General Stuff for Beginner

So my wife called my bluff and bought me a unicycle for my 58th Birthday. Therefore to save face I had to follow through and learn how to ride. I’m in the fairly consistent 50 to 300 foot runs now after a little over 10 hours. A few general questions I can’t find on other posts.

  1. What’s the general hours to get to the point you “don’t think about it” and feel somewhat at ease?

  2. I consider myself in good shape as I row a lot. But the unicycle kicks my ass. Some of my runs end just because my inner thighs and abdominal obliques are exhausted. Practice, practice, practice, but what is the range of hours to ride before 1/2 mile to mile is within reach?

  3. A lot of times my heels hit the cranks causing me to fall off. Can you purchase wider pedals and is that advisable?

  4. I don’t feel comfortable with the balls of my feet on the pedals, but the videos I see indicate that is what should be on the pedal. I like the middle of my foot on the pedal. Is that a bad riding habit that is going to affect me later?

Thanks in advance for any responses.

  1. 1,000,000 hours
  2. See #1 above
  3. Sounds like you need clipless pedals
  4. To get the most out of your stroke you should pedal with your heels

You are welcome.

What Killian said was in jest. You are right where you should be. You should be tired, it should feel awkward, put your feet where they are comfortable. You have past the hardest part. Riding more is what you need to do from here.

Killian, you had me. If the other post had not been right there I would be throwing the Unicycle in the trash. Good one. Sillycontraption, thanks I would have been trying to ride on my heels.

You’ll be able to cover more distance once you’re able to put most of your weight into the seat and not on the pedals. I was able to ride a mile a couple of months after learning to ride. That’s after riding almost every day for about an hour. Theses days I can ride up to ten miles (4 without dismounting) in a day. So I’d say it takes a few months to get comfortable if you ride a lot. I still have times when riding is challenging like today. There was a strong wind coming from the North which made half the route a bit of a challenge.

I bought some Odyssey Twisted PC Pedals that are wider than the ones that came on my unicycle. They might work for you.

Every aspect of unicycling is a challenge. Sometimes it helps to focus on a particular thing for a while.

I didn’t have much trouble with tiring while riding. I would almost always UPD first. Eventually foot burn became a problem but I am working through that.

I worked out early on to get the seat right up and I suspect a lot of tiredness problems come from the seat being too low.

Ball on the pedal for just riding. Insteps for jumping. Best if you are able to do both and move between them.

Eventually you will learn to move your feet around on the pedals. Sometimes I can just lift my foot slightly and move it but that often causes a UPD. Usually I do it by sequences of rotating on one part of foot. Some directions are easier to move than others.

Jack: What kind of uni have you got? And how tall are you?

It took me considerably longer than you to get to the distances you have achieved but at that stage I realised the uni was my main problem. I upgraded to a QU-AX 20 inch and I was riding a mile within the week and several miles the week after.

Even though it was a 20 inch too, my original uni was way too small for me. The tyre was too narrow, the seat needed to be bigger and several inches higher. Looking back I am surprised I was able to learn on it at all.

I’m 6’-1’ and have a 24". I feel foolish because I don’t know exactly what unicycle it is. It just has about 10 unicycle.com stickers on it so it must be their generic brand.

You’re doing quite well. Guys our age (I learned at 47, I am 61 now) often take longer than that.

I don’t remember really. Perhaps “somewhat at ease” would be double the hours you spend learning to ride the distances you are at right now. “Don’t think about it” probably takes longer, but it doesn’t matter. Thinking about unicycling is a good thing :slight_smile:

Every beginner goes through this. I’d say you’re halfway at least. Like someone said: less weight on your pedals is less fatigue. This is something that comes automatically with more practice under your belt, but at this stage it wouldn’t hurt to make a conscious effort at it.

Are your feet usually pointing straight forward, when walking or standing? Some people have their feet naturally pointing outward. It’s better for your knees not to force them straight. In that case, wider pedals is one solution (and yes, they do exist), but probably a better solution is to buy a set of cranks that have more “Q-factor”, that is, they bend away from the axle.

