For learners - You dumb klutz. Why can't you just ride in a straight line?

I am asked a lot online for advice on the real basics of unicycling. Probably you get much of the same. How to go straight, how to steer, how to stop and how to hop on. Not being face to face I put long passages of detail on how to do the most fundamental things.

It seems odd to have to describe in detail to someone how to steer a straight line. You won’t see a thread anywhere on a bike forum helping people to steer the damned thing! I mean, discussing how to turn? How to stay upright? How to go straight? How to look over your shoulder? How to look left without changing direction? DUUUUUUUUUMB.

Well, if you are a budding unicyclist and you are finding it hard, it’s not that you are a klutz.

The truth of the matter is that we all have a hard time with it. The only people who do not are those who have not tried it. (And after we have mastered it we forget how tough it was.)

Riding a uni is a little like floating in weightless space. The most basic actions and reactions simply do not happen in the way you would expect. In the normal world subtle movements that we make have little consequence and we just progressively correct those little errors and idiosyncrasies with time. Certainly without need for any instruction or coaching.

But on a unicycle those little idiosyncrasies can actually stop you in your tracks. Or delay progress significantly. Or leave you with hard to correct problems. Almost without exception I see perceptible differences in symmetry in ALL unicyclists. NEVER in a bicyclist or a walker or a jogger or a driver or a swimmer.

So that is why you have a hard time. I have a hard time. I still consciously address my tendency to drop the right shoulder down and back. I still have a REALLY hard time looking somewhat normal on a giraffe.

Hmmm. Is it even possible to look normal on a giraffe?

An infant might ask the same thing about walking, but they don’t really know how or what to ask, so they just do it.

My son and I learned to uni on our own, no books, no videos, just some hiking poles and lots of work.

Maybe a technically minded person could quantify the basics once they know them, but there is more to learning unicycling than simply aiming and pulling the trigger.

The most success I have had in teaching uni was with people who were not bikers, who were just regular folks, somehow they were better able to “just do it”, so maybe overanalyzing the task is a downfall?

Unicycling is so difficult that many people give up even before they try to learn; ie they believe it is impossible because it seems impossible.

It would be better to have folks learn unicycling with a training wheel system, then success would be higher because folks wouldn’t spend their first few attempts falling down. I’m going to build one, when I get around to it…

All I can say is it is absolutely incredible how our minds can adapt. I was asking ALL the beginner questions in July – it seemed absolutely impossible and I came so close to giving up. Last night I got home and jumped on my 24 and rode around thinking nothing of riding straight, left turns, right turns, up and down inclines BUT I still can’t free mount consistently! How did I learn to not always drift left, come off after 50 feet, etc. Practice!

I believe the best advice to give is what all you guys told me: Weight on seat, fling arms as needed, look straight ahead, keep practicing, oh and keep your weight on the seat and keep practicing.

It can be so frustrating learning that we just know there has to be one tid bit of information riders are not sharing that if we knew, we would be riding for miles. You know the stuff: tire pressure, angle of the seat, placement of feet on the pedals, seat height off an 1/8", etc. There isn’t; it just takes lots of practice.

The best thing this forum offered me was all the encouragement and people being willing to answer those same old questions for the thousandth time. Very much appreciated!

I started out by reading, watching videos, doing research, etc., and I quickly realized that these things were almost completely unnecessary. I obviously can’t speak for anyone’s experience but my own, but I found that learning unicycling is definitely not a higher brain activity–it’s spinal, autonomic, reflexive. The method that seemed to work best for me was to stop thinking and just get on the damned thing. spend hours and miles trying to unicycle. The body will teach itself if you just stubbornly persist. A certain brief theoretical introduction is helpful at the very beginning, if for no other reason than to keep you from making egregious errors, but once you grasp the theoretical rudiments, the rest is just saddle time and lots of it.

My son and I learned at the same time, he was twelve, I was forty three. Intially we progressed at about the same rate, but I practiced more than him by a factor of two, then down the line he contd to progress at times when I was stagnating, esp when it came to riding technical terrain, doing drops, etc…

He would still be better than me if he’d contd to ride, but after two years his interest faded, meanwhile mine contd at the same pace. Now, at four years, he is still quite good considering how little he rides, but I can outride him on most terrain, and my climbing and descending is stronger than his, some of which is due to diffences in conditioning.

I am a technique oriented person, so I wanted to know riding technique as I was learning, this seemed to help me overcome obstacles, whereas my son just rode and it seemed to come naturally to him.

Age has a lot to do with how fast a person learns, in part due to brain development, but also as we age we tend to become more cautious. Not that an older person shouldn’t try to learn uni, but that they should expect a flatter learner curve.

I really believe a uni training wheel system should be more commonplace, it is really a trial by fire to learn unicycling with significant “props”. We both learned using hiking poles as outriggers.

I can see why quite a few people I know have owned a unicycle and given up before they could ride it.

Yes, it is not rocket science. But also doing it entirely on your own is likely a recipe for giving up in frustration before making any apparent progress. I know it took me WAY longer than it would have if someone had given me some advice. Preferably one-on-one in-your-face, but remotely is still adequate for many.

For a start I learnt in the worst possible environment, which I now realise and which advice from any existing unicyclists could have steered me away from.

