On Saturday a couple of people wrote me and asked something like:
> --can you give me some simple directions on how I might learn to idle?? Id
> sure appreciate it! Thanks!
First of all, idling isn’t as advanced as you may think. You can start
practicing idling before you can freemount, even before you can ride.
Get on the uni next to a wall or something and put your hand out to the side and
hold onto the wall. Put one pedal all the way down then start rocking a little
forward and backward parallel to the wall.
The explanations of idling at unicycling.org (under the ten skill levels)
mention pedaling 180 degrees. I think they must be using a giraffe or something.
I usually go a little under 90 degrees. The other variable is speed. I think if
you just find a comfortable rhythm you’ll be fine.
I suppose that theoretically your center of gravity, or that of you and the uni,
stays more or less in one place bobbing up and down but it doesn’t really
matter. You don’t have to think about it. Just get comfortable rocking back and
forth. Don’t put too much weight on your down foot.
Soon you’ll be able to pull your hand off the wall for a moment or two and go
back and forth once or twice before putting it back down.
OK. Now you know how it feels to idle. You know how to keep from falling forward
or backward. You just pedal the uni so that it comes back underneath you. The
thing that makes idling SEEM hard is that you don’t know how to keep from
falling over sideways without the wall to hold onto.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO IS TURN TOWARD THE DIRECTION YOU’RE FALLING
If you wish to practice this try pushing yourself sideways, away from the wall,
then when you start to fall twist at the hips so that you and the uni are facing
the direction you are falling and ride off. You can also practice the same thing
by riding along and stopping for a moment until you start to fall sideways and
then recovering as described above. These exercises are best done with the
cranks horizontal in ‘power position’ unlike idling, in which the cranks don’t
usually get that far from vertical.
Now on to the real thing. First you have to get away from that wall. You need to
have enough room around you so you can turn whichever direction you happen to
fall. Let go of the wall and ride a couple of revolutions into the open then
stop and rock backward and forward just like you did when you were holding onto
the wall but this time pay very close attention to which way you’re falling and
try and turn that way.
At first it’s kind of frantic. You twist into the direction you’re falling.
Don’t worry about what direction you’re facing. Just try and turn toward the
direction you’re falling so you can pedal the uni back underneath you. Once you
get it to work a couple of times you’ll see that it can be done then you should
become obsessed with trying.
I start counting with the word ‘and’ when I stop going forward and ‘1’ etc. when
I stop going backward.
Smaller wheels are easier. I usually ride a 24" but this last week when I was
working on idling I was using a 26". I got to the obsessive stage mentioned
above on the 26" and I’m sure I that I would have been able to get to the goal
of 25 with it but I actually achieved it first on a 20", then a couple of days
later on the 24".
Another point is weight distribution. I seem to have a tendency to put too much
weight on the down pedal. When I ride a bicycle I often shift much of my weight
to my down pedal when coasting and rest that way a bit. It seems that if I do
this while idling I tend to fall in that direction.
Idling is fun and well worth the effort. It really opens the door for other
skills. Free mounting is way, way easier when you can idle. I was also able
yesterday to ride across the living room, stop and idle a few times and then
come back backwards.
It was very easy and relaxed, at least until I crashed into the bookshelf and
lamp, and was a direct result of learning to idle.