Learning to ride on gravel

Hi all. I just signed up a few minutes ago. A little background would be that, I have no previous uni experience and I am 65 yrs old. I live in the bush on a gravel road and the nearest town is 50 minutes away, so no pavement other than major roads and the Hwy. I bought a 26” Nimbus Muni 14 days ago and have tried to ride it everyday for an hour. I have been able to go to 60 feet at the most on my gravel driveway. I mount by putting the back of the wheel against a board and hold onto a tall sawhorse, then I lean forward and start pedaling. I have lowered the seat a bit so my knees are bent more than what I have read to be optimum for experienced riders. I have lowered the psi in the tire so it is softer than the recommended pressure. I believe my difficulty in learning to ride is as follows. The gravel driveway is uneven and rough, I don’t have a wall or fence to hang onto and that I have chosen a 26” wheel to learn on. Does anyone have any helpful observations out there. Thank you. I will ride my muni

If you can ride 60 feet on gravel you are well on your way to mastering the uni. I ride most of the time on gravel and as long as it is not too loose it is not bad. A suggestion when you can is to ride faster with one hand on a seat handle. When the going gets hard, speed is your friend.

This kind of gravel is kind of a pain:


Learning to ride on gravel

That sounds like a good tip JimT, I’ll give it a try. There is a rough ball diamond a few miles away. The grass is not cut very short along the chain link fence line but I’ll give that a test ride also today. Thanks

Keep riding, raise your seat up a bit, and learn ambidextrous.
Oh yah… learn to freemount so you’re not dependant.

Because we don’t have pavement in our neighbourhoods, I too had to learn on gravel and grass. :smiley:

Learning on the hard stuff will make you a better rider.

Awesome choice of activity!

Depends what you mean by “gravel”. Strictly speaking, gravel is smooth rounded stones such as you might find in a river bed, bigger than coarse sand and smaller than pebbles. It is often used for driveways and can b a challenging surface to ride on.

However, the word is often used for any loose stones, rounded or otherwise. This is a challenging and tiring surface to ride on. Often the best way is to stand up and feel your way “step by step”.

You describe yourself as mounting against a backboard while holding something. If you are not yet freemounting, then riding on any loose unmade surface is ambitious. Freemounting is the first step to slow speed skills, idling, and still standing, and all the various things you need to be able to do without thinking when the surface below your wheel is unreliable.

You clearly have what it takes. Your age is not a factor: there are plenty here who are about the same age and older. What it takes is determination, practice, and the ability to relax in the saddle. Keep the saddle comfortably high for now, and look a few yards/metres ahead rather than down at the ground.

Good luck, and welcome to the forum: the friendliest place on the internet.

Agreed with Mike. Also, on that sort of surface, a pretty big tire would help as it would “float” above the gravel more than a skinny one. But bigger tire are not the easiest thing to handle during the learning process.

Lots of good advice above; you’re doing great! Unicycling is hard, regardless of riding surface. In your case, a larger wheel probably helps more than it hurts.

What people aren’t acknowledging is that the typical instructions for learning to ride assume a smoothly paved outdoor surface, or a hard indoor floor. Since you have no choice, you must adjust.

Tire pressure: Yes, you will want it lower than what the beginner advice says. Lower pressure gives you better “flotation” on your rough and flexible surface. You’ll know it’s too low if the tire only wants to go straight, or if you can feel the rim touching the ground, even a little.

Seat height: Maybe a bit lower than the standard recommendation, but don’t go too low. It will just make you tired faster, and be hard on your knees.

Posture and position: Those rules don’t change. Try to sit up straight, and remember to try to relax your weight into the seat. This will be harder because of your uneven surface, but the more you can relax, the longer you’ll be able to practice before your legs wear out.

Freemount: You have plenty of incentive to learn it, but I’d concentrate on getting consistent ride, and learning to turn before spending too much time on the freemount. You’ll know it’s time, when it’s too long of a walk to get back to your starting spot. :slight_smile:

Keep at it, and enjoy conquering the impossible! I remember one of my early riding goals was to make it from my house to the nearest paved street. This meant riding down my cement driveway, onto my unpaved road, passing the house next door, and turning left onto that street; a distance of probably 40 meters or so. It took me a bit before I got it consistently…

Thank you all for the input, I really appreciate the great advice. Lots of things I hadn’t thought of. I did try the ball diamond fence yesterday but the whole field is worse than my grass field at home. For now I’ll stick to my gravel driveway, which is covered in what they call 3/4” crushed gravel. Rather than smooth round stones it’s irregular sharp pieces. I have my tire at 20 psi and the seat about an inch below my belly button. Is this too much tire pressure still and does the seat height sound about right? I wear a helmet, leg armour, wrist guards and gloves. I did have one bad fall on the first day. I fell on my side and landed on the wrist guard. The plastic palm protector on the wrist guard chrushed up against my ribs. They are still pretty tender so I don’t want to do that again. My wife is quite concerned I’ll hurt myself and that she will have to cut this winters firewood by herself. As johnfoss advised I will concentrate on just riding for now with emphasis on posture, seating, relaxing, focus and remembering to breath. No problem lol. Once I get some distance consistently I’ll try to learn how to freemount. I practice in one hour sessions each day, usually fifteen minutes stints unless it is going really well, then I keep at it until the hour is up. I’m quite pleased with my progress so far and I do realize that it will take a while to get steady results. I guess it’s just practice and practice until the muscle memory kicks in. Nevertheless I am hoping for an aha moment to happen in the near future though. Great group of people here!

