>>>>> “Beirne” == Beirne Konarski <bkonarsk@mcs.kent.edu> writes:

Beirne> Forwarded message:

Beirne> OK, I have hit the point where my experience fails me, but I will still
Beirne> add a few points for more discussion. One of the first things a riding
Beirne> student must overcome is fear, and this comes with control. When the
Beirne> weight is on the seat, the rider can control the pedals better and feel
Beirne> more connected to the unicycle. This gives confidence, which leads to
Beirne> better riding. Since the major portion of balancing is done with the
Beirne> pedalling motion, control should accelerate learning.

I disagree with two of the above points. Yes, fear is something that must be
overcome (especially on giraffes :-)), and it is overcome as control develops -
so far so good. Now you say

Beirne> When the weight is on the seat, the rider can control the pedals better
Beirne> and feel more connected to the unicycle.

I think this is true, but it’s not at all clear to the beginning rider. Try
convincing a new rider to put nearly all their weight in the seat - it’s hard.
The instinct is to put a lot of weight on the pedal as that seems to be the way
to have the best controll of them. Maybe this is a minor point.

The second thing you said is that

Beirne> the major portion of balancing is done with the pedalling motion

which I completely disagree with. At least for me, the major portion of
balancing comes from sitting up straight and keeping my body positioned
correctly with respect to the wheel. Even with new riders, the major portion of
balancing is done with the body - sudden twists of the hips etc.

Think about your comment from the point of view of someone walking the wheel.
They’re not even using the pedals. Or people who coast (no feet on wheel or
pedals), here balance is maintained completely by body position.

Beirne> BTW, I did take some of the advice from your original posting. My friend
Beirne> was leaning to the right, so we moved the starting block far to the left
Beirne> of our practice area, and I told him to turn as needed to stay on the
Beirne> uni. He did a few 90 degree turns, but was soon going in a straight
Beirne> line.

This is good.

When I teach someone to ride (I guess I have taught about 15 or 20 people), I
teach them to try to do 4 things at once. Many tricks require that you do some
number of things well simultaneously and you can’t do the trick until you can do
them all at once. For example, learning to juggle 4 balls - you need to be able
to do 2 in each hand, you need to be able to make the balls do inside-outside
circle etc. Until you can do these things simultaneously, you wont be able to
keep 4 balls going for more than a few seconds.

Anyway, back to unicycling. The 4 things I tell people are:

  1. Sit up straight
  2. Keep your weight on the seat
  3. Lean forward
  4. Pedal fast

The first two can be done without moving (pedalling). The last two apply wjen
you try to actually go somewhere.

I think that all rider’s failings can be explained as a lack of one of the
above. Maybe this is an over-generalization, but it’s true in my experience.

The thing to do is to repeat this litany to yourself while trying to learn.
Don’t repeat it mindlessly, but repeat it and try to DO the things mentioned.

Very important, as far as I am concerned, is to try to understand, in terms of
the above list, why you’re falling off. Is the wheel coming out behind you
often? Then apply 4 - try to pedal so fast that the wheel shoots out in front of
you - you may surprise yourself. Is the wheel coming out in front of you? Then
apply 3. Is the wheel jerking from side to side with each pedal? Apply 2. Are
you falling off to the side often? Apply 1 and 2.

Constantly watch yourself and think about which of the above you might be
screwing up. Almost certainly it will be one of them.

Get someone else to watch you and insist that you sit up completely straight.

I have used the above with lots of people and it works fine. The most important
thing is to learn without having to do it by too much trial and error. I was
very fortunate in having a teacher who was already very good. He never let me do
anything wrong at all, and so I didn’t spend any time figuring things out or
struggling too much. He just told me what to do. Maybe that takes some of the
fun out of it, but you don’t get any bad habits and it makes learning tricks
later on SO much easier.

Well that’s enough for now.

By the way, the person who got me unicycling, lent me a uni and taught me all
the above lessons was Steve Ragatz, who’s now with Cirque du Soleil in Vegas. He
was on this list, but is currently off the net. He’s a very good teacher.

Also, for the record, I agree with everything Mark Sands has said.