Idea for a unicycle trainer

I have this dream of creating a unicycle trainer. There would be a normal unicycle with an attached variable ‘assist’ mechanism that would help keep the rider balanced. The assist could be set by the rider to 100%, in which case the rider could ride without any fear of falling, or set to 0% like a normal unicycle, or somewhere in between like 50%.

At say 50%, the rider might still fall off the unicycle but it would take much more imbalance than normal to fall. As the rider learned how to ride and improved their balance, they could incrementally lower the assist from 100% down to 0%.

The assist could be something like a pole(s) attached to the frame of the unicycle with the other end attached to a solid object to keep the rider steady. The unicycle would sit on top of a treadmill or a set of rollers, such that when you pedaled you stayed stationary. Or you could have the unicycle lifted off the ground like a stationary bike, and just have the seat and pedals to work with and no wheel, with some kind of resistance applied to the pedaling to simulate the wheel/ground contact resistance.

The variable assist could be implemented using an electrically controllable shock absorber connected to the pole, similar to electrically controlled shocks on cars. You can dial up the assist by making the shock absorber stiffer, and lower the assist by having the shock go softer.

An alternative is to have a freestanding unicycle that has an electric powered hub. The hub would help keep you balanced, similar to the way the one wheel unicycles work today. It would be harder or perhaps impossible to implement the side-to-side balance assist. I have seen electric assist unicycles so I believe a powered hub is definitely possible.

Another method is to again have a freestanding unicycle, but embed electronic sensors into the unicycle to determine the balance of the rider, how much weight they have on the pedals and the seat, with a feedback mechanism to the rider to tell them how to correct their riding, with a helmet-mounted heads-up display, projection on the ground in front of them, or google glasses.

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How about an adult sized Jolly Jumper with a low profile treadmill underwheel?

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When @Justin_LE made his electric assist unicycle, I did wonder whether it had the required sensors to be programmed to self balance in the forward and backward direction.

I imagine it would be super weird though, as unlike a self balancing electric wheel, there are the pedals still going up and down to contend with, and the centre of balance is higher.

I don’t believe it did. The rider was the brains/balancer and the electric assist was the power. Only torque sensors on the cranks controlled the electric power. There was no auto balancing feature but that may have been a useful feature up to a point. At very high speeds like modern electric uni’s can do there would need to be some kind of free wheeling feature. That may get quite complex.

I don’t think it would help. There is much more to controlling the balance on a unicycle than the forward and backwards driving forces.

Some of the balance is about adjusting the lean of the body but the primary skill is steering the wheel under the direction of the fall.

Besides, falling off safely is probably the most important skill of all.

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Both great ideas.
Let me know when it’s built.

Just put a trainer-wheel in front :wink:

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I did see a kids one on ebay, which had a round hoop surrounding the unicycle. I looked it up and I found some cool designs, like this one:

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How easy an “electric unicycle” is to ride, when compared to a BC wheel, is pretty good indication that taking care of the forward and backward balance helps a massive amount, I’d say.

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I did see a kids one on ebay, which had a round hoop surrounding the unicycle. I looked it up and I found some cool designs, like this one:

Do you remember where you saw that on Ebay? I’d like to look into buying one of those to evaluate and possibly modify.

Does it look like the unicycle frame is held rigid with the hoop, so that you can’t fall forward or backwards?

Yes, and perhaps have the jolly jumper attached to something built like this so the rider would have their hands free. They could still use the handrails.

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Agreed, but with a ‘variable assist’ mechanism, the rider could learn all the required skills in series, rather than in parallel. Learning one skill at a time is much easier than learning them all simultaneously.

The one I saw on ebay has long since been sold, so unfortunately I cannot find it.

I do remember though that it did have the stabilisers higher than the unicycle wheel so it had a high degree of wobble.

I did a quickly searched unicycle trainer on google and found a few examples.

The best one I found was the one in the picture I sent earlier which has adjustable float/wobble.

Yes all the examples I found had a rigid hoop attached to the unicycle.

There was also another interesting idea which is shown above, which uses some sort of shelf with castor wheels.

This might be of interest: https://justonewheel.com/

Yes it is a help but runs into the same problem only at 40+mph. It can only go so fast and after that you are sliding/rolling down the road. Like this.

Still not sure why you would even want to get anywhere close to 40 mph. Especially considering this thread is about adding electric assist to make a “trainer” for “real” unicycling.

You obviously can not make a unicycle bail proof, but it would not be impossible to have a system that is both speed limited and assisting in balance I think.
This: D.I.Y. Electric Pedal Assist Unicycle | OddCycle.com plus a gyroscopic sensor and accelerometer on the frame and some electronics to manage the motor. Far from easy to do of course, but I think if the whole “assisting balance” concept works in general, you can easily figure out a limiting strategy.
If you truly try to do this as a training device, I’d use a direct drive hub motor (as they did in the link), so that it can not go faster than you pedal anyway. Programm it such that it adds in some additional breaking/accelerating to save the rider. Instead of freewheeling, just fade it out at a reasonable speed and let the rider fall off (or manage to pedal themselves.)

Would this revolutionize learning how to unicycle? Probably not, too expensive and most people looking into unicycling want the challenge I think. But an interesting engineering experiment, if someone is looking for it (and has the tools).

That was what I thought of when reading the OP’s post. Adam Cohen’s design is adjustable to allow for increasing amounts of wobble (or “play”) as the rider’s skills improve. It’s a functional version of training wheels for a unicycle, where you get to actually ride the thing, with something to hold you up as you learn the movements.

If the goal is to learn to ride a conventional, analog unicycle, I don’t think bringing electric assist in will be as helpful. What you want is to learn the movements, with the necessary muscle power to execute them.

I’ve never tried one of Adam’s rigs, but I’m sure it would be interesting! Not sure if he makes adult-sized ones though. I used to ride right near his neighborhood back in the 90s, before I moved to CA. We didn’t know each other then…

Schwinn’s answer to Unicycle assist training in the early sixties, Springy Poles.
(John, do you remember these?)

A chap I work with said he used walking sticks as part of learning how to unicycle. He also did most of his learning on grass, which is pretty difficult. I remember trying to unicycle on grass when I was learning, and I just kept on sinking in and getting stuck on all the imperfections.

Stick/poles may be a good way to learn, as it simulates two people holding you. You still get a lot of wobble and you can gradually reduce the assistance as you grow more confident.

Although now I am thinking, has anyone got a pole in the face!?

These Schwinn training poles are telescoping and have a really long screw and a spring inside and have about 6" of compression. Of course you could get one in the face or you could “Face Plant” without them. Unicycling is about taking that chance out of your comfort zone, or just ignoring taking any chances and being a “Milk Toast” all your life.

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Oh so many years ago I learned using a couple of old broom handles. Once I would get going I would drop them and ride off. Eventually I no longer needed them at all and they went back behind the door in the garage. The hope is you only need assistance for a short period of time, there for I wouldn’t want an unneeded apparatus hanging around after I learned.

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