Do I learn to ride backward or idle first

Hy I’m new to unicycling been doing it for about a month and want to start learning other basic things besides just riding but I’m not sure where to start any help would be appreciated

Idling seems like it would be the first step to riding backwards so I’d learn that first. Plus it’s useful if you’re riding around other people.

I say this as someone who has been riding for a few years but so far has been too lazy to learn either of those skills :roll_eyes: .



Idling is a really useful skill in day to day riding. Riding backwards is sometimes useful but is more of a personal satisfaction thing than practical.

Therefore, I’d recommend concentrating on idling first.

However, the two skills are closely linked.

A good half way house between idling and reversing is what is sometimes called the “super idle”:
Ride, stop without dismounting, do a half turn backwards, stop without dismounting, do a half turn forwards…

For ordinary idling, you do less than half a turn. You do all or most of the work with your bottom foot which moves from about 5 to 7 on the clock face. Try to keep your head still, your back straight, and let the uni move back and forth underneath you. It is important to look at a fixed point in the distance, especially while you are learning.

I’ve been working on my idling and slowly getting better.

What is it like when you can do it as long as like? Is all your weight in the seat? Right now most of my weight is in my right foot which is my dominant foot.

Learn to idle first. Use a variety of techniques to learn idling: hold onto a wall or fence to get a feel for the back and forth motion of the feet. The problem with most supports, however, is that they inhibit you from pivoting while idling, which is pretty necessary. You will have to lose the wall eventually. Practice adjusting your speed erratically while riding forward. Once you can do that without falling off, practice coming to a sudden stop, then riding away. That’s going to force you to get the wheel in front of you. You’ll UPD off the front quite a few times before getting the hang of it. Be patient. Then, practice coming to a full stop, pedaling a tiny bit backwards, then forward. If you don’t know how already, learn a controlled dismount with the unicycle in front of you. That skill is related to idling. I agree with Mikefule regarding the “super idle”. Once you learn that, you may ride your first half-revolution, backwards, by accident.

I wonder if anyone on the forum has learned to ride backwards before learning to idle. To my understanding, backwards riding comes naturally from idling, but I’m not sure about the other way around.

Learn both first. They are complimentary skills, so taking turns between them they will reinforce each other as you improve.

As you get more comfortable idling, you will need less and less power to maintain the idle. Weight on the seat of course. You will notice that the dominant foot does all the work, while your opposite foot is basically dead weight. You should try developing that foot as well, to “keep it even”. On the basic skills, it can be helpful to be able to do them on both sides. Or if that doesn’t appeal to you, practice lifting that non-domint foot off the pedal when it’s at the top. It isn’t doing anything anyway. With a bit more practice, you’ll be idling one-footed!

Once upon a time I was in a TV commercial for a furniture store in Detroit. We were there for about 8 hours to complete a 30-second commerical. For a great deal of that time, I was up on my 6’ uni, idling away. I definitely learned to do it efficiently before that day was done! About 1% of my “riding” time was spent with a camera running. During those moments, I made big, showy idles. The rest of the time I slowed it down to a minimal amount of movement; just enough to stay in place. When you watch professional performers, you will notice they usually use an exaggerated idling motion to make it look harder and more sketchy. But once you get comfortable doing it, you don’t have to move your foot very far back and forth. You can just chill out there.

I don’t know, but I would guess that most people learned them together, unless they were really focused on one or the other. I would consider Backward to be the more difficult skill, as it involves going where you can’t see, and is kind of like learning to ride all over again.

Lots of great advice from ElPueblo and others above. To that I will add that the motion you must eventually find is like a pendulum. Your head is the pivot point (more or less), while the wheel moves back and forth under you. Each “rock” is catching yourself before you start to fall away from the wheel. As you gain control, you will be able to use smaller and smaller motions.

I might fall in that category though I don’t really practice in the normal sense.

I let my other skills come to me naturally. So I ride cross country a lot and when I get back to the car and I feel like everything is “clicking” I’ll try a new skill like backwards riding, idling, stalling, even coasting.

My best backwards is about 20’ and my best idle is about 4 rocks. I feel more comfortable riding backwards as idling hurts my knees if I try too much.

Stalling was a skill that came out of nowhere and I find easy. Same as hopping.
So how about a horizontal idle with a stall on each end? Would that be 1/2 a super idle?

So according to my learnings I would say learn how to ride forward, next stalling, riding backwards, then combine them all for an idle. One thing leads to another.

While two foot idling, I have always felt like my non-dominant/upper/12:00 foot is doing a lot. I have read several forum posts describing how most of the weight/control while idling should be placed on the lower (dominant) foot. That just didn’t play out in my experience. I learned to one-foot idle with the dominant foot firmly on the crown of the frame. It was only recently I learned to idle one footed with the other foot dangling, and my technique at that is pretty sketchy. I can ride one-footed, but only with the other foot on the frame. What I lack in balance, I try to make up for in stability.

Canoeheadted said idling for too long hurts his knees. Trying to control the idle with the dominant/lower foot hurts my knees. Pushing the top pedal gently back and forth over the 12:00 position while idling, on the other hand, is quite relaxing. I’m probably doing something wrong…

Regarding what is a “super idle”, my understanding is: a 180 degree idle with a momentary still stand with the pedals in a horizontal position at either end of the idle. The super idle is a great gateway to all kinds of other fun unicycle stuff. Pulling the seat out front/back and hopping, for example.

Another thing I’ve read on the forum: the whole notion of keeping your idles small. Why? The smaller I make my idles, the more stress I feel while idling. Long and slow…that’s how I like my idles. Practicing larger idles seems to dovetail more into backwards riding.

I think idling is fundamental enough that it should be practiced on both sides. You will learn a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of either side of your body–while practicing idling on both sides.

Funny, I know I am weak on my left non-dominant side. I wanted to give it a try with non-dom foot mounting, but feels too strange, like my body doesn’t bend that way. If only I was born with 2 dominant sides :slight_smile:

Like others have said before, learn them together since they’re related. Early on though, I think it’s better to emphasize idling over backwards. I started unicycling 2 years ago and soon after learning to ride forward started working on idling while also learning to free-mount. Even learning to do a few idles helped with my free-mounting.

It’s best to learn to idle along a fence or a wall, like I did. Once you can get up to say 10 to 20 idles, do it away from the support so you can pivot. It’s a good idea to learn to idle with either foot down since when practicing you can switch the down foot when it gets tired. I hardly ever practiced “super idling”.

It took me almost 3 months to learn to idle competently with my right foot so I could do hundreds of idles. It took about 2 more months to do it with my left foot. It took a while longer to learn to go backwards competently, and can now do backwards figure 8s without much difficulty. The biggest issue I had with learning to go backwards was the fear-factor. I think it helps to breath deeply and try to relax before going backwards, and this also helps with idling or learning any new skill really.

Both of these skills, particularly backwards, can be very frustrating to learn for many people. Even some of the super-stars of unicycling had trouble with them. If it gets too frustrating, a few days off may be beneficial. I’m often surprised by how much progress I made with backwards when I was sometimes practicing it only once or twice a week for 20 minutes at a time due to my schedule.

Be sure to wear your safety gear, just in case!

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Go Turtle

I like how after “only 1 month” of riding you want to go for more!!!
That is awesome. There is so much potential, possibilities and pro’s showing us it can be done…what next!

So, after a year I’ve gotten pretty good at idling, and here’s what I learned. Hope it helps beginners.

1.) First stage:
a.) Use heavy pressure on down foot.
b.) Light on the seat.
c.) Rock your top foot back/forth…fast…super fast.

2.) 2nd stage:
a.) less pressure on down foot, and more on the seat.
b.) “buck” your hips back/forth…feel for that center of seat balancefeeling
c.) start adding pressure on your top foot for control.
d.) good exercise to develop control is to hold/wall and do “one foot” idle. Buck your hips and feel your center/gravity over the seat post and wheel center.

3.) 3rd stage:…
a.) It becomes automatic, now.
b.) Bored? Talk on your cellphone. Juggle balls. Juggle chainsaws.

You got it!!!

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It’s many years since I learned to idle and later to ride backwards.

I remember that my biggest breakthrough came when I started to look in the right direction.

It is important when learning any balance related activity to look at a fixed point some distance away.

For idling, I looked at something slightly below eye level.

For riding backwards, I look at something on the ground 5 or 10 yards/metres in front of me and ride backwards away from it. Every few pedal strokes, I shift my focus to a new point on the ground. It really helps if I can spot an object - a stone, mar on the pavement, piece of litter, etc.

I came upon this technique when learning to surf a kayak on a standing wave. Night after night I was only able to hold my position for a second or two, then someone told me to look at an object upstream and suddenly I could do it.

Another important thing in idling is to keep your head still and let the uni rock underneath you.

Once I became confident, I was able to be less specific about details like this, but it really helped me to learn.

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Like this?

Yours truly surfing the long lost tidal wave at St Valery sur Somme in France.
How I would love to go back to those days :slight_smile:

And backwards too :slight_smile:

St Valery sur Somme back.jpg

That sort of thing, but on a smaller scale, in an old plastic slalom boat on the white water course at the Holme Pierrepont NWSC, Nottingham, UK,

I learned to ride forward very slowly, idle and then backwards, within a month or two. In that order. It seemed that had to be the order to me. Then the transition from backwards to forward to backwards became second nature. It was the most productive 2 months yet. I could see progress ever single day. A rewarding great feeling. I chose to not watch videos, since I was doing a lot contrary to what most people told me to do. I did a lot looking down, which most tell you that’s a big no no.

I am just starting out and without my hand on a rail at the right height I don’t get very far.

Sometimes when I over pedal I find myself going backwards along the wall, almost as good as going forwards.

I can’t idle yet, but in my last few training sessions I could stall and switch directions successfully sometimes if the rail is close by.

Hoping for a break in the weather that works with my schedule so I can get in some more practice. Too much heavy rain lately.