Help a child to learn to unicycle


I myself have always wanted to learn on and off and my almost 5 year old has been watching videos and said she would love t learn. She has been able to ride a 2 wheeler since she was 3 and have just purchased a 16" Indy unicycle for her so should be here in a few days.

Does anyway have any advice as I myself don’t know how to, I’ve watched a few videos that’s about it.

With regular practice should it take weeks months years to help her to learn.

I’m quiet small so hoping to have a go myself on her one lol :slight_smile:

Hi Susie,

It’s awesome that your 5-year-old wants to learn to ride a unicycle! If she’s been riding a 2-wheeler since age 3, she’s a pretty remarkable girl, with very good balancing skill. She should take to the uni very well. There have been numerous postings on the forum over the years of similar-age kids riding.
My estimate would be in the days or weeks area, as far as time to learn goes.
I would recommend starting out learning to sit on the saddle, holding a chain link fence on one side, and holding your hand on the other. When she’s comfortable with that, start moving along the fence. When that becomes comfortable, move away from the fence, still holding your hand. Then just launch!
Good luck, and post pictures/videos! :slight_smile:

I taught my son to ride aged 7 at the start of this year (he could also ride a 2 wheeler at 3, but I put off getting him to learn until I was sure he was ready - his big brother still doesn’t ride as he doesn’t have the desire or the right mindset). It took about 3 weeks for him to be able to ride the 10m across our paved area (which is the point I decided I could ride when I was learning!) Was also helping out teaching another kid his age a few days ago.

First stage is just to get comfortable sitting on top of the uni - it’s important to be on top of it, just using any supports to steady yourself rather than leaning on anything. Standard technique to get on is to have a pedal almost at the bottom but slightly towards the back - when you step on that the wheel will roll back under you. Get your daughter to do that first of all with you supporting her from behind (at least that’s what I did at first with my son). Then with a support on one side and you on the other, then with just a wall or something to support her. Once on the uni then get her to just do a bit of rocking back and forth and getting the feel of different pedal positions whilst keeping her weight on top of the uni. That should all be fairly quick, I think we got about that far on the first day.

Checking my pics, this is his first day on it:

Then onto moving - with my son we initially did this with him leaning on me a lot and trying to completely support him. We then moved onto me just holding his hand while he rode around, and spent quite a bit of time doing that over several days. If you have a convenient wall or fence, you on one side the fence on the other may help for the initial stages of this, but we don’t really have anything useful in front of our house, which is otherwise a great place to learn.

Once he was riding around holding my hand it was then convincing him to put less weight on it, and have it in a position he could let go - then just let him go! It’s all about persistence now (even more than before), as it takes a while to get anywhere, but you have to just keep trying and falling off. That’s pretty much it - once she is riding off on her own she will learn to ride even if it seems like she’s making no progress.

Which brings us onto the most important part - she has to want to do it enough and be able to cope with days of making no progress. My son really wanted to learn and I tried not to push him at all - encourage him, yes, but if he didn’t want to ride I didn’t make him. Thankfully he was mostly keen to go out and I think we only missed one or two days in that 3 weeks.

I would very strongly counsel against going anywhere near chain link fence for any learner.

Firstly it can cause serious hand injuries when the rider falls with their fingers stuck in the wire. Secondly, it teaches clinging rather than riding and can lead to a twisted riding technique.

My teaching method is to have the learner sit on the uni while holding a suitable rail and move the pedals around a bit to get the feel while controlling the rolling direction (sideways control rather than the obvious fore and aft). This teaches the basics of steering which is vital to staying upright.

Just do this for maybe fifteen minutes but it depends on how they progress.

Then move to block mounts. A portable aerobics step works really well and are easily found in garage sales and junk shops. The blocking stops the wheel rolling back and elevates the rider prior to the mount making mounting easier. Put pressure on the back pedal to hold the wheel against the block then step up with the other foot to the front pedal.

Start out this stage on grass (as smooth as you can find) with a very small downward slope. The slope helps them to get moving while the grass allays the fear of dismounts and falls. Learning to fall should be a parallel process of advancement as riding skills progress. Then move to a smooth hard surface which will then seem really easy.

Get them to concentrate on one aspect of riding at a time. Hit the front pedal squarely, stay upright, go straight, get past the first half turn. Eventually they will be able to combine these skills and they will be riding albeit rather wildly.

Demonstrate how the uni leans back while the body leans forward to maintain the contact point under the centre of mass. Explain how the starting lean is much more than expected to get the body mass moving quickly and how the uni is driven rapidly into the position under the rider.

I found these suggestion helpful for learners.

Riding is a continuous fall saved by intervention of the wheel, just as is walking is saved by the step…

Steer the uni in the falling direction by pushing the nose with the inside of the thigh. The wheel should basically be where you would have put your foot if walking.

Later they can learn to tilt the uni to steer by leaning the body in the opposite direction from the turn.

Don’t worry about weight on the seat at first. Beginners usually “walk on the pedals”. Weight on the seat requires a more advanced control of the angle of uni, which will shoot out from under a learner if they try it too early.

Have the seat comfortably high so they can grip it between the upper thighs while standing on the pedals with their legs somewhat bent.

Where are you located?

Hi there

I would recommend starting with you holding on to the saddle on the back and maybe also in the front. That way she can already ride and have the most fun…
The next step would be that she sits freely on the unicycle and you hold on to here upper arms and when the uni slips away you can simply lift her up.
Then I would start with her holding on to a fence on one side and to you on the other. If that works well the next step would be her holding on only to you on one side.
I think that’s the state she’s going to stay in the longest. Just go around the block a few times like that.
I¨m sure she’ll learn very quickly and if you practice every day she will be able to ride herself after one week or two.

Have fun unicycling :smiley:

Thank you for the replays, I had trouble logging back in so couldn’t see the, yesterday.

I am located in London England. There some great info here.

Unfortunately the unicycle I ordered arrived today and even tho I done quiet a bit of research and made sure to order the correct size for her inside leg with the seat the lowest her for is about 10cm from the bottom peddle :angry:

I am trying to see if I can exchange it but don’t know if I can because it’s been taken out of the packaging. I ordered a 16" Indy unicycle.

I have absolutely no idea which one to get now as I don’t think the 12" will be small enough either only being 4" smaller.

Her inside leg is 49-50cm.

There is a really good one I see in a YouTube video but have no idea what it is. I like the fact the the wheel looks quiet large and the unicycle looks quiet low down.

Kids who wanna try…kids who don’t

The fact that she has:
1.) Done research
2.) Wants to do it.

Is amazing and she’s practically there. Most kids are too scared/intimidated to even “consider” doing this one wheel circus act. Me included…back then.

Get her the wheel and she’ll figure it out. Here’s a great one I myself “learned” from on how to ride.
Watch the forward fall and the shoulder/elbow/hip sway dynamic.

Also, beware there’s a lot of material out there by “already can do experts” who are really awful at teaching. They are typically “natural riders” who can’t empathize with what us “non-natural riders” experience. It took me 70 hrs to get it. Good luck.

Not the best example. Poor Zoe spent the vast majority of her time getting back on the unicycle, rather than working the balance. But high marks for the great knee and wrist protection that kept her bouncing back for more! (also I’m glad we didn’t find out what would happen if she had strayed onto the pool cover)

Better to spend more time at your support, practicing half, full and then multiple revolutions before letting go. When it gets so boring you can’t stand it, that’s when it’s time to bite the bullet and go for free air!

The smaller the child (development-wise), the more assistance they will need in the beginning to get the idea of how to control that wheel below them. Try not to give more support than what is needed, but in the beginning that may be a lot.

There are many ways to learn. I rode on stage last year with a twelve year old girl who had taught herself after seeing a performer at a festival.

She started by learning what she had seen the performer do, a static free mount. She said this took her about a week. Then another week to get the uni to start moving and was able to ride after about a month.

I asked her if she could do any tricks to which she replied, “like what?”. I suggested riding backwards. She responded “never thought of that” and proceeded to ride a couple metres backwards on her first attempt.

I expect her unusual learning sequence starting with a free mount had taught her a lot about riding in any direction.

The point is, although she took a relatively long time to get started, none of that experience had been wasted.

Same for me. I learnt on rough grass and it was really frustrating at times but by the time I could ride, I could already handle uneven surfaces and progressed very quickly out in the world.

Hi I did reply yesterday but just came back and noticed it’s not here. Thank you for the great replies.

The unicycle arrived and it’s way to big, I ordered a 16" going by there inside leg guide measurement and she’s about 10cm away from the lowest peddle on the seats lowest setting. Luckily they have said I can return it.