If you have the ball of your feet on the pedal as opposed to the middle, the ankle movement is more effective, and so you distribute the work better between your thighs and your calves. Also, “ankling” (as it is called) allows for higher cadence (rpm) because the range of motion of your “heavy” thighs is less. If you want more stamina and speed in the end, balls is probably better if you would experience similar comfort - but apparently you don’t. Are you used to riding bikes with the middle of your feet on the pedal? Then don’t change it, at least for now. Once you are at the “don’t think about it” stage, perhaps you could try balls. Then you have that to think about :slight_smile:

You have a great wife!

There isn’t a specific template for how long things take to get comfortable; it’s very individual. Getting more comfortable, and using less energy, will happen in tandem; the reason you’re getting tired is that you’re not comfortable, so you’re wobbling back and forth and needing to correct all the time. Try to smooth out your pedal stroke, use a lighter touch on the pedals, but mostly, just practice.

Most unicyclists ride with the ball of their foot forward of the pedal axle, which is further forward than it would be on a bike. Do what feels comfortable.

Depending on what pedals you started with, a bigger platform pedal might feel better to ride on. The Odyssey Twisted PC is a good plastic platform pedal available cheap (~$15) and in funky colors if you want that; your local bike shop may have some.

Your heel hitting the crank is probably a result of not getting your mount foot positioned properly; you’ll get better at that. It still happens to good riders occasionally, though.

Good luck, and enjoy!

yep, as Vertigo says… put most of your weight into the saddle and not on the pedals. This is crucial for good riding but will only come with time and practice.

As your balance improves you will be able sit into the saddle more thus reducing the pressure on your legs.

Sitting into the saddle will help improve your riding posture and will give you a smoother cadence resulting in more speed and less stress on your body.

(1) With regard to being able cycle a unicycle “without thinking about it”… Hmmm Yep! 1,000,000 hours sounds about right:D

(3) If your cranks are nimbus ‘venture 2’ then it’s probably the square edges of the cranks catching your ankles. Most other cranks have rounded/tapered edges which help the crank to glide past the ankles.:slight_smile:

(4) pedals with a bigger platform should help you to get more of your foot on the pedal but make sure any pedals you use have good grip and DONT use clipless pedals :astonished: They are too dangerous.

Hope this helps.

My neighbors made fun of me when I started riding. I couldn’t concentrate on anything or anybody else. After a couple months I was able to pull-off a phony wave and a “how’s it going?” I still don’t feel comfortable talking to people while I’m riding. My day job involves continuous social interaction, so antisocial unicycling is just fine.

As a beginner, you’re probably suffering from excessive cognitive load. That’ll get better. But, when you stop thinking about the basics of riding, your brain will be ready for the next technical hurdle.

The physical part gets better. At some point, the physical exertion you put into unicycling will fall under a certain threshold. Above that threshold, you get worn out very quickly, below that threshold, you will be able to ride almost indefinitely.

Heels hitting the cranks…hmm…If you pedal more (for the time being) toward the heels of your feet, maybe this will stop happening. You might also experiment with different shoes. Some shoes have sharp edges that might more easily get caught on the cranks. If your seat is too low, your knees might extent out to the sides too much, causing you to also ride duck-footed, forcing the heels inward toward the cranks.

Good luck and keep practicing!

I know the heel problem the OP is referring to. It is related to ankle strike, but more extreme and not nearly as painful. Your foot comes down with the stroke, the hub end of the crank stops your heel, and you lose contact with the pedal. A UPD ensues.

The way I got over it was to exaggerate my foot placement such that it felt like my heels were too far out to the sides. Looking at my feet, they were fine, but they felt “wrong”. Eventually, it stopped feeling wrong.

