Help. I don’t know what to try next. I have been trying to learn to ride for about two months. I made it about 7-10 feet once or twice. I have a nice uni ----a Nimbus 20" and have the seat height correct. I have tried most methods discussed here, but have only managed to smash up an expensive uni.
If you have made it 7-10 feet once or twice then you have progressed past the hard part. Essentially you just need to keep trying to get off the wall (assuming you have been starting on a wall) and get a little bit longer each time. You rarely get better and better each time, some runs may be 1 foot some may be 10 then back to 2 feet then up to 12 feet.
You just need to continue trying to ride off the wall so your brain starts to get it and works out how to balance it.
How many times a week do you practice and for how long?
If you are getting disheartened you can always add in some other skills to break up the going forward practice. Like try idling (holding on) or free mounting.
The hardest thing about learning to ride a unicycle is that it feels impossible (but it really isn’t)
Welcome to the forum. I recently met an older gentleman at a party. He learned to unicycle as a kid. His family owned many heavy wooden chairs. He lined the chairs up in two lines. Each line of chairs had the seats facing outwards and the backs facing in, forming a tunnel. He started practicing with each line of chairs placed with no gaps between the chairs, and he made his way across the room with 100% support. Once he was comfortable with that, he spread out the lines of chairs slightly, forcing himself to have to let go slightly between chairs. Over time, he spread out the chairs further.
I thought his method was superior. Often, debates about how to begin boil down to one side over-relying on “crutches” (walls, fences, etc.) and the other side advocating for “going for it” (just riding out into the open). Just as the man rode between the two lines of chairs, he very cleverly slip the difference between the two schools of thought.
When I was a brand new learner, I spent upwards of one hour every day practicing…over the period of six weeks…to meet my goal of being able to ride the 1/4 mile loop around my neighborhood without dismount. I’m not sure I would have learned to unicycle without that level of time commitment. After 6 weeks I’d logged more than 50 hours. I’ve since learned a fair amount of cool technique, but the beginning stages were rough.
One of the things that helped me the most as a beginner was the decision I made, before I even started, that “this is going to be hard.”
Maybe try the other methods? There is every type of advice in many threads about learning and some offer diametrically opposite suggestions.
The first thing you need to overcome is the fear of failure. While you are still trying you have not failed. Everyone who persists eventually gets there. The experience of this site’s Spinningwoman is testimony to that.
You have made achievements, focus on them not your perceived failures. Remember, Edison never failed, he just know a thousand ways not to do something. Learning unicycling is often about finding what is left after you discover a thousand ways to fall off and avoid them.
The most important thing is to have fun. If it isn’t working for you then have a few days off. We all have stories of coming back from a break to find we were riding better than before. The break helps us forget our bad habits more than our good habits. Sometimes the brain needs time to come to terms with the amount of stimulus involved in unicycling.
Anyway tell us your story so far and we will help get you over the line one way or another.
I think the most important thing is you are going to have fun. Maybe not right away. I don’t know if the story about improving after returning from a break really applies to beginners. Being able to work on a problem using the subconscious is, I believe, a real thing. However, the “think method” only works when it’s built on top of previous knowledge, which is mostly absent in beginners. There’s no substitute for the difficult, trial-and-error beginning steps of unicycling, IMHO.
Some educators have used unicycling to teach kids persistence. You have to be patient with yourself, it will come.
Where are you located? Finding other riders nearby helps tremendously.
I had fun right through my learning. I still remember the night that I knew I was getting it. It was a hot January night and raining gently as I kept trying in the glimmer a street light.
It did for me while learning. A couple of days to a week off seemed to work.
I notice this while taking on the challenging points in my favourite ride. Having a break reduces my expectations, circumventing concerns about not achieving and on a number of occasions have actually succeeded for the first time after a long break where I know I am nowhere near as fit as when they were intimidating me.
A learner builds knowledge from the first attempt.
It helps if the learner has a good teacher but you just have to ride the thing until you stop falling off. Somehow your body does it and it feels like magic.
Once you can manage to ride a few metres the rest of the basics come very quickly.
Do you consistently come off the front or the back?
Put on a bunch of pads/helmet and …
If you fall off the back you’re not leaning far enough forward based on how quickly you’re pedaling.
If you come off the front, fight the urge (refuse?) to take your feet off the pedals - lean forward pressing into the seat and pedals like your life depends on it. If you’re leaning too far forward you’ll need to pedal far faster than you feel comfortable so you’ll have to experiment to get comfortable with how far forward to lean given the speed you’re willing to pedal.
Millions of years of evolution have designed the most complex, creative, efficient organism in the known universe, the human brain.
Its most important job is to preserve itself – i.e., prevent you from killing yourself – via an involuntary “emergency shutdown” switch which automatically flips every time you start pedaling.
You just need to keep trying until you eventually wear down those eons-old neural impulses, and then your brain will let you ride. This may take another hour or another week – it doesn’t matter!
And when you are finally up and riding, your brain will reward you with wonderful natural heroin (insert your drug of choice here).
