I am trying to decide as to whether my unicycling days are over …

Falling is a common event for me learning new stuff and even just the occasional UPD. But my elbow has taken a beating with these falls as I cannot seem to tuck my arm in and in a split second I wind up jamming it breaking my fall. Not a huge deal until you multiply it out over the years - now my radial head is a mess and the elbow Dr now needs to go in and do repairs.

I can’t afford to keep smacking this lest I create a severe disability (I already have limited range due to the damage). I’m becoming really nervous of the 36" especially.

Question: how common is this? Or is it just me and the particular (lame) way I hit the deck? Can one learn how to guard against stressing out the same area time and again?

If I decide it’s a wrap, I’ll have a nice collection of unis that will hit the market. It’s a sad thought …


Take a fitness parkour or martial arts class to improve your falling abilities.

And wear elbow pads. They’re reasonably comfortable.

If you worry about getting hurt and disabling yourself, you’ll be left doing nothing for the rest of your life.

I’m sure you’ll be fine if you take Tholub’s advice and get some pads. Cross training is excellent for ppreventing repetitive stress type injuries as well.

As crazy as it sounds, I’d get a mountain bike. Biking seemed to help my comfort level while on the muni.

Seriously. Get the hard-shell kind the downhill guys wear. Cheap insurance!

I wear an elbow/forearm guard that is fantastic. Troy Lee Designs. I liked them so much, I also have the knee/shin protective gear by the same company. Comfortable, flexible, but protective.

Thanks for the comments. I appreciate it!

I had never heard of parkour - interesting stuff! I need that.

Troy Lee Designs - I checked it out - is that the model EG 5550 you are referring to?

Question - does it constrain your arm to a 20-30 degree bent position so as to avoid FOOSH injuries? Kind of looks like it in the picture. If so, that might just be what the doctor ordered!

More analysis needed


These are all good ideas. Do you do distance riding? Off or on-road?

I would add: analyze your falls. Are they mainly off the front when your tire hits resistance (e.g., a bump in the road)? While turning? While distracted? At night in poor vision for road hazards?

Or when you are attempting new tricks? The 36" is a very different animal with short cranks than with 150s. Much more dangerous with short cranks IMHO. I’m 60 and rarely use protective gear except when trying to learn a new trick. Yes, my palms and knees have hit the pavement far too many times, and I broke a toe this past year learning double club spins while riding.


Elbow pads aren’t going to protect the radial head.

These fractures are caused by an axial force at the wrist, which squishes the radial head at the elbow.

Hi William

My Oracle 36 has 165mm cranks.

Yes, over the front when I hit resistance is often the case. This last time I was caught off guard and couldn’t run out of it. Even though I attempted tucking and rolling I still jammed my arm once again. Not sure what would prevent that kind of injury aside from training and muscle memory for falling & tumbling correctly. But then, it may be too little too late when already damaged.


I can’t really see how elbow pads could help either.
Yes, my radial head has had it’s share of “squishing”!

On Friday I had a debridement procedure done. They provided pictures - hard to believe all the pieces they removed.

Holy cow that is one traumatic procedure! SUPER painful. It is going to take a long time before I can do much with this arm. In the meantime I will have to figure out how to survive my beloved sport.

Thanks for the comments!


OK! that tells me a LOT. How do you roll over obstacles? Do you lift your seat off the saddle slightly and increase weight on your feet to push through the obstacle?

Would wrist guards prevent that injury??

Hmmm… I wonder if the answer might be for you to try to be a little less brave and confident, less determined to hang on and try to ride everything out. It’s fashionable these days to believe that we can do anything up to and including flying if we just believe that we can. But maybe accepting your current limitations, cutting your losses and bailing out early, would mean landing on your feet rather than your hands more of the time.

I got more or less that advice early on from more experienced riders and it took a while for me to accept it. But I’ve come around to thinking there’s wisdom in trusting my body to know what I can and can’t do, and that using the lifeboat generally beats going down with the ship. :slight_smile:

Hi William

Yes, if I see the obstacle I am pretty adept at preparing and clearing. It’s the ones that surprise me - that I don’t see.

Thanks again for the comments - it helps me to realistically analyze.

At the risk of boring you:
My playground for enjoying doing miles on my 36er is the neighborhood high school 1/4 mile running track. It’s been really nice and convenient to go at dawn and put in 3-4 miles before work everyday pretty much before anybody else shows up. It’s a nice surface too - a little gravelly & not so hard as asphalt - plus I don’t have to worry about cars, etc.

But then the rains hit this track develops irregularities - especially off-line. It takes a while for the city to groom it and it can stay compacted and riddled with grooves and ruts for a while - but I can usually find a fairly good line.

This last time it was at about the 4 mile mark (a little tired) and a runner showed up. As I was ensuring I was out of his way I went out from my normal track and I hit one of these ruts (that I didn’t see) and it pitched me forward really fast. I got one foot down but couldn’t run it out and had to tumble - ergo the injury and dilemma. At 6’ 1" atop a 36er I fall quite a ways to the ground.

Perhaps I should give up on the track unless it is in good shape… I just itch to go riding as soon as it dries out after a wet Winter!

I never take it out on the rode - if you saw the distracted driving around here you’d understand. Maybe lawn riding!! Not sure the parks and req people would agree :slight_smile:

Ah! I’m now convinced of 2 things!

  1. Try warming up with several very short SPRINTS. This will increase the likelihood you can outrun your riding speed, and convert more falls into UPDs where you land on your feet. (I also like Large Eddie’s advice in this regard).

  2. That track sounds like a nightmare after a rain. Ruts, and in particular trying to enter and exit them from the wrong angle, are very dangerous. They cause us to fall in unpredictable ways, twisting and sideways. Stay away from RUTS!!!

Personally, I find the sidewalks outside NYC public schools are very wide and very smooth. That’s where I practice one-foot, but not around morning bell or dismissal, because the kids are in the way.

Keep it up!! You can definitely overcome this momentary problem.