Thanks everyone for the replies. Raised the seat 1/4" but I think that’s enough, leg is really close to straight when the pedal is down. Also worked on a little more on the ball of the foot. And finally if I focus on getting my heal out of the way before I push off the heel problem goes away. Did notice a small difference and made a few runs of close to 1,00o’ with some slow controlled turns. Thanks again.

You’ve got all the info you need, I think.

If you are doing 300m non-stop now, I would expect you to be riding 1500m non-stop by the end of next week. (Riding daily)

Riding without having to concentrate quite so much, about when you are riding 5km.

You will know you are getting your weight on the seat when you start to notice the seat… Once you have got to that stage it’s all on. Just keep going farther, I think a practical limit for a 24" is about 25km. :smiley: Then you get a 29 and then you get a 36…

I have the heel hitting the crank problem too. I have always assumed it’s a function of the shape of the sole, I use old running shoes. I’m looking at the advice on that one too.

I ride middle of the foot too. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that the high speed filming showed that the pro cyclists dont’ ‘ankle’ anyway.

You learned a lot faster than I did…

First of all- High 5 to you Jack! I’ve got some great local uni friends who learned in their late 50s or early 60s and just love to ride. Their smiles are just as big as the kids 1/8 their age.

You’ve already got some great advice in this thread from some well respected internationally known riders.

That isn’t going to stop me from throwing in a couple of opinions after working with a lot of people learning to ride.

  1. It varies wildly. It may even depend on the wheel size for the rider. It’s a process most definitely. There will be lots of plateaus in learning. Many times the breakthrough moment happens when you’re not thinking about it. The more you ride though, the more comfortable you’ll be. Build the muscle memory. If it’s fun, keep riding. If you get too frustrated, stop for a bit. Come back to it later.

  2. As it’s been said, weight the seat. Beyond that, your 50 to 300 foot runs should be increasing every few practice sessions. Hopefully you’ll relax a bit more too so they’ll take less energy. If you don’t always beat your best run, don’t despair. It’s better to ride shorter and in control than not catch up to your face.

  3. One extra thing to add to this. If you try the pedals, maybe the wider cranks, and are at a dead end (most likely the problem will be solved before you need to get here) there are some funky doodads that move your pedals out from the cranks: http://hostelshoppe.com/KNEESAVERS-Pedal-Extenders-174591/. I don’t know how good they’d be on a uni that gets dropped frequently as they’re theoretically going to increase stress on the pedal threads by making the pedal axles longer levers. I remember people advocating these back in my recumbent riding days.

  4. As it was said, seat height is key. As you ride further, you will probably gravitate more towards the ball of the foot. Don’t worry about it too much now though.

Last piece of advice. Keep a journal or take some video of your riding to be able to look back and see how well you progressed. Learning to uni as an adult seems to take a long time. We forget that it took us a long time to learn to ride a bike too. That’s because it was not only frustrating, but insanely fun. Keep that in mind when unicycling.

Thanks again everyone for your input. Just got in from practicing and had to wrap this up with an update. Finally made it out of the school parking lot and into the street bike path. Did it a few times and had a couple runs of 1,000 feet. Scary when cars come by though.

The cars ought to be scared! You could really mess up their paint-job. Seriously, be safe! 1000 feet is awesome. At this rate of progress, you’ll soon be asking for recommendations on padded b*ke shorts.

Congrats on your progress. You’re right on the development path that all of us went through. And isn’t it fun!

Don’t want to regurgitate old stuff but a quick post if it helps others learning. Almost every response I received was correct. After thinking I raised the seat a 1/4 inch and was where it should be, over time I raised it over another inch. The weight in the seat you can feel and makes riding farther much easier. I can’t practice every day (age, job and family) but I now have a total of 30 hours in the seat and just yesterday made a little over 3 miles without UPD. Of course I still have times where I go 10 feet and UPD. I tried a static mount once and failed miserably about a month ago and haven’t tried again. So now it’s time to tackle the static mount. Tired of mailboxes. Thanks again all.