Hey this is my first post! I have been at unicycling now for several months (the info here has been very helpful in my progression), but I am still having one problem…massive leg fatigue. I consider myself a pretty fit person. I exercise frequently and am very active, so I cannot figure out why I can’t ride long distances. Is this just me or does everyone go through this?
I think everybody goes through this. Way back when you FIRST started riding, do you recall this problem being much worse? One foot probably struggled against the other. You were mashing down on BOTH pedals at the same time. As you pushed down on the front pedal, you would resist the upward motion of the back pedal with the other foot. Your feet felt like they were glued to the pedals, which made it nearly impossible to reposition your foot on the pedal.
I suspect that you have this same problem now – only to a much lesser extent. Here’s a test you can try. I haven’t heard anybody else mention it, but I think it’s valid. Ride up to something that you can grab onto. Ride up to it and stop with the pedals horizontal – grabbing the pole or railing or whatever it is for balance. DON’T GET OFF. As you stop, do you feel your weight sink down into the seat? Pay attention as you come to a stop. Does the weight shift from your legs to the seat?
If so, you are not putting all your weight on the seat as you ride. It may feel like you are, and I’m sure you’ve made VAST improvements since you first started, but you are not. Also, as you ride, can you detect whether your back foot resists the upward motion of the pedal? Do the pedals turn effortlessly when you are on level pavement? My guess is not.
Here’s another test. Can you reposition your feet on the pedals easily? Depending on how grippy your pedals are, this shouldn’t prove to be too difficult. When a pedal reaches the top of its travel, can you briefly lift your foot off without instantly UPDing? An experienced rider should comment on the worth of these tests! All I know is that as I develop a lighter touch on the pedals, these things have become possible. And I’m not straining and tiring my legs as much. Lifting you foot at the top of the stroke (or as it starts its descent) should indicate how hard you are pushing down with the other foot. Experienced riders: does this make sense?
I must be a slow learner. After seven months, I’m finally almost free of this beginner tendency. It’s very slight for me, but it’s still there. And it limits my distance.
Good luck! Assuming this is your problem, don’t worry! It will go away eventually. Just keep racking up the miles. There is no other way. As much as people say “sit on the seat!” – there is really no way to force yourself to do it. It will just happen, little by little, over time. And congratulations – you have graduated from “how far can I ride without falling off” to “how well can I ride”.
It makes great sense! I’ve been working on teaching some new recruits and this is a great test for people experiencing fatigue. Thanks Dave.
Bryan: I had the same problem when I first started riding and it all boiled down to putting my weight on the seat and not the pedals. It really takes the strain off your legs and gives you more control so you aren’t using as much energy to stay balanced. A combination of that and riding alot to condition your legs and you will be riding longer and farther without tiring out.
WOW!!! Thanks for pointing that out Rod! I didn’t even notice. Its funny you say that about Muni because I was just talking to a friend of mine saying I want this to be the summer of learning Muni. I recently tried some semi off-road stuff last weekend and had a blast. Even though it felt like I spent more time just trying to mount on unpaved surfaces than riding.
Bryan: We just started a club at the University and it is open to the entire community. If you would like to go for a ride with us sometime we would love it. There are about 7 of us so far and a couple other people on campus that we keep hearing about and cant find (maybe you are one of them). Feel free to shoot me an email @ firstname.lastname@example.org or join our mailing list by sending an email to email@example.com.
Wow, the learning how to lift your foot off the pedal is fantastic advice. I think that this is the first thing posted that nobody will argue against!
I remember doing that for sure. Maybe not tring to get my foot off the pedal completely (at the very beginning), but certainly trying to take as much weight off the foot, so it ‘feels’ like your foot is hovering over the pedal, but the shoe is still on the pedal.
You are not alone in experiencing massive leg fatigue as a beginning unicyclist. Here is another recent thread on the subject:
It’s a problem of skill and not leg strength or physical fitness. Once you learn to relax as you ride and pedal more smoothly the leg fatigue will go away.
Great advice on the “tests.” Even though I thought that I was putting all of my weight on the seat, I tried rolling up to a wall, and when I leaned against it I realized that I relaxed into the seat a little bit. I think that this has to be my main problem.
What I have also noticed (once I started paying attention) is that when riding on flat ground I will occasionally experience a few seconds of what seems like effortless riding. As with most sports that involve some sort of ballancing, I think it is more of remembering what that feeling is like and trying to go to the feeling (very zen) rather than concentrate on technique…but this is just a theory.
and a very sound theory it is
focussing on the ‘ideal’ moments u’ve experienced on the uni and trying to recreate them will help tremendously in developing as a unicyclist
remember the process, it will come in rather usefull when u learn idling, riding backward…
I discovered “near effortless pedaling” while trying to go really fast. I found I could pedal faster if I sat up real strieght and leaned forward w/ my whole body and uni and pedal w/ my feet on the pedels very lightly.
Yep, just keep all your weight on the seat, pretty soon, when your not even think about pedalling, one day, you will and notice “Hey, its like I am not even pedalling, it feels like the uni is moving my legs and I’m just enjoying the ride.”
That’s how it should feel, very relaxed and smooth, just keep the weight on the seat, and you’ll do fine.