Helmets and other equipment

Julian Orbach wrote:
> What’s the consensus here? Are helmets a pre-requisite for outdoor unicycling?

Helmets are not absolutely necessary, but if you ever fall and hit your head,
you’ll probably appreciate the idea. The majority of people learning to unicycle
do not bang their heads (unless they are trying to make it to a wall in the very
early stages). Helmets are more necessary on bicycles because of speed, not
distance to the ground. Head injuries are the leading factor in cyclist deaths,
and if the head is protected, the rider is more likely to survive even a very
nasty crash.

If a bicyclist (or skater or skateboarder) hits a parked car, curb, or other
stationary object, speed will be a major factor in the damage, and the helmet
will make a big difference. If these are your worries, as a unicyclist, you need
a helmet less than they do.

However, if you ride along the street, another danger is being hit by a car. It
doesn’t matter how fast you’re going; all the speed is provided by the car, and
a helmet is as important for you as for anyone else.

By wearing a helmet you also make a visual statement to the people who see you
ride. You say to them that you are thinking of what might happen, and you’re not
just some kook out to hurt himself. OTOH, seeing the helmet may also put into
people’s minds the fact that you are worried about falling. These days, when (in
the states, at least) helmets are becoming not only mandatory, but also more
common, more comfortable, and more socially acceptable, wearing a helmet will
not make you stand out as much.

kneepads and gloves for all racing events. Helmets are strongly recommended,
and required in the downhill glide, unlimited class (big wheel/giraffe) races,
and fast backward races. By wearing safety equipment in our competitions, it
promotes an image of safe fun; rather than a bunch of kids racing toward a
giant pile-up with wheels and limbs flying (hockey does not require safety
equipment, yet).

Julian went on to write:
> Here in Australia they are compulsory for bicyclists but riding a unicycle on
> the roads is probably flaunting far more laws than just that. I will have to
> rely on the goodwill of any police who see me.

In this department, the helmet will make you look better to the police. Chances
are, you are not flaunting laws, unless they are similar to the British laws
quoted a few months back that said ‘cyclists.’ If the law doesn’t mention
unicycles, it is up to interpretation. Not by you, of course, but by the
officers who enforce it. When police see someone riding a unicycle, they have
the same reaction as the average bystander, which is something on the order of:
“That guy will fall down any second, because what he’s doing is practically

That is what non-riders think, isn’t it? They assume you must fall shortly. A
policeman in that situation sees you possibly getting hurt which (in the states,
at least) could lead to a liability situation. The policeman’s job is to
preserve public safety, and what you’re doing threatens that safety. This is why
cops sometimes give unicyclists a hard time, even if there are no available laws
to be violating.

If you want to give unicycling a good image, and leave a good impression in the
minds of non-riders, always be polite, and obey the rules of your area! If
you’re in an area where you know bicycling is forbidden, the polite thing to do
is realize that if they had unicycles in mind, they would have mentioned them in
that rule. If you go into stores or malls and you have to bring your unicycle
with you, carry it with the wheel off the ground, and you will get a lot less
attention from security guards and the like. With the wheel on the ground, you
look like you’re about to ride it. If you carry it, it’s a parcel (imagine one
kid carrying a skateboard in the mall, and another one pushing it on the ground
in front of him; who looks more likely to trip someone?). I could go on, if
others want to continue this.

Beirne Kornarski wrote:
>Here’s the stuff I have accumulated for my commute. None of it is
necessary, but it is how things have worked out:


>Rear-view mirror

I have a helmet mirror for bicycling, which I’m still getting used to. It’s
glass, but it’s so small there is almost no danger from breakage. I also have a
unicycle with a mirror on it. It’s called the Excessory Cycle. I made it in
1981, and rode it in parades for many years. You can read about it in the Winter
1982 issue of the USA NEWSLETTER. The cycle was coated with all possible bike
accessories that were available at the time. The mirror was mounted just above
the fork crown, on a 45 degree angle, so that if you looked down between your
legs, you could see an upside down view behind you. Very useful. The Excessory
Cycle also had two bulb horns, one electric horn, electric turn signals, a
generator operating a headlight, tail light, and two side lights, a
speedometer/odometer, rear rack, pump, water bottle, toe clips, two flags, a
license plate, lots of reflectors, bungee cord tie downs, and more. Yes, it was
rideable. Lately, it has been rusting up on the ceiling with the other members
of my uni collection.

>Reflective vest

Good for riding at night

>Flashing LED blinker

Better for riding at night


It’s easier than carrying those groceries!

>Cycling computer

Always fun to attach to the cycle. Perhaps Bierne can tell us how he mounted
his, and what brand he used?

I hope this starts lots of people talking.

Keep riding! John Foss, president International Unicycling Federation

Re: Helmets

In a message to the Unicike Mailing List, Jack Halpern wrote:

> Julian Orbach wrote:
> |> What I really want to do is get an old bike helmet and cut it in half,
> |> leaving the straps intact, to make a unicike helmet. I think it would
> Julian, is “unicike” a slip of the keyboard, yet another word for unicycle, or
> just to check if I’m really paying attention :slight_smile: ?

It was a word I made up just for that message as a gentle dig at you after all
the lexicographic arguments in which you have, quite irritatingly, been 100%
right every time :frowning:

On the other hand, I think “unicike” has quite a nice ring to it…


– Julian Orbach (julian@cs.uq.oz.au) – University of Queensland,
Brisbane, Australia

Re: Helmets & crashes

clamb@sirius.uvic.ca (Clamb) wrote:
>Well, funny that we should be discussing this because on the way to school
>today (a ride of 2-3 km) I happened to be speeding along at 16km/h (~29"
>when I hit an unexpected bump and bailed big time onto the concrete! My battle
>injuries consist of a badly bruised hip, scraped knee, ankle, elbow,
>2-3 tears in my backback. Only reason I didn’t crack my head was because my
>book bag was sooo big I did a turtle on it’s back impression as I skidded
>the ground Anyways, the long and the short of it is that from now on I am
>planing on wearing a helmet whenever I attempt to go for new speed
>am in a rush to get somewhere.

Sorry to hear about your nasty crash. It was also only at our last UNICON, last
summer in Minneapolis, that we decided to make helmets mandatory in our downhill
gliding race. Our course had some bumps in it, and was surrounded by slippery
wet grass, making for some big potential ouches.

Now, if your experiences are anything like mine, when you did this big
spectacular crash, there were lots of people who just happened to be watching at
that moment, weren’t there. Am I right? THAT’S what always happens to me!

By the way, with a little practice, you should be able to get your 20" wheel to
go at least 16 MILES per hour (25 kph?)! Make sure you’re also wearing gloves
and kneepads.

John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone very fast unicyclist unicycle@aol.com