Learning to ride -- posture and my railing

Many people have discussed how to learn to ride a unicycle (on various web sites, RSU, and a few books and videos). I would just like to emphasize a few points and talk about the railing I built.

It’s all about posture. Sit up straight and sit with your weight on the seat, not the pedals.

The latter is not so easy. It takes time and practice to put your full weight on the seat. Plant the idea firmly in your brain – eventually it will become a reality. Devote a few practice sessions to it by really focusing on putting your weight on the seat. Even if it makes you more unstable. The instability will be temporary. Don’t over-analyze – just keep the idea in your mind.

The first part – sit up straight – will be easy or hard, depending on the tools you have chosen. Launching into the abyss early in the learning process was not productive for me. I was better off developing a sense of control first. That means assistance. There are three types of assistance (that I can think of) – a human, a wall, and a railing.

I am the independent type. I like to do things on my own. So that ruled out using another human for support (especially on a daily basis). I think a wall is bad – you have to lean on the wall (lateral IMBALANCE), and you can’t grab hold of it if you start to go the other way. So to me, the perfect tool for the job is a railing. You can use it when and if you need it – to correct ANY direction of imbalance. And it offers peace-of-mind stability, as you first sit on an insane device. The only problem is that most railings are either inconveniently located or TOO LOW.

If the railing is too low, you will be bent over. But it’s harder to ride with poor posture. So I invested about five hours of my time and a few dollars – and built a railing. It is free-standing. It is the ideal height for me – I can maintain proper posture while using the railing for support. Take a look at it (the fat guy on the Semcycle is me).


In the beginning, I clung to the railing, and went hand-over-hand back and forth, back and forth. Eventually, I just skimmed one hand above the railing. Then I would continue riding PAST the end of the railing. Now, I use just one end of the railing to help me mount and launch away from the railing. And I moved it into the driveway, so I have more room to ride.

You are making a HUGE investment of your time as you learn to ride (unless you are exceptionally gifted or possess cross-over skills). I invested a few more hours and built a great learning tool. It was easy and quick to construct, requiring a saw, a hammer, a ruler, and a pencil. (it’s essentially just a giant “sawhorse” – five feet high and 16 feet long)

At this point, I only need it to mount, but it will soon be used for learning to free-mount and then again (someday) for learning to go backwards.

My other thoughts on learning to ride are: 1) don’t attempt unassisted riding too soon – develop some degree of control first, and 2) don’t worry about free-mounting – when you can actually ride far enough that you get sick of walking back – THAT’S when you should learn to free-mount, and 3) don’t become addicted to ANY form of assistance – eventually you must launch into the scary abyss, over and over and over. That’s when the real fun and the real learning begin.

And of course – practice, practice, practice, and posture, posture, posture. Don’t get discouraged, and remember to have fun. You CAN and WILL learn to ride.

Comments from the experts and the beginners (and everyone in-between) are welcome and appreciated. Thank you.

uni57 (Dave)


Dave, nice job and nice back yard.

I found similar success with the kids using a foldable ladder set up as a scaffold http://www.unicyclist.com/gallery/albun47/aac .

A couple thoughts:

-When using the ladder with young kids or first timers I lash it to the garage poles so it isn’t accidentally pulled over onto them. Once they are more stable we move it out into the driveway and use it free standing.

-The open space under the ladder is nice because they can face it holding on with both hands and rock (idle) with the wheel extending underneath. My inclination would be to raise your lower cord so the wheel or frame could not hit it.

Our club’s out door summer practice facility has a long 4’ high fence that gets used quite a bit, one problem with fences is when one is still at the hand-over-hand phase they are usually leaning to the side, I had been thinking of bringing a 16’ railing to lash diagonally across of the corners, but now I may try your saw horse idea for a portable railing.



I hadn’t thought about a club using it. The height is fixed and may be too high for kids. But the semi-portability of it sounds nice for club use. Perhaps one of our engineer-unicyclists on RSU could design a collapsible, height-adjustable, fully-portable insta-railing! (I improvised the design and built mine fast! All I knew was that I needed a few triangles for stability. And I assumed, ironically, that nobody would really see it anyway!)

Also, regarding your comment about idling vs. the bottom cross-member, I think you are right. Facing the railing and holding on with two hands sounds ideal. My design does not allow that.

As for leaning to the side in order to hold on with two hands (while riding parallel to the railing), I think the leaning is minimal because you can get close to the railing. I’ll get someone else to try it and I’ll observe them. But certainly when you graduate to one hand, you can have perfect posture.

Lastly, note that the legs do not extend out too far. That allows me to ride past the end. I ride the length of the railing, and if I’m not too wobbly, I just keep on going. I’m past that stage now, but I remember that it was very useful. Rather than launching into the abyss, I simply rode into the abyss. Back then, I had many, many failed launches. So this technique allowed me to get some true riding experience while I debugged my launches.

uni57 (Dave)
P.S. - Now I remember seeing your “training ladder” picture – can’t remember the sequence of events, but it may have been the genesis of my railing idea. (so thanks!)

Well done, that’s a strong-looking rail and it sounds really helpful. Next you can try riding along the top of the rail!

Andrew Carter

Awesome structure. To me it looks like a bit overkill, but if you have the time, space, and means to why not? I really like the height and the face that there is nothing under it, like in the case of a wall.

When I first started, for the first for the first few hours, I used a rope hanging on a ceiling to help me on. Once I was on, I could just sit there and focus on posture and getting used to the strange riding position (as compared to the biking I was so used to). After a bit of just sitting, I would start rocking back and forth to get used to the motions. When I finally started riding in terms of covering distance, I never used a support to lean or grab on accept to help me mount. This resulted in more of a falling into the abyss rather then a riding or launching into it.

I thought it was the best way for me to learn. Every time I used a wall to ride along, I didn’t feel right. Of course everyone learns differently and this was just my experience.

Just thought I’d share,