Two really good riders decided to start making beginner tutorials, so I thought I’ll post them up. If I understand correctly, they both will post tutorials for many more basics, so follow them on youtube if you are interested. I’m definetely happy to see these two “pro” riders making tutorials.
Eli Brills “Unicycle School”:
Chris Huriwais “Uniquest”:
Both have a slightly different methods, which is good, so everyone can take things they like and use them in their training. I hope they both follow through with their series, because the unicycle world was severely lacking a resource like this for the “basics” in a video format. (Because most people head to youtube for any questions they have nowadays.)
As there is probably some huge proportion of unicyclists who are beginners or aspiring beginners, Chris Huriwai and Eli Brill are probably smart, from an advertising standpoint, to start making beginner tutorials, though I don’t think pedaling your first ten revolutions under the guidance of a superstar is really going to make much of a difference. I have been a fan of Huriwai’s tutorials for a while, especially his Top Ten Easiest Unicycle Tricks video, though if I were a beginner, I think this video would be way more inspiring.
The fact that the two riders in question are elite riders makes no difference which is probably why they don’t give a background of who they are in the videos. They made the videos purely to provide well structured, thorough videos for people searching on youtube. I don’t think the videos were made for “inspiration” as the majority of people who come across these videos when searching for “how to unicycle” will never find out that they are watching riders who were top 3 in the world/world champion.
I watched the first beginner tutorial by Huriwai for a minute or two. It seemed OK.
I had already been riding a unicycle for a couple of months before I thought of trying to learn about it on the Internet, so I am probably not the best judge of a good beginner video, but in my experience most people think they are too old or too fat to ride a unicycle, so that video of the fat guy learning to ride seems pretty good to me. The other basics of unicycling can be covered by pretty much anyone: get the cranks horizontal, let go of the wall as soon as you’re ready to roll, fall forward, etc.
In Japan it might be different. I have heard that over there unicycling is just for schoolgirls. I asked a Japanese acquaintance if boys in Japan were forbidden from riding the school unicycles, and she said no, they just choose not to!
I’m mostly excited for them covering more of the basic tricks. I often give workshops, and it would be really nice to just point people there to these two channels if they want to continue learning tricks. There has always been tutorials for some tricks out there, but spread around across many channels, and or difficult to find.
I’ve never gotten more than one small pointer out of a tutorial video, but someone giving an explanation somehow gives you more confidence to try. Many riders learned crankflips with a Shaun Johanesson tutorial, that gave mostly useless exercises, but a few good pieces of advice.
Inspiration is a different thing from instruction. So I encourage any fat old guy making a vlog about learning how to unicycle. There is honestly very little watchable videos from beginners, Seth’s Bike Hacks being one of the few. The recipe is simple, if you don’t have skills, you need personality to get people to watch.
Highly skilled unicyclists rarely make good teachers because their skills are so far removed from those of a novice. They don’t remember how hard it was to learn.
Eli’s blue line is just plain wrong. Follow that advice to fall off every time, as he does himself around 1:30.
At 1:45 he does what actually needs to be done and doesn’t fall off. The unicycle needs to be leaning backwards. I have found that pointing out this geometrical prerogative to the novice is by far the most important thing they need to know.
Neither Eli nor Chris explain this at all but at least Chris does say to lean slightly forward from the hips and don’t hunch. This posture goes hand in hand with leaning the unicycle backwards, keeping the centre of gravity above the contact point.
People who learn quickly despite the misguided advice are those who observe rather than listen and notice their teacher’s uni is leaning back. Those who heed the common suggestion to make their back an extension of the uni will never learn until they forget that advice. At least Eli and Chris avoided this rubbish.
Both of them also advise to put all the weight on the seat right from the start. This is something to aspire to but it can only be achieved once the rider is able to get the wheel more or less under them. Otherwise the downward force on the unbalanced uni will simply pop it out from under the rider.
The initial attempts are better with all the weight on the pedals and gripping the nose of the saddle between the thighs so the machine is forced to stay in more or less the right place. As soon as they manage a couple of revolutions, tell them to try to put their weight on the seat but don’t obsess about it.
Oh,the obligatory onetrackmind has a better method comment. Make your own video, it will be good to offer more methods and advice.
But maybe, just maybe consider that these methods have worked, and that there have been many times I and many others have seen riders only managing to ride after they finally put weight on their seat. Neither of them are obsessing about it. May not have been the tip you needed, but certainly is a common mistake.
If you read what I wrote again you will see that I suggest getting weight on the seat “As soon as they manage a couple of revolutions”.
You said “finally put weight on their seat” which is a world of difference from what I wrote.
I stand by what I wrote about trying to put weight on the seat from the very beginning which appears to be what both Eli and Chris are suggesting. It is common mistake that often leads to the impression of impossibility and inhibits progress.
