever did on the unicycle was being a beginner. So, like @JimT said, wear PPE.

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I’ve hurt myself taking this “f*ck it. I’m going to do it before the fear stops me” approach. I think working up to it in smaller steps is safer and less stressful. In your place I would have started with a lower curb. I like to have a good idea of what it will feel like before I go for it.

The rest of what you did is absolutely right. Once you’re past the first time, you should do it over and over again until it’s not that scary anymore. Make it part of your riding routine.

Once you get confident with it, the 36er is a good next step. And after that, keep looking for new things to learn that are slightly harder but not terrifying. There’s a sort of momentum to learning. Stringing together a lot of small victories is how you get good.

Besides proper protection and a clear area to crash on (no rocks etc) I tend to slow down or break down the move where possible.
Today I rode a drop of about 2ft landing in a downslope which should be easy, but I still didn’t feel comfortable doing it right away since that spot has known quite a lot of injured bikers already.
Besides that, it’s on an mtb-track and if I crash, they might come up behind me and jump on me before I get up. So quite a scary situation…

What I did here was break it down by first riding the downslope from top to bottom, slowly building up speed. After a few times I could ride it pretty fast (with 160mm cranks on a 24" wheel it was wobbling quite bad at first)
Then I went to the drop and placed my uni exactly on the edge with my front crank a little above horizontal. I dropped in and knew that I would land with my pedals level. At the moment of impact I jumped off intentionally.
Repeated that a few times until I felt comfortable to stay on and ride down. Since the drop was slow, the downslope ride wasnt that fast either.
Finally I placed my cranks at the same position as the drop in and walked back 2 revolutions.
Then I rode towards it slowly, dropped in and that was exactly what I had to do to complete it and get over the fear :wink:
Drop done…

After that I did it a little faster and without counting revs before the drop.

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Thanks for the replies. Early on when I started doing this I invested in some pretty good ppe and I think its saved me some injuries already. The depth of the scratches in my wrist guards indicate that some of the falls I have taken would have been painful at the least.

When it comes to hopping up or down obstacles what scares me the most is the possibility of landing on the corner of something. In Unigeezers tutorial on freemounting a 36er he showed using a cinder block as an aid to mounting. I got out the cinder block and all I could think of was, “if I land on the corner of that thing I’ll be f—ed.” I upd constantly, but so long as I can fall on a flat surface or a smooth slope, I’m not too scared. I’ve got the ppe and I’ve fallen hundreds of times now in those circumstances. So I figured out how to freemount without the cinder block. I still need to figure out the static mount though.

One other thing I’ve been wondering about is butt/back protection. In “rough terrain unicycling” George Peck talks about using a back/butt protecter made out of foam padding and a cat litter box. I’ve never seen any other references to this. To me it sounds like a great idea, even if it’s mainly just a confidence booster. Landing on the corner of a cinder block with some foam padding and a cat litter tray on my back might not be quite so bad.

For the back, you can wear a camelback or plain old backpack with some soft items inside?

When I started riding backwards I did this. Falling on my back or butt was not a problem.

Yes, a backpack can provide reasonable protection! Your backpack might become your loyal and protective companion on your tours - literally covering your back! :wink:

The backpack’s level or protection of course varies with its build-up, content and how well it’s strapped to your upper body.

Regarding “butt protection”, there are protective shorts/underpants, which pad your hips and thighs. Some come with hard plastic tailbone protection. Personally, I’m quite thankful for those.

Now that’s an interesting suggestion. Often one wouldn’t listen to music in order to focus more, but I see your use case there.

An important factor of protective equipment is: comfort! Equipment only helps when you wear it. If it’s too cumbersome, you might not use it all too often.

That said, please excuse myself now, as I am going to renew the bandages on the injuries that just happened yesterday, when I was too lazy to wear shin guards when practising jumps.

I wouldn’t, personally. For two reasons:

1: I find that a backpack obstructs me in being able to roll, which especially on concrete or grass really is a great technique for falling.
2: I’m not a fan of creating false security. There is a lot more to a backprotector than just being any random soft object that is strapped to your back.

If I put on a piece of protective equipment, I want it to be reliable. I’m all for DIY solutions and doing stuff on the cheap - but I don’t think protective gear is the place for it.
I think cheap pads can sometimes be worse than not wearing any. I’ve seen too many roadrashes from people who wore cheap inlineskating elbow or kneepads that immediately slide away once you hit the road. I think if they hadn’t relied on those protecting them, they might have fallen in a way that leaves them with less damage.
I wouldn’t want a “it’s fine to fall on my back, I have some cushy DIY foam backpack on” reflex to develop. The cushy backpack might be nice on flat ground, but when there is a stone, it might punch right through it into your back.

Please clarify. Do you mean the DIY solution might not be adequate protection, or do you mean the rider may develop a habit of falling backwards?

Both. I think it is probably not adequate protection, and might give a false sense of security.

If I add pads to give me confidence, I want that confidence to be based on an actual improvement in my protection.

So for those of you that have crash landed on your butt or back, what is the priority in terms of protection? Doing other activities, I’ve landed many times in the past on my butt or tailbone, and a few times on my side or lower back, but only twice in my lifetime that I can remember on my upper back or shoulders. So it would seem to me that some kind of padded/armored shorts would be most ideal.

Yup. I have mine from downhill mtb-ing and I took out the shoulder pads. I now only have a back and chest protection. It’s light, confortable and protects very well. You can hardly see it under my shirt either…

Here’s something I love about this forum: Someone asks a question, then, when I go on my next ride, the question presents itself concretely.

Today, I passed through the DIY bike park down by the creek. Every time I go there, there are new features. Today, I noticed that someone installed a timber sticking out of an embankment. The idea is to ride down the hill and onto the timber, ride the skinny, then drop off a couple feet at the end.

I thought about it and decided this was NOT FOR ME. First of all, the end-drop was higher than I’m comfortable with. Secondly, if I accidentally rode off the side of the timber, I would have a pedal strike on my way down, and there would be a good chance I’d land on my unicycle. So, I stood there and watched a teenager ride it on his MTB. Forum members, you have my permission to call me a WIMP!

One bit of advice for getting over the wimp factor that hasn’t been mentioned yet, in this thread, is to pick harder lines. They may cause you to UPD, but they also may not be particularly dangerous. If you can pick harder lines when there is no imminent threat of injury, then perhaps you’ll be mentally and physically ready when you are faced with something with no easy line. Sometimes, I will ride though the eroded section of a trail, through the small gully that forms after the rain. I find there are endless little challenges in my riding environment, but it is up to me to take them!

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I was on a thread earlier with you and you were. Discussing wrist guards . May I ask which ones you went with?

I got the Hillbillies. They seem pretty good so far, but I do have one finger on them that needs to be stitched back up.

Maybe a little Popeye Spinach is what you need!

Must be why Wimpy was never seen successfully riding a unicycle.

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I think what it comes down to is how many risks you are willing to take and what your long term goals are. For me I ride bike paths, some road and light muni, my goals are different to those riding hard core down hill muni.I armor up based on where I am riding… I am taking from your posts you seem to want to advance to down hill muni. I never ride with out wrist guards even when I’m playing around in the driveway that is one piece of safety equipment I will not ride without… the montra I’ve always gone by in business is "don’t write a check your ass can’t cash. I follow that in unicycling also. Of course I’m now 52 when I was in my 20’ s all I did was write checks my ass couldn’t cash. I don’t consider being careful and safe wimping out. Ride with in your skill set an risk tolerance. Your skills will tell you when to take risks.