Club rules for giraffe use

Our unicycle group just got a 5’ giraffe. We have some pretty new riders that would like to try the giraffe, but I am concerned about injury from lack of unicycling experience. On someone’s website, I noticed that they required a rider to be level 3 before they could use their club’s giraffe.

How should one determine when a rider can use a giraffe?
What does your club do?
What do individuals with giraffe experience (riding and teaching) think?

I’m probably being overly cautious, but I’d feel terrible if I let a young rider (young in age and experience) try the giraffe and see them fall and get hurt. I know there is always a risk, but there is a point where you should say no.


In our club you have to be able to idle 20 times, ride in some figure 8s and go forward and backwards to the half court line 4 times (continuously). Don’t give any kids special privileges over other kids though. They will work harder once they know what the have to do to ride it and once one person meets the requirements the others will want to even more.

Sadly I’m not sure I could ride your club’s giraffe.

in my club you have to be able to kill a bear with a fork to be able to ride a giraffe, or to even be considered a member of the club. some would say it’s a bear killing with fork club, mainly because it is.


we don’t really have a formal policy, just a “you really think you can do it?” and a “if you get a little crooked jump off” kinda rules. We wouldn’t let anyone who couldn’t do a controlled fall get up there. most non-childern are fairly cautious when it comes to trying stuff like that. but level 3 sounds like a good rule.

if the kid only wants to ride forwards, i dont think that he or she necessarily needs to be proficent in idling and backwards riding. if the kid can comfortably mount and ride unicycles with two or three wheel sizes, then that should be enough.

I would tend to agree. I think you can tell, Bill, and make a judgement call. But this allows problems to arise such as complaints from non qualified riders who think they are qualified. If you feel that a limit must be set to keep qualifications purely subjective, I think level 3 is good. However, it would be wise to tell the rider to only do things on the giraffe that she is comfortable with on a standard 20’’ unicycle. That is, don’t let a level 3 rider attempt backwards on a giraffe until she has mastered it on a normal unicycle.

If you are going to be allowing large amounts of people to try your unicycle, you should take some precautions (I’m assuming you have had them sign some form of waiver before giving lessons. If not you probably should).

  1. Make sure they are proficient riders (obvious).

  2. Make sure the giraffe is in good working order. One key thing that is easy to overlook is chain tension. It is important to have adequate chain tension, especially for idling. A “popped” chain leads to a fairly catastrophic fall in my experiences.

  3. Teach the riders how to fall from the giraffe. This may seem like something that would happen intuitively when someone’s balance is overstretched, but many people fall badly. The main thing when falling is “get clear of the unicycle.” Landing on it causes nothing but bad times. Also tell them to make sure they land squarely on both feet. I hurt one of my feel before coming down on one foot (like 1…2). Also make sure they know to land softly. SHock with the legs.

  4. When they first start, make sure they have tons of stuff to grab on to. They will likely be scared and want to grab onto things at various stages in their ride.

My $2.

me neither!

In the past we used to make kids wait till they were level1, that was when little kids used to come. Don’t think any of the ever quite got there though…

i’ve allways figured that if someone wants to try, that qualifies him/her to ‘have a go’
i’ve only ever had one ‘kid’ want to have a go and his dad was with him so i figured that was safe enough

before i let people ride the raffie, i ask them to get on and ‘jump/fall’ off the back
i get them comfortable with the dismount before they even try n ride
we don’t have too many grab-ables at raffie height in the hall we meet so we’ve had to rely on people walking alongside the rider, offering hands and shoulders as support

KCtheAcy’s post is interesting and it seems that there are benefits to a fairly ‘strict’ raffie policy over and above the simple safety issues

I dont really know about requirements.

I myself couldnt idle or ride backwards, when i tried the giraffe.
Infact I learned to idle on a giraffe before I could on a std. 20"

Maybe for the people who havnt tried it, just need a spotter or two, to get them started.

Excellent advice, perhaps even more useful than pre-riding skill requirements. Obie had a number of good suggestions as well, a nice change for him.

Here’s my take:

  • Anyone can ride a giraffe with zero training. All they have to do is go buy themselves one. All non-owners of giraffes should be reminded of this if necessary. If you want to ride someone else’s giraffe, they get to pick the rules.

  • To a lesser degree, the same thing applies to the riding venue. If you’re in a gym, for instance, where you have to worry about liability, some rules will help protect you. Even the new rider who brings in his-her own new giraffe might be asked to comply with the skill rules before riding it in the club venue.

  • If you have lots of riders and not enough giraffes, a lot of requirements will be a huge motivator for your riders to increase their skills. This will also keep the poor giraffe from getting mobbed all the time. Until you have more than one or two, it will always seem more special than the regular unis.

Below I will list a full-on set of rules you can use. Then if your situation is less formal, leave out the ones you think you don’t need. But here are some of my requirements, in what I think is their order of importance:

  1. Basic orientation on the giraffe. This applies to all riders in the venue, even if they’re not going to ride it. The giraffe has the right of way. Taller giraffes have the right of way over shorter ones. Don’t ride too close to the giraffe, don’t hang around directly behind it, don’t mess with the rider. It would also include instructions on dismounting; not letting the wheel shoot out from under you, especially if you’re 3’ away from a wall (ouch!).

  2. Though you can ride a giraffe with no backward or idling skills (I learned to ride on one), you’ll save lots of dismounts, falls, and/or wear and tear/damage to the giraffe if riders can idle and go backwards first. So if you’re trying to encourage skill growth, safety, etc., I’d go for the requirement of minimum 20 idles and proficiency at backwards riding as well as transitions in and out of it on regular unicycles first. What KcTheAcy listed was good.

