From beginner to intermediate

Bought my first unicycle last August (24’’) at age 61. I believe I had reasonable progress and managed a couple of hundred meters after 10-15 hrs. My heartbeat was high which I understand is common during this phase. I kept on progressing and after 8 weeks I could ride 1,5 km, however still fighting balance. I then bought a Nimbus Oracle 29. I have slowly made progress and can now ride 2-3 km on reasonably flat surface. My avg heartbeat has also come down.
To take it to the next level means learning to climb and going downhill using the break. I have started holding my hand on the seat since this seems to be a fundamental skill. When riding I experience that the uni suddenly accelerates and I need to compensate by pedalling faster. This is very stressful and I ve also had bad UPD caused by this. I feel this problem is more present after moving my hand to the front of the Seat. I assume there is something with the balance I need to work on.
Can someone please share some Experience on this so I can easier take to the intermediate level.

Sounds like good progress to me. I learned at age 40 (on a 24") and it took me 3 months (about an hour a week, but was also stubborn enough to learn how to freemount as part of that; never used a fence or wall). At the end of 3 months I was doing a mile. A year in, regularly commuting the mile to the local train station down and up a pretty good hill (with flat streets in the city). 2 years in, my longest ride was 24 miles on a 29er (a combination of bike paths and roads).

Re: the brake - no reason you can’t practice with it on flat land. It’s a real knee saver on the downhills, definitely worth spending some time on. Might save you some UPD troubles if you practice applying it and continuing to pedal anyway. Maybe that’s what you’re already doing though.

I’ve spent virtually all my hill time on a 24". The 29 and 36 have mostly seen distance.

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What you describe seems quite normal to me as you are learning. Initially you will only be able to hold one hand at the saddle for brief periods of time. As your balance improves you will be able to hold for longer. Then you can hold your second hand at the saddle for short periods of time and in the end you can ride both hands on the saddle (or handle) almost all the time.
Obviously riding with one hand on the saddle most of the time is a prerequisite for using a brake (which is a nice skill to master for riding downhill and making quick stops).
I don’t have any special tips for advancing. For general riding you will improve gradually over time and everyone is different. Personally I still feel I’m improving slightly after riding several times at week for the last three years.

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I‘ve ridden a 20“ unicycle for about 35 years before buying a 26“ fatty with a brake. If I remember correctly, I did my first tries to brake on a pretty steep path in a forest. That probably wasn’t very smart, in hindsight… But all went well and I found the act of braking constantly quite intuitive. Adapting the brake power to help cope with obstacles is a different story, though.
If I was you I‘d start with constant braking (to get the descent out of the equation) on a long and not too steep slope. That way you can start to brake with your legs and then very gradually apply the brake. This should hopefully prevent UPDs from braking too hard too quickly. And if you still UPD, your chances to run it out are better than doing so in steep terrain.
When you gently increase the braking force you will feel how your legs have to take less and less of the braking workload. Might be interesting to get to the point where you have to actively pedal (as if you were climbing a gentle ascent) to overcome the braking power and keep on moving. I actually find I brake like this quite often. Don‘t know if it‘s considered a good or a bad habit by more experienced brake users, but the main advantage I see is better control since the legs do what they do (almost) all of the time: pedal for propulsion.

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Practice riding with one hand on the handle. When that is comfortable do it with your offhand. Practice till comfortable with both hands. Any and all riding to practice is what was most beneficial for me.

Braking. Light touch on the brake. Just enough so you can feel it bleeding off speed. Remember to be gentle with it. Grabbing too hard will lock it and you’ll UPD. When you can ride with a gentle pressure on the brake try decelerating with a slightly harder grip/pressure. Then you’re ready for slight descents. I ride-the-brake for steep descents as it gives me far more control going down than without a brake.

I advise adjusting your brake lever a bit. I was able to brake with mine easy enough but it never felt “right” to me. After adjusting the set screw on mine it made a difference to where it felt natural. Enjoy the learning stage.

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Hello and thanks for the post. It brought back memories of when I was first learning about 4 years ago! As far as the sudden acceleration, I would guess it is caused by your body moving further forward while reaching for the front of the seat. The further my head goes forward, the faster I have to pedal to catch up to it so I dont UPD! Lately I have been focusing more on keeping more upright posture while riding. It helps keep me balanced but reduces my ability to handle bumps and other obstacles. I find myself hunched over quite a bit and I worry that it is having a negative affect on my neck and shoulders.

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Great advice. Just today I made solid progress braking on my kh36. Just have to keep easing into it and not get frustrated. Not sure if it is correct but after practicing today I decided next ride I will try to focus on what it feels like in my feet; try to make the muscle memory/brain connection.

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Keep riding down different grades.

Minor grades - work on the gentle brake drag
Steeper grades - ride slower and hinge your body so the uni leans uphill and you lean forward.

Keep using the hand on the saddle and learn to use both hands for riding and braking.

Keep on riding.


Keep at it! :grinning:
Sounds like your skills are progressing fine.
I still occasionally have to pedal faster to “catch” my self, especially when I am getting tired or pushing myself.

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Thanks for your thougths. I will stay patient an try out breaking on flat ground

@Hammer, thanks for sharing your experience. I will continue and stay patient

@IvenBach thanks for sharing your experiences. So far I have only attempted to break in a descent. I will now try this out on flatter ground.

@Permanent_Wheelie thanks for your input. I will continue to work on my posture to avoid getting weight forward and more (uncontrolled) spead.

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@Canoeheadted Thanks for your tips. Together with the other tips I hope I will be able to do what you are describing. I am not giving up

@UniKirk very familiar feeling

Happy to help! I will add that the more you ride, the more these “problems” will disappear. I heard that advice from many people here and it is true! I still sometimes start a ride thinking my unicycle is set up wrong because I can’t stay straight or I’m leaning one way or the other. A few more minutes in the saddle and it corrects itself. My body will fall into place and I’m off! Keep up the practice!


All great advice. I agree that consistent practice is the best.
One point of additional motivation for braking: once you master braking, you can also use the brake to help “rescue” yourself for the described “falling forward”, although not directly but related (I find I can correct from too far forward by pedaling but from too far back I rely on the brake). Actually, when I try to ride really fast I generally feather the brake almost constantly as “preparation” to correct pedalling too fast to correct leaning too far forward.
In general this “uncontrolled state” will happen less as you get better. But later when you try to go really fast, good braking skill is exactly what you need to allow you to push even faster.


@MUCFreerider thanks for your advice. This is further down the road, but certainly a stretch goal😊