history of unicycling

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: history of unicycling

Me too. Trees are always up for a good hugging…

Re: history of unicycling

Can the flies join in?


Re: Re: history of unicycling

As long as they bring their own phone booth…

Re: Re: history of unicycling

i love a good flame war! but lets not get too far into the gutter

its interesting to note that that both clowns and skaters wear “those baggy pants and big floppy shoes” well… sort off…



Boys, boys, boys…

Though it looks like the actual topic has been mostly diluted out of this thread, I’m going to jump in because this topic is refreshing compared to the usual ones. I’m not posting here much these days, as I have a bunch of other projects and I’m trying to keep my priorities straight.

Everyone seems to be assuming the circus has been around forever, at least pre-dating the advent of the unicycle. The circus as we know it today is not that old. As it developed, unicycling was developing along with it. A hundred years ago, variety entertainment, vaudeville-style stuff, and other forms of “unusual” theater came in all shapes and sizes, including what someone was describing from those old illustrations.

I haven’t seen that particular set of illustrations, though I’ve probably seen some or most of them before. And others like them. This is probably where most of the world first heard about unicycling at that time.

Let’s assume it was invented, independently, by cyclists around 1870. Who did they show it to? Other cyclists in their local clubs or towns. That’s it. They weren’t going to be seen doing it on the news that night, and most probalby didn’t seek notariety.

But performers did. “Wow, this is something new!” they’d say. Lots of stuff was new in those days. New machines were very popular. And the entertainers were the ones who brought the concept of unicycling to most of the world. Before today’s traditional tent (or indoor/theater) circuses were common, these guys were already doing shows, including all the stuff seen in those illustrations and more. All that stuff was really done, in most cases before the year 1900. Sebastian Merrill Neuhausen was one of the big ones around the turn of the century. Ultimate wheels, giraffes, and all sorts of things. But the shows he appeared in may or may not have been classified as circuses.

But as the years went on, those other types of shows faded in popularity, to be replaced by movies, radio, and TV. And by the evolution of the circus as we know it today. And the unicycles went with it.

A unicycle club with 100 members exists in Telluride, Colorado. I never knew this until I met Dan Wilson. Neither did most of the rest of the world’s population. Along the same lines, whatever hobby unicycling was going on back in those early days, was also similarly lacking in publicity. People didn’t know about it. They were going to know about the people who were promoting themselves.

The unicycle was invented by heroes and athletes. Try riding a 60" penny farthing with the back wheel off the ground. Scary! Whoever figured this out was tough. They were definitely athletes. They were also heroes, because without them, we wouldn’t have our beloved sport.

Anyway, back to public perceptions of unicycling. We all grew up seeing the occasional image of unicycles being ridden by clowns and circus animals. I haven’t seen much of that in real life. In fact, I’m probably one of the relatively few people who has seen a non-human ride a unicycle (Hans, a chimp at the Detroit Zoo in the 70s). Most clowns also do not ride unicycles. I’ve been do a dozen clown conventions. The average clown is not athletic. Professional performing clowns, especially of the European and Russian/former Soviet variety, are. That’s another story. I don’t want to go into the whole area of the public’s perception of clowns.

Look at a unicycle. Think back to before you could ride one. Did you see any practicality in it? We know they can be useful for some things now, but did you then? No. It’s a frivolous vehicle, and you usually look a little silly when you ride it.

Give people time. Unicycling is gradually being recognized as something other than circus stuff, but it will take many years for its image as a recreational and athletic activity to replace the circus one.

What do you think of when you think of trampolines? Sport? Olympics? Backyard toys? Guess where trampolines came from? That’s right, the circus. And today, people don’t seem to have trouble recognizing it as a sport (though liability insurance has removed them from most schools in the US).

We owe unicycling to the entertainers of old, who made it visible to the world. Later to Nissen, the gymnastics equipment maker who may have been the first to manufacture unicycles. It’s been a long road.

Re: Boys, boys, boys…

Yes, but I was less than eleven years old. Lots of things seemed practical. Now is when they seem impractical.

Thanks for bringing this thread back to the history of unicycling.

Re: Re: Boys, boys, boys…

does that mean u’re not in for the group hug?

Interesting thread…

But to get back off the subject and perhaps further from that group hug, attitude is formed by previous exposure (education). Hundreds of years of anything doesn’t make a 5 year old child ask if I’m a clown. The only place they’ve seen unicycles is with clowns and/or in circuses, and so they make that connection. It’s always the parents who are ashamed by the question. I assume they’ve made a connection that their child calling someone a clown is not a compliment. I generally stop and attempt to educate the parent that being a clown is not the worst thing, and also educate the child that not everyone on a uni is a clown -even when I am wearing the orange wig, red nose and big shoes.

The clown comment only bothers me when it is used with disrespect. Whether or not I am a considered a clown is determined by the person making that conclusion, and they are free to make it.

I also own a Penny Farthing/Ordinary and an Ultimate Wheel. I ride either well, but still can’t imagine how one led to the other.

True, except I don’t think most 5 year olds have actually seen a clown on a unicycle in person. They just aren’t that common. They have seen them in illustrations in books. Take a look throught the children’s section of your local library. I think that’s where the clown and circus image is generated.

The perception is the same, but based not on witnessing actual unicycle clowns; only pictures of them from days of old, and peoples’ imagination.

Excellent point, I reckon that’s where it’s coming from- childrens books.

I myself have never seen a unicycle in a circus (I missed the Chinese Sate Circus when it was in Sheffield) and I don’t think I’m ever going to see a clown on one.

It’s a similar situation with juggling in childrens books and on cards etc- the pattern is always a super low ‘shower’ with an unlikely number of balls, whereas 98% of real juggling patterns are going to be ‘cascade’ based patterns.

Burn the books! Burn the books!

I have this picture in my head now of a big bonfire fueled by every childrens book in existence that has an illustration of a clown on a unicycle.

Further to some of the posters here who’ve questioned the practicality of one wheelers- as I’ve posted before, out of my bike and uni I tend to use to uni more than 90% of the time.

Recent experiences with the 29-er have made me see just how viable it is as transport- light, versatile (i.e. ok on roads and pavements), as fast as a bike on the uphills (as for downhills I have no problem with being in control all the way down, even if it does mean it’s slower) etc etc, the list goes on.

Yesterday, finally getting round to installing new brake pads on my racer, I was made very aware of another uni plus- ease of maintainance.

What looked like a simple 5 minute operation (I really should learn!) turned into a 45 minute ordeal of working out a fairly bizarre mechanism (I know with experience it would become simple, but I’m a newbie with brakes), adjusting it and hunting down the incredible variety of spanner sizes necessary.

The last point especially is mind blowingly annoying- I understand the need for different sized nuts but surely all that is necessary is a big one and a small one?

Instead my bike has a bewildering array of nuts and bolts which require not just a full set of spanners, but two full sets- metric and imperial.

Such a shame- the bicycle could be a beautifully simple mechanism, as it is, it is in no way fully servicable by a beginner, and the cost of even the usual tools is high for a full range.

Unicycles share some of these problems, but much reduced. I admit I found the crank changing process took several attempts, and a thread stripping, before I got fully comfortable with it; but at least that’s just one task- on a bike every little job seems to have a similar learning curve, and there’s a lot of them.

Also, the lack of a chain, brake (in most cases!) and gears, means the uni is much easier to stay on top of (ha, ha!) when it comes to mainaintance.

Not dissing bicycles here; as eco friendly, simple, health improving, non polluting, easy to ride transport for the masses, there is no equal- I consider them to be one of mankinds finest technological achievements.

But unicycles, as well as being comparable in many ways, definitely have the edge when it comes to ease of maintainance.

Farenheit 451 ? Burn, baby, burn!!! :sunglasses:

Thanks to John Foss. For a long time now, I have respectfully considered you with the unicycle historian.:wink:

I’m curious…did Jen have her question answered?

Seems like a good guess that Curious_Jen is an agente provacateur so it really hardly matters.

Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ

Here’s the photos from Sebastian Hoher’s book ‘Unicycling- from beginner to expert’.

Qualities not too good, they’re snaps from a digital camera, rather than scans.

First is a race line up from 1886.

dave 002.jpg

and: -

dave 003.jpg

Finally, here’s Adolf Gunter at the end of a 200 km ride round a lake in 1910.

Any ideas as to what the wheel size is here? To me it could be around 29-er size, or is it more like a Coker?

dave 004rotated.jpg

Re: history of unicycling

Actually, I wouldn’t mind having handlebars for a long-distance ride –
also a place to put a brake lever.

On Sat, 14 Feb 2004 11:38:37 -0600, onewheeldave
<onewheeldave@NoEmail.Message.Poster.at.Unicyclist.com> wrote:

>Finally, here’s Adolf Gunter at the end of a 200 km ride round a lake in
>Any ideas as to what the wheel size is here? To me it could be around
>29-er size, or is it more like a Coker?
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