How much time can you take off before your unicycling skills start to deteriorate?

I’m in my mid 30s and got my first unicycle(24 inch Club free style) in late October 2015 and I’ve been riding/practicing every day since. Not 1 day off, though it’s very likely today may be my first day off unless I go out for a ride this evening with the few hours I have left. At first I felt some guilt over this, but I just want to see what happens and I feel like I need the rest since I also do a lot of running. I can free-mount, ride up to 12 miles, and I can idle sloppily with my right foot up to 315 cycles.

I don’t believe my abilities will suffer from taking just 1 day off. However, I suspect a week off might cause a slight skill deterioration since I don’t have all the muscle memory of a more experienced unicyclist.

I just find it incredible how in some old discussions a person who claims they haven’t been on a unicycle for 25 years(give or take 5 years) asks if he/she can ride someone’s unicycle and is able to ride it flawlessly or with few issues. I also notice some people claiming that time off(a few days, a week or 2) lead to some major improvements when they resumed unicycling. This isn’t so far-fetched but I wonder what this is all about.

So how long can you go before you notice a deterioration in your skills? And how often do you take off from unicycling?

Don’t worry about it too much.

I’ve been riding for a bit over a year. In that time there have been maybe four or five occasions where I’ve taken a week or two off riding for various reasons. In every case but one when I’ve resumed riding my skills have improved from when I stopped.

It might be related to taking a difficult prob to “sleeping on it”. I think your brain must process all the data it collected while you were riding and figure out what to do next.

I went over a year without riding and could still ride just how I left off.

I last rode when I was 10 (I’m guessing ) I’m now 49 and treated myself to a 26" muni for xmas. I had never ride a 26er but second time on I took off and rode about 100 yards. I ride a little bit every day and have hit some easy trails and fire roads. I’m basically learning all over again but the basics were still there 40 years later and I have a great head start. I wouldn’t worry about missing a day or two, it might even be a good thing.

In all reality taking a few days off will probably help you improve more than just hammering yourself everyday just because you feel you “need” too. I have always found that after taking a few days off from my passion sport(nearly a year from uni)I come back with more drive, fresh muscles, and a clear head to make progress happen. Remember unicycling is suppose to be fun and obsessing about it too much will most likely drive you away.

In all reality taking a few days off will probably help you improve more than just hammering yourself everyday just because you feel you “need” too. I have always found that after taking a few days off from my passion sport(nearly a year from uni)I come back with more drive, fresh muscles, and a clear head to make progress happen. Remember unicycling is suppose to be fun and obsessing about it too much will most likely drive you away.

When I rode on the unitour in Nepal it was after basically a year’s hiatus. I did not get any practice rides in before arriving and was a bit rusty at first but felt I had my technique back after two days. Good general fitness definitely helps.

Taking some time off won’t hurt. At worst you might lose a bit of polish but the basic skills will remain.

Same as most, I think that once you have really acquired the fundamentals, you’re safe. When I learnt this time round, after having ridden a bit 20 years before, I started from zero because back then, I had never quite mastered it. Until I managed to really grasp it, a two week break would see my skill level drop. But once I got riding and freemounting really imprinted in my brain, I was good.

I bumped into a friend who rode in a circus in her teens, twenty years later, she borrowed my 20" and within 10 minutes, she could idle and ride backward. She was the first surprised she could do that!

I recently had a few weeks without riding because of other commitments and a couple of injuries.

When I got back on my first ride I felt awkward. I saw my osteopath and got the residual problems from the injuries sorted and although I had lost strength and stamina I was riding smoothly again. I was surprised I could still climb quite steep hills so long as they were not too long and noticed I was relying a lot more on technique because I couldn’t just do it on strength like before.

Another time I had a couple of weeks off and came back riding better, even getting up short steep sections I had never managed previously. It was like I had forgotten I couldn’t do it.

I think the breaks made me forget more bad stuff than good stuff.

I spent a couple, wet weeks off the trails, practicing street skills instead. The other day, when I returned to mUni, riding up hills was kicking my butt. Not really a matter of ‘skills’, more of a physical thing, rather.

I agree with an above post…the skills will not leave you, assuming you’ve learned them well in the first place. Some of my skills would never leave, no matter the hiatus…other skills, which I am still learning, would probably have to be re-learned after a long break. One-footed riding is one such skill. I’m better at it if I’ve been doing it a lot. No real consistency, yet.

As has been said, as few days won’t hurt your skills at all and may even help (full recovery/compensation, plus you’re then “fresh”).

As to short breaks as in a few weeks: I generally don’t notice a loss in skills and can almost pick up where I was. I find this is less true with respect to cardio conditioning (unless doing other sports) and saddle soreness. The biggest difficulty I have with taking a few weeks off is that the first ride hurts my crotch way sooner than usual.

After learning in my 30s and then improving for about 2 years I kind of got out of unicycling for maybe 3 years or so. When I got back into it I had definitely lost some skills but not much. And after probably just 4-5 rides I was quickly better than I had been and continued to improve.

