Help! I bought a unicycle on a whim a couple of years ago, tried to ride it on my own and didn’t get anywhere. Now the thing sits in my garage and mocks me.
I’m 56, in pretty good shape, and live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Any Ideas?
y’know, i’m mildly annoyed at you all in general. all of what i have read on how to unicycle is all fine and good, and telling people to just ‘practice practice practice’ and read the articles that all say virtually the same thing is all fine and good too, however, no one seems to get into the finer points of how to unicycle. perhaps you have all long-forgotten what it was like and the things you did wrong and right that got you to the point you are at now?
i’m a learner, and the problem with everything i have read is that nothing seems to touch on the WRONG things people do that upset the whole effort, despite doing everything else seemingly correct and doing all that are in the articles. it’s often not obvious to someone what they ARE doing wrong as opposed to what they AREN’T doing correctly. practicing practicing practicing something unknowingly wrong until realising silly mistakes is such a painfully large amount of effort only to suddenly become enlightened when it needn’t have come as such a surprise in the first place… if only someone had mentioned it beforehand.
i want to see more posts on the things people have done WRONG as opposed to what they aren’t doing RIGHT. anyone can try to do all the things in the how-to articles but it’s going to be a hard day on one wheel if the person is also trying to brush their teeth at the same time or put on a shirt… yes, silly examples.
i for one have only just noticed that while i’m trying to learn to idle i have been letting go of my support and moving that hand WAY TOO FAR away from it to try to be independent of it, and this has been drastically throwing my balance off and ruining my happy place. i hadn’t even noticed i was doing this until just before. all i’ve had in my head the whole time were all the pointers on what to DO to be able to idle and ride etc and i was oblivious to my support arms actions.
something else that i’ve only seen mentioned once was that a person doesn’t need to idle going only forward and backwards in a straight line. it’s just too easy to see all the people who have mastered idling and riding having complete control and keeping things ‘tight’ and to then get it in your head that the correct way to do any of this is exactly as they do it which is without any side-ways deviations. trying to be so ‘perfect’ because you are trying to emulate someone who has mastered it can really ruin the whole learning curve and stunt your balance growth i would think.
so… we all have the links for what to do to successfully unicycle, but i think we need more pointers on the silly finer points of what NOT to do so as not to sabotage our efforts (more than just “sit on the seat”). maybe it’s all just me and i’m just ranting.
anyways, apart from that little rant you guys all seem pretty cool, but i’m fairly sure that’s a prerequisite to being able to ride on a unicycle anyways… so moot point. i’ve only had a dodgy 24" ebay uni for a couple of months. haven’t progressed much. i’m focusing on idling atm for my own reasons, hence, the repeated mention of idling in this rant.
what else is to be said that hasn’t already been said… your muscles need to learn what to do (muscle memory) and they only learn that from doing and doing and doing. so sit on the seat, lean forwards, pedal and practice
like i mentioned… what about those key little things that just mess it all up without you realising. and like i mentioned it’d be good to hear about those things that others have done wrong so that us less experienced can learn from your mistakes, instead of the current methodology of learning from your success.
eventually most of us will get there in the end, but how about giving a heads-up on the paths that weren’t so productive that we may not realise we are doing.
i guess it’s like trying to explain to someone how to write with a pen… stick pen in between thumb and finger, place pen-tip on paper, write. well, how about those of you who were using your whole arm to write and finally realised to base your hand and just use your wrist to precisely move the pen? things like this that some people might not think of and which fall outside of the given formula!
surely i’m not the only nubcake who has discovered something stupid they were doing that they hadn’t initially realised??? surely? anyone?.. anyone??? ok, maybe it IS just me then :S
We didn’t forget. We never forget the first moments of learning, when we could pedal once, twice, and forever.
Thing is, all the simple things posted over and over are all it takes.
Most weight on the seat, some on the pedals. Sit straight, look forward, pedal, swing arms for balance.
That’s really all there is to it. There isn’t a secret like, stick you left hand forward, flex your abs, and tilt head to the right and you learn faster. Its all trials and error. And even that depends on who you are.
Trust me, if I had any inner secrets for learning how to ride, I would tell everyone. Im not the type to hold back on something to watch others have a hard time at stuff.
