Hands free or hold on to the saddle?

I’ve watched lots of beginner tutorials and videos about unicycling over the last few days.
I noticed that some riders practically always have one hand on the saddle and the other is used for balancing. I’m not talking about riding in difficult terrain, but ordinary riding on paved roads.
I don’t like holding onto the saddle. Neither when mounting, nor when riding. Does it still make sense to do that?
If so, do you have to change hands regularly?
If not, and both arms are free, what is the relaxed arm position of an experienced unicyclist? Elbows bent like when running, or stretched out like when walking?

New riders tend to flail their arms for balance but once you get better at riding and no longer need to use your arms for balance it’s good to have somewhere to rest your arms. Not to mention you can ride faster holding the saddle and if riding difficult terrain it helps you stay seated. Alternatively most people put handlebars on their unicycles especially 36" wheels as this allows you to have both hands on the bars to move faster and have a place to rest your hands.

I hold the saddle to mount as my unicycle is heavy with the gear I strap to it makes it impossible to mount without at least one hand holding the saddle. I don’t change hands while riding as I favour holding the handlebar/saddle with my right hand. You can also use the saddle/bars to pull on while scaling hills.

If I’m not holding onto a seat or bars then they’re often in the front pockets of my hoodie/jacket.

Having arms loose or flailing around is just tiding and uncomfortable over longer distances.

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If you’re at the beginner stage, I’d say hands free. Just flap them around to help with balance. With time, the flapping will reduce. To the point of being able to put your hands in your pockets - not for everyone though.

I often hold with one hand and let the other arm passively hang down. That arm acts like a harmonic balancer.

For me it depends on the size of the wheel. On a 20" l don’t hold the saddle. On my 29"-36" I always do.

I like to change things up. Sometimes I ride hands free and others I will grip the saddle with my left hand. I’m not very good yet at riding with both hands on the bars. I can do it, but periodically I have to remove one to keep my balance. Holding onto the saddle allows you to pedal harder while climbing, brake harder with your legs while descending, use a brake if you have one and hop more easily.

Still, there’s times where I find being able to flail both arms keeps me from falling.

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If you are just riding around sidewalks on a 20", riding freehanded is alright. If you are trying to go faster, do tighter turns, ride over bumps or stop quickly, a hand on the saddle is great because it gives you stability - it simply attaches you stronger to the unicycle. Great for not getting bounced of, and also not “wobbling” the wheel when you pedal harder.

I change hands occasionally to rest my right arm, but no, you don’t have to switch them. I quite often have both hands on the seat if I don’t need a free hand for balance, because I don’t know where else to put it…

If both arms are free and I’m riding around, they are usually just dangling around on my side. There is no “arm drive” like you would use in running on a unicycle, so they are either passive or used for balance.


Normally I would ride with my right hand on the seat and the left in the air, but on bike paths with others overtaking me, I focus on holding the seat with left. This took some getting used to at first, but it is no problem anymore. On just flat asphalt, I also often ride with both hands on the seat (or on a T-Bar). As I sit more bent while holding the seat, I change the posture by sitting straight up, having either my arms hanging loosely by my side or arms crossed, or hands in the pockets.
I think my flailing only happens on rough terrain with 1 hand, while the other is on the seat.

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Thanks for all your responses! I tried riding with my hand on the saddle today. It goes better than I would have thought. I find it much easier with my left hand on the saddle.
I’m still too cowardly to reach for the saddle while mounting. I’ve probably smashed the pedal pins into my shins too many times in the last few days. Now I ride with shin guards, but it takes time for the fear of pain to dimish. Until then, I am not very fond of experimenting. :roll_eyes:

You’ll get there. I started by not holding the handle when mounting and I was doing that for quite a long time, but now I always do and I can’t really imagine not doing it.

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I hold the saddle while mounting, but I usually let go of it immediately until I am in control.