Learning to ride on gravel

Hello again, thank you everyone for the input to my post. Some great advice given. I appreciate you all taking the time to help. I set the tire pressure to 20 psi and my seat height is 1” below my naval. Do they sound about right? My yard is covered in what is called around here as 3/4” minus. Which is crushed rock supposedly less than 3/4 of an inch. There can be pretty sharp pieces. The ball diamond I checked out was overgrown with thick grass, so I’m gonna be using what I’ve got. As johnfoss Nd others advised, I have been working on distance focus, settling well into the seat, relaxing and posture. I’m going to wait until my riding becomes more consistent before I work on free mounting. Today was day 17 and I was able once to get to over 80’ so I’m quite pleased with my progress. Thanks again:)

Rather then noting where the saddle is in relation to your naval a better reference is to note how straight your leg is at the bottom of the pedal stroke. The highest the saddle can be placed will be when your leg is nearly straight with a little more control when the leg is bent more at the bottom of the stroke. If the seat is too low (legs bent too much at the bottom of the stroke) it will be harder on your knees.


I’m guessing that the gravel driveway should speed up your learning, even though the results don’t seem that way. And the 26" is probably a good size for the gravel driveway. If you’ve ridden 60 feet already, you’re probably past the point of needing a fence or wall. Pretty soon you may get tired of dragging around your backstop, so perhaps now’s the time to start practicing free mounts (something I really struggled with as a beginner). Sounds like you’re off to a good start!

The best measurement I’ve found for determining seat height is when I ride out of the saddle, can I ride without crunching my nuts on the seat.

Learning to ride on gravel

Thanks for the hints. Fence? As you have stated, don’t need no stinkin fence or wall lol. I’ve got my seat height set right I believe. Just a slight bend from full extension at the six o’clock position. I did have it a bit too high. After adjusting the seat, things improved quickly on my second half hour of daily practice. I made lots of 5, 6 and seven full revolution rides and even managed a couple out to 90 feet. At 90 feet the gravel is deeper and I lose it there. I think this is going to happen, I just need some more saddle time and then soon the adventure begins. Cheers to you all.

Learning to ride on gravel

I had three full days off due to dental surgery (non uni related). It was hard to leave the uni alone during this time. Today I got back at it and it turned out to be a milestone on the muni for me. After 21.5 hours of practice over a 20 day period, I finally made it to 102 feet. I know it’s not really very far, but to me it is a major accomplishment. I am stoked to get out there for another session tomorrow. Thanks for the tips. I found making myself stay in the saddle and the weight off my legs really helped a lot, along with focusing at a far object instead of the ground. I hope to be on the road soon.:slight_smile:

Such a sport we share, that the clarification was needed!:D:D:D

Uni things are starting to happen and it is all coming together. Yesterday I remembered a nearby section of old unused highway, I tried riding on it instead of the gravel yard at home. At home the furthest I have gone with 22 hours of practice was 123 feet. In half an hour on the paved road I made some great progress by riding as far as 250 feet with lots of other good runs. I’m waving my arms like crazy for balance and weaving around the road like a drunkard, but it’s working.
Today I did another half hour on the road, and managed to get one run out to 325’. Lots of lesser rides too that were well over 200’. My arms are still waving but not as much as yesterday and there were a few fairly straight rides. My legs were absollutely worn out on the longer rides. I believe that to be from coming up off the seat and being so tensed up. So sit and relax as much as I can and get used to it I guess.
I tried the gravel for a half hour once I got home . I made it to the end of my course or very close to the end (which is 123’) ten times. Once the riding balance kicks in things seem to come together fast.
I have my tire at 20 psi which is good for the gravel. It seems too soft for the paved road, do you think I should pump it up to 25 psi (35 psi is max) for less rolling resistance? I’m pretty sure this also contributes to my fatigue. Ok, Thanks for the input.

You could adjust your pressure. It would be optimal.
25lbs will be better for pavement like 20lbs is better for gravel.
I adjust mine depending on my ride. (climbing, dirt road, downhill, etc…)

Or while learning you could put at 22lbs and ride everywhere.
Learn to deal with that pressure on several surfaces. Get the control and then start playing with pressures.
Once you learn to ride you will prefer certain PSIs for certain conditions.

The fatigue thing will get incrementally better every day.
It’s very hard in the beginning because you are very inefficient and unfit for this activity.
It has very little to do with tire pressure at this point.

First it’s the end of the driveway, then it’s there and back, then it’s half way to the neighbours, then… eventually you will feel like Superman.

You already have it. Keep going.

Thanks for the feedback Ted. I guess I just need lots of saddletime for some riding skills to develop. I won’t over think it and just ride. I’ll also give 22 psi a try. Cheers

I checked my tire pressure this morning, I thought I had 20 psi in it. Nope, only 14, I put it to 22 and rode it several times and kept adjusting. 18 psi seems to be the number, for now. It worked well on the gravel and much better on the old Hwy I use. I had lots of good runs on it today, 250, 337, 357, 300, 196 and my last attempt was 553’. Gotta love range finders.
While I was riding, I could feel myself going from firmly seated to lifting off of the seat. As I lifted, I noticed that the uni seemed to move a bit backward underneath me. If I leaned more forward, I would feel myself settle back into the seat again. I’ll start to add freemounting into my daily practice now, as it was previously mentioned, it’s a long way back to my launch pad. Thanks again.

553, nice progress, grats!