Unicycling is pretty much all trials and error. Falling forward, then lean back a little, and when you notice yourself going forward with your body, pedal a tad faster to bring the wheel up under you again and try to stay up right. Falling to the side, sit up straight, flail your arms and use your hips to correct yourself, and pedal faster to use momentum to help you balance.
A lot of it is common sense like that though, and if you record yourself trying something, and watch it back, it is very easy to see what is going wrong and what to correct. I taught a friend how to unispin in 5 minutes because I recorded him doing it, saw what he did wrong, told him what to try next time, and he got it on his 4th attempt.
Weather, well yesterday is was great for half of the day, then around 6pm is started to rain. Today is pretty gloomy looking, but a nice temperature for doing anything active outside.
ok well since i’m focusing on idling what do you suggest about the following… the forward and backward motion is a no-brainer and fine now that it’s getting more comfortable to sit on the uni, however, it seems as though all it takes is an ant sneezing to knock me sideways, and once there is the most miniscule falling to either side it is already far too late to recover. is it really just all about the arms flailing and the hips twisting, and if so should it really seem so incredibly unbelievably touchy and difficult to recover from tipping? is there some other factors that come into play? the side-ways tipping is a real killer >/
my plan of attack is to learn to idle. learn to mount. then learn to ride like all of you folk who are out there having fun… this is the plan simply because i don’t particularly have anywhere with support to practice riding, and then mount, and then idle as seems to be the normal progression.
…well this seems like the worst way to learn.
The proverbial cart before the horse.
Learn to ride first…then learn mounting and idling. It will make a lot of difference.
Ways to not learn how to unicycle:
Do not learn to ride it on a tightrope first.
Do not learn with snowshoes on your feet
Do not learn while working on a tuna boat…or in a canoe
Do not learn while under the influence of vodka. (trust me on this one)
Do not learn while hot chicks are watching.
Do not learn if your unicycle is made by ACME
Do not learn during an alien abduction, there is enough anal probing going on.
Do not learn while in a public restroom, especially in airports.
I learned to ride back before the Internet. I didn’t know of any local unicycling clubs or local riders. I just got a unicycle and said I’m going to learn to ride it. I had no instruction and no knowledge of any proper way to learn to ride. I just experimented with trial and error. I tried some things that didn’t work well at all (like stretching a rope across the garage to use as a support). Through all the mistakes and lack of knowledge I did learn to ride. There is nothing magic. You just gotta put in the time and the practice.
With the Internet it is now trivial to find instructions and tips for learning.
If you’re stuck somewhere with no access to other local riders then you can improvise by doing things like video taping a practice session and your riding. Experienced riders can look at the video and tell you what you may be doing wrong or give you suggestions on what to work on.
Sideways balance while idling is the tricky bit. I’m currently learning how to crank idle and dealing with learning how to control the sideways balance while doing that. It’s like learning to idle all over again.
The sideways balance is in the hips. It’s also in the timing of those hip corrections. You gotta learn to time the corrections with the position of the pedal stroke.
The sideways balance is also about posture and how you position your upper body. If you’re upper body is all moving around all over the place the wheel is going to have to follow. That makes idling difficult. Learn to keep the upper body mostly still and use the hips to control the unicycle.
I just learned to idle, and couldn’t agree more. What helped me the most
was my neighbor has an iron railing in front of his house which happened
to be just the right height for me to support my self and practicing to
get the right motion before letting go and doing it.
It always seems easier to do things when I know what it feels like.
now where talking. this is exactly what i was chasing and what i suspect (hope?) others are chasing too. regarding the hip corrections, do you mean in terms of changing wheel direction, or trying to counter-balance by jutting the hips to the non-falling direction, or both (, or something else entirely)?
also why did the rope-assist fail you? on pen and paper it seems like a not terrible idea, but i don’t have the setup to see why it fails in practice.