  3. Before riding away, the giraffe rider must first practice falling to multiple points of the compass. If you’re comfortable falling of to the front, back, and both sides, you won’t be so scared up there. This will make you more confident, and less likely to get into trouble.

  4. Your giraffe spotters should know what they’re doing. If it’s a parent or friend with a new giraffe, show them the ropes before setting them loose with the kid. This may save them a nasty sprocket bite or other possible mishaps.

  5. Last but not least, make sure they know how to dismount. It’s very likely to be a part of their very first ride, so they should not be afraid to get down. This is mostly covered under #3, so not sure if it’s needed here.

The above list does not include maintenance. As mentioned above, chain tension is very important, as is tire pressure. Make sure it’s not too gushy, or the thing won’t steer well. Also, make sure the seat height is appropriate for the rider. A seat that’s too low introduces a danger factor many people don’t think of. A giraffe seat sometimes wants to get out from under you. If you’re riding with your legs all scrunched up, it not only makes the cycle harder to ride, it can result in some sudden catastrophic seat-drag dismounts.

I still don’t agree with the backwards thing. Being able to do 20 idles makes sense, since idling helps you get a feeling for keeping the unicycle under you in different circumstances. Being able to ride backwards doesn’t really help you (much) unless you want to go backwards. I think level 3 is good. That show’s basic skill and confidence in control of the unicycle.

Another reason I disagree is because I suck at backwards really really badly (compared to rest of abilities). I simply never practiced it. I can do a figure 8 just about every time, but it’s really crappy looking. I would never try anything more than straight riding on a giraffe (not now anyways), so why can’t I ride yours? I’m not a skilled enough rider?

For some reason I couldn’t think clearly during this post. Please excuse what I must assume is really bad paragraph flow and sentence order.

Idling is definitely more important. You only need backwards in situations where idling might not be enough to keep you from falling on shorter riders. Like in a crowded gym. This would be another factor in determining how good you want your giraffe riders to be.

With all these restrictions, I think we’re mostly talking about club situations where you want riders to earn the privelidge of riding the giraffe. If it’s a less formal situation, like “Can’t I just try your giraffe?” then all those rules are overkill.

You’re not alone. Once upon a time (late 80s) we had a Compulsory event as part of the overall “artistic” championships at Unicons. Without going into a lot of detail, most riders had to do a backwards figure-8 as part of their Compulsory routine. It was amazing how non-smooth some of the very top riders were at riding backward!

You really should put a little time into it. Once you get where you can do leaning turns in reverse, it feels really cool and adds to many of the moves you can do, if you’re interested in such things.


I’ve never seen you ride, but you’re an adult, and that makes a big difference between you and an 8-year old. I would let you try mine, but if we were in one of those big club situations, it might be in conflict with “club rules.”[/B]

Thats pretty funny about the high level guys. Makes me feel better about my “figure 8’s” (in quotes because they are so unsmooth I am basically just doing 2 big rounded squares)

I’m not really into freestyle, but I have been getting into it a lot more recently. Freestyle is definately the most frustrating of the unicycle disciplines. I usually just skip stuff and come back to it later, or learn it through mastery of another trick (I learned to seat out ride after I landed a 14’’ SIF hop, and I learned backwards as a result of being good at idling. Unfortunately, I had to stick with it to learn WW, and I don’t think there are any trials shortcuts to learning to glide. Time to buy a freestyle uni!).

Babbling again…focus!!!

What I may or may not be saying is that using giraffes as a motivational tool is probably a good idea.

I hope the new USA skill system will make it easier for clubs to set up some general guidelines about who can ride giraffes.

In the new system, riders will be able to work on skills in the Tall division (giraffe skills) once they pass the six basic Rider skill sets – by then, they can ride, turn, freemount, idle, hop, and go over a bump.

So clubs could require riders to pass Base 6 in order to try out a giraffe, if they want. That would give clubs some guarantee that riders have mastered the basics before they attempt to ride the tall unicycles.

Then, in the first set of skills for Tall (Class 1), giraffe riders have to ride, turn, idle, and dismount. Class 4 requires a freemount. Clubs could also use the Tall skill sets to help prepare riders for parades or performances.

If you want to help with the field test on these, let me know!

unicyclecentral at hotmail dot com



Great input and your thoughts are helping me to consider other safety issues as well. I hadn’t thought about practising dismounts, right of way for the taller unis and the various concerns that arise when a group of people are riding in the same area.

Based on feedback from one of our young riders, using the giraffe as a motivational tool is a good possibility. He is ready to learn anything and everything to get a chance on the giraffe. But I also want to keep the giraffe accessible to many riders to add to the uni experience. It sure is a hoot to ride a giraffe!

Good input and all will be useful in helping us establish a group policy.

Thanks a million to all!


a quick thought that struck me now while reading thru the last couple of posts

if u have the space available in the hall, it might be worth demarcating a certain portion of it as ‘raffie territory’
especially while u have people riding the raffies for the first time

it’s all well and good telling the shorter unis to steer clear but that may or may not help the first-time (panicking) raffie rider when he sees another uni approaching
as soon as riders are comfortable on the raffie, they should work at getting comfortable riding in (fairly) crowded conditions as most of your parade/crowd work are likely to involve some degree of riding in amongst other people (who may not know they’re supposed to ‘give way’ to the raffie)

i also believe it’s a handy skill to be able to judge when a certain area is simply too dense with people to make it safe to ride a raffie
john might have some thoughts on this?

girrafes asre easy
if you can rride a uni you can ride a girrafe

Yeah, but you can fall off of a unicycle, and it tends to hurt more when you’re five feet up.

Soo, I say have him/her wear a helmet, and have a spotter until he/she can ride the giraffe very proficiently.