Yet another older beginner checking in here. (Will my age show up under my name? If not, or anyhow, it’s 58). I can see from lurking here that taking up unicycling at my time of life is definitely a thing. In my case I can’t even remember when the seed was planted.
I’m fit (ride on 2 wheels a lot), but don’t have great natural coordination or balance. I got my 20" club uni about 4 months ago, and have been practising for an hour or two, two or three times a week since then. Fear kept me clinging to support for weeks, and I was starting to wonder if I would ever get it, until the penny dropped one day.
I did my first static free mount yesterday, on the first day of seriously trying, so super stoked about that! No doubt I’ll be asking for a lot of advice.
Progress is slow, but mostly in a forward direction. I have to choose between 1 and 2 wheels, and 2 wheels often wins (sorry!). I don’t have anywhere in my rural village to practise, so I’ve just been going back and forth on my L-shaped patio. I’m not quite ready for the road yet. There’s a park in a nearby town that looks perfect, so I’ll take it there next week. Static freemounts work 80% of the time now, so I’ll survive in the open.
I’m going to need a bigger wheel once I get onto the open road (currently riding a 20" club from UDC), and I’ll have some questions about that.
I’ll post progress updates here, but not often since there isn’t much progress to report. Lots of helpful advice on the “Choosing my second unicycle” thread. In particular, this post nails where I am:
I’ve been out to practise in public parks with paved trails three times now, and still feel very nervous. I can get to do this about once a week. I can stay on for a while, but often lose control and have to bail out. I find the level of concentration exhausting. I’ll persevere, but I’m resigned to staying on this plateau for some time to come. I’m still missing about 20% of static freemount attempts, due to bad 2nd foot position or body position. In the meanwhile, I’m riding up and down my patio, and looking for a way to unlock one of hopping / idling / riding backwards.
Sounds like you are doing fine, and particularly with the feeemounts. Me personally, I was riding on a smooth flat paved path near a river and in a very quiet (carfree) carpark when I started.
I then started riding around my block a few times, (it was pretty quiet but I got to work the corners). When I started I would come off at most or every corner. Plus one of the streets had some hill. Afterwards I changed jobs and with a bit more practise I started riding to my train station for work using the longer but flatter route (only 1.5km) but I would be very nervous if cars went by.
Soon after, decided to tackle the more direct route to the station with a longer hill. OMG! I could do it!
I would say don’t worry about trying to do anything fancy just yet. Just ride around on car parks and paths for a bit longer. Then when you’ve got that, see if you can ride some gentle up and downhills, and also work on your turning skills. You’ve got this!
Thanks Gockie! All encouragement is very welcome at this point. I’m still having fun, even though I’ve lost my sense of progress at the moment. Venturing out into a park was quite a change, with some scary 2% gradients, and twigs, tree roots and cracks in the pavement.
I sympathize, tree roots are horrible! (Even worse when you don’t see them!) Avoid them for now. When you encounter them you will need at least 1 hand firmly on a handle, but I’d say you are not at that level yet. So avoid! I know cracks are also no fun for a beginner either. It gets easier later, but as a beginner I know you will just be trying to stay on your uni, let alone having dealing with any obstacles in your way. So find a clear path.
With slopes, keep working at it (gradually). You will need to be able to ride them. For me I found I couldn’t ride wheelchair appropriate slopes at all at first, but then later on, these relatively minor straightforward slopes became things I haven’t really had to worry about. But get used to them because you will encounter these slopes all the time. You’ll improve and you’ll be able to ride more challenging gradients. But it is satisfying to see some improvements in basic skills.
Ps. I’ve been riding just under 2 years. I’m still improving as a rider. More recently I managed to start riding with 2 hands on handlebars… Now this feels so much safer than no hands on handlebars. But not long ago, it was the opposite. Now I can ride long distances with no stress for my back muscles!
Could it be that you’ve lost your sense of progress because you don’t have a clear goal anymore? I mean when you start unicycling the goals are clear.
learn to ride 2) learn to freemount
Acquiring these skills gives you a sense of accomplishment. Muddling on without a defined goal won’t provide the same stimulus and practicing might become a chore. Setting a new goal like learning how to ride backwards for example might help combat the feeling that you don’t get better anymore.
