How far to "master"?

I have a 6 foot unicycle that I can ride for 1.46 feet. Is that far enough to say I’ve “mastered” riding it? Is that even far enough to say I can ride it?

I think anything under 3 feet is still considered ‘Falling’


You can never “master” anything in the sport of unicycling.

Ryan Woessner :slight_smile:
UNICON XI Ind Freestyle World Champion

3 Feet?

OK. 3 Feet.

How about if I double the size of my unicycle, or let’s say, increase it by 2.1:

6 feet x 2.1 = 12.6 feet

Given that, if I double 1.46 feet, or let’s say, multiply it by 2.1:

1.46 feet x 2.1 = 3.066 feet

I get 3.066 feet.

So, if I can ride a 12.6 foot unicycle for 3 feet then I’m good to go? Would that be considered a successful ride? Or would it not work that way?

How does height relate to distance in a successful ride?

i think if you can ride it just normally with turns and not falling, you have your unicycle in you control. But if you aren’t possible to cycle on it for 10 meters + hight unicycle, i think you couldn’t unicycle on that giraf.


is this same reference to a certain 115’ giraffe by any chance? Ridden for 28’ (the length of the chain?)
115/28 = 6/1.46 roughly
in which case I think it get’s a bit more complicated.


I think that to master just riding a uni to somewhere you normally would, school, store, work etc. without an upd and being able to do it most of the time. Also on a public route, so that you know you can ride in front of people. Sometimes when I’m learning some new trick I can do it, but not in front of another person and not 100% of the time.

Re: How far to “master”?

Absolutely. You have mastered the unicycle. The greatest accomplishment one can achieve on a unicycle is to ride it 1.46’ :wink:

How does one determine that they have just ridden a 6’ giraffe 1.46 feet?

If your question was a serious one, I’d say that if you have to ask whether or not you can ride a unicycle then you probably can’t.

I never said I could ride a unicycle until I could resonably confidently ride it for 50m without falling, if there was one part on the pavement that put me off, I tried it over and over again.

I think you’ve mastered riding when you can ride forever until you get bored.

Damn! I’ll never master it! It’ll never get boring enough!

As for the giraffe, can you even do a normal uni yet? I could ride a 5 footer un assisted in control with 2 minutes of getting on. Any reasonable uni rider should be able to do at least 3’ within thier first 15 minutes.

Re: How far to “master”?

On Thu, 11 Mar 2004 16:04:45 -0600, johnhimsworth wrote:

>is this same reference to a certain 115’ giraffe by any chance? Ridden
>for 28’ (the length of the chain?)
>115/28 = 6/1.46 roughly
>in which case I think it get’s a bit more complicated.

That must be it. He’s just questioning the validity of Sem’s new world
record, but disguising it as an “obvious” question.

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

“Heck, even my toes were aching from trying to grip the soles of my shoes! - Tommy Thompson”

Re: Re: How far to “master”?

The originator of the question also calls himself Luther, like the religious reformer, the one who brings in new thoughts (?).

This is probably part of the joke as well.



There’s no joke to my question. It was sort of meant to “poke around” for opinions on what factors you think would be involved in making a successful ride. My cousin told me about the unicycle height record because he knows I ride. I thought it would be a good project for my physics class so this post is really part of putting that together. I’m going to use your opinions in my report. (hope you don’t mind!) If you take:

6ft x 19.16666, you get roughly 115ft and
1.46 x 19.16666 = 28 feet

Some of the other students in my class have reminded me of other parameters that need to be considered (weight, weight distribution, wheel diameter, pivot angle, surface resistance) but so far none of them think the attempt could be declared a success. I haven’t formed an opinion one way or another yet. I plan to prove it true or false through principles of math and physics. The first goal is to produce a formula for determining the minimum effort required to have a successful unicycle ride. For now, I’d like to have your opinions on this subject.

My name really is Luther. I’m not a reformer or religious leader of any kind. I’m just a student. (and I do ride a unicycle)

I think theres a lot of things that go into a sucessfull uni ride, but I don’t know that they can all be measured. You need to be able to balance and be able to adjust to fix anything that would cause the uni and yourself to be off balance so that you don’t upd.

I think a succsessfull ride would be once where you wouldn’t upd first of all. But I would also say that you couldn’t nessasaraly put a distance on it, cause you should always be looking to go further and have more you can do and have fun with it. You know your getting better when you can stay on till you want to get off, not because you loose it.


Re: Joke?

and they base these opinions on…? :thinking: how many of them ride?

i appreciate u’re applying your field of study to your field of interest and i have no issue with that
i’m just not sure
a) if the act of unicycling can be described in terms of an equation (unless of course u’ve found the black cat allready), or
b) if i particularly want something like unicycling to be disected in such a ‘soul-less’, mathematical way.
like juggling, i quite like the fact that it maintains an air of the ‘magical’ for me and i’d quite like it to remain

there we are, dave’s naivete for all the world to see

It was a well constructed and clever question. However, I think it is based on a faulty premiss.

The world record uni was 115 feet tall. A 6 foot giraffe is nominally 6 feet tall.

BUT the 6 foot giraffe has a 20 or 24 inch wheel. The 115 footer does not have a 20 x 115 / 6 = 383 inch (31 foot) diameter wheel!

This is important, because the simplest minimum definition of riding a unicycle is that you must complete a given number of wheel revolutions or pedal strokes. The very minimum would be one wheel revolution, which is two pedal strokes.

Somewhere else, I read that the official definition of a freemount (for Levels purposes) is a mount followed by three wheel revolutions.

But here’s a minimum definition I would use for a normal unicycle: where would the seat land if the unicycle simply fell over, with the wheel fixed in place? So that’s about 3 - 4 feet on a conventional uni, and 4 - 6 feet or so on a conventional giraffe. I do NOT think that this principle could reasonably be extended indefinitely to include world record giraffes. Such an attempt would have to be artificially limited by safety considerations, and the rider is clearly “riding” in a meaningful sense if she or he retains or regains control for a substantial distance.

Perhaps the minimum ride is a full cycle (2 pedal strokes) with the ability to stop and regain balance at the end of it? Once you can do this, you can repeat it indefinitely (theoretically).


I suppose I should correct myself in saying that I’m not trying to prove or disprove a world record attempt. I’m trying to determine what factors would establish a successful unicycle ride. I want to define this in a formula.

For those who worry about math, physics and science “ruining” the “art” and “mystery” of unicycling, its already been proven through physics that you CAN, in fact, RIDE a unicycle.

This might serve as a relief to those of you who worry about waking up one morning and realizing that it’s not physically possible to ride a unicycle. (Oh, the horror!) Similar to someone flying on a plane who starts to doubt whether or not flight is really possible.

I know there are a lot of factors involved in what I’m trying to define but I believe it’s possible. But then again, as my professor said, it may be as simple as determining how far forward you have to lean before you can no longer pedal fast enough to regain your balance. We’ll see. Thank you for your responses so far and if you have anything else to add, please do.

You have described the “Rider Level” in the USA skill level system. Normally those levels start at 1, with a freemount and dismount. But Rider Level (level 0?) is just the 50m ride, and was intended for casual riders who were not necessarily ever going to learn to freemount.

anyway, I suspected Luther’s question was something in disguise, because 1.46’, besides being a silly number, is less than half a turn of the wheel.

So how much counts as “mastering” it? I think it has to be an arbitrary amount, a standard the unicycling community would have to agree on and then live by. Clearly, it cannot be a fixed distance, because that involves a different amount of work depending on the cycle.

Riding 28’ on a 6’ giraffe shows plenty of control of it, but on a 115 footer, is minimal. If you have a standard uni with a 1" wheel (tiny wheel with tiny pedals), riding 3’ would be like riding a half-marathon.

Back in the early 80s, after Sem rode his 72 footer about 30’, and Steve McPeak rode his 101 footer in a full circle (with questionable support from his crane), there was talk about how to define whether the cycle had been successfully ridden. First of all, whatever safety system or support lines have to be loose enough to not be providing support. This rules out the Steve McPeak ride. What it boiled down to in those days was number of pedal (or wheel) turns. If you’re going to have a fixed number of something, number of revolutions is the best one I can think of.

But how many? For Standard Skill, the IUF requires at least three after a mount or transition. But this assumes the person can ride. We’re just looking to see that they survived the mount or transition.

In the High and Long Jump competitions, we require 3 pedal (wheel?) revolutions or 3 seconds to determine that the rider has survived the jump. Again, the assumption that they can ride is already there.

