Learning turning

Hello and thank you for reading my post.

I’ve owned a unicycle for 2 weeks or so and have put in about 4 hours learning.

Today I rode about 50 feet unassisted and could have done more if I were on straight land instead of a parking lot.

My question is if anyone has suggestions for learning turning. Of course, I call already feel my body naturally learning it. I’d like to have some advice in mind from experienced riders.

Also, I realized longer cranks make it harder to learn because it takes more control and more pedaling to do the same thing. Mine are 150mm–is this too long for pavement riding? I can feel what a beast this unicycle would be off-road, if I am strong enough.

Thanks, I think my next step is to find a long straight open area to ride and practice turning. Comments of all kinds are appreciated, especially from other beginners.

Thanks so much, and long live unicyclist.com!

I find the most effective thing is to twist your upper body, I end up turning towards wherever my shoulders are pointed. Also key is to look through the turn where you want to go (just like a car/motorcycle/bicycle). Ie for a 180 degree turn looking all the way over your shoulder behind you makes it way easier.

150s should be perfect for learning (I assume you have a 24"?). Longer cranks tend to give you more control since you have more leverage, at the expense of less stability and more effort when you’re pedaling very quickly.

There are two ways of turning that you should be aware of. First, like pinefresh described, is the jerk/sharp turn. This is effective, but then you lose momentum.

You can also turn just by leaning. If you wanted to turn left this way, you shift your weight left and the unicycle ends up leaning left, BUT the upper end of your body should bend right. Your body and the unicycle kind of make a V shape, with the open end of the V pointing towards the outside of the turn (note that your center of balance should still be to the left of the unicycle). At first it will be difficult to make anything but the widest turns with this method, but once you get better you can end up riding in pretty small circles (and if your into freestyle, that gets you closer to spins or pirouettes).

Hey, i am a few weeks ahead of you and if you want to take a semi tight turn, in which is the equivalent of a right hand turn on a street (in a car for example) i find it helps to put out my arm in the direction i am turning, so if i am going left have my left arm straight or slightly back from my body and my right arm would be forward or slightly left, and i look towards the left, for tighter turns i am still working on that i managed to get a 180 in about 8 feet which involved pointing my whole upper body and twisting rather quickly. Its a practice thing.

Good Luck!

If you’re learning… what kind of tire are you using and what’s the pressure? I’d use a non knobby, smooth tire and I’d also try to increase the PSI. I think when I was learning I had the tire PSI in the 60-70 range.

Riding with a tire that inflated made it a bit harder to maintain momentum over obstacles - you’re really influenced by every little thing on the ground, but it made turning a breeze. Once used to turning you can always swap out your tire and reduce PSI gradually.

I would also do the arm thing, where I’d put one arm in the position I’d want it to be in after the turn, then bring my body around to match, using my arm as momentum. That probably doesn’t make sense.

Thanks everybody for the responses.

I’m using a Berm tire between 45 and 50 psi, which is the maximum recommended range.

I also have a Duro tire which is wider. I thought I’d save it for when I got good, but I suppose I could put it on now. Would a wider tire make it easier to learn?

150mm is perfect for pavement and learning? Interesting. It felt like a lot of work to me but perhaps that’s just unicycling. I’ll practice more and re-assess later. Off to practice turning!

Thanks again everybody!

I’d recomend a more road oriented tire. I liked this one and crank up the psi, most tires can take 150% of their recomended max if you’re not jumping off anything. 75 would be good for a super smooth gym floor but outside I didn’t like anything over 50. The decreased contact patch will reduce grip making it easier to twist, and the rounder profile to lean into your turn.

Besides, you don’t want to use up your nice Muni tire while learning.

…yeah but hips are better. When I was learning I had a hard time telling what was going on, so I exagerated it I’d twist my arms in the direction I was turning which would move my shoulders, which would move my hips.

Shifting w/ you hips to the direction you want to turn is best for sharp turns and your shoulders is better for wide turns.

Two ohter basic ways of turning are:
-putting a bit more pressure on the inside pedal (right pedal for right turn) when it comes around towards the bottom of it’s stroke

-and leaning into the turn (IMO this was the hardest to do)

So you’re saying smooth tire with low psi is best for pavement?

Smooth tire with high pressure. Also it’s safe to go a little higher than the numbers recommended for most tires. 60 should be fine with the tire you mentioned (long as it’s properly seated in the rim).

Smooth tires are better for learning turns, and riding on pavement or floors in general. But you can learn with the tire you mentioned above; it looks like a good compromise-type tire; one you can ride on pavement or dirt.

Turning is best learned by trial and error. We can talk (write) all day about proper techniques, but that doesn’t help much in getting you where you can do it. Your early turning will probably be jerky and involve lots of arm motion. Later on, you will learn to minimize that and smooth things out. Turning your shoulders in the direction you want to go will definitely help. Extending the inside hand will probably help less in the early stages. Just move your arms as needed at this point. With practice, you will ultimately be able to turn all over the place with no upper body movement at all. Not that that’s how most people do it, it’s just that you can if you want. :slight_smile:

Thank you John Foss and others for the wonderfully helpful comments.

To give an update, I can ride unassisted now and am beginning to free-mount successfully.

