Six months ago I joined the forum and purchased my first uni, a Nimbus II 20 inch free style. I was determined to learn.
I got all the gear, shin and elbow pads. helmet and wrist guards.
Put in around 2 hours practice along a hand rail and launched off into space a few times. I was doing quite well managing two or three revs before bailing out, THEN had a heavy backwards fall where I seems unable to get my feet off the pedals.
This shook me up and since then I have been making excuses to myself to avoid getting started again … the weather’s too wet … it’s too cold etc etc.
The weather is now fine and I have no more excuses.
Truth is I am still nervous.
I am a fit 65 year old who cycles a lot, but I am aware I may be slightly more brittle than in my twenties.
I have just set a rail up on the grass at the back of our house, and plan to launch myself from this. Hopefully the softer grass surface will reduce the anxiety of falling.
Has anyone else been in this position, or have any advice to offer.
I do not want to give up.
If falling backwards is a fear, fit a helmet and elbow pads, with maybe some MTB/BMX padded shorts for coccyx and hips and then just go for it!
I have had two falls backwards. The first was during my initial attempt to dismount gracefully from a 29" I had borrowed for the day. The second was - again - trying to dismount gracefully from my own 29" uni.
I also had two backwards falls when I was learning two years ago. The first I was wearing a thick winter coat, but the second was just a shirt. I always have a helmet on, and I would still be unconscious on the ground if not for it. I’m learning that I don’t heal as quickly as I used to, but I still get out there. I suppose in 15 years I will be more cautious as you are now.
What I’ve learned from unicycling is its a lot mental. If I want to do something like ride, or freemount, or roll off a curb, there’s no way to learn except to do it, and mentally commit to the action, knowing the risks.
I’ve broken a few bones learning to snowboard these past few years, and may not pursue that endeavor again simply because I consider the risk too great. I haven’t made that decision yet. But I won’t sit on my couch, either. After my two backward falls, it hasn’t happened since. All my falls are now forward, although I can’t guarantee I will never fall backwards again. I just feel like I have more control over them.
Although learning on grass will be a lot harder for you, if its something you want to do, go for it. The reward is immense!
Backward falls are the worse. When I got my uni I tried riding it my first time on my small patio with just my 5 year old son nearby. After my first backward fall I gave him instructions to run to the neighbors and get help if I don’t respond after a fall. A few more backwards falls later I gave up until I could make it to a tennis court.
Unicycling is certainly mental. One place I ride is a bicycle path that has metal non-flexible poles sticking up at every intersection. On my 29 they are about “stick you in the gut level” if you fall on one. I have the unreasonable fear that I am going to do exactly that. One set of poles is right on a turn and I always fall trying to get past them. It isn’t because it is difficult. It is only because I start thinking about it! Yesterday, while trying to make the turn, I fell backwards for the first time in months! It still hurts.
With my first 36 on order I am starting to think how dangerous that is going to be. Maybe I should get some hip protection.
I can sympathize with you as I am in your age category. I have had a couple of hard falls too. This “fear factor” is what is limiting for me, as I actually can ride pretty well if I don’t think about it. You just have to pad up and practice. I just bought a trials uni to try to learn idling and hopping. Be careful on the grass though, as I don’t think the smaller wheel works that well on grass. I took a header recently when a grass clump caught the tire. I might look for a basketball court. Good luck and keep us posted.
I’m heading towards 50 and totally agree with you that not getting unecessarily damaged is a priority- I ride a lot, but put a lot of thought into making that riding safe.
I’ve put in bold the 2 bits that jumped out at me.
Firstly- it’s always worse to fall off backwards, however, if you’re ‘launching into space’ it shouldn’t really happen. That’s because you need to have your weight forwards of the wheel for riding forwards- a backward fall indicates that you’ve either not got your weight forwards, or, that you’ve hit a problem and stayed on the unicycle too long.
That links into the “seemed unable to get my feet off the pedals” part- in my experience, the nasty landings happen when you’ve ended up either attached to the unicycle, or landed on it.
My top tip for safety, is, when things start to go wrong get off, and, get away, from the unicycle.
Don’t try to stay on in the hope of correcting things- it’s not worth the risk: yes, sometimes you’ll manage to stay on, but, other times you’ll end up getting entangled/tripping on the unicyle, and, that’s when the nasty UPDs can occur.
If you lose it, just get off the unicycle and follow your momentum (e.g. ‘run out’) leaving the unicycle to find it’s own way to the ground.
I find, doing that, nasty UPDs really are minimised.
To summarise, when ‘launching into space’ get your weight forwards- if the unicycle stalls, or you feel your weight going over, or behind the axle, it’s time to get off. If anything feels wrong, just get off and get away from the unicycle.
I understand your fear.
I had similar experience with a 5 feet giraffe, where I fell side-ways and hurt myself. I felt anxious about being so high off the ground and was timid riding it.
