Better balancers?

Just curious if some people get the hang of balancing on a unicycle faster than others.
(e.g. paddles boarders, utility ball users, tightrope walkers)

I used to skateboard and snowboard. Now I slackline and surf. But unicycling felt impossible to be in the beginning. These latter sports were a lot easier for me to pick up. Who knows. Every time I pass someone on the trails who feels like talking, they say, “I don’t have the balance for that.” But I think to myself, “Neither did I! It just takes practice like anything else.” I stopped saying this aloud because nobody believed me. :slight_smile:

I think it’s also an age thing. The closer you are to the time when you learnt to walk, the easier it is. :sunglasses:

I’m sure the younger you are the better, but my husband and I both learned in our 60’s. Perseverance is the key. I have picked up most sports easily. This was the hardest. I also have a fear factor I didn’t have when younger. I really don’t want to break anything at this age!

I don’t think riding a unicycle is about “balance” per se, but rather about learning how different body motions like waving your arm affect things, and learning to do the right thing automatically to keep the unicycle under you.

I don’t think that’s a whole lot different from, say, hitting a baseball, or driving a race car, or even playing a video game. The only thing that “balance” sports have in common is that if you do it wrong, you fall down, instead of crashing your car or striking out or losing your video game life.

So I’m sure some folks have a better feel for what their body is up to, and some folks are more coordinated, and kids seem to learn everything faster… but I think it’s a lot more general than being good at “balance” sports. Probably anybody who picks up skill sports easily would do better at unicycling, and probably anybody who’s managed to learn to walk has the ability to figure it out eventually.

There’s been a lot of discussion about this kind of thing on the forums. And it’s an interesting discussion to have.

The consensus seems to be that physical skills don’t seem to roll over much from sport to sport. Most of this is about muscle memory which isn’t much use unless you are doing the very same thing between sports.

This makes sense to me.

People often assume I have “great balance”, which I don’t. I don’t think there’s such a thing for most people. I’m good at unicycling, but put make me stand on one foot in yoga poses, for example, and I’m probably just average. I appear good at unicycling to the average person because they can’t do it and because I’ve done it for a long time. I learned only 8 years after i learned to walk.

This topic was recently discussed on this thread, with a good debate about the degree to which other balancing sports influence your ability to ride a unicycle.

Non-riders do often say things about balance, and I’ve always kind of thought they were missing the point. A uni is a fairly complex device, at least compared to, say, a slackline, and learning to operate it correctly seems to me a far larger part of the challenge than whatever balancing is required.

Yeah, I get the “You must have really good balance” comment all the time… nope, I have horrible balance.

I always tell people that make that comment that I’m not good at balancing, it’s just that once you get going rotational inertia tends to sort out the need to “balance” and that the only real thing that you need to muscle through when learning is making sure those first few revolutions aren’t sloppy. After that the thing rides itself… it’s magic.

That said, put me on a true skinny (5" wide or so) on a 29er and I suffer. Maybe that’s where the balance comes into play, maybe it’s mental since I know I keep a sub 5" line when just riding casually on a path.

I’m the same! :smiley: My friends find it funny when I ride my uni just fine, but as soon as I walk anywhere I’m ridiculously un-coordinated and can barely step up a curb without falling over. Balance is DEFINATELY not a strong point of mine!

Funny you should mention balance…
Someone was watching me ride my uni the other week, I think it was chrimbo day, but that’s beside the point. :roll_eyes:
The lady asked how do I manage to balance and I replied that I don’t know, I’m no good at balancing. To me riding my unicycle just feels like I’m constantly making micro adjustments to stop myself from falling off. Is that the same as balancing?

Not meant as a trolly type question, just curious :slight_smile:

Someone who is used to more balance sports may have an easier time. But it’s really subjective. It’s more technical. I think of learning unicycle as less of a physical learning process, and more of a mental one. You have to train your brain that this thing is ok to try and stay on top of. You must discard conventional thoughts about balance. Your mind and body have to accept that the unicycle is now part of you. Just like how your legs compensate for your body and weight movement, now your unicycle must do this.

