learning to ride as a new unicyclist

I’m finally getting to post this: my unicycle learning experience. Before learning, I fitted an odometer and tried to keep making notes as I went. Although I’ve read about what it takes to learn to unicycle expressed as a matter of hours, I think it’s more realistic to express it in terms of distance covered. However, since wheel sizes differ, it’s more about revolutions than metres.

Before acquiring my first uni (a three-month wait)

I asked myself, what are the advantages of a unicycle? A unicycle would come in handy for a short trip. By “short”, I mean a distance which would take under half an hour to walk. Compared to walking, it would go faster on a unicycle. Of course, public transport is faster than walking too but a unicycle would enable you to save on the fare.

So, if you need to be dropped off somewhere and find your own way back, you’ll normally either walk or use public transport. Bicycles are generally bulky and awkward to load into passenger vehicles; a 16" BMX just fits into an empty boot. A unicycle however does not need a special rack and easily fits into a car’s boot.

Other advantages are that, for the shortest of trips, a unicycle is easier to get through your door and garden gate than a bicycle. They are easier to park too and take less space; you may even be able to wheel one into a shop without raising eyebrows.

An obvious disadvantage is that you have to learn to ride a one-wheeler before you can do any of the above-mentioned. I was always under the impression that only very skilled people could ride unicycles. Now confident that I too would learn this skill, I wrote this before acquiring my first unicycle.

From the above, you would think that I only wanted an extra wheel to get around a bit easier, but that’s far from the truth. Although the practicality has a strong attraction, I thought, before riding, that unicycling is fun and that that on its own is enough reason to unicycle.

23 December Day 1
This has been my first day of uinicycling and even as I write this, I want to do some more. You probably wonder what’s stopping me. Well, it’s a hot time of year in South Africa and I tend to sweat a lot too; at least, uniing brings it on. Drenched clothes and some heat exhaustion tend to limit what I can do.

Coming from an oversized pizza box, my Christmas Qu-Ax 26" began to take shape. Bearing caps and bolts attached the wheel to the frame. The 152mm cranks were already on and rounded pedals soon took their stations. The 350mm (13.78") seatpost and release clamp slotted in and I was ready to ride!

With some difficulty I sat on the seat and my wife took some photos. Holding onto a horizontal creosote pole, I tried to get the feel of the pedals. I might have felt more comfortable trying to stand on a waterbed! To my embarrassment, I noticed my heel was making itself at home on a crank! That won’t do, I thought.

At first, the seat had seemed to be too high but I could lean over the uni with the seat in my stomach and touch the axle; I’m 1.76m (5’10") tall with a .83m (2’8.67") girth. It was a relief not to have to cut the seatpost and that its height didn’t need adjustment. A few more notes on seat height (comments welcome)… my seat to axle length is 0.76m (2’6"). One guideline I read is that the heel should touch the pedal when it’s in its lowest position. Well, my heel doesn’t come close though it doesn’t feel like my leg’s being stretched or straightened when my foot goes through the lowest point.

From rocking to half revs is the logical progression but I soon decided that having only one side supported wasn’t going to work. By the way, I was visiting my in-laws on their farm. The cattle crush pen, with its high, parallel bars was the obvious choice for doing my first half revs.

Unfortunately the crush pen was not very long, allowing me to make three revolutions. On reaching the end of the pen, I’d turn around by lifting myself with the uni squeezed between my legs. Having those bars there really helped me stay on top. Doing half revs and full revs can be compared to doing somersaults; control over the motion exists for the beginning and end but one just flows through what’s in between. The odometer reading exceeded 1km by the time I took my first break.

A longer crush pen was used for the next session; 7 revs long. Although I took the odo reading up to 2km (1.23mi) there, I decided it was a little too bumpy.

The next choice of practice surface was a cement path 25m (83’) long and slightly downhill. On one side, a railing topped the fence there and this seemed to suffice as a support; the need for support on both sides had diminished. Doing half revs there, I added another 1.8km (1.11mi) to the odo reading, totalling 3.8km (2.35mi) for the day.

24 December Day 2

Rode a lot less than yesterday. Used a dog cage near the farm house as a rail; it’s 1 1/2 revs long. Did 1/2 revs to the end of it, then launched off the end. On one such launching off, I did two full revs. Later went to yesterday’s path but found it unusable due to lots of cowdung and the rain that had fallen. Went inside the adjacent barn and launched off a tractor parked there, trying to do one full rev. On one occaision I did two full revs. Total mileage for day: 0.9 km (1.46mi). Odo: 4.74km

25 December Day 3

Went to the dog cage again and covered 1.3km (.8mi) in two sessions. There I did 5m (16.7’) unassisted three times and later 6m (20’). I seemed to wobble when trying for distance. Went to the long walkway beside the barn too. There I tried to rely less on the creosote pole railing and used the side of the barn too.

After Christmas lunch, I went to the barn. There I exceeded 6m (20’) a couple of times and even did a 10m (33’) ride which included a necessary turn to the right.

Total for day: 3.9km Odo:8.6km


That may be true but I think that someone who hasn’t ridden at all yet can relate more to hours than to distance covered.

Is it December now on the Southern hemisphere? :slight_smile:

You’re (were) doing really fine! Where are you now?

still riding

Yes Klaas, it was December in the southern hemisphere. Not Dec07 but Dec06! So this story is being released, regrettably after far too long on the backburner.

the story continues

follow my riding teething experience here:


i think that determination and attitude are big factors in the learning curve of unicycling.

I really like the idea of expressing “time to learn” in distance. Nice write up! I like hearing where people learnt to ride.Some find walls to hold on to, others find dog cages:)