How much of being able to ride a unicycle is psychological?

I rode a unicycle when I was a little kid. Fast forward 30 years and I just got a 20” Torker for my kids to learn this past Christmas (or so I thought it was for the kids). I could not believe that after 30 years, I could still ride. After a few days of building my confidence, I took the unicycle to a bike path and went on a 2.7 mile ride. Since then, I took the unicycle to a park with a gravel road and some XC trails with ~100 foot hills. I’ve gone on 3 additional rides, each around 3-miles. It felt invigorating to be going down mountain bike trails and dodging small obstacles. I’m feeling very addicted.

I went on another 3-mile ride this morning. However, I really felt off. I felt like I was pulling to my left. I was all over the trail and could not hold a line. I only had good control when there were obstacles and I had to slow down for some maneuvering. It’s almost like I did better when I did not have time to think about what I was doing. Then, on the flats, the unicycle felt hard to control. I was crouching forward too much and my knees started to hurt. Whereas on the flats during previous rides, I was cruising along relaxed and in a relatively straight line. My confidence was shot for most of the ride.

How much of riding a unicycle is psychological? Am I imagining a lean toward the left? I did try a friend’s 24” unicycle for five minutes on Monday. Could 5 minutes on a larger unicycle make my 20” feel squirrely (even after a few miles on the 20”)? I doubt it.

I’d really appreciate any feedback.

Switching between unicycles can definitely feel weird, even in small doses. Particularly if something is bent on one unicycle or the other (a pedal or crank, for example), it feels weird to switch between them.

If you want really weird, try riding a unicycle with a bent crank, then flipping it around and riding it so the bent crank is on the other side.

Check your tire pressure, that your seat is straight, that your bearings are tight, etc.; there are lots of mechanical things which can affect your riding.

Thanks, Tholub. I’ll definitely do that. I know that my seat was straight. I checked that during the ride.

I’m hoping nothing is bent as this is a brand new unicycle. I’ve been pretty gentle with it. I’d be bummed if I’d bent something just by riding on dirt trails.

It may be that your friend’s unicycle is bent. Anyway, you can test by turning yours around and riding it that way; if the weirdness switches sides, there’s something up with the uni setup.

You might just be having a really off day but i’d say atleast 50% of unicycling is psychological

Sounds like a low tire pressure…

Exactly what I was thinking - the one day I really thought I’d not taken my balance pills was when I let my tyre down too much. I definitely have off-days, and switching between wheel sizes can be problematic (I try to get round that one by making a policy of riding both of mine on the same day, and regularly riding them back to back, so I learn to make the transition), however it does sound like something a little more fundamental.

Problems with not going straight are discussed in this thread: Dear Dr. Uni, what is wrong with me?

Thank you, everyone. I checked my seat and tire pressure. They seem fine. I read the thread on riding straight. Thanks for pointing that out. Very helpful. I REALLY APPRECIATE EVERYONE’S HELP!

I rode again this morning. Felt much better and easier to control. My guess right now is that I was tired and psyched myself out.

How much? It all depends on your state of mind. :sunglasses:

There you go again John!

Have you been inhaling? :sunglasses:

Have you not been inhaling? :astonished:


Wrong tyre pressure can definitily cause that- but, as you’ve checked the pressure it must be something else.

No-ones mentioned road camber, which can definitly cause that feeling of being off balance.

(camber is the way some roads/paths curve downwards from the center to the edges).

So, if the path you were riding on on the day you felt off, had a larger camber, that could also account for it.

What you experienced on that “illfated” ride is common to all riders, bikes or unis, it’s just more noticeable on one wheel. It’s called “feeling out of the groove”.

Is it psychological? Sure, but it could also be related to fatigue or terrain conditions.

You’re an adult riding a 20" uni for ~3 miles, that sounds terrible, you couldn’t get me to do that for money or love.

Get yourself a bigger wheel, seriously, a 29er would be a good choice for a mix of road and trail.

Thanks again, everyone. Nurse Ben, I do feel that I was out of the groove. Road was pretty flat. I’d ridden it before with no problem. So, originally, I was wondering if you can psych yourself out. Like you suggested, I’m guessing it was a combination of being tired, sore muscles, and a bad attitude for that ride.

I’ve hijacked the 20" from my kids just because I did not realize how much fun I’d have and it’s seems like a great way to get some exercise. I don’t really care how far I go. I happen to be going 3 miles in about 45 minutes because that’s how much time I have to ride each day. That being said, I hope to get a 29" soon.


I ride a lot, so I often have days where I don’t feel at my best, esp if I had a long day at work, the weather is hot/wet/cold, etc… but I find that if I ride long enough I can usually work my way back to normal.

One thing I notice is that when I’m riding “akwardly” it is often because I’m sitting too much, which can compound the neg effects of being inflexible in the low back and waist/abs; I’m generally stiffer after a long day sitting in a chair.

Get that 29er and get some speed, then go ride some trails, it’s the best!

I can wait to ride this weekend, Raccoon Mountain and Haw Ridge, one day at each!!

I did that when I was learning. Really not that horrendous - I’m also not all that sure about the implication that a 29er is a really practical way to get about :wink:

It’s not! you want a geared 36’er for practical way to get around.


No, Corbin is mistaken. You need both a 29er, a geared 26er, and 36er.

Unless you really want to go really fast in a straight line, I think a geared 36er is a bit of an overkill, esp if you want anyone else to be able to keep up :wink:

But in the meantime, before you take out a second on your home, a 29er will be just okay :roll_eyes:

If you’re riding distances on roads, a 54" gear is still not big enough for most contexts.

I’ve been fighting this same problem and it ONLY happens when I am off-road with my 24" MUNI. When I ride my 20" trainer or my Nimbus Trials (on pavement), I have never noticed this issue. I had been thinking that it was the Nimbus Gel seat, or the longer cranks (150 vs. 125), but now I see that there could be several possible causes. Thanks for starting this thread.