For you falling backwards, I HIGHLY recommend wearing a BACKPACK. This will give you sense of mental ease from knowing if you fall backward, there will be cushion to fall from(along with your helmet). Put some “stuffing” in the backpack like foam or water-hydration bags.
Lastly, try leaning forward so your body is in a “C” shape. This should lessen chance of falling backward. I myself have never fell backward cause of this habit. Happy Muni trails!
I’m in a similar boat… I started unicycling again about a year and a half ago after a 30 year hiatus. I was doing great, mostly road rides, 3-5mile average. A health issue came up last fall and I stopped everything. Just got back on the wheel last week and my old 24" gave out on me. A pedal sheared off as I was going up a slight hill. Definitely my worst UPD. No major injury, but it shook me up. My new 29er is on the way. I’m excited, but nervous about the bigger wheel. Good advice on this thread. Going to gear up for safety, and take it slow.
First thought. Are you using pinned pedals? If so, change them to a non pinned style as this may help keep you from getting your feet caught up.
The padded back pack is a good suggestion.
I got tangled up in a set of pinned pedals early in my learning time & spent the next 7 months dealing with a serious wrist injury (surgery required)
I actually learned to ride on grass or maybe better put, I learned to balance on the grass because it slows down the reaction of the wheel, but over all it is much harder to actually ride on lawn than it is to ride on a smooth suface.
Hi again joggerdude…It may help to put some time into practicing coming off the front so it becomes automatic… Step onto the pedal as if you are intending a roll back mount but just step over the other pedal putting your foot down on the ground with the uni behind you…do this over and over again. The only problem with this will be in the future when you want to learn dismounting from the rear:o
If you must ride on grass ( I wouldn’t recommend it ), you’ll probably want to let some air out of your tire, this will help soak up some of the uneven-ness of the grass surface, kind of make the tire float on top of the grass more. I remember learning, I tried all surfaces around my house, the backyard seemed flat, but once I got the uni on it, found out how uneven it is, my grass sessions didn’t last long. Good luck. Glad your back to it
As with any sport, you should practice falling. Practice your UPD’s on the front and back. The first day i played hockey we spent the practice learning how to fall. It is an inevitable part of any sport. If you are ready and aware of what can happen you will boost your confidence. If possible it helps to have a riding buddy. Whether they are a good unicycle rider or a friend that would like to learn, having someone to go out with really helps.
IMHO you need to get off the grass, and stop trying to launch yourself. The best way to learn to ride, esp. for someone your age (over 30) is to ride alongside your support and get comfortable making controlled revolutions of the wheel first. Doing this on a smooth surface is much, much easier than on grass, which can be unpredictably lumpy and also has more friction than you would imagine. And since you’re holding onto your support you are less likely to fall down at all.
That’s also very good advice for building your confidence back. Only edit I would make is to not say “falling”. Practice DISMOUNTING at all angles. Front, back, sides. You can also practice falling, which will teach you good techniques for avoiding injury but it’s less important that getting comfortable with getting off the thing. Not using the pinned pedals should help a bit as well.
I wanted to put in my two cents for what it’s worth. I’m a very clumsy and uncoordinated person and spend a lot of time around people who are not so. It’s difficult for them to understand that it takes me a long time to learn physical skills and that I need to be cautious doing so. I teach a lot of people unicycling and my favorite times are when that person is trepidatious. My advice for you is to wear enough padding to give you confidence to fall without serious injury. You might also consider finding a buddy to spot you (from falling backwards) for the very beginning.
“Just go for it” is one approach that works, but the opposite also works. Start with support like a wall or, ideally, the pole of a basketball hoop. Practice balancing with your feet in the horizontal position and putting less and less weight on the support. If this is all you do in one session, that’s fine. Once you feel comfortable you can consider pedaling. You need some forward momentum, possibly a gentle push off the support or just leaning forward slightly (but keep your back straight). A backwards fall is more likely to occur if you don’t commit so at the beginning you can practice a nice hard stomp on the pedal with one foot and then planning to step off to the ground with the other foot. Keep doing this until you get used to how you “fall off” (dismount) the unicycle, including stepping off backwards. Once this feels very comfortable try to do two pedals and then step off. If you can do that comfortably you can go back to all the other advice about weight on the seat, etc. You should have more confidence at this point. You can take a slower, more controlled approach to learning by riding slow and stepping off or bailing the instant you’re a little out of control vs. trying to ride it out as long as possible. This will take longer to be able to go further which is the usual metric people use. The person using the “just go for it” approach will go further faster but then they’ll take a while learning the control that you’ve been learning all along. To me learning to fall and getting used to the various ways it can happen is just as important as learning to ride.
Not everyone is a daredevil. There are plenty of unicyclists that are, but you don’t have to be a daredevil to learn to ride a unicycle.
I also recommend against practicing on grass to start. That will make it very difficult to learn, but if the choice is doing that or nothing then go for it!
In my area all the school playgrounds are made of compressed rubber, much softer than hard floors and concrete yet relatively smooth and flat. This makes for a fairly safe surface on which to practice. Plus there is playground equipment to hold on to.