Moreover I note you said nothing about my “blue line” comment where I explicitly noted the parts of the video that showed it was incorrect. It amazes me how often uncyclists offer advice about riding yet fail to acknowledge the single most important aspect that the unicycle needs to be leaning slightly backwards for stability. Some even continue to argue to the contrary in the face of photographic evidence.
You could have addressed this but instead you made a thinly veiled personal attack, something people often do when they have nothing intelligent to contribute.
I have also come to realise that you have habitually denigrated any posts where people attempt to discuss the dynamics of unicycling in an effort to stifle discussion.
I suggest that if you don’t have the ability to participate in such discussions that you don’t bother to post on those treads and let the rest of us who can articulate such matters get on with developing our collective understanding.
BTW I have had a lifelong interest in mechanical dynamics. I have studied it at great detail along with more than a passing interest in Quantum Mechanics, General Relativity, Cosmology and Evolutionary Biology, subjects in which I have a working understanding. Consequently, your naive concepts of “irreducible complexity” are an anathema to me.
Based on my personal experience as a still fresh beginner, I did mentally object while watching the video when Chris advises to put your weight on the seat and to straighten your back (and also to use a wall).
But there’s the fact that, aside from his level of expertise (3 times street world champion, no less!), his been teaching many kids for many years rather successfully.
Well, in previous posts it generally sounded like you were suggesting not sitting down for far longer than the first few revolutions. In this you mentioned a few revolutions, which I missed.
Doesn’t do that in my experience. That’s where the differences in starting on a wall and launching into space are apparent. When you are holding onto something, learning to sit down while pedalling doesn’t give any impression of impossibility.
The blue line isn’t the greatest analogy ever, but I think it manages to get the point of getting the center of gravity in front of the contact patch to start across. You are probably missing the hip joint, but for the purpose of starting from a wall we can ignore that. For other purposes, yes I see your point of wanting to be slightly bent at the hip. I don’t think it’s got much to do with stabilization (similar to bike forks), and much more of being able to move your upper body in both directions from there. But which of the effects is more important doesn’t really matter, does it?
As said on Facebook and here, please, make your own video to add that to the tutorials available where you mention this.
Well, If you didn’t completely ignore that Chris has taught unicycling to 100s of kids, and said
I might have been a bit more friendly. But you choose to ignore evidence that different ways of explaining and learning do in fact work, and discredit people who have thought professionally, while everyone I know has come to their way of teaching through experimenting with methods, and seeing what works first hand on many subjects. But when they share their findings, you say that they are “completely wrong for beginners”.
You choosing to ignore that, and the fact that some people learned very quickly with methods different from yours, is just as bad as the ignoring of the photographic evidence of people never being perfectly upright you were complaining about. (I absolutely agree with you that being perfectly straight isn’t good in anything but pirouettes.)
Here is my point of view on what happens quite often on this forum in an analogy: someone asks: " will a nail be fine to hang a picture on this wall". In response, he gets an explanation of the molecular structure of wood. I generally try to say: “yes, and don’t forget to bring a hammer”. I’m not trying to stifle discussion. I’m trying to help people learn tricks, not become a sports scientist. In my years of unicycling and doing other sports, I learned one thing: “intellectual understanding” is not necessary for most skills. What we can process unconsciously is much, much more important to our learning.
And sometimes, if people’s theories on here don’t line up with reality, then I point that out, usually coming from the practical side, not the theoretical. It’s like the “according to science, bumblebees can’t fly” bullshit that comes up every few years. No one needs to suggest an alternative theory to a bumblebees flight mechanics to say that clearly, the scientists model isn’t right.
You talk about the “perceived impossibility to beginners”. On this forum, you often get the impression that you need to be a scientist. And while a few really good uni cyclists are scientists, there are also many that aren’t, which are just as good.
Eli Brill demonstrates a free mount about 10 times in the introductory video. Every time, he remains holding onto the seat with his right hand. If I remember correctly, I learned to free mount throwing both hands in the air for balance. I’m curious how many riders, when they were just beginning, held the seat during the entire mount.
I posted after inadvertently missing the flame-war between finnspin and OTM. I found a couple quotes, both by Donald Knuth, a computer science guru. I think they apply to this debate:
“Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do.”
“We should continually be striving to transform every art into a science: in the process, we advance the art.”
I am guessing that not everyone agrees with the second quote. My background is in classical music, and I know plenty of musicians who regard analysis as music-wrecking. A professor of mine described two contradictory approaches to musical performance. One, throw a veil over the music. Two, remove the veil.
I definitely only held the seat to get on, but sent them flailing as soon as I took off. Holding the seat first with one hand came much later and only the last half year did I learn to keep both hands on the seat, balancing with my hips.
After learning to ride using the back stop method I was a no holding rider using both arms for balance. I struggled when out and about with no backstop.
So ideally I would find a fence and put my right forearm along the top rail while holding the saddle with my left hand. Over time I became lest dependent on the fences and could use a pole until I barely needed to touch anything.