As to really long breaks I can’t say but just for a really rough guess I would say maybe loss of 10% a year but then you can re-learn way faster the second time.

Like with most sports (and running more than others): overtraining is just as bad or worse than too little training and taking off 1-2 days/week is generally beneficial (alternately different training for specific skills or cross-training in another sport).

Definitely don’t sweat over a few days off!

I learned to unicycle when I was seven and rode for a year or two. Now at 59 I can honestly say that I’ve forgotten everything that I learned. I am living proof that it is NOT like riding a bike. That being said, I’m working at getting my skills back.

The very concept of taking time off from unicycling is utterly alien to me. Why speculate about a hypothetical situation which can’t be actualized? :thinking:

Very interesting. Hearing things like this is very reassuring. I did manage to take a day off, and then the day after noticed no difference except maybe a slight improvement. I was able to do figure 8s backwards with one foot while juggling three knives, which I couldn’t do at all before. Ok just kidding! Was able to ride for a few miles around the neighborhood without any issues.

I could idle later just like before, maybe even slightly improved after several minutes. I often have problems with sharp turns these days, but that’s because I changed the tire recently(about 5 days ago) to a tire with heavier treads to ride trails; this is unrelated to the day off. I can’t get over how much the treads on my old tire wore off in my right footed idling spot. A few more days and the tube would have been exposed. I think my sharp turning ability may have improved too.

I think you’re right about “sleeping on it”. I’ve experienced this a bunch of times with juggling.

I don’t intend to take a lot of days off, but an occasional easy day in which I do a very short ride may be helpful. I just hope I’m not forced to take time off due to the weather, but luckily it’s been a mild winter so far.

I agree. This is true of learning or doing just about anything really. It could also apply to academic study. I totally agree that we should never forget that ultimately unicycling should be fun, not something to be obsessed about or get overly frustrated with.

I also find that unicycling is a fun and excellent way to learn about learning. Progress is usually slow, but it is usually obvious and easy to measure from week to week or month to month with enough commitment. Of course, many people plateau for whatever reason, and that’s ok too since this isn’t a competition.

Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful responses.

Wow that’s incredible doing a unitour in Nepal after a year’s hiatus. So totally impressed with that! How long had you been unicycling before this hiatus, and why did you take a year off, was it due to an injury? I hope that tour went very well for you.

A very general and I suppose obvious rule concerning this seems to be that the longer a person has been unicycling, the less their skill level will be affected by time off. I think the age they first learned how to unicycle may also be important.

This also makes me wonder at what point does unicycling ability become so deeply imprinted in our muscle memory that no matter what, we’ll never forget it. 2 years of riding? 10,000 hours? 5 years, for about 2 hours a day on average? After a certain point there are diminishing returns of course, when it comes to basic skills anyway.

Appreciate all the great replies everyone!

Note that on an ungeared unicycle, you need to occasionally rotate the tire to ensure even wear. That’s not an issue on a bike.

The tires which ship with unicycles tend to be cheap and crappy; for road riding on a 24" you probably want to get one of the Schwalbe tires.

Fixing my canoe, fishing, and work pretty much took up my summer. I went to New Zealand for the winter where I was planning on working for the first few months then taking the last couple to tour around the south island and unicycle a bunch of trails before heading to Nepal. I was doing alpine weed control work and while I was there the foreman got fired and I kind of helped filled the gap. Higher pay, helicopter rides into scenic remote mountain regions and a job that took up all the daylight hours plus some replaced my plans of touring with my van and unicycle.

I hadn’t even assembled my unicycle in the 5.5 months I was in New Zealand and found out in Nepal I had the wrong disk adaptor for my brake :stuck_out_tongue:

I have been riding since 2006, riding quite a bit in the first few years and a lot less for the last few. I find that you can lose some strength over time but the technique is still pretty well ingrained in my subconsciousness.

I agree, its very much the conditioning of the body that deteriorates rather the skill. With that being said, I always have a warm up period in order to ride optimal, ranging from 20mins all the way to 1.5hrs of crappy or not near optimal. I now realize that so on somedays I start off bad and have to ride beyond that warm up crappy not-in-the- mood period.:stuck_out_tongue:

Hi Stubshaft, welcome to the forum.
Now for my loud opinion.
I really, highly doubt your statement that you have forgotten it all.
First of all, any old 59 newb would have surely a high rate of sustaining an injury newly starting at that age. Secondly, Im sure you have a faster rate of relearning the freemount then somebody that has absolutely no experience. Im sure youll be back riding in no time, assuming you’re in decent physical condition.:wink:

Just a personal example.
Just recently, I have been taking up ping pong again, from a 30 yr. hiatus. Been playing with my 9.5 yr son. At first I found myself extremely rusty at it. Then it all came back to me. And fortutunely soon enough too…my young son has obviously much age advantage over me. Such a quick learner he is, as he is also practicing hard at his afterschool program! Though, I m so glad for my young years of experience, because so far, he’s still looking up to me, as Im am still kicking his butt at it!:p:D Oh yeah, papa still got it!