Idling-should it be smooth, or a bit jerky?

After a few weeks of practice, I can only muster 3 idles or so. My front back balance is pretty good, but my lateral balance isn’t so hot.

But I notice that sometimes, as I do the backwards pedalling, my front foot jerks (well, the pedal), and I use that as a signal to pedal forwards. Is this ok? I seem to be able to control it, but I’ve been doing this lately. But if it’s actually hindering my progress, I’ll definitely use only smooth motions

Smooooooooooth. Unless you are striving for a particular ‘artistic’ or ‘dramatic’ effect in a performance, aim for smoothness, balance and control in everything you do on a unicycle.

What happens in idling is this:

You ride to a stop. To stop, you let the unicycle run a bit ahead of you. That means that when you stop, you start to fall backwards. You counteract this by moving the wheel backwards until it passes under you. Then you stop. This leaves the wheel behind you, so you start to fall forwards… and so on.

So you are oscillating between a falling backwards and a falling forwards position. There are two definite positions: unicycle just ahead of you, and unicycle just behind you. But when you get it good and smooth, you don’t fall, because that wheel is moving all the time, adjusting the balance. It should be rhythmical and flowing, but not to a rigid beat.

Try this exercise: stand away from windows and glass doors, and balance a broom on your finger, with the broom’s head at the top. It should be quite easy. Now see what happens if you move your finger from side to side. A smooth ‘swooping’ action, accelerating then decelerating at each end of the stroke will be easy to sustain. But snap the finger suddenly from one position to the other and the job gets harder: you are introducing more variables into the movement, and it’s harder to keep correcting.

Now, try the same exercise with something shorter and lighter - maybe a handbrush, or a walking stick. See how smooth makes it easy, and jerky makes it difficult. Get the feel for that swooping rhythm: accelerate and decelerate, like a pendulum.

OK, now try it on the unicycle. Ride forwards and stop. Feel the pedal rise behind you as you apply pressure on it to stop. Feel yourself lean ever so slightly back. Now press the pedal down. Don’t SHOVE it or jerk it. Press it. Feel it go past the bottom point, then reduce the pressure on it to let it rise in front of you.

A good exercise is to ride forward, stop, half pedal backwards, stop, then ride away forwards. Repeat until you can do it confidently. Don’t just try to idle. Ride, stop, back, stop ride…

And when you can do that, try adding an extra 2 strokes:
Ride, stop, back, stop, forward, stop, back, stop, ride away.

Keep your weight on the saddle. Keep your line of sight high (look at something a long way away). DON’T look down.

Use gentle pressure on the bottom foot, and hardly use the top foot at all.

The bottom foot (‘working foot’) should move from about 8 on the clock face to about 4 on the clock face. When you get good, it should move from 5 to 7 (approx.)

Think of it as a smooth press and release. If you thrust the foot down hard, it will get to bottom dead centre and stop, and the idle will die.

Have you ever used a treadle sewing machine? Did you ever have a pedal go-kart or pedal car? Do you know that feeling where you have to let the treadle/pedal finish its movement, so that it gets back to the place where you can push it again?

And the side to side bit? Firstly, look a long way ahead. Secondly, keep your weight high (raise arms to about shoulder level, but don’t stick them out like wings). The rest is done with the wheel. You can never idle in a perfectly straight line. The wheel should draw Ns or Ms or Ws on the ground, or even slight S shapes.

Search the forum for many other guidelines on idling.

Good luck, and stick at it. It’s a relaxing and rewarding skill, and makes your riding so much more confident and versatile.:slight_smile: