Hi - I'm new in these parts...

Hi everyone,

As I’m new to the unicycling mailing list, I thought it would be only polite to
introduce myself.

I’ve spent most of the last 5 years or so dabbling with various circus-type
skills (juggling, diabolo, devilstick, cigar boxes, balloon modelling etc.), and
then in summer 1997, I finally took the plunge and bought a 20" DM Ringmaster
(British made) unicycle.

The following is a brief history of my riding career to date.

  1. Riding forwards

Here in the UK, we don’t usually have long driveways or huge basements in our
houses, so there was no alternative but to get out there in public from day 1
and make a complete fool of myself.

Being one of life’s more sensitive souls, I took to going out in the late
evening when it was going dark and the only people around were a few

All set up with an old cycling helmet and gloves, I spent the first couple of
sessions just trying to get on the thing with the assistance of a wall, and just
to rock back and forth to get used to the pedal action.

The next couple of sessions were spent cycling beside the wall with my hand
banging against it every foot at first, then every yard, and eventually just the
occasional dab.

I had decided that when I eventually could do this as far as the end of the wall
(about 25 yards), I would just carry on cycling into the open space beyond - no
problem. Sure enough, the first time I went beyond the wall, a mad panic
engulfed me and I fell flat on my face about 1 yard later.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, in about 3 more sessions, I managed to get up
to about an average of about 5 pedal rotations in the open, with the occasional
10, and about 3 more days later I reached that magical moment where you are
suddenly able to just keep going for 30 or 40 rotations.

Even at that time, it was still very marginal - a small twig or crack in the
tarmac was enough to cause a pretty spectacular wipeout, but with perseverance I
was soon at the stage where I could keep going for maybe 400 yards, at which
stage my muscles or concentration usually gave way.

  1. Free mount

By the time I had mastered the forward riding, I was getting tired of the fact
that I could only practice in places where there was something to lean on while
mounting the uni. The car had come in useful as a “portable mounting aid”, but
the fingermarks on the roof had begun to look unsightly.

Having read a lot of stuff on the web about free mounting, I concluded that
there are really 2 methods for the basic mount:

a. Get the second foot onto the top pedal while it’s forward of centre, and
pedal away in a single forwards movement.

b. When the second foot goes on the top pedal, do half a turn backwards, then
start to pedal forwards as normal.

Method a. seemed simpler in theory, so this is the one I tried first. After 3 or
4 sessions, I could do a successful mount very occasionally (about 1 in 10), and
I thought that with more practice it would improve pretty quickly. Over the next
week or so, I continued to practise, but there was no improvement, and I just
couldn’t achieve any consistency. Everything happened too quickly and more often
than not, I ended up stranded with the cranks vertical and slowly toppled over.

Feeling slightly despondent, I thought I’d try a few days with method b. I found
almost immediately that because of the natural angle of the top foot when it
lands on the pedal, it is quite easy to pedal backwards, even if the pedals are
completely vertical. This was a huge discovery, because it meant that I could do
things more slowly without having to panic if the pedals reached vertical before
my second foot was in place. In another hour or so, I was beginning to control
the change of direction from backwards to forwards pedalling, and then
everything came together very quickly so that within a couple more days I was
making one out of every 2 or 3 attempts.

This was a huge step forward, as I could now ride anywhere without having to
look for trees/walls/cars/people everytime I needed to get on the uni.

  1. Idling

Since I started unicycling, I always felt that idling was the “holy grail”. Not
until I could idle for a reasonable time would I feel like a “proper”

As my mounting technique already involved pedalling half a turn backwards before
setting off forwards, I felt as if I was already half way there, and just needed
to add the other change of direction at the end of the forward stroke.

Having read of a few problems in falling backwards while learning to idle, I
donned my helmet for the first time since the early days, and tried to get into
an idle directly from a free mount.

Progress was pretty good and after the first session, I was up to about 3
complete cycles (i.e. 3 forward/backward pairs).

Over the next couple of nights, the average improved, and eventually (last
night) I got up to a record of 12 complete cycles. I now feel that with more
practice, the confidence and relaxation will increase, and hopefully within a
short time I should have mastered it, and I will finally think of myself as a
“proper” unicyclist!

So,that’s my unicycling career in a nutshell - if you’ve made it to here then
thanks for sticking with it. It was quite enjoyable to recall some of the
struggles that I had to get this far.

Regarding injuries, to my great surprise, I’ve never really had a bad one (yet).
I usually manage to get my feet down even if I can’t catch the uni.

In the very early days, I once lost the uni sideways and slid down the wall
on my arm, which was a bit painful, and I also had several nasty gashes where
one foot came off and the pedal came round and whacked me on the back of the
leg. Other than that, I’ve had nothing more serious than a few bruises mostly
on the backs of my thighs from when I come off and try to catch the seat
between my legs.

Anyway, that’s all from me for now. Please keep the chat coming. Apart from
asnything else, it’s always nice to know that you’re not the only one struggling
to learn what looks from the outside to be a pretty simple skill.

(Trying to) keep on top,