how to ride through bumpy grass?

okay okay… now that you are done laughing at my noob question…

I have a 26" Nimbus II with street tire (not built for muni). I mostly ride on sidewalks. I tried a path today where the sidewalk was missing for about 100ft and decided I would try going through the grass.

I can ride off-road on dirt / gravel / etc. But, this messed me up because it is very dry conditions here so the grass is not really like a smooth carpet - more like a series of bumps.

So, I made it about 10 feet and had a quick dismount complete with body roll - wheeee…

So, I think the problem is that I’m hesitating and going too slow so I don’t have any momentum and the first bumps I hit are bringing the wheel to a quick stop.

The other thing messing with me is that I can go over small bumps in the road because I see them and know where they are. This is like riding with lots of bumps and not being able to really see them.

I’m sure you muni guys can chime in with some helpful tips. I don’t know that I really WANT to do much off road riding - but, don’t really want to have to walk 100ft with my unicycle just because I can’t ride through some dang grass…

Getting the right speed will definitely help. I’d also suggest grabbing the front handle of the seat. Sometimes by pushing down on it, I’m able to better propel myself forward and keep myself steady. As with anything though, practice makes perfect. :slight_smile:

Let this be a reminder to all those people who think it’s a good idea to learn to ride on “soft” grass. Nope, you’ll mostly learn how to get good at dismounts.

Grass is a stealth surface. Not only do you not know how smooth or bumpy the underlying ground is, you also don’t know how consistent the grass plants are either. So it’s a guessing game. To ride through it, you must have confidence, and power at the ready.

Holding the seat is a good idea. Not necessarily pushing down or up, but holding it firmly in place, to where your feet don’t lose power by lifting you upward. Keep your pedaling power steady, and expect random bumps. With practice, only the bigger ones will get you. With more practice, most of them won’t.

Another tip: If you’re ever in a unicycle race that goes on grass, don’t tailgate!

(Yes, in the early days of off-road racing, we usually didn’t have access to convenient mountain bike trails. Munis that you could buy didn’t exist until the late 90s, but we started having off-road races in 1988 (International Cycling Festival, Hull, Quebec), followed by Unicon IV in Puerto Rico.)

I remember growing up, treating each grassy area as a separate challenge. First I conquered the front yard, then the more challenging back, then the field where we played neighborhood baseball and finally a wheat field shortcut…

OP, like John describes, think of riding on grass as a separate skill, where surface conditions are hidden and can vary constantly. A bigger tire with lower pressure will help to “flatten” those unseen bumps, too. Good luck.

Riding on grass is harder than it feels like it should be. Like John said, you don’t really know what the ground is like until you have already gone over it. In a lot of ways it’s like riding in fresh snow hiding all the abnormal bumps and lumps while adding some resistance of it’s own.

When approaching any terrain that is a bit of an unknown (grass, snow, mud, water, thick leaves, etc) I like to have a hand on the seat or handle, keep a steady pace and lift a bit of weight off the saddle. Unweighting the saddle will allow you to have more of a power reserve in the legs for quick adjustments if necessary, and soak up any unexpected bumps.

Almost any adjustment you make to your unicycle to improve grass riding will detract from your pavement fun but sometimes compromises are worth it. Lowering the tire pressure will help in grass, but make your unicycle more sluggish on the road, same with a fatter mountain bike tire. A fatter smooth tire can be good for both if you want to spend the money, but some have road crown issues.

There’s a local weekly mountain bike race series I’ve ridden muni in a number of times. It always the same course, and starts and finishes in a recreational baseball field. It 's multi-lap so I’d have to come through the field 3 times, and it’s basically down one foul line, around the backstop and up the other foul line. The field is SO bumpy it fatigues me so bad and have UPDed at times. The grass is mowed, so it looks flat, but underneath it’s a minefield of random bumps and depressions making me ride so tense. Being in my high gear schlumpf makes the bumps harder, but otherwise I’m spinning too much.
I also t sucks because that’s were all the race spectators are. They’re probably thinking, “geez, if he can’t stay up on a nice flat field, what is he doing when he’s on the trails”.
Even though this grass section is a relatively small part of the race, it’s a major factor of why I didn’t race there this summer.

Fat tires float over bumpy grass like its smooth dirt…:smiley:

When I was first learning I did the same thing and caught it on video :roll_eyes:

crash (2).jpg

I ride on bumpy grass a lot, the trick is, as you mentioned, take it fast and confidently. If you get to the grass and think ‘crap, I’m gonna fall, I’ll pull up, lean back and slow down!’ guess what? You’ll fall! :smiley:

Treat it just the same as any other surface, don’t freeze/tense up, don’t slow down and just ride over it.