I hope so. :upside_down_face:
This morning I pulled the allen wrench out of the toolbox and removed all the pins from the pedals instead of wearing the shin guards. That feels so much better. It makes me much more daring again. I saw that there is a thread discussing the pros and cons to pins. As a beginner, I have to say very clearly: no pins!
Oh, and I noticed that some cats and dogs hate unicyclists. :scream_cat:

Jump mounts are a normal part of my practice routine. I land all of them seat-out and mostly practice them on grass. I keep my saddle at a freestyle height and am scared of having a run-in with my saddle, hence the seat-in-front technique. Anyhow, when I first started practicing jump mounts, I’d fix the rotation of the pedals (not the cranks) before jumping. This was especially important if I was practicing on more aggressive pedals, because the consequences of a bad landing on grippy pedals were unpredictable (sometimes the pedal would “roll over”). At one point, while practicing jump mounts on smoother pedals, I said “screw it”, and I stopped adjusting the pedals. I realized that, even if I had fixed the pedals, I would still have to make a foot adjustment after landing the jump-mount. Also, I could point my toes at different angles, during the landing, to accommodate different pedal angles. And, if you look at most pedals, they are angled on the edges to account for edge-landings. So, long story short, this is an example of how smoother pedals liberated my practice technique and made me more daring.

@oaradl keep us posted on your progress!

I noticed that dogs often look puzzled when I ride by. They dont bark or run after

Not to discourage you, but please be aware that pedals without pins can still pack a wallop. Of course, however hard the hit, the damage will be less without those pins!

Holding the saddle does various things:

  • Gives you greater stability in relation to the cycle; keeps your body oriented on the seat
  • Gives you more power to accelerate, or get over rough terrain. Otherwise your body just lifts up out of the seat and your control is diminished
  • On really rough terrain it can dampen some of the pounding between the saddle and your body. Yes, this is sometimes a thing.
  • pressing down on the handle takes some of your weight off your crotch, which is important if you ride for long periods of time
  • Larger handles, or handlebars, allow both hands to be on there. This can make you more aerodynamic, and again make it easier to lean forward and take some of your weight off the saddle
  • It makes you look like you know what you’re doing. Maybe. My belief is that the average bystander, seeing you hold onto your crotch, figures there must be a reason for it, and therefore that you know what you’re doing :stuck_out_tongue:

What to do with your arms? Whatever you want. It really depends on the type of ride you’re doing. Riding down the street, you are free to use your arms for just about anything, or nothing. Riding on rough terrain, my free arm is generally held in a position that allows me to move it different ways to assist with balance or steering. For Road riding, I mostly keep both hands on the bar and try to be (somewhat) aerodynamic. This doesn’t matter much at speeds below 20kph, but if you’re going faster, it starts to be a factor.

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On my first day learning to unicycle I learned that pins can be pretty painful. I took them out before the next learning session. I eventually put them back in once I could ride better since smooth aluminum is really slippery; especially when wet.
Have fun riding. :slightly_smiling_face:

Yeah, I know. Thanks for your very detailled and helpful response.

So far, I’ve only slammed the pedals into my shins half a dozen times since I started riding. Yesterday, virtually all mounts went well. Some were wobbly, but I can now catch the pedal with the other foot, if I shift too much weight on the balancing foot.
I have realized that it is important to keep body tension. The more exhausted I am, the more the unicycle wobbles. If I tighten the core again, it runs straight ahead in a stable manner.
Yesterday I rode up a steep hill for the first time. That was really exhausting. Loose gravel threw me off later. And mounting on an incline seems to be a lot more demanding.

Pedestrians often cannot judge at all how safe you are on a unicycle. Some don’t swerve an inch, others swerve into the meadow. I often get off to be on the safe side.

At the end of my ride, I went down a curb. To my surprise, I was able to balance it well, but then still had to dismount because another unicyclist had crossed my path. He was riding an electric unicycle - in full motorcycle gear. A very rare encounter. :sweat_smile:

I honestly have no Idea what to do with my arms, although I also have the same problem with walking. Swinging my arms just feels wrong, but so does having them dangling awkwardly by my sides. I guess I should learn to walk properly before making comment :upside_down_face:
That said, when unicycling at reasonably low speeds, I find resting my hands on my knees like over the arms of a chair is a fairly comfortable position.

Funny you say that. I noticed it is especially old ladies that feel very insecure around me and ride in a big circle around me or beside the cycle path even.

Once I took my 29" to work and back then I could only ride with my right hand on the seat and left hand out and because I never go as fast as bicyclists, an old lady was complaining that she couldn’t pass me, because my arm was in the way. Since then I’ve been practicing having my right hand in the air on cycle paths.

This weekend on the 32 inch, I had an old cyclepath going uphill with roots protruding everywhere. Unfortunately because of the good weather there were many other cyclists, so there I actually also decided to dismount and walk. It takes a lot of concentration to tackle the roots and bumps while going uphill. The chance of tumbling into a cyclist was too big. Downhill, I stayed on though.