When I’ve taught others to unicycle, one of the first things I tell them is:

“You’re not balancing on top of the unicycle. You’re regulating the speed of the wheel, so it stays under you.”

Once people start to accept this idea, their brain starts making technical connections on how a unicycle must work. I myself am the type of person who learns things quicker when I understand the mechanics, so this is how I try to help others.

To summarize: In some cases you might find that other sports help you learn to unicycle. But in the end, it has its own unique learning experience. Some people will wrap their mind around it quickly, and some will take a bit longer to grasp it. The only sport I could really see crossing over a bit would be flatland bicycle, trick cycling, and possibly trials biking.

For slacklining, I have to really focus on balance: suck my stomach in, keep the crown of my head, my shoulders, back, hips and feet all in alignment. On a unicycle, I don’t do anything like that, at least not consciously.

I thought that as an unicyclist I will have easier time learning slacklining, but it was not true, so it’s hard to say it helps another way round.
What I have seen was that fixie bikers get slightly better results at the beginning. I don’t know if I had group big enough to judge, but it makes some sense as they are used to both accelerate and slow down using pedals.

Balancing on a unicycle is the same skill as balancing while walking or standing.
Balance is a signal, it works or doesn’t work.
It’s not about receiving the signal, it’s about responding.
So yes, age becomes a negative factor on learning, while experience with the activities you mentioned logically are positive factor.

I agree with the lack of balance comments. My balance isnt horrible but its no where near perfect. For me my apperence of having some sort of coordination is because I practice a lot of different skills that just so happen to require balance. I see myself being a sort of physical parrot where instead of learning a phrase and repeating it I learn motions an repeat them. When people always say you must have great balance, before learning I was like yea right these guys must be acrobats, but after learning I agree its definantly practice makes perfect.

How long did it take you guys to learn how to unicycle. It took me 5 days.

3 days to be able to ride down the street, about 40-50 meters. But a LOT of hours each day. Probably 5-7 hours each day. I learned over a weekend I had free during college.

That depends on what you mean by learn. I could consistently ride to the end of our driveway (probably about 50 feet) after a few hours (I was 13ish). But I couldn’t turn at the end for significantly longer then that (I later realized that I could have learned to turn faster if I hadn’t forced myself to do a complete U turn before stopping). I had a couple of friends give it a try and they were getting irregular runs of half a block or more in just under two hours (Ages 15ish and 19ish). My younger brother learned at 10ish and he was going after half an hour a day for a week or so. My younger younger brother took a month of a little practice a day at 8ish.

I’m guessing that the reason my younger brothers took longer to learn is that they weren’t quite at the optimal age. It seems to me that the best range of ages to learn is probably in your teenage years which is supported somewhat by the limited data that I have.

I don’t know how much this has to do with sense of balance or not. I’m someone who has always enjoyed walking on handrails, walking on stilts, balancing on playground equipment in the least safe ways possible and climbing every tree I could reach my arms around so I probably have a better sense of balance then most people. Of course this could just be that I developed mine more earlier.

This is making me wonder how much being fine with heights is linked to sense of balance/unicycle learning speed. So if people would kind enough to post whether this video makes their stomach drop or not along with their learn speed I’d appreciate it. I can justify posting it on this forum because it has a unicycle in it. (Can you spot it?.) Personally this video doesn’t make my stomach drop, how could it when it looks like so much fun :D.

It took me at least a month before I could ride more than 20 feet. I don’t know why, but I was a VERY slow learner. And an angry learner; I was practicing outside my work in a parking lot one morning and my boss wanted to stop by and say hello, but turned around quickly after she saw me throw my unicycle really hard on the concrete and swear loudly. I’ve worked on my temper since then. Now I just swear loudly. :slight_smile:

No stomach drop, but I did notice an error. The first climber IS “strapped in”. He is just leading.

Not to mention you got a nice unicycle now so if you threw your uni, it would hurt you more than the unicycle :smiley: