How long does it take to learn to ride an ultimate wheel?

The purpose of this posting is to help other unicyclists considering taking up the ultimate wheel who may wonder, how long does it take to learn to ride? I have recorded my practice log which shows slow but steady progress with a major breakthrough after 12 sessions. So read this log and adjust your expectations accordingly. Your mileage may vary, etc.

I am a 48-year-old unicyclist with intermediate skills. I ride a 24 general purpose uni, a 29 muni, a 32 road, and a 36. I can bunny hop, idle, and ride backwards. I worked hard over the last six months on rolling hops but I still suck at them. I can’t rolling hop over obstacles much larger than 4 inches.

I have tried the “no-cost ultimate wheel”, that is i tried to learn to ride seat in front or behind. Then I tried to learn to drop the seat to the ground. I can ride seat in front until exhaustion/400+ meters. Whenever I have tried to drop the seat to the ground, I would fall and it seems really dangerous trying not to land on or get your feet tangled in the seat post. Plus the wheel of a general purpose unicycle burns (with friction) the skin off your lower legs. Since the no-cost option seemed to be unproductive, I decided to buy myself a 28-inch ultimate wheel from

Dec 30: 30 minutes, mount try to go 1-3 meters, fall, repeat for 30 minutes.

Dec 31: 35 minutes, maximum distance 4 meters

Jan 1: 45 minutes, maximum distance 5 meters, took a hard fall on my knee, need to rest so that I don’t re-injure the bruise. I also have some wicked bruises on my shins. Very frustrated at my slow progress.

2 weeks+ of rest for bruised knee.

Jan 18: 35 minutes. My goal was to set up a 5 meter goal and see how many 5-meter rides I could achieve. I was able to have 11 rides over 5 meters including a longest of 17 meters. I also had several over 4 meters. Got three 5-meter rides on video.

Jan 19: 55 minutes. My goal was to do 20 rides over 5 meters. After I met that goal I wanted to beat my longest run of 17 meters yesterday so I continued and got up to 28 rides over 5 meters with 4 or 5 rides that were 13-14 meters.

Jan 20: 3 hours. My goal was to do 10 rides over 10 meters. I was only able to accomplish this 7 times, so it was enormously frustrating. My longest runs were 15 and 16 meters.

11-day rest from ultimate wheel. Got some good muni rides in the snow. Snow is rare here so there’s no point in missing the fun of a snow muni ride.

Feb 1: 70 minutes. Again my goal was to do 10 rides over 10 meters. I was able to accomplish this 22 times, so I’m definitely feeling a sense of accomplishment. My longest run was 24 meters.

Feb 2: 50 minutes. I was able to do 12 rides of 10 meters or more. My longest run was 21 meters. So not quite as good as yesterday, but I figure if I keep getting 10 or more runs more than 10 meters each day, the improvements will come soon.

Feb 4: Quick 30 minute session before work. I was able to do 12 rides of 10 meters or more. I started slow with a lot of failures but finished strong. My longest runs were 28, 26, 24 and 33 meters so it felt great to break my previous distance record multiple times. It feels like a breakthrough. Still lots of failures going the first three meters (mounting and getting ready to go).

Feb 5: 45 minute session. Good rate of success early, did 18 runs longer than 10 meters. Lots of runs in the 20-25 range. Longest were 2 runs of 30-31 meters.

Feb 6: 45 minute session I did 20 runs of 10 meters or more. I was able to beat my personal best longest run by going 37 meters. Disappointed that I did not have other runs of more than 30 meters.

Feb 8: 50 minute session. Broke my personal best with a 39 meter run, then immediately broke that with a 67 meter run. The secret was to increase my pace. When I go slow I can’t prevent wheel wobble, which leads to failure. There is no longer any point in counting the 10 meter runs.

Here’s a video of a good run from three days ago:

It’s cool that you kept a log. It illustrates your patience and commitment.

For me the UW took a bit longer to get in some ways, but less time in others. I built my first UW a few years ago and failed miserably at it. I could get on and make a rev. before I lost it. Eventually I was able to get a few rev’s, but nothing I would say was riding. That was after a week of half hearted attempts.

It ended up in the back of the garage for a couple of years, then…

I aired up the tire, jumped on, and found it pretty easy to ride around my driveway, between the cars, and dismount without having it fly out from under me.

I suspect that if I hadn’t given up the first time around it may have been about the same learning curve as your log indicates. I will say though that you have more skills than I do with the idling, and riding backwards. I’m working on idling, and maybe one day riding backwards. I’m okay with rolling hops, but maybe not better than you. So, maybe it would have been longer for me. Also, I can’t ride SIF (learning), or seat drag.

At the moment I love riding the UW. I’ve got an extra 32" wheel sitting around that is destined to become the first 32" UW if no-one beats me to it.

Cool. Thanks for the post. Congrats!

Pretty cool! Can you Muni with it? :smiley:

8hrs for my 36" UW

Thanks for the log UMan!

We have a 24" Nimbus that attracts interest at our Saturday YMCA gatherings every now and then.

My observations: it seems to take people a couple of hours to start moving, and then a couple of hours after that to be able to go around 5-10 revs.

Things we’ve found that really help when learning:

  1. Shin guards (of course). Putting duct tape where the tire rubs makes them last longer and may reduce the friction.

  2. We swapped the stock tire for one with more rounded edges. The friction is less.

  3. The real key we found that helps is if you learn by dragging the tire across your legs, don’t let the tire catch the front leg. It’s much easier to let it drag across the back leg as the pedal is coming up from the bottom of the stroke. When it catches the front leg it forces you to step off.

Of course, the stock tires are different between the wheel sizes, so #2 probably isn’t an issue with a 28" (or 700c).

Interestingly, I found the Ultimate wheel harder to learn that the BC wheel. I’m not great at either, but until I figured out #3, the Ultimate was really frustrating.


  1. Shin guards (of course). Putting duct tape where the tire rubs makes them last longer and may reduce the friction.

  2. We swapped the stock tire for one with more rounded edges. The friction is less.

  3. The real key we found that helps is if you learn by dragging the tire across your legs, don’t let the tire catch the front leg. It’s much easier to let it drag across the back leg as the pedal is coming up from the bottom of the stroke. When it catches the front leg it forces you to step off.[/I][/B]

In a sense it all comes down to FRICTION. Rounded tire, Shin Guards, Timing, Silicone spray on the tire… I also lacquered a tire sidewall to see if it was any better: it was.

MY UW riding jumped to the next level when I built a larger wheel (28"), and got street/deck hockey pads (specifically for UW). The pads were probably the single most important difference. The tire glides across them, and you don’t feel the friction. Spray a little silicone on them and WOW!

These are the pads. They have polyethylene that wraps around your leg into the contact area for the tire. The plastic is thin, and mine are wearing through. The nice thing is that you can swap them left to right and it’s like getting new pads again. When they are worn through on both sides I’m planning to attach sheets of PE to the wear areas rather than replace them.

Unigoat: Those are great tips. I’ll try to be aware of when the wheel hits in front and behind.

JTrops: More great tips. I’ll look for those shin guards.

Jeff, unigoat and strops, Thanks for the tips! If I might add:

At least one person sewed a durable but smooth cloth material into the inner sidewall of the tire, maybe a sturdy satin or something? That can really reduce friction! Because rubber sidewall has LOTS of friction. Think of any durable material with less friction than rubber. Denim might work better than rubber.

Very high inflation helps too!

I loved UW! Unfortunately, I curled my toes inside my shoes as if holding onto the pedals with bird claws, which (I suspect) ultimately led to a bad case of plantar fasciitis. So another tip is: Relax your feet ON the pedals.

I got so I could juggle 3 clubs or walk my dog all the way around the block on the UW. Great thigh work out!

