Introduction of New Rider - Trouble Starting

Hi Everyone,

First off, is anyone else in Vegas? I’m looking to just try a 20" to see if I am any less apprehensive when getting on it. I am currently on a 26" that I just bought one week ago. Although some say it does not matter, many people on the net and here claim that I should have started on a 20" rather than a 26".

Some quick details: I have never tried a uni before. I am male, 40 y/o, almost 5’11, but I have short legs (inseam around 30-31 inches). I am also obese at 250 pounds, so I was looking to learning unicycling to lose weight. I was on the mountain bike team in college 20 years ago. The past three years, I have been quite inactive, and I am looking to change that bad habit now. I bought a new Nimbus 26" regular (not MUni) unicycle, along with all the pads and helmet. I already switched out my Nimbus seat for the Kris Holm Street Saddle because the Nimbus one was really rough on my groin area at least at this stage.

Yes, just began a week ago, but I have already somehow fallen off it a few times with some scrapes and twice falling backward; landed on my pelvis, which still hurts five hours later. I cannot remember how I fell the first time, but it is probably similar to this time. I was just trying to dismount forward. I put pressure on my right foot at the 6 o’clock position. Instead of pushing back with my foot and stepping forward off of it, the unicycle shot forward rather forcefully and I landed on my fat rear, and it is still quite painful (I am sure I am fine though). From what I have since read here, I made the mistake of putting too much force on the pedal while trying to dismount.

I have not tried to ride anywhere. Just get on the thing and try to balance for 5-10 minutes. My seat might be too low now (it is as far down as it can go without touching the wheel), and so I am not in my seat properly? I feel as if the seat isn’t under me on the backside all the way when I mount. At this point, when I get on top of the unicycle, I am quite fearful of falling after falling several times. Yeah, I realize this is probably a normal feeling, but I think the strong fear is prohibiting my ability to improve.

Also, feel that even though the seat is so low, the large tire makes me feel as if I am off the ground quite a bit. This is why I thought I might be better off learning on a 20".

Appreciate any comments and suggestions.

BTW, how come I can only see four pages of posts here? The search reveals more, but I can only see four active pages.

I started riding in April of this year so I am still pretty new but I remember exactly how it felt just a few months ago. The biggest thing that I noticed no matter what size I sat on was to lean farther forward than I normally felt comfortable with. As soon as I started doing it then staying on it and pedaling started really coming together at that point. I noticed that every time I even slipped off the back end of it I was never leaning forward at all. I had to purposely think to myself to lean farther forward and I just got more and more comfortable on it.

I started on a 24in for a few weeks then got a nice 20in from a friend and I learned everything in a matter of days how to get comfortable starting to ride a whole block and not hold onto stuff. The 20in I just felt a bit safer on and easier to manage. I am 6’2 and about 200lbs so I definitely felt big on the 20in but I didn’t feel so high up and felt I could manage the wheel a bit better.

Now I have been riding s 29in in our local trials and things just get better and better the more you practice and ride. Persistence was the real key to it all. Just falling over and over until you start pedaling a revolution or two then just pedaling away!.

I hope it goes well and gets better for you.

Welcome to the forum. Intimidation about falling backward was something I went through as a beginner. I think you can probably stick it out with the 26". Another beginner once asked, “What’s the best beginning unicycle?” My favorite answer was, “Whichever one you’ve got.”

As a beginner, it was important to me to self-mount, but I didn’t want to hit the pavement hard. My solution was to take the unicycle (my beginner uni was a 24") to the park across the street and practice mounting on the soft grass. The grass definitely inhibited my ability to ride away from the mount, but I was able to build confidence knowing that I wouldn’t hurt myself when I fell.

Since, as you described, your seat is likely set too short, you might try finding soft grass and practice a jump mount into the 3:00 and 9:00 pedal positions. Start with one hand on the seat handle. Now, I know a jump mount seems advanced…but think about the position of the pedals…if someone set up steps, boxes, platforms…in these positions, you’d surely be able to jump onto them. Once you land, you’re in a decent position to try riding away. For me, the purpose of that exercise was to build confidence and to have no bad consequences. It didn’t get me riding faster, but it was HUGE in helping manage intimidation.

As a beginner, the few falls I had (the ones where I didn’t land on my feet) resulted from bailing from both the pedals. After bailing from the first pedal, the second pedal effectively shot the uni out from under me. Maintaining good connection with both pedals is going to help you avoid such situations. If you are practicing by holding onto a wall or something, then moving back and forth while keeping the connection with the pedals…will help train you to keep the feet on the pedals. Having a crutch which allows you to feel a good connection with the pedals throughout the 360 degrees of the pedal stroke will be helpful. You may have to look around to find such a practice spot.

If your seat is too low, then raising it could put you into more of a standing position while practicing, which in turn could help you land on your feet. If your legs are bent too much while riding, you’re going to have to straighten them while UPDing. The only way to straighten them is by applying pressure on the pedals, which, when done unevenly, can cause the kind of accident which bruised your tail-bone.

If the concern about falling back persists, you can buy a pair of specially padded shorts which protect your tail-bone.

Good luck!

Falling backwards is disconcerting. I started a year ago and have fallen flat on my back at least a dozen times; the worst was off a 36" onto my left elbow. Leaning forward just a little bit forward more than you are comfortable, as stated earlier, is good advice. I found riding on a rubber running track helped with this as the landing is much softer than asphalt; it is also a better surface to practice mounting and riding after as the surface is better for riding on than grass.

I started on a 24". I rode it for two weeks before I ordered a KH20. I have found it is good trying new skills.

Yes, you will be closer to the ground on a 20" unicycle and probably also not moving as quickly as you’d be on a bigger wheel. Both of these can make UPDs less dramatic and easier to walk away from. They’re also great for riding in smaller areas if you should ever want to practice in tight quarters, maybe under the porch light at the end of the driveway, or indoors even. It could be a nice complement to the one you’ve got.

Down in the “Display Options” section there’s a drop-down box called “From The”. Change it from “Last Month” to “Beginning”.

Don’t hang onto anything! You and the unicycle have to fall forward together, like one solid tree over an open stretch of smooth pavement, but instead of hitting the ground, pedal fast! You have to physically commit to that forward fall for things to have any chance of working out.

I do lots of sports and balancing stuff, but I was scared to death of anything larger than a 20" when I started learning to ride- both because of the height and because of the speed. Some people say that a larger wheel is easier to learn on because it is more stable, though…

Patience, patience… It took me forever to learn to ride. In fact I gave up after few tries… Thankfully a few months later I tried again (this time for a few weeks) and finally I was able to ride. For what I remember, in my case, it was a very slow process and very frustrating. A few bad falls (but not as many as you would think). Not as quickly as others in learning to stay up right without falling, etc… I learnt on a 20’ basic cheap unicycle. I would find a 26’ too much for learning, but as others say it is possible. It is definitely much harder to ride than a 20’. But still the basic priciple of balance is the same for both.

I learnt to ride with myself on the uni letting go from a corner and trying to ride forward without leaning on anything (walls/people etc…). Looking back probably would have been easier/quicker if learning on a fence/wall as you try to ride forward…

Good luck and don’t give up. It will happen in the end.:slight_smile:

I want to thank everyone for the replies.

I have not begun to ride anywhere. I am ONLY getting up on the uni next to a wall and trying to balance with one hand on the wall and one hand in the air.

elpuebloUNIdo: really appreciate your advice on raising the seat. What you said makes a lot of sense. I suppose I am just fearful of falling off from a greater height. But then if I cannot straighten my legs quick enough, it makes little sense to have the seat so low.

LargeEddie: Great…figured out how to expand the pages because of your comment!

Moslki, song, Hank Kostoglotov: Yes, I want to try a 20" to see if there is any difference. I would just buy a cheap one to learn on, but then with my weight, I don’t think it can withstand much. I want to buy a nice 20" uni, but my wife already gave me enough grief about buying the first uni (she expects me to totally quit any day now), so I don’t think it is an option at this point. It would be nice if unicycles were a bit more ubiquitous in bike shops.

stephen101b, Hank Kostoglotov: it’s good to see new riders such as yourself here who are struggled but overcame the same fears I have. Again, you both point out the almost necessity of having a 20" to practice on. I wish I could try one out.

That will get you nowhere (literally). Start making half-turns of the wheel, always stopping with the pedals level. Try not to ever stop with one foot down (which we call the dead spot) because you have no leverage there. Your feet will not agree at first.

A 20" wheel will get you precisely 3" closer to the ground. But it’s also lighter and quicker to react, so is more than a psychological thing. Just don’t expect it to be substantially easier.

Get some kneepads (volleyball ones are fine) and practice falling down on purpose. Knowing how to fall (since we’re not kids anymore) will take a lot of the fear out of it. Also learning how to dismount without falling; but practicing both will help.

Last but not least, don’t quit. Take your time, but make sure you are progressing. just balancing, or rocking back and forth, will not get you closer to riding. Balancing the unicycle requires it to be going somewhere, for all of its dynamic movement qualities to work. While many top unicyclists practice balancing in place for very long periods of time, it has little to do with riding and is harder.

You can do this.

Everything I am about to tell you is false. Don’t trust any of it.

Apologies in advance for the bad advice I am about to give you.

I think everybody falls off a lot at first. I think the ones who learn to ride are those who keep at it, knowing that falling is very educational to muscle memory. I have to believe this, because I made steady progress when I fell a lot, and once I stopped falling, I haven’t gotten much better at not falling.

As for falling off backwards, the trick for me was to lean further forwards, WAY further forwards, so far forwards that I fell off the front time and time again - leaning forward so far that you intend, specifically, to fall off forward, then work your way back from there. Remember that every time you fall off, your muscles are learning how to save you.

The next step is to pedal faster to keep yourself from falling off forwards, of course.

I’m not being very clear with this, I know. I don’t think there is a “trick” to learning to ride other than just keep trying and keep trying and keep falling and TAKE NOTES so you have a record to compare against, so you can see when you are progressing. Without an objective record, your only sense of success comes from how you feel at the end of a practice session, and feelings are very unreliable things.

As John Foss said, a 20-inch will put you three inches closer to the ground. That’s not very far. Don’t let the unicycle you have be your excuse to not succeed. I don’t imply you were doing that; just tossing that out there because it is a personality trait I have. It’s hard, so I will blame the tools I am using. But learning to ride a unicycle is supposed to be hard - not “hard work” hard, but hard to pick up just by holding your tongue just the right way or wearing the right shoes. The only way to learn is to just keep doing it.

I have been riding for a month and 7 days. I rode eight miles yesterday, 4 to my brother’s house and 4 back. I keep a day-by-day blog of my efforts that illustrates my personal efforts, complete with incorrect assumptions, misleading discoveries, and erroneous revelations, many of which you may experience yourself - so reading someone else’s similar steps may be helpful, or harmful. Buyer beware.

Okay, all done.

How much better can you get at not falling if you’ve stopped falling? :sunglasses:

But don’t bend at the waist too much. Just keep your center of mass forward. It’s easier to fall off the front. Also you can apply the same concept to any other issues you have later. Like you can turn right but not left. Stop practicing right turns and only work on left until it “catches up”. Or if you always seem to drift to one side; over-correct and go the other way. By passing the “right” spot you will be closer to finding where it is.

Sometimes the best advice comes from people who are also just learning. It’s all a lot fresher for them than it is for us long-timers. I learned to ride in the 70s so those memories are a little stale, even though I’ve helped tons of people learn to ride over the years.

A tip I’ve seen that could really help you out is to purposefully make the mistake of falling forward rather than backward. By over-correcting your previous error, you can easily find a middle ground and keep your balance far better. Hope this helped!

I just got started too!

I’ve had my unicycle for a little over a week now and know exactly how it feels to fall. After falling a couple times on my rear and scraping my knee, I’m figuring out what I’ve been doing wrong. If you find yourself falling backwards, then you’re either leaning back or you’re pedaling too fast. If you’re falling forward, then you’re most likely not pedaling fast enough.

Also, don’t look down, but instead look ahead of you. This has been a biggie for me, and today I finally managed to get past it by focusing on an object ahead of me and found myself staying on the unicycle longer. It was kind of freaky at first, but then I just kept telling myself that this is how I should be riding and kept doing it more and more.

The thing that has helped me so far in getting used to unicycling, is to get acquainted with the saddle and learning to keep my back straight and in-line with the seat post. Keeping the wheel under you can be daunting at first, because you’re used to seeing it in front of you on a bike, but when you just trust that it is there underneath you and you look ahead, you will begin to find yourself more confident and start to ride forward:).

I’m new to this forum as well and joined in hopes of meeting new people that are learning and those who have been riding for years to learn more. I had no clue that unicycling was so popular and fee right at home here. Just keep practicing and give yourself positive reinforcement. I keep telling myself: “You can do this!”, and it keeps me motivated and I know it will help you too. Good luck and let me know how it goes. :sunglasses:

BTW, as far as wheel size goes, I decided to start on a 20" as it is easier to mount up and less intimidating. Many unicyclists on this forum have suggested to start with the 20". I’m 5’ 7" and I have the seat post all the way down, so you should be fine with it down too. Good luck!

Did I run you off?

It was a joke. The point being that improvement is nearly a direct result of failure. You don’t start riding further as a result of all the times you rode further; you start riding further as a result of all those times you fell. I’m sure some phychoanalyst will log in to disprove that on some widely-accepted-though-esoteric grounds, but in practical application, it seems to work that way to me.

NOTE to the OP: Please do keep posting your progress here if it pleases you to do so. This community is small but generally helpful most of the time. If nothing else, just having the outlet for conversation about something that has piqued your interest is useful in keeping that interest alive.

I did want to add to my previous comment a clarification: While many say that learning is easier on a 20 inch wheel, I cannot imagine that learning basically how to ride at all is much different on a 26. At the stage of holding onto and riding along a wall, falling from a 20 is scary, and succesfully riding a 20 is exhilirating. Falling from a 26 may have a different overall feel to it, but, in terms of bruise intensity, fall quantity, and the small and frequent joys of succeeding, I can’t imagine there is a significant difference. I would welcome any to contradict that, honestly. I don’t want to give bad advice on that count.

I started on a 24" - actually re-started, but the 20" I had was 20 years later and I never got proficient then before the uni died of a tragic death. It took me a while to get confident and I ended up buying a cheap 20" on which it was much easier.

The 20" has little if no inertia and therefore reacts faster that the heavier bigger 24 (or 26" for that matter) which needs more pressure on the pedal to move… at a time when you’re trying to teach your brain to put the pressure (your weight in other words) on the saddle and NOT on the pedals.
You might be only 3" higher from the ground, but one pedal revolution takes you 3.1416 x 6" farther. That makes a difference when you don’t have much control.

So again, your mileage may vary, but in most cases starting on a 20" is easier. And you get a cheap-ish one and sell it once you graduate to the bigger.

Deke, congratulations on your success, and glad to here from you again on the forum. It is good for the beginners on the forum to read what can be accomplished in a month of dedicated work.

Thank you for all the responses. It’s great to see old and new riders with similar experiences.

My seat was too low, which was causing me problems with the dismount. I raised it a few inches, and it is easier to get on and off it, albeit it’s a bit more scary being higher up. I’ll work on it and update the forum with my progress in a few weeks.

Good luck to everyone!

In a few weeks, your update will be about how you’re riding miles at a time (hopefully). More frequent updates may be helpful to other ridrers stopping in to vent their frustrations/ask questions. Of course, you’re not obligated to post; when, I was learning (still am) the posts I looked for most were those from people who were learning, too. It was nice to read about people riding around the block, but what I REALLY wanted was posts from those who couldn’t figure out how to turn :slight_smile:

Please don’t give up on the uni you have. You can do this. And anything you can express about your experience will be useful, in some small way, to those who come after you into this community. NotSoYoungOne started a legendarily-long thread and all it consisted of was his efforts to learn how to ride and what he found challenging and how he overcame those challenges. Yours could be the next - not becuase you’re legendarily good, but because you’re legendarily LEARNING :slight_smile:

Seriously. Do you want to read about people how have figured it all out right now? Or do you want to read about people who have the same questions you have? Ask here. Make a record for the next guy.

Guaranteed, I would have given up before now if not for that epic thread from NotSoYoungOne. It actually saddened me when he stopped posting so often. Have you read it? It was 147 pages when I found this site, but it has probably grown by now.I read it straight through over about a week before I started posting, haven’t bothered to post there.

Probably the most influential thing I found in the entire thread was reading about how he bought a 36 inch wheel, had a bad, scary wipeout on it, and subsequently sold it. I know he did not intend that to be his “takeaway lesson” from the thread, but it stuck with me enough to influence my own decisions. I just bought a 29 inch wheel today and will start learning how to ride it tomorrow. I refused to upgrade into a 36 because I don’t want the hassle of selling it when I discover it’s not for me.

In defense of your wheel, I see the 29 as the most often mentioned, “What I would get if I could only have one wheel,” and the 26 in a close second place. Of course, I admit right up front that nobody actually has only one wheel, except for those who have not yet had time to start collecting. I now own two ukeleles as well. It might be contagious.

I would post something if there was something significant to post about. I’ve gotten up on my unicycle a few more times, but I am so fearful of falling somehow that I just sit on it. Pretty sad. I’m sure at some point, I’ll feel more comfortable with going forward a bit on it. But when I do fall, I end up hurting myself for days, and I’m really too old to have that sort of persistent pain. I’ll get it eventually.

Just a Thought…

Just a thought. I was EXTREMELY frustrated very early on, especially about how I could actually fall down HARD while holding onto a rail! I thought, “No possible way is it supposed to be like this!” then decided that, since I was going to fall down anyway, I might as well fall down while trying to ride forward. I turned away from the wall, facing straight out across a parking lot, and just pushed off and fell. And then fell again and again and so on. Eventually I started getting some distance and discovered other problems to deal with.

I don’t mention that to push you. Just something to chew on if you like. If you’re pushing off of the wall, you’re much more likely to fall forwards than backwards, and if you’re pretty new at it, you’re going to fall off often and quickly - so you can plan on it, get ready to land on your feet before you even push off (just try to get a few pedal strokes in while you’re at it).

Several said it was a bad idea to abandon the wall like I did, as early as I did, but, for me, it was either that or just give up on unicycling. So it worked for me. Completely understandable if you don’t like the idea; I just didn’t know if it was something you had considered.