This is definitely the case. I’m trying to find a way into backwards / idling / hopping. I’m resorting to supports again while attempting them, but I feel that supports are preventing me from progressing. I should be transitioning from forward riding, but just fall off when I try. I learnt to freemount by just practising the first half of the move, that’s what I mean by “way in” – something that I can practise that will lead to the skill.
I still enjoy practising, even without feeling that a breakthrough is near, comfort and sense of control still improving (with some way to go). I did have a minor breakthrough today, swinging both arms forward as I mount brings freemount success rate to 90-95%. It seems obvious in hindsight!
Learning to decelerate into a momentary stop then ride away…is a skill I (rightly or wrongly) attribute to my success learning backwards / idling / hopping. Another stepping-stone skill is holding onto the seat-handle with one hand. I was able to do my first hops by slowing to a stop with one hand on the seat-handle then hopping to regain balance during the stillstand. Slowing to a momentary stop also gets our weight behind the wheel, whichis a stepping-stone toward a slow, graceful dismount off the back. The momentary standstill also mimics the reversal point for idling and transitioning from forward to backwards riding.
Congratulations on improving your mounting! Now for the bad news: If you are experiencing 90-95% success-rate on your mount, you need to be practicing a harder mount. After I got my first 20", I started experimenting with different mounts. On many occasions, I’d fail at a new mount on 50 consecutive tries, then get it once. Then, the very next day, I would nail the mount on the first time.
Thanks epU! That gives me something to work with. I’ve added seat holding to my patio practise routine, though there’s only space for 6-7 revolutions like that. Dismounting from the back is another micro-skill I’ve mastered, also the momentary stop, I just need to start doing something with it.
When I was trying to learn a freemount, I would alternate between trying rollback and static. I never did get rollback, although I came close a couple of times. I never got the body position, also it feels like I was lunging for the second pedal (unlike a slow, controlled static mount). I’ll persevere with this. I’m heading to the park tomorrow.
I wouldn’t bother with the rollback if you are good at the static. Rollback seems to me kind of a kludge, not ideal, not a bridge to any other skills. You might have to learn it if you ever get a big wheel unicycle. You can cross that bridge when you get there, however.
I’ve been practising today on my 26", on grass, a dirt area with a gentle slope, and on a paved road. This is the 4th time I’ve been on it. I’m still finding it very tough, and my track is very snake like. I’m getting about 30% of static mounts, and can’t manage to hold the seat yet when riding off-road. I know what I should be doing: holding the seat, and applying smooth pressure throughout the rotation. I just have to let go of the seat to save my balance. I’ll just have to work through this with more seat time. I’m a lot happier on paved road, and I can hold the seat and ride much straighter there. I have the stock 150 mm VCX cranks. I’ve also got a Schwalbe Crazy Bob tire (2.35" wide) to try out, but I haven’t fitted it yet. It was just GBP 20, and was the most road-like tire available that was the right size. I’ll report back when I’ve tried it.
At the end of my session, I made a pleasant discovery. I can mount with much less energy like so: start with a foot on the back pedal in 6 or 7 o’clock position. Roll the wheel forward, when the back pedal gets to 9 o’clock complete the mount like a normal static mount. That little bit of momentum from the rolling wheel makes a big difference. Now that I’ve (re)discovered this technique, I remember seeing it described here. It’s not a walking mount, which I can’t do yet, but it’s part of the way there, and I have one foot and the seat in the right place before I start.
Those two things are not really, IMHO, compatible. Smooth pedaling will come eventually. If you practice riding, rather, in a jerky fashion, slowing and speeding up, pivoting randomly, taking weight off the seat…those are the conditions where holding the set really makes sense and helps keep you on the unicycle. If you hold the seat and pedal smoothly, then there’s really no point in holding the seat.
Thanks EpU! My track seems to be straight on pavement, but on grass and rough ground it looks like a wounded snake. I attribute this to riding too slowly (pause, push, pause …), which is due to fear and rolling resistance. I can hold the seat when things are going well, but have to let go to recover my balance (which of course is exactly wrong).
I’ve fitted the Crazy Bob tire, and on short runs on pavement it seems very nice, incredibly smooth.
Not wrong…just appropriate at this point in your learning process. I remember when I could barely reach down and touch the seat with one hand…without causing a upd. Baby steps!
A transitional step towards riding with hands on the seat is pointing your elbows outwards to the left and right and using them for balance. You will look like a chicken, but that will put your hands in a position closer to the seat handle.