I wanted to run some questions by the riders here.

Should I raise my seat? I feel strain in my knees after riding for a while and I think it’s from always keeping them locked. On the down-pedal my foot does not go all the way through without meeting resistance and my leg feels too long. I fear it may be wasting energy and make riding less effortless. Also there is some strain from somewhat standing while riding as I’m not always completely seated. I tried to sit and only move legs without disturbing sitting but then the legs don’t go all the way through the down-pedal.

Should I put on the three-inch tire? There’s no snow yet and I’m riding pavement. I sort of didn’t want to wear down the softer Muni tire tread (currently using a 2.25-inch cruiser) but I’m thinking it may make riding easier. Actually, I’m not sure, just wanted to throw the idea out there.

Any good tips for practicing turning? How about riding in a circle in a parking lot clock-wise and counter-clock-wise?

Thanks so much again.

Another question, sorry for double-post.

Riding around in the street (26", Muni) already makes me want a bigger wheel (29").

Is this a bad sign? Or, what does it mean?

Seat height for hard/smooth surfaces should be higher than for offroad/bumpy surfaces. It will probably be easier to learn with a higher seat, the same height that would feel natural on a bike (slight bend of the knee at the lowest pedal position). Try to sit on the seat as much as possible, it won’t happen straight away, but it will happen. Sore legs are a sign that you’re learning to ride a unicycle. This will pass once your body has adapted to the new exercise.

The fatter tire will make it harder to turn on pavement. Ride lots. Turning will get easier.

Raise seat? Yes, as described above. You may still get sore, but that’s just your body growing some new muscles for unicycling.

3" tire? Not yet. If you’re still riding on pavement it will probably just make things more sluggish. If there’s snow on the ground, you still don’t need the 3" but by then it’ll probably be fine to switch.

Practicing turning? Start with doing in deliberate directions. Make squares, circles, other shapes. I remember an early goal (after the turning basics) was to be able to turn around on the sidewalk. Of course before that, it was mastering turns in the street, and within the concrete slab that my practice street was made of. Definitely work on both ways. If you’re like most people, one direction will tend to be easier than the other. That’s okay. Practice the weak side too, though. Later on, you can work to make circles or turns with even pedaling speed. When learning, there are usually jerks or stops as you correct your course. Ultimately, you can get a smooth pedaling motion in any circle. This is the path to spins and pirouettes!

I was also wondering if you consider 150mm cranks to be long for pavement riding? After riding around last night I decided with a higher seat it would be OK, but if you’re riding for a while you’d probably prefer something shorter. Would you agree?

26" wheel? 150mm is fine for learning. Later on you’ll probably want something shorter for speed, but for right now, the leverage will be helpful.

Hopefully you’ve figured it out by now as it’s a week on but with some things it helps if you get someone to lead you round by holding your arm?

It basically helps your head to get over the mental barrier of it, so you know what to do when you ride solo.

Also helpful when learning to ride backwards!

Best advice ever for learning to turn is “ride at a wall - don’t hit it - do what you did to not hit the wall again”.

A little simplistic, but to the point.

Good advice all round, I like the ‘look in the direction your turning’ bit, found that valuable when I was learning but we all learn slightly differently. Hopefully some suggestion in this thread will resonate with you and turning will become as natural as riding.

solid advice all round :slight_smile: i learned the jerking/twisting way at first, turning your shoulders and a hard pedal downwards towards the direction your turning. Im trying to get the leaning turning down atm, someone above described it very well, kind of making a “v” between your body and the uni, its very counter intuitive at first , I found best way was to find a big open flat space and just turn in a really wide circle leaning in (body towards direction of turn but hips/seat out, if that makes sense!?) trying to turn smoothly without jerking/twisting to change direction, keep going in circle trying to make it smaller and smaller as you go.
I found got very strange pains in sides/abdomen after practising this alot, was just typical body going " woaw, what are you do using THOSE muscles??? I dont think we’ve ever used those before, get down from there! "
after getting better at this “leaning smooth turning” i found it helped an awful lot in trails riding, repositioning, especially keeping up speed going round bends while going fast or downhill, and lining up for rolling jumps or rolling over obstacles

I just realized this thread is no longer merely about turning, as the title suggests. “Turning” could be deleted from the title, renaming the thread “Learning”.

Update: Just rode around the neighborhood, including going to the store and back. Before this ride I made the seat higher and pumped the tire past psi as per suggestions in this thread. Higher seat definitely made riding easier. Firmer tire probably made for a smoother ride, but I’m not sensitive enough to tell yet. During this ride I noticed my pedaling rhythm is jerky, not smooth. It’s as if I’m pedaling half a rotation over and over rather than just pedaling. I suspect this will improve as I gain experience, but somebody please correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyways, I’m mostly hopping on here to share my experience! During today’s ride I fell off the front, landing on and scraping my right knee. Also got caught in the rain, so I wiped down my unicycle after getting home. Thanks for reading!

If anyone has suggestions for learning free-mounting, I will gladly listen. I’m confident my consistency will go up after 1000x attempts or so. I’ve gotten it several times already.

For freemounting, try not to look down, rather look at the horizon.
Which mount are you using, static or roll-back?