I am looking for for advice on which one to get I’ve seen a nice one a small child was riding on YouTube the unicycle looks small and the wheel large.

Anyone know what unicycle is is or have any recommendations

Thanks again


I think it is not the uni itself. You probably have to cut the seatpost to make it fit. When my daugther was 5,5 years old, she started on a 20 inch with a cut seatpost.

I agree - the first bit of that video she spends a lot of time doing exactly what she shouldn’t be doing - leaning on the support rather than having her weight on the uni - twisting to get both hands on the support as well. I’m not convinced she’s learning much like that. See my pic above - that’s his first day on the uni, and that’s the position I had him getting into before rocking around on the pedals. He wanted to have both hands on, but I made him just use one - if they still need two hands on a support, then they’re not ready for the next step.

Zoe also seems to miss out on the stage of riding around with somebody helping to support her - as mentioned above, my son spent quite a lot of time doing that, and it benefited him a lot. I could feel the point he was starting to balance himself and was ready to let go. It’s also really useful to be rolling before launching into space rather than having to accelerate the uni as you let go - I did actually learn myself letting go from stationary, but I appreciate it made it harder.

I have to admit my son didn’t get all of that protection when he learned to ride - but then he didn’t need it as he wasn’t taking crashes like that by the time he started trying to ride by himself.

I agree that a 16" should work. You will need to cut the seatpost and maybe even the seat tube (search other threads for how to do that with the slit and all). You can also put on shorter cranks, which are pretty cheap (I think I got mine for like €10). Anything smaller than 16" is pretty hard to ride (the hub width on a 12" is basically the same as on a 16" or 20", so your feet spread way apart making it much harder to ride).

My older daughter is pretty coordinated and ambitious; she was riding a pedal bike completely alone without help at 2.5 years and since age 4 she rides her mountain bike on trails and in downhill mtb parks, but the unicycling is taking a bit of time (which is okay of course).

For her 4th birthday I got her a 16" uni and put on shorter cranks (102s I think), cut the seattube and the seatpost down, and she fit on it. Would need to check, but I think she was maybe around 106cm or so. She’s 5.5 years old now and about 114cm and I’ve had to raise the seat up a fair bit (a normal 16" with the seatpost cut down would now work I think).

I don’t push my daughter at all but of course help her whenever she wants to try. She also likes to watch unicycle videos (she doesn’t really watch TV, cartoons, movies or shows, but just the occaisonal youtube kids stuff with me, but most frequently aks to see skiing, biking and unicycling videos – actualy unicycling videos are her favorite, both with kids and with crashes/fails).

As my daughter can’t yet ride without help I guess I can’t really speak from experience, but it seems to me that holding the seat of torso doesn’t do much to promote learning as she then doesn’t learn to balance (the first few rides when she was 4 she would slump all her weight on the seat and I was merely holding her while she pedaled). I guess it did allow her to do something and get used to it rather than just frustrated. She can now “mount” holding my hand and understands that she needs the rear pedal back to step onto to mount and then gets her pedals flat and rocks holding my hand. She switches from wanting to ride holding only 1 hand to wanting 2 hands to then trying to ride “alone” “alone!” but she presently only makes it about a half a pedal revolution (but she’s also learning to recover from the dismount and is definitely making progress). For the first year she wanted to ride maybe once or twice a month and the sessions were very short at maybe 5 to 15 minutes. Today was her longest session at probably about 25 minutes. I think some day it will just click, but it may be next week or next year.

What I did with my daughters 8 and 12 for the very start:

Considering me standing on their left side:
Hold their left hand with my left hand
My right forearm goes under their left armpit

This way you have enough “lift” for the very beginning and they can start cycling.
This way of holding also prevents them from falling on their very first attempts.
Then as they are progressing gradually remove the tension under the armpit, eventually removing the arm.
At first still armpit support for mounting, then mounting ithout.

Once they have progressed to just one hand I ask them to hold my forearm instead of giving a hand.
This way the kid is in control of the “holding” and while cycling they can let go once they find their balance is OK.
I keep walking beside them with my arm out so they can tap / grab it for support.

We had to start this way as out typical training spot did not have any rail or fence.

Later we moved to the local skate park which has a nice rail along the full length.

I still use the hand + armpit method if anyone wants to try.

Sounds pretty similar to what I did

I kept using a hand, but open and underneath, so he could just let go - I wasn’t gripping.