I hold the handle, take a little weight off the seat, angle my upper body forward at the hips…and commit! I learnt this through trial and error…it works for me.

And with less air in the tire, it deals better with the irregularities of the grass.

If this seems like a ‘thread hijack’ I apologize, but…
Does all this advice apply to water too? Winter had arrived here, and due to the gulf stream it tends not to get too cold but is very wet. My usual route now has big puddles, some maybe 6" deep and 12-15’ across. It’s hard gravel underneath, but without being able to see the bumps & stones through the silty water I tend to upd. I take it the approach to these puddles is the same as the advice above for grass?

Yup. Water, soft snow, dry leaves, mud over hardpack, grass, etc. with water that deep you might need to lean back a little bit before hitting it to counter-act the resistance the wheel will encounter, especially if you are using a wider tire.

Thanks. Tyre is a 24x3" vuelta usa, very similar to a duro. I’ll try going faster & leaning back for the initial splash!

The way you all describe it, it seems to me that grass is a fun challenge. I also noticed that by keeping the wheel rolling, it is easier to get through it. After reading this thread, I will actually find more grass to ride on. No doubt it will increase my sense for balance.

My biggest problem is trails with tree roots. There is this very nice forest ride of about 4km I ride every week, of which 2km is a climb, but there is a section of 100 metres with nasty tree roots. I can tackle some, but after a few roots, my feet don’t happen to be in the correct position and I UPD. Speed at the start might be the solution, but it makes it more difficult to steer the 29" wheel further on.

The day before yesterday I rode through a grass patch (for about 50 m) to avoid an oncoming group of pedestrians. That sucker alone was the best leg workout I’ve had in months. :smiley:

Grass is a surprisingly tricky surface to ride on, especially long tussocky grass, but even mown grass saps your energy and hides tripping hazards.

The trick is to ride at about 80% of your normal speed so that you have some left if you need to accelerate out of a near UPD. Hold the front of your seat, not so much to push or pull, but because your fingers will give you feedback about what is happening under your wheel faster than your eyes will. Keep your body upright (don’t hunch over) because keeping your mass high will slow down your wobbles. (Think of how a longer pendulum swings more slowly than a shorter one.) Look at the ground a few metres/yards ahead and pick your route around (or through) difficult patches.

A good discipline is to find a wide empty area of grass, such as a sports field, and ride with your eyes closed. Go for 5 pedal strokes, then try 10, then build up and see how far you can manage. Closing your eyes will train your body to react to the physical feedback you get from the uni.

If the grass is very long or the ground is very uneven, you may find it easier to stand on your pedals.

I have a 700c uni which used to have a 23 mm tyre although at present it has a 32. I used to ride it regularly on unmown grass such as river bank paths. I used to think of attacking the tral with a rapier, rather than with the broadsword of a more conventional muni. That is, you concentrate on finding your way between the obstacles relying on timing and finesse, rather than just hacking your way through. Very rewarding, but tiring.

I see I last posted here in 2015 when I just learned to ride. I’ve also found that just pushing on and not thinking too much about what pits there might be in the grass and stand more on the pedals than sit, gets met safely through the grass. There are always some rough pits here and there that just block the wheel, but just hop up and continue.

I don’t find riding a fatty makes it easier to ride, as it adds a lot to the friction, which slurps more energy.

Funny you say that, I also occasionally ride with my eyes closed when riding on the cyclepath, just to focus on the feeling. In my mind it shouldn’t make it harder as your body already reacts to difference in balance. Naturally I have to open my eyes every now and then so I don’t ride off the cycle path against a tree or something. :slight_smile:

Lutz Eichholz called riding on grass a “lottery” at Elsbet this year, and I think that is pretty appropriate. If you are not riding very slow, and carefully (which is boring and exhausting), there will be a hole or bump hidden that will get you at some point, you just don’t know when. I treat the grass as a necessary evil if a trail goes across it. Certainly not fun for me, it’s more fun to deal with obstacles you can see…

I have the same Nimbus II uni and am familiar with that tire

-deflate the tire a bit so it feels bouncy
-ride up out of the saddle a bit and let your legs take the bumps, this will help the most
-learning to hop, and especially idling, will help you ride out of the saddle and to develop more balance in general