This created a less then ideal situation when I learnt to ride holding on where I mount holding the saddle with my left hand then swap to the right.
I am an entirely self taught singer. I was a late starter in my early forties coming from a background where I had zero talent as a child. I can and do sing lead but my passion is for harmonies. A considerable part of my skills came from transferring my professional scientific knowledge of resonances in electrical circuits to sound.
Early in my progress, my skills really advanced when I noticed a beat between my voice and the guitars despite being quite sure I was on key. Bewildered, I went home and studied musical theory for the first time in my life, learning about the compromises inherent in equal temperament and realising the beat I had heard was due to the tempered fifth on the guitar being a quarter cent flat while I was singing a perfect fifth.
I built a spreadsheet showing the errors in various temperaments and played around with the numbers. It occurred to me that a 32 step scale would be the next temperament and was encouraged when that was confirmed through a Google search.
I also realised that the key to singing in tune was the use of the same principle as tuning in electrical circuits, the phase-locked-loop where detecting errors in the higher harmonics allowed the lower frequencies to be tuned sub-cycle.
I did not practice any of this new found knowledge at all but on the very next of our weekly music jams, my singing ability had skyrocketed. Within a couple of weeks one guitarist commented on how I was uncannily precisely following the bends he was putting on notes. Another time a guitarist said he needed to stand somewhere else in the room because I was “playing his guitar more than he was”.
I was not standing there with my mind focused on any of the science but what I had learnt in my brain was being automatically applied to my voice and that knowledge had done anything but ruin my performance.
I also expect it is quite rare though not impossible for a musician to reach advanced levels of performance without knowing at least some musical theory. It certainly would not be the case in elpuebloUNIdo’s professor so I find the professor’s imputation a little ridiculous.
Sportspeople often remark that one should learn everything they can about the science of the techniques then forget about it while they perform, letting the brain use this knowledge subconsciously.
In most physical endeavours that knowledge is applied and transferred to the motor nervous system by repetition. I believe that it is far more rapid in singing because the the vocal cords are enervated from a branch of the Vagus nerve, one of the seven cranial nerves that come straight out of the brain independently of spinal column. As such, the voice is very deeply connected to the central part of our being and can respond far more rapidly than the peripheral motor nerves and muscles.
My wife has sung since she was a girl and told me that the most valuable advice anyone had ever given her in music was my explanation of tuning the voice with the phase-locked-loop. This is despite the fact that she has no talent for physics at all. Our ability to sing together is built on us both using this technique and the result is compelling.
So please excuse me if I continue to promote the value of scientific analysis in any endeavour, including unicycling. I might not work for everyone but it certainly does for some. Scientific knowledge certainly doesn’t wreck ability, though incorrect beliefs certainly can, as is the case of those who assert that the unicycle and rider should be upright.
BTW My wife was watching the 10 km event during the 2016 Australian National Unicycling Championships. She told me afterwards that someone was commentating to spectators about the difference in riding styles and specifically pointed out how little my track weaved. He attributed it to my zero Q cranks but I have no doubt my scientific analysis of riding is more than a little involved too.
Gentlemen! Flame war much? You guys need to shake hands and remember that different people learn in different ways.
Being a top rider does not necessarily make one a good teacher. Those are two completely different skills. In my experience, the best teachers are people who had a tough time learning. But that’s only part of the equation. Even if it was easy for you to learn to ride, but you know how to explain things, and have taught lots of riders, you can become a great teacher or coach. Success and results help an open-minded coach learn what works best, though this is not always the same for every rider.
I myself am not a great unicycle coach, but I learn from experience when I teach people, and try to keep track of what leads to success. When I tell a rider to sit up straight, it’s with the understanding that 99% of them will not fully do it, but it will get them closer to the posture they need. Same for putting weight on the seat. “Try to relax and not use more leg power than you need.” This is a goal, but it doesn’t happen until the person starts to get confident in their ability to get somewhere. Then they can actually start doing it.
Anyway, the more videos that are out there, but more resources beginners have to help them get started. Even if they don’t use the best possible techniques.
I learned to ride before seats had handles on them. In those days, I don’t thing people held onto the seats as much, in part because of lack of handle (lots of Schwinns in those days), and in part because we were doing everything else not holding on, so we were used to the idea.
Holding onto the seat has many benefits. I think I originally learned it from seeing racers do it. It took me a while to get used to the idea, but eventually I understood that being able to “reinforce” your hold on the cycle gave you more control, and more power. Essential for good acceleration off the starting line, but not really useful when learning to ride. Beginners tend to not trust that the seat will stay in place. This often stems from having the seat lower than it should be, which makes it easier for the rider to rise off of it and have it slip out of position. So if you feel like you need to hold the seat, your seat may be too low.
Thanks to Chris and Eli for making beginner videos. Those are probably more important than most other types, though we hope you still show off your skills from time to time; those are very motivational!