Just be sure to line up every single attempt exactly the same way, to eliminate any unnecessary variables. (And don’t try for more than one hour per day, max.)
The Magic Formula is two words: don’t quit!
Thanks for that perspective, newob. It makes me feel less like a wimp!
I have to admit these things do scare me a bit. I got mine only a week or so ago, and the first time I got on, when I started to fall sideways, arm outstretched, my body tightened up so fast and so hard I got a cramp in my chest muscle!
This sport/hobby is definitely on the unnatural side, and it can be hard to react the way you wish you would.
Fear is a great inhibitor to learning.
I start learners out on grass until they become quite accustomed to falling before moving to hard surfaces. This overcomes much of the fear.
Lowering the saddle so that they can just touch the ground avoids the unnerving problem of falling sideways and being unable to control the fall.
It still feels unnatural once you can ride. It is like doing something quite magical. After a while, ordinary riding begins to feel normal but you learn to recover from things that seem impossible so the essence of the magical feeling never quite leaves.
Thanks for the feedback, OneTrackMind.
I really look forward to feeling something magical like that!
I have plenty of grass around here, but not near any kind of support. And the ground is very uneven. I will try it at some point. It does sound very difficult to me now.
Lowering the seatpost way down sounds like an interesting tactic too. Having my feet very close to the ground does sound naturally reassuring.
What Newob said.
Well, everything except the 2nd last sentence.
I believe in mixing it up. Bring up all the skills equally.
Although a little slower, it will make you an all around better rider.
I’m not a fan of the pre-ride routine. Where everything has to be just so otherwise you can’t do it.
Deal with whatever variable and learn to deal with it, not avoid it.
The use of support for learning is frequently debated. I am strongly of the opinion that using support such as a fence is detrimental to learning because it inhibits the fundamental action of riding, which is putting the wheel under your fall. Falls toward the fence cannot be controlled while the rider is disinclined to save the falls by riding away from the fence.
Walking is a continuously saved fall. So too is riding a unicycle. The principle is to move forwards and put the wheel where you would step if you were walking. You brain knows this control system from walking and it can be applied to riding.
As on a bicycle, steering and balance are intimately related but in a far more complex relationship on a unicycle. The novice need to focus on balance and anything that restrains the freedom to steer in any arbitrary direction means they are trying to learn complex integrated balance and steering right from the beginning.
The fence also encourages the rider to focus on forwards and backwards balance using pressure on the pedals and slowly try to get moving. But just as on a bicycle, riding slowly is a more advanced balance and control skill and is not an easy pathway to learning.
Riding away from a backstop or a pole is a much more productive technique.
That does make it difficult. I learnt on the grass in my front yard and there were several holes that made it take a lot longer to learn. They were very frustrating but did have a benefit that I was able to progress very quickly riding over irregular surfaces when I got out on the street.
Much better on some very smooth soft grass with a slight downhill slope. The grass slows down the response of the uni giving the rider a bit more time to react. The slope overcomes the rolling resistance of the soft surface and helps the rider overcome the “pedalling over the top” issue, letting them focus on steering the wheel into the fall.
Not too far. Just so you can get your toes on the ground to control a side fall before you get too much sideways momentum. This is about reducing fear.
Stand on the pedals and grip the front of the saddle between your thighs. The saddle needs to be high enough so that you can pedal while maintaining that grip. Your thigh movement will be inhibited If the saddle is too low.
In this stance your weight is on the uni as low as possible and for much of a revolution, one or the other foot is below the axle. Weight on the seat causes a positive feedback if the contact patch is not correctly placed. It is something to aspire to but not right at the start.
The thigh grip on the saddle controls the sideways forces and does the steering. The approximation to three point connection not involving the upper body simplifies the geometry the brain is dealing with.
Lean your body slightly forwards. To maintain balance and keep your centre of mass above the wheel’s contact patch, the unicycle will lean slightly backwards. This is an inherently more stable geometry than being upright. It allows for a greater level of error in the positioning of the wheel under the rider.
Use both arms for balance.
Thanks very much for the detailed tips, OTM!
I agree with everything you said. However, there are some remedial skills in unicycling that may be effectively learned with a crutch. For example, learning how to keep pressure on the pedals throughout the 360 degrees of the pedal stroke. Also, learning which foot to remove first from the pedal, and at what position. Both these skills don’t help in learning to ride, but they make learning safer.
I start learners off with support just to get feel for the uni and to understand how to do basic steering.
This is only for a few minutes before moving on to a takeoff pole or backstop. Best not let them stay too long with support. My goal is to have them riding ten metres unsupported within an hour so there isn’t much time to waste.
Note that this is on a trials uni which is much easier to learn than the generally available cheapies, due to the longer cranks and wider tyre.
This note is what inspired me to get a fat-tired 20 incher.
Did he quit?
Phantham never really replied after starting the string.
Hello…you out there? Did you ever succeed.
There were many good advice given, but here’s “reality” we must face.
Oh well…what do they say about statistically how many % succeed at unicycling?
We are the rare and few!!
Who have attempted and succeeded at the impossible!!!