Learning to Giraffe

So been unicycling for quite some time now, nearly a year, and I am considering buying a giraffe.
How hard is it to make the transfer from normal uni to a 5 foot giraffe? and any tips for learning?

Thanks all.

I’m hardly a pro, but I acquired a 5’ giraffe after about 2 years of riding experience. I’ll admit I was pretty scared that first time I pushed off and attempted to ride that tall beast. I’ve got a nice sturdy A-frame (tall) step ladder that I used to mount the giraffe initially. I wedged the tire into the ladder frame so it wouldn’t roll back and simply mounted the giraffe how I would a regular unicycle, except that I was further off the ground! That first mount was scary, but I quickly learned that small movements are all that is required; fast movements will throw you off (they did me). It is almost like unicycling in slow motion. Don’t worry about trying to curb/free mount at first just use a tall prop to get used to riding around. After you’re comfortable with how it rides and turns etc… then work on mounting. I still can’t do a true free-mount (well only once, but I don’t practice very much) but got fairly good at curb mounting (just propping the wheel so it doesn’t roll back). Good luck and remember it’s supposed to be fun! Also remember that when you dump off the front or back it’s a long way down so be prepared! :slight_smile:

When I got my giraffe (age 15, 1977) I mounted using a tall step ladder. My father firmly held the post and held me straight as I launched. He assured me that he would not let go. After a few tries, he had his hands around the post, but not touching it (I was unaware of the change). Finally, he just let go and I kept riding (I wasn’t aware of the exact time he let go). I had it down in less than an hour. It is about confidence, not skill. If you can ride a unicycle, you can ride a giraffe.

I used the same technique when my two older boys started to ride the giraffe. In less than an hour they were riding.

Psycologically, it is a huge difference, and it’ll scare the life out of you the first few times. In reality, however, it isn’t really that much harder to ride than a normal 20" unicycle. Some things, such as idling, actually seem easier. The biggest problem, of course, is getting on it to start with though.

If you have access to a gym, or somewhere with a really smooth floor and something tall and sturdy (ideally, a ladder bolted to the wall), then it isn’t too hard to get started; Just let go to whatever you’re holding on to, and start peddling. As Munisano says, it’s a bit like riding in slow motion as there’s a bit of lag between what you do and what happens, but it shouldn’t take long to get used to that. It does mean, however, that when you dismount, you have plenty of time before you actually land, so you should end up on your feet.

Freemounting takes a lot more effort. I wouldn’t suggest learning this until you’ve got idling fairly consistent. But it will take a lot of stamina to learn. Every attempt you make is a vertical jump of around 2 feet; so if you try 100 times in an evening, you have done the equivalent of jumping 200 feet. Once your legs start to feel tired, give it a rest, because even if you managed to get up and land on it ok, you won’t have the power to get going, and you end up in a worse state.

Here’s a little YouTube clip of me getting back in to freemounting after a few years break;


And a better quality one of me doing a (little) bit of juggling whilst up there (with a scrappy landing)



Riding a giraffe is physically a piece of cake. In some ways it’s easier than a regular unicycle. Mentally is another story; it usually takes a bit of riding to get comfortable up there. This depends how high you start out with of course. Once you get the hang of basic riding, I recommend you go straight into practicing how to fall off in various directions; all points of the compass. Being comfortable making dismounts will save you possible panic and bad landings. While you’re at it, practice catching the seat also, because even if the seat has good bumpers, giraffes can get bent from hard drops.

Next I highly recommend you learn to idle and ride backwards on it if you can’t already. Being able to stop, idle or back up will save you a ton of dismounts if you ride around moving objects; like people. :slight_smile:

In my experience the seat wants to slip out so the uni falls backwards. Having a good seat (instead of a Viscount seat) will help tremendously.

Focus on keeping the wheel under you, not you over the wheel. Otherwise you’ll be chasing the wheel around.

Thanks guys, now all I have to do is buy one!


If one is pretty good on a 20" or whatever, then yes they can ride a giraffe.

But it is much more hazardous! I am much more careful when on my 5 footer.
And I am much more mindful of the road and people/cars/bikes as UPD are no fun.

But riding is is great fun & idling is quite engaging.

5’ step-ladder gets me going at home. I can mount from the tailgate of a pickup truck. Can also pull myself up to a low tree branch with one arm and mount the giraffe. But the branch has to be nearly just right height to allow this method.

Just be careful up there!

And always remember to dismount off the back of the uni so you can keep and eye on EXACTLY where that wheel is going.
If you dismount off the fron of the machine, and something or someone happens to stop the wheel from rolling back as you dismount, you can seriously damage your spine.
It’s also much easier to ensure you catch the saddle when you dismount off the back and besides, it looks waaay more ‘in control’ than dismounting off the front.

To do it is pretty easy, you basically just stop pedalling, wait till you start overbalancing backwards and simply take your feet off the pedals and drop straight down.

When you’re ready to ask about freemounting, we’ll be right here.

Haha this brings me back to the “ye’old” days of unicycling (only about 2-3 years) when I did not know street, trials, freestyle, MUni etc… existed. I had a simply 20" unicycle from a bike shop. 1 year later I got my first giraffe from a hardware store that for some weird reason ordered in giraffes if someone wanted one. I came home with my brand new giraffe, entered the door and 2 of my friends were at my house before hand, anyway they turned around because they were on my computer and their expressions were hilarious! :smiley:

After that I got into so many layers of clothes, put on a helmet, gloves, knee guards. I started at the door frame of my house and rode out onto the front yard. It must of looked so funny as I was only like 11 years old.

But for the learning to giraffe bit…It took me 15 minutes to get used to riding it and the height. It shouldn’t be too hard too learn.


Good dismount advice from GILD. Always, always be 100% certain what’s in the path of your wheel when dismounting. If a solid object is there, it can really, really hurt! If you’re not sure, you can always dismount with the pedals static (hold the bottom one down), which brings you down at an angle but at least you can see where.

Rubbish! I had a Viscount seat on my giraffe for years and it was fine. The only reason I replaced it was because it eventually became too tatty for riding in paid performances. You should see the seat on my 8’ DM giraffe - its totally covered in duct tape and its also perfectly fine. The seat doesn’t make much difference.

If you happen to have a Viscount seat on your giraffe, the best reason to replace it would be… comfort. Unless your crotch is not shaped like mine. :astonished:

If the seat is slipping out from under you it means you’re not sitting up straight; in fact it means you’re probably bent way, way over to the front!

Well thanks for all your wonderful advice, after stolling into the local pawn shop, I have my Giraffe!!!
After about an hour and a half of riding, I can go fowards, backwards, idle and I can freemount. I think I have a new passion. :slight_smile:
Anything interesting that would help me develop style? haha

Again my thanks to the greater One Wheeled community

It is a good-fun-toy.

Be warned that it does have a limited application and I would suggest you start finding out about parades in your area as those are a natural place to ride raffies.

Also general crowd entertainment is a good application of the machine.
If you do start working crowds, be advised that police horses aren’t quite sure what to make of you, so give them a wide berth.
I’ve been asked, on occasion, to ride toward police horses to allow their riders to aquaint the horses with this strange new apparition.

And you can freemount?!?

How did that happen?

(don’t mind me, I’m just jealous cause it took me aaaaages)

Good work! See, I told you it wasn’t that hard. But well done on freemounting it so soon. Like Gild, it took me quite a while, although with practice it gets more and more solid every time.


Fun Toy

Giraffes sound like fun toys. Do you all have advice on what type to get? The 5-foot Torker is cheap, and the next step up looks like the Nimbus. Does it make any difference? More expensive models have dual chains. Once again, does it make any difference for a beginning rider?

Thank you for the advice.

A 5 foot giraffe is perfect for a beginner. It is high enough to look impressive and scare you to death, yet low enough to learn to freemount without toooo much trouble. Any taller and you need to climb on to the wheel and/or pegs to mount, so that’s far from easy.

Cheap giraffes tend to have normal bike hubs with a fixed cog on it. These are screwed on tight, however, can and do become loose, particularly if you idle a lot. This normally results in meeting the floor a lot quicker than expected! I think the older Torkers had this kind of hub, but I’m not sure if they have changed them or not. The Nimbus unicycles have a special hub where the cog is held on directly with 6 bolts so this won’t get unscrewed whilst riding, so even for a beginner, it is a good safety feature that I would advise you go for.

Double-chained ones are better. They have less ‘slop’ so are more responsive, and are often stronger. They are great for regular performers, but to be honest, a beginner is unlikely to get any benefit.


It remains moderately disconcerting to look down and see the amount of ‘bend’ in the frame of a single chain raffie.

While I would normally only suggest spending the extra money on the double-chain types if you’re really going to use the raffie to work parades and earn money from it, if you have it, spend it on the better and safer equipment.
But be prepared for it to start moving towards the back of the storage area rather rapidly.

And never underestimate the difference a foot can make.

I have ridden my 5fter extensively, while weaving thru a crowd, for just shy of three hours, non-stop.
I once got onto a 6fter and nearly crapped myself.

I guess I was lucky. I started with a 6-footer (took a lot longer to learn to freemount) and never looked back. 5-footers were never very interesting to me, except for riding under low ceilings. :slight_smile:

Also, for a giraffe shopping search in the US, try eBay and Craigslist for old Schwinns. Excellently made, and the later ones had a bolt-on bottom sprocket. The earlier ones had track-style, screw-on sprockets that require a little more attention.