Indoor balancing practice

I thought I would share my simple method of practicing improving my balance.
I bought a piece of timber 3" high by 2" wide by 8 feet long and attached a couple of strong brackets either side to stop it tipping over (it is not necessary to attach to floor IMO).

I simply walk along and balance with my arms out.
As the balance improves the arms come down towards the sides, until they are not needed. (good practice when the weather is bad).
Any improvement in balance should transfer to the uni.

Have you tried riding your uni on it?

Not good enough yet.

I wonder about this - does it?

My guess, based solely on personal experience, is no. It’s not exactly the same thing, but I was doing a balance exercise for a year before I actually got a uni and started learning. If it was any preparation at all, it was insignificant. In my case, it was a sort of gliding walk on the balls of my feet, sort of emulating riding a unicycle, but obviously not really. I got good at doing that, but it didn’t seem to help me at all with learning to ride. You need a uni for that.

By all means, do balance exercises on your feet, such as walking on a beam) if you want to for their own sake. Just don’t expect them to transfer to unicycling in a nontrivial way.

Nah, it won’t. “Balance” on a unicycle is all about building up the muscle memory that lets you keep the wheel under your center of gravity - by waving your arm just so and pedaling just this much to twist the wheel so it moves ahead and to the right, or back and to the left, etc etc etc.

I routinely walk half a mile or more on a railroad rail while holding a couple of dogs on the leash, and it doesn’t help. When I rode (bike) trials, I could ride a hundred yards or so on a rail, and it didn’t help. The skills that keep me on the rail while walking the dogs or riding the bike are completely different from uni skills.

IMO, yes, but would be problematic transferring to a uni which has a fulcrum at the seat for most riding (instead of your ankles).

I think a slackline or an Indo board would be more helpful IMO for general balance, but again not directly transferable to a uni.

Best would be an actual uni. On a 19" you could do a lot of stuff in a tight space (still stands, low trials, & tricks).
IMO you could easily fit all these but the gliding in 6’x6’ space.

In a small space, you can always do what I do, practice standstills or idling on your uni. I learned to idle that way and now I’ve moved to standstills which I’m not good at yet…

I think anything that trains the subconscious to recognise when the body is in balance, has to be beneficial to all activities where balance plays a part, from walking to unicycling.

Agreed that muscle memory is involved, but the memory is in the mind not the muscle itself. The same area of the mind that controls balance generally.

Just an example where I feel balance skills transfer between disciplines.
The guy in the video is a children’s entertainer and skilled unicyclist.
In the video, he tries slack-lining for the first time and makes quick progress.
Unless someone can correct me, slack-lining is not something one can easily pick up in a single lesson?

BTW, anyone care to guess how old this guy is?

I’ve been unicycling for 40+ years, almost daily for the past 20+, and often while juggling 3 clubs for miles on end.

Last year I took a month of Bikram yoga classes. The first 3 poses are balance poses, and all month I had great difficulty holding these poses. With practice my balance for these specific poses improved, but I did not appear to have much advantage over others who do not unicycle.

I was also the last and oldest kid in my neighborhood to learn to ride a b*ke, so I cannot say I have good balance in any general sense. I also had difficulty learning to walk a tight wire.

My vote is that balance skills do not broadly generalize.


In general, I have to agree with Billy the Mountain that “balance skills do not broadly generalize.” On a slackline, even if you are a complete beginner, it’s pretty much impossible to fall forward or backwards. An interest in balance, I would guess, is the biggest advantage a slackliner brings to unicycling. Slacklining may also put you in touch with unicyclists, though, and then the idea of riding around on one wheel doesn’t seem as weird as it does to most people, so that might help. Perhaps slacklining could give you a slight advantage in unicycling once you get to the point where falling forward or backward becomes less of a concern. Unicyclists who do standstills or ride on top of fence rails seem to make the same arm movements as a slackliner. The bottom line, though: if you want to get better at unicycling, get on your unicycle!

I have helped a number of people learn to slackline. A fast learner gets it on his second day. I once met a tight wire clown who got it immediately, though maybe he doesn’t quite count as a beginner. Dancers pick it up quickly as well. The guy in the above video appears to be very talented. He also has a good instructor.

I think that one of the biggest myths associated with unicycling is that it requires a good sense of balance (It’s up there with the myth that wyow is clever). Call me crazy but I have my reasons.

Your sense of balance does affect your unicycling but it is something that must be developed specifically for the sport itself.

You are nuts if you think that you can learn to unicycle in a few minutes just because you can balance on a ball. So improving your balance skills outside of unicycling is unlikely to improve your skill much.

In the longrun you have to develop muscle memory and your sense of balance specifically for unicycling if you expect to improve your skill at unicycling.

I will go against the crowd here and say that you can increase your sensitivity of balance by practicing balancing activities. Unicycling is a dynamic balance activity, which means it’s about balancing your body in relation to what’s around it. Practicing other balance activities will be improved if you can ride a unicycle, but the specific skills needed for other activities still need to be learned. Like Jeremy Shafer in the video, he’s got the balance skills, but not the slackline skills. The balance skills definitely help.

(Spoiler alert!)
The boyish Jeremy Shafer is 40. He’ll be 41 next May. Yes, I cheated (he’s been to at least one of my MUni Weekends). Funny, I saw the stillframe image of that video and recognized the clothes immediately. “Looks like Jeremy Shafer” I thought. I see him rarely, at the occasional festival and at the California State Fair. He also does the most amazing origami I’ve ever seen.

He seems like an interesting character.
His videos are ‘off the wall’, entertaining and instructive in equal measure. Definitely worth a look.
There’s a video of his where he unicycles around Venice after attending an origami convention.