well anyways i’m starting to get idling… i can do it for a few seconds before i run out of room to move around in or before i just plain lose control. i’ll feel like (more of) a right tool when i can idle and not yet even ride
on very rare occasion i can even mount. sux to be me a few days ago, but not so much now. am i right in saying that to put virtually any weight on the downward pedal when mounting will virtually always mess-up your balance in trying to mount? it’s best to try to ‘float’ directly above the seat and to intend to have the weight fall on both pedals when you are directly above the seat? i’ve seen some of the side mounts on youtube so clearly it’s possible to compensate for drastic weight displacement to one side, but is the balance on a uni really fickle when simply trying to mount if there is any pressure on one pedal?
i’ve also found that trying to sit on the seat too fast tends to kill it too. if i can ‘float’ onto the pedals and above the seat and keep my grip on the seat for a moment and seeing where the balance is going to fall seems to really help, and as i start to try to roll to compensate i can then put my weight on the seat and remove my hand. does anyone else find this?
more questions for my own reality checks on if it’s “just me” or not
The hip corrections are in terms of changing the wheel direction. If you’re falling to the right you’ll arc the wheel to the right on each forward and back idle stroke till you regain your balance. The wheel will move to the right in arcs and only a few inches at a time. You can’t make very large side to side corrections all at once.
The whole concept of balancing on a unicycle is moving and controlling the wheel so the wheel stays under you. That is the exact opposite of trying to balance by moving your upper body to regain balance above the wheel.
This is key so I’ll repeat it again. The whole concept of balancing on a unicycle is moving and controlling the wheel so the wheel stays under you. Do not think of it as trying to balance your body above the wheel.
So when you’re idling you keep your balance by moving the wheel so it stays under you. It is difficult to move the wheel sideways so side to side balance while idling is a bit tricky at first. You use the hips to get the wheel to move in the direction you need it to.
Now still-stands are the opposite technique. A still-stand is where you stay in one place on the unicycle without moving the wheel. It is a very difficult and advanced skill. To balance while doing a still-stand you move your upper body to keep your body above the wheel. That is the exact opposite of how you balance while idling. The technique is that if you’re falling to the right you throw your hips out further to the right and your upper body (chest and trunk) to the left. That gets your center of mass back over the wheel, but you’re all kilted leaning sideways in a “>” kind of shape. Now you have to get yourself back upright while maintaining balance.
Don’t do or attempt any of the still-stand balance techniques while idling. Still-stands are the exact opposite of how you maintain balance while idling.
The rope tightly strung across the garage doesn’t work because the rope doesn’t have enough support. A solid handrail would work. Or a solid rail like what they have along the wall in a dance studio. The rope idea is completely ineffective as a learning aid.
I’m not too much of an old hand to have forgotten the torture of learning and I know what you mean about not having the pitfalls explained in the usual guides, so I’m going to share a few gems that I learned on the way.
Firstly, forget idling. It comes naturally a few skills down the line. Riding will allow you to freemount without tilting violently to one side, freemounting will allow you to roll mount which leads easily to idling or backwards riding. There’s a natural progression to these early skills that you’d do well to observe. Floating over the pedals when you’re idling will wear your legs out in no time. Seated idling is harder to master but easier on your legs.
Ride first. By-a-wall way worked best for me, but the really important part was not the wall itself but the terrain. It’s got to be smooth, I don’t mean kinda smooth, I mean gym floor smooth. I started on a rubber tile floor that was horribly uneven and knackered a kneecap in the attempt (it still clicks).
Once I switched to the 5-a-side court the skill came in no time. The court had a slight incline that helped accustom me to the balance of the wheel, and appreciate the finer points of holding weight in the back foot on the decline versus applying front foot pressure on the uphill.
Do you ride a bike? If so, forget the way that you pedal a bike. It’s not the same. There is very little forward pressure applied to the pedals. It’s all guiding the force that your weight applies through the saddle. It clicked for me once I started concentrating on my back foot. It holds your balance while your front foot guides. Concentrate on keeping it smooth and slow as your foot goes past the lowest spot on the curve.
Don’t wear heels. Your feet will probably slip forward on the pedals a lot while you’re learning and the temptation (for me anyway) was to wear my DMs with a little heel to keep my feet in place. BAD IDEA. Another kneecap destroyer as it allows you to put pressure on the knee joint instead of the quads.
Most importantly, keep it cool. Your posts give the impression that you’ve been getting more than a little frustrated. Stay calm reset yourself before each attempt.