For a beginner who wants to “prove” he can ride, a longer distance is preferred. The USA and IUF chose 50 meters. Intended for beginners, it assumes a standard unicycle with an average sized wheel. A fixed difference instead of making people count. Pedal revolutions might be easier though; nothing to measure.

Same thing for someone learning to ride a relatively common other type of unicycle. We are not proving that it can be ridden, it is you proving you have mastered it. The longer the ride, the more you are proving yourself.

By “mastered” we are just implying riding it under control, beyond which a more detailed definition must apply.

So what of a record-breaking giraffe? I think riding a percentage of the height is not necessary. Plus, they’re getting so tall it’s hard to find a high enough “room” to ride them in, let alone enough riding distance. I’d shoot for a number of pedal or wheel turns.

Sem’s 115 footer apparently had some gearing, giving him more than one wheel rev per pedal. His ride on the main video at looks like about 5.25 pedal revolutions. Gearing it up makes sense when you’re trying to feel what’s going on over such a long distance. But it would make a fixed number of pedal turns harder. So maybe it should be wheel turns.

So I’m imagining the world’s largest wheeled unicycle. Is it fair to ask the rider to complete, let’s say, 30 revolutions of a 10’ wheel, even if it means 150 pedal revs? Maybe that’s too much.

So what about time? Can time work? I don’t know.

What I think is that the criteria has to be flexible, because the vehicles can be too different. So let’s go back to a 115’ giraffe, and 28’ of riding. It’s a relatively short distance, but it’s what the designers and rider planned for, because they only had about that much chain to work with. In other words, their goal was to ride a 115’ unicycle up to 30’ or so. Which they did. From what I could make out in the video, Sem rode until the chain hit the stopper. Up to that point, he appeared to be in a pretty good riding position. To me it looked like he was maintaining control of the thing up to that point. After that, his momentum carried him forward into that scary angle until the safety rigging pulled him back.

He pushed off from the platform, waited for some lean to happen, and pedaled the wheel up under him. You can see the frame flex back and forth. If you download the main video (not the news ones) and watch it at double size, it’s easier to see all this.

Based on what I can make out in the video, he was definitely riding it, to at or near the limits of what could be done with that amount of chain. This does not necessarily mean he could ride it 100’, or ride it in a circle. Or that anyone else could. But I believe the ride was a success for the 30’ of chain that was available. So if we apply an arbitrary standard of mastery, his ride is either above or below that. But the measure would have to be arbitrary; something that was chosen, probably for less than scientific reasons. If our criteria is 28’, the ride fits. If it was established at a higher distance, before that date, they surely would have tried for that distance.

To reason it out a distance scientifically, you’d have to take into account the weight of the cycle, plus rider, wheel size, gear ratio, and definitely the amount of frame flex; surely a factor in riding it. Maybe drivetrain flex too.

I can settle this one for you real quick. The American Journal Of Physics had an article about this many years ago. I didn’t understand much of it but I can tell you it wasn’t simple. You might want to look them up and see if you can still get a copy.

As for the so called world record ride, I can tell you it was a failure. I was there and watched him try and try again and fail and fail again. He couldn’t seem to keep the uni from falling forward. He never could get it under control. It seemed like he’d try to ride, claim it was a success and then look at the crowd for a response. When everyone said no, he’d try again and claim success. I thought he made a good attempt but I can’t say I liked his attitude about the whole thing. He’s usually a pretty quiet guy but had a nasty attitude whenever people in the bleachers questioned his attempt.

I personally don’t think much of height records that use safety harnesses. The tallest I’ve ridden without safety was an 18 footer that I later sold to a mexican circus. I know that at least 2 of their guys learned to ride it and they didn’t use safety gear. I learned to ride it on a narrow footbridge that went over a creek. Every time I fell, I’d fall up to 28 feet into the water. I never really felt comfortable riding it on concrete but I did ride at least a mile on concrete. Getting off involved a well placed telephone pole and getting on involved two very trustworthy friends.

Believe it or not, taller uni’s are easier to balance but it’s a lot harder to feel what’s going on down on the ground. Once you lean too far forward, you’ll never catch the wheel back up. Mine was custom built and went through many revisions. To make it more controllable, I had to go with a larger wheel and a more aggressive gear ratio.

Well, I’m rambling. I hope you can find the article and it helps.