I learnt the freemount on the giraffe from youtube. However, I wasted two days doing a slightly wrong thing because I saw in the videos what I thought was the way to do it. (Wheel, pedal, other pedal, bum onto seat.) It was pure on-line advice that told me how I should do it. (Wheel, pedal, bum on seat, other pedal.) The difference in time between those last two sreps is so miniscule as to be non-existent. Whatever you think you see the first time is what you will see thereafter.

Even as a geriatric I can’t take offence as I agree. That being said, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. I was greatly surprised that I learnt that giraffe freemount in three days. It had taken me three weeks to learn to ride a normal uni in the first place! Go figure.

Perhaps a di-cycle would be a useful first device. Two identical wheels next to each other with an appropriate separation - say two wheels about 10cm apart. Even better, one where the spacing can be adjusted.

That way the learner can concentrate on the forward-rear balance, which is going to be something entirely foreign to most people. Left right is commonplace experience - skateboards, bikes, surfboards, etc.

The down side, of course, is that once having learned, the owner is left with something that is of no further use. That and the spreading of the legs onto the pedals would be greater while learning than on the real thing.

I think mostly all people need the right unicycle (20" or 24") and a one-on-one mentor for a few weeks.

I learnt to ride in about 9 hours and was offroad in 12 (riding offroad on the uneven surface improves your skill much faster than on the flat).

For me my biggest benefit was being an all or nothing bloody minded kind of guy, as if I am going to do something I will do it 100% I put in massive effort, all the time I can and spend far too much money having the best in whatever sport/ hobby it is (I struggled with performance cars as my pockets were not deep enough).

I didn’t read much about learning I just got on with it, padding along a wall for a few hours then just said “screw it” and would push off and fall, push off do two revolutions and fall off etc etc, to me losing the wall was the key thing and holding onto people, hiking poles etc may help les confident people stick at learning but I feel they just teach you bad habits and will slow down a less confident person.

But is it all about persistence, my Mrs has shown some interested in learning but one day when we were out filming some of my trials practice (early on) I was trying to wall ride a thinnish wall and I must have failed to freemount and start 40+ time in a row before I rode along it and she couldn’t believe how dedicated I was not to give up. I spent 4 weeks practicing on that damn wall and still go there now to practice still standing and 180 hopes on it etc :stuck_out_tongue:

I am only 34 but I don’t really have big balls like the youngsters so I struggle pushing my limits doing trials, convincing myself that jumping off a 4-5 foot drop is a good idea takes some work, I find it helps to screw it up and crash and burn as the unknown of what will happen and will it hurt is my problem, once you pick yourself up and realise “well that hurt but not too much” throwing yourself off again becomes easier (and I always mike sure I finish on a success so jump straight back on after I stack a landing).

I am just about to rebuild my kh26 into a hk29 and a few people have warned me it might take a bit to get used to the change but as ever I am going into it with can do attitude and don’t believe I will have any issue (maybe a few attempts at free mounting but I can jump mount, kick up mount on a uni so 1.5" of pedal height increase doesn’t phase me), when I went from my kh24 to kh26 after only 2 months of riding I just did it and went straight out on a long day ride with friends not even thinking about it.

With the right mental attitude, determination, basic Unicycling isn’t that hard as as has been said your body learns to ride and your mind only has inputs into where you want to go, what to jump etc everything else is autonomous like walking. It is one of things that makes Unicycling so great and pure.

I have lots of skills to develop at trials and I need more saddle time on XC/MUni to get my fitness and endurance up (up to 24.4 mile in a single ride now!) but will keep plugging a way at those over time

I agree with that. On several things which are largely confidence issues I’ve made my biggest gains after screwing up, or even after screwing up and hurting myself a little, as the part of my brain holding me back realises I’m not about to kill myself. Is the same reason wearing shin pads often helps my riding a lot when doing something I’m a little scared of (mostly I go without as I find them hot and uncomfortable).

Though I have to say you have far better persistence than me - which is one reason I think you’ve progressed so much faster - that and I whatever you say you have rather more balls than I have a 42. I don’t think you’ll even notice an issue with riding a 29.

To come back to an earlier point, just the other day I was a bit lazy mounting a bit off balance and found myself doing a 90 degree twist of the uni to get it back under me. That freaked me out a bit, as it all happened without me being at all conscious of what I was doing, and I wasn’t even aware I could twist the uni like that - certainly not something I’d manage if I was thinking about it.

This is a dated thread but the advice is great. This has been my experience as well over the last 8 months. I enjoy watching unicycle videos and reading about the experiences of others but was rightly told (from LanceB) “you will find that the cure for most riding issues is: more riding.”


Lots of well said points here. I tell people, most anyone can learn to ride a unicycle! The requirement that is difficult for most is persistent in trying. You just have to want it. Falling is hard to get used to, then the riding gets easy. Ski polls are great. 2 broom or mop handles work to. Pad up and give it a go. My 8 year old obsessed her self with it to the point she would eat sitting on her unicycle, resting her elbows on the table! Couple hours a day every day.About 1 year in now, she idles now, starting to 1 foot, rides backwards, hops, and muni’s a bit with me. My 13 year old started at the same time and quickly lost interest, and never got past ski pols. I feel thier is something special, a certain confidence or control in different places or position a person can get, I feel only unicycleist get this. I just want them both to experience this.

Yup, I’d go with that. All of that stuff is probably good for keeping the brain occupied while the lower body is doing the important work though.