UW’s interest me in a strange way… But remembering how I went through the normal stage of learning to Uni (You know, the one we all go through - MY LEGS ARE ON FIRE AFTER FIVE FEEET!!) I’m a bit scared to try an UW. It’s not as though you can force your backside into the seat is it, the tyre friction would be even more unbearable! :frowning:

I always kind of had a crazy idea of one day riding into work on an UW though. I already Uni everywhere and that gets odd looks (Specially on a busy road in rush hour) :smiley:

Teflon tape comes to mind.

Hi Jeff, so after learning UW were you able to do seat drags?


one could make a roller that attaches to the inside shinguard with 2 skateboard bearings inside it, kind of like on those roller slides all the kids would get hurt on in the 80s.

I just turned my 661 leg armor inward to cover the inner part of my leg. All good!

Everyone should try a 36" UW. Amazing!!!

Thanks to these tips I learned relatively quickly, so you won’t necessarily be struggling for hours:)
Tuesday, picked up stock 24" Nimbus UW. Spent 30 minutes riding alongside a fence.
Thursday, 5 minutes riding alongside the fence, then started riding away from the fence. 3 runs of 150m (1 lap round the IGA car park, including over speed bumps, and around corners), 6 freemounts, and a bit of hopping all within 30 mins.
Best prep may be to ride SIF forwards, backwards, and hopping (I could already hop SIF up a set of stairs, though not very convincingly). I think it helped. Have fun:)

It looks like it might be stressful on the knees:(. How do your knees feel after riding a UW.

Leg armor

i have been reading about the UW and have a 24" nimbus in the closet ready to go. I am not sure about the leg armor though i have been looking at the options posted on this forum here and there and as far as i can tell the options are either hard plastic hockey shin guards or maybe the KH leg armor. The latter would be nice to have since it can be used for muni/tricks as well due to the integrated knee protection. It is kind of expensive if it wears down quickly though. Any thoughts? Anyone using KH leg armor with a UW?

The hard plastic works well, but wears through fairly quick. On the upside, as you get more confident with riding it the wheel hits your leg a lot less often. I am currently looking for some kind of softer pad that I can strap on just where the wheel hits. I have to look through some of the old threads. I seem to remember a couple of lighter more flexible options that people liked.

My knees haven’t been a problem mostly due to the knee covereage of the Mylec pads I’ve been using. Still, I don’t know if I really need that much at this point. It was certainly helpful in the beginning!

How long does it take to learn to ride an ultimate wheel?

28+ years. I still mostly suck at it. I built my first Ultimate Wheel in 1986. I should practice more.

I built mine from a Unicycle Factory Ultimate Wheel kit. It’s essentially a bracket to attach the pedals to. You supply the rest, including a piece of 3/4" plywood to fill the rim. I made mine pretty, with a blue alloy 24" Miyata rim. I used a sabre saw to cut two Uni-Cyclone-shaped holes in the wood and painted it nicely. I brought it to the 1986 National Unicycle Meet, which was followed by the second Unicon.

IUF founder Jack Halpern ended up losing his on his trip there, and wanted to buy mine. It was less than a month old, and I had barely spent any time on it. So I offered him a riduculous price ($160 in 1986 dollars), and he accepted! So it went to Japan and I was again without my own UW.

14 years later, Jack brought it to Beijing for Unicon X. It looked a lot older and had been sloppily repainted, but was otherwise fine. He gave it back to me and I was able to bring it back home.

Anyway, don’t follow the above sequence if you want to become an expert Ultimate Wheel rider. :slight_smile:

It’s in the foreground in the picture below, which was taken in 2002.

Are you still on the forum? I was wondering did you learn freemounting from day one or also start rolling by holding a fence or post?

Today I just stood on it in the living room holding on to the wall, just to get a bit of a feel for it. As with a unicycle, when holding on to something, I get on with a 6-12h position and then roll forward a bit with the front foot a bit higher, but as soon as the wheel hangs against the left( my front) leg, I lose all balance. I reckon it is better to first learn to get the feel for actually riding it and afterwards learn to freemount the darn thing. That is what I noticed with learning to mount the 36". When you know how it behaves during a ride, it is easier to freemount and take off.