Falling Backwards

Just learning and have done a couple of hours in 30 minute sessions over the past few days.

*Started using a rail in the back yard.
*Eventually started to let go of the rail and ride off on my own, getting between one and four shaky revs before UPDing.

My problem is that I have fallen backwards off the uni about four times.
The first time I broke the fall with my right elbow guard, but it jolted my neck a bit and shook me up.
Other times I have just managed to avoid actually hitting the ground.

All the vids I have watched on youtube say that you don’t fall off backwards or forwards as you naturally step off the uni. I can say that for me this is not the case. (I wear flat soled trainers and have plastic pedals with plastic pins).

Today I managed a smooth four revs on my own, then my next attempt followed this with a backwards fall.

I know I can just about manage a few smooth revs, but I now seem to have this fear of falling backwards, even though I wear helmet, gloves, elbow and shin guards.

I am not sure where I go from here?

Is the fear so bad that it is preventing you from riding? I hope not.
Just keep practicing and wearing any protection you feel is necessary. After learning how to ride comes learning how to gracefully exit the uni.

When people ask how I learned to uni I always tell them, “I was willing to fail (aka fall) as many times as it took to succeed.”

So just get out there and keep riding, you will be past this stage before you know it and it will all be a foggy memory.

I always tell people to practise falling off forwards before they start trying to ride. If you’re falling off backwards then I think you need to be riding shorter distances and concentrating on always falling off forwards. If necessary, completely stop trying to ride for a bit and just practise falling off forwards.

Lean forwards more. Try and get into the habit of falling off forwards. The thing is, when riding forwards you’ll only start falling backwards if you pedal too hard, and if you start falling backwards you simply have to stop pedalling (keep your feet on the pedals long enough to stop the wheel rather than bailing as soon as you start falling). I wish I could help more, but I always came off the front when learning, and only started to have problems with falling backwards when I started learning to ride backwards.

Jogger, hope your gloves are wrist guards… If not, put some on.

When I was learning I had no helmet or wrist guards until I fell backwards. It was very quick and freaked me out. The uni flew out from underneath me as I put too much torque on the pedal and wasn’t sitting on the saddle. Focus on trimming the torque with you rear leg perhaps?

BTW I’ve also fallen forwards really quickly going over some rail tracks. Not as freaky as the backwards fall, but definitely not “running it out”.

Thanks for the replies.

I still don’t understand why all the tutors say that if you start falling backwards, you just step off the back of the uni, yet when I fall backwards I sometimes cannot step off and fall? :thinking:

I haven’t seen any of those videos, so I won’t comment on why they might give that advice. Any comments I might make about someone giving that kind of advice to beginners would be somewhat less than complimentary, but for all I know the advice might not be intended for beginners.

When you’re an experience rider with good control of the unicycle, stepping backwards off the unicycle is, IMO, the easiest way to dismount. When you’re just starting out, though, dismounting to the rear is a really bad idea and something that’s best avoided.

ISTR I had a couple of backward falls when I was learning. I put my lack of injury down to judo training (I had been taught how to fall).

Spam bump

Perhaps a good idea would be to find a something softer to ride on? Perhaps a grass football field?

They tell you that because stepping off, forward or backward, is the safest way to UPD. The problem is that stepping backward as you fall is hard to do :smiley:

You need to get forward on the uni, what is likely happening is that you are pedaling the uni “out from under you”, so in a sense you are not keeping up with the uni and so your body is falling “behind”.

Get some ski or hiking poles and use them as outriggers, lean forward onto the poles and ride. When you fall, try pushing off with your feet at the same time, like a hop you might do from a skateboard or skimboard, and don’t try to catch the unicycle.

Sorry to throw another hat into the ring and possibly confuse :smiley: but …when I was starting out and before I could ride unassisted, I trained my body to fall forwards by repeatedly putting my dominant foot (my right) on the pedal at the eight oclock position…and, when weighted, the wheel moved back… then stepping up and lifting my other foot over the other (left) pedal landing on the floor in front of the uni. This was good at training not only coming off the front but also the basics of the ‘roll back’ mount. But it made it very hard for me when later learning to dismount off the back :frowning:

Good luck…and nice to meet a fellow recumbent triker here in one wheeled land :slight_smile:

Some will say lean forward, an explaination which works for some people. But another way to look at it is the wheel should be behind you more. It’s the same physics but different point of control. Unicycling is more about controlling the wheel than controlling your body, at least that’s the way it works for me. If the wheel isn’t under control it won’t matter what your body is doing so that is what I focus on.

Are your shoes gripping too much to the pedals?

You mentioned flat sole shoes but plastic pin pedals.
If those pins are too aggressive they still might be grabbing your shoes too much.

Also, new riders often put too much weight on their pedals. I’m thinking extra weight on the pedals would make it harder to slip your feet off as you fall back. (It also fatigues your legs and knees). Over time you’ll learn to relax more and put your weight on the seat. Raising your seat up higher can help force your weight onto the seat and off your pedals.

The pedals are standard plastic Numbus II pedals - not sure if they are aggressive?
I take your point regarding putting too much pressure on the pedals, which I understand is a common mistake beginners make.

MuniOrBust may have hit the nail on the head. Pinned pedals can be a problem when learning to ride. Get yourself a set of pedals that do not have pins. (or grind or file the pins off of the set that you have) This should help you clear your feet as you start to go down and with any luck this should result in foot landings as opposed to hand /arm / butt landings.

Pedals exist with less grip than those. If you happen to have a bike around with less grippy pedals you might consider swapping them out.

Don’t forget the left pedal has reverse threads.

MiniOrBust & Harley


I can see now how the plastic pins could be digging into the soft flat soles of my trainers, especially as I am sure I’m putting too much pressure on the pedals, and not letting go as I UPD backwards.

I have removed the pins using a sharp blade, (an easy if tedious job).
Now smooth as a baby’s.

Next thing is to try them out when the rain clears.

Lean forward is NOT Bend Forward. Keep your back straight, get your hips forward so you feel like the uni is leaning forward.

If you bend forward, the uni is leaning back, which can tend to make it fly our forward, and you back, when you fall.

I always tell people to practise falling off forwards before they start trying to ride

learning to ride

I made several videos of my practice when I first got a unicycle. Very roughly I recorded my sessions as hours spent and here are the links.

Hour 1 https://vimeo.com/2749648

Hour 2 https://vimeo.com/2749676

Hour 3 https://vimeo.com/2749693

Hour 4 https://vimeo.com/2749755

Hour 5 https://vimeo.com/2749791

Hour 6 https://vimeo.com/2749823

If a picture speaks for itself you may identify what is happening, or at least be entertained as you recognise the same difficulties. The videos are a personal record so not intended to instruct. Somehow though you may be able to improve just by seeing how I was coping with the very issues you have now. :slight_smile: