Fatigue for a new rider

I’m a new rider trying to get some perspective. I can consistently ride 150 meters or so. But I start getting winded at that point and have never been able to ride more than 300m due to sloppiness caused by fatigue. I am wondering if that is a feature of a 24" uni or something that I need to adjust either on the uni itself or with my riding. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

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More weight in seat, not in legs and pedals?

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You will find riding a unicycle to be extremely fatiguing for some time. When you first learn to ride, every muscle is fighting every other muscle to stay upright. As you progress that will get better, to the point that it will only be a problem in challenging terrain. Learning when to put your weight on the pedals and when to put it on the saddle is also something that will come with time. Weight on the pedals helps you ride over rough terrain. Weight on the saddle uses less energy.

And I think a 24” unicycle is as close to a magic size as it gets. It’s big enough to ride distance, excels at muni, is small enough for tricks and trials and fits easily in a car.

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Well, nothing wrong with getting in some good cardio. Thanks!

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One key piece of advice Duff gave during my “early days”, when I was trying to get to 800 meters without a UPD, or without stopping for a rest was, “Instead of focusing on pushing the front pedal down, focus on lifting the back foot.” It worked wonders.

As you lift the back foot, your front foot will naturally push the front pedal down. You will find that your legs become magically fresher, and are able to cover longer distances.

It worked for me, anyway.

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it is just part of the learning process. We all went through it. Small changes like more weight in the seat (which will come naturally as you practise) will make the seemingly impossible, suddenly possible. Don’t stress it, just keep practising and you will get there.

To answer your specific question, no it is not a limitation of a smaller wheel. It will be more comfortable to cycle distance on a big wheel but it can certainly be done on a smaller wheel for normal people. A couple of recent examples. I cycled 25km (15.5 miles) on a single ride using a 24" at the end of last month. I certainly could have gone further. I am just a regular 45 year old guy. We also had a 10 year old on Unicycle Tour of Oslo. She rode around 17km/10.6 miles (IIRC).

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Just to be clear (since maybe my previous message ends sounding a little “show-offy”) 300m is great, so congrats on that! :+1: You are doing awesome already and better than the vast majority of people in the world who have ever tried to unicycle. But one day (soon) you will likely look back and realise how much further you can suddenly cycle. :wink:

EDIT: Just another thought. Sometimes when I am cruising along (on a flat) I notice I am not really pushing through the whole pedal stroke (as I would say, uphill). I am just giving a little push at the start of each downward stroke (just enough to continue the speed/momentum) and letting my legs sort of follow the rotation around naturally. This might not be an accurate description of what I am doing but it is my current perception at least. :person_shrugging:t3: Whatever I am doing, it feels pretty low energy, especially with full weight on the seat. On a flat, cycling like this I feel like I could go forever (or perhaps limited by saddle discomfort after a while :laughing:).

However I am not sure if you can force yourself to ride like this as a beginner. I suspect that over time with more practise these lower energy styles of riding just sort of evolve and that is why it no longer feels so tiring after a short distance. By all means try but if it does not help as advice, I reckon you should just forget about it and focus on riding however works for you. Over time you will develop your own way of riding that is just a lot less effort than what you are likely putting in now. As I said in my first post, just don’t stress it. :wink:

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This sounds perfectly normal when beginning a new form of exercise, and let’s be clear, unicycling isn’t a ‘normal’ activity, it engages one’s core as well as many of one’s leg muscles leading to tiredness. Add in to that the cardio nature of riding any distance and you have your answer to feeling winded and fatigued.

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Thanks for this. Kind of like modifying your golf swing, I’m not sure overthinking it is gonna help me so much at this point. I probably just need more repetition and my body will learn it more efficiently than my brain!

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If you can Greg…, try to post a video of yourself.
“we”…the unicyclist community would definitely be able to give you some constructive tips/criticisms.

In meantime, “watching myself” as a beginner and periodic “long stops” getting back into riding, I notice a few things that I do wrong. So here are a few tips, that might help you:

a.) Keep your knee’s “inwards”: when you have your knee’s out, they create more “wobbling/twisting” action.

b.) Lean back a little bit on the unicycle(if you can), then you directly put weight back on the unicycle and less on the pedals(if you have the “stability” for it…otherwise…don’t do this).

c.) Find the rhythm between upper body and lower body. There is a counter-twisting motion that moves in rhythm with the lower body pedal/twist dynamic. If you understand this you can start to find a synchronicity(timing “groove”) and thus, begin to minimize the resulting twist/wobble action. Yes, this a lot of mechanical talk, but this may help you if you are a mechanically minded.

d.) Make sure you are always consistent with your shoes, pants, or shorts. Different shorts can lift you up and change the “feel”. Different shoes will definitely change pedal height and “feel”. Be as consistent as possible, so you don’t have mysterious “good days” and “bad days”.

keep riding…slam…

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I’m still fighting my way through this myself, and progress seems to be at a snail’s pace, though much is very little time for practice. Im up to about 500 m now, but its still exhausting, and it took a long time to increase to that.

I was riding a 24" with 127mm cranks, then upgraded to a Nimbus Oracle 27.5 with 150mm cranks i think before I was really ready to (but I really wanted that muni!), and suddenly i went backwards, only able to ride about 200m again when I was doing 400+ on the 24, which was really disheartening and its like I erased months of gains, which came back almost as slowly as it took the first time. So one piece of advice: stick to the one you’re learning on until you feel like you’re no longer concerned with this distance/exhausting stage.

Another thing I found strange was it seems like riding after getting tired was very helpful…after two or three runs when my legs are burned out, I often had my longest runs, and feel I progressed the most. it’s like you are forced to use your legs less/put more weight on saddle, and you are more efficient as a result sort of by necessity.

Lastly, I would say try to ride free of any hopes or expectations of being better this time than last, (or disappointment when that’s not the case) instead just ride to ride/for the fun of it, and the improvements just naturally happen. This was helpful for me anyways to sort of be positive and keep at it.

Good luck and keep on keeping on!

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Blublade, you haven’t lost part of your abilities, you simply doesn’t now how to manage the longer cranks! One of my son is 9 y.o., he tested my trial uni with 137mm cranks a lot and cannot ride… I swapped to 110mm and he learnt to ride in less than 3 days.
So if you are a beginner remember than short cranks will give you a flowy sensation of constant round pedalling and will prevent your body to impress too much counterforce in the back pedal. If you ride with 135 or longer cranks you’ll maybe find yourself pedalling like someone climbing a stair… a step, a short stop, another step. That is caused by the stronger backforce you are applying to the backpedal to keep your balance… stronger backforce due to the longer lever (cranks) you are using. So use short cranks to become proficient and than use longer cranks when you are a bit more skilled and doesn’t need to apply too much pressure on the backpedal yo keep your balance

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Basically this. Shorter version: “Sit down.” Easier said than done; it comes with practice. It takes very little energy to keep a unicycle moving, but it takes some time for your body to learn how to pare it down to that. Just keep reminding yourself to sit down. :slight_smile:

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Thanks to everyone who has posted in offering your assistance. It’s great to know there is a committed group of enthusiasts out there who have my back. In other news, I have taken some of the offered advice to heart (inasmuch as I could physically and mentally while trying to stay upright). Managed to double my distance, over 600m today. But I was done after that!! I’ll try again tomorrow. Thanks!

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I’ve also found that “riding after getting tired was very helpful”. I’ve gone longer a number of times when I was way past the “warm up” phase. Including today when I went 600m+. Weird, but something to note!

When you are first learning you can’t relax so you have most of your weight on your legs, as many have said. That is much more exhausting - think of how hard it is to ride a bike while standing up. As you get better you will put more weight on the seat and the effort required drops dramatically.

Also, when you are learning the unicycle will start falling forwards and you will have to correct, and then it will start falling backwards and you will have to correct. As you get better these corrections will get faster and smaller and the effort required will reduce.

Given time you will find that riding on a smooth surface at a modest speed is almost effortless. At this point you will only get significant exercise if you are going up a hill, or are on rough terrain, or are going very fast.

So, much easier riding is in your future. All of these future advantages will be obtained purely by putting in more time. You can try to put more weight in the saddle and you can try to ride more smoothly, but I’m not sure if “trying” for those things will make them happen any faster than if you just ride.

Have fun!

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I found the same thing also applied to muni. When I first started riding muni it was as exhausting as riding on the roads had been in those first few weeks, but as I got better I learned how to keep my weight in the saddle most of the time on trails too and when to transition my weight back and forth. Once I figured that out my endurance went way up.

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Some really good advice here.
After some time you’ll be able to ride indefinitely (depending on how high your gooch pain threshold is)