More thoughts on Wheel Walking

I’ve tried learning to walk the wheel a bunch of times over the last few years. A few days here, a week there; riding next to a wall, balancing between the sides of a narrow bridge, pushing off from telephone and basketball-hoop poles, etc. I’ve never gotten much further than a consistent 5 or 6 pushes.

I recently got a sweet new uni (Nimbus Eclipse), so I’ve started learning again, with gusto. This time around, I’m trying to apply what I “learned about learning”, from mastering juggling 5 balls. I think these skills have a similar learning curve and represent similar points along the overall spectrum from mild hobbyist to obsessive enthusiast (or whatever).

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been keeping in mind, in approximate order of how it comes up in a given attempt:

  1. First, I’ve changed my starting technique: stand up on a curb, lodge your wheel against the curb, put one foot on the wheel+frame, push off with the other foot, and go. Takes a little getting used to, and you tend to lean to one direction, but I’ve made good progress so I’m sticking with it. (inspired by Full Wheel Walking Tutorial - YouTube )

  2. Laser focus: pick an object directly in front of you, and look at it. DO NOT STOP. Whatever you do, keep your eyes and head locked on that object. If you start really really turning, then you can adjust, but ideally, try to stop yourself from turning and plow forward. Hopefully, this helps keep your back up and straight, and gets you balancing with your hands and lower body more.

  3. Count pushes: When first learning to juggle 5 balls, I would just do 5 throws, while counting “1, 2, 3, 4, 5”, and then, attempt to catch all the balls. So, I count off pushes, making my feet move with the count, rather than the other way around. This helps develop a rhythm, and also keeps you concentrated on your feet.

  4. Working under the trick: Alternate wheel walk attempts with some fundamentals and practice techniques. When learning 5 balls, I would juggle 3 balls high, juggle 3 balls in various special patterns, etc. This has the extra effect of increasing your chance of obtaining the “fresh start” bonus, where you walk away from something, come back to it, and are instantly 10 times better than you were last time. Anyway, I alternate between 1ft riding (alternating feet, turning, 1ft extended) and regular riding, but leaning very far backwards. I do this to counteract my naturally bad, forward-leaning posture.

  5. Concentrate: This really is just remembering to do 1, 2, and 3 while I am actually doing wheel walk attempts. The theory is, if I’m going to spend my time practicing, shouldn’t I do it with purpose? So, every attempt, I try to do nothing else but get a solid start, laser-focus on a point, and count pushes. My fragile mind can’t effectively daydream and wheel walk, so I have to do one thing at a time.

I have other ideas from juggling, but I’m not sure where to work them in at this point, or if I’m too much of a novice to incorporate these:

  • Practice control and stopping: When learning 5 balls, I would first learn 5 throws, 5 catches, stop, then repeat. Then progress to 6 throws, 6 catches; 7; 8; 9, etc. A pattern is only as good as how many times you catch the balls. Similarly, I want to try doing a set distance or number of pushes, then stop. I guess I could just fall off after that, or maybe try getting my feet on the pedals?

  • Work above the trick: When I got a little better at 5 balls, I would sometimes practice 7 ball juggling. 7 balls is exponentially harder. But, if I felt even a little comfortable with 7 balls, then all of a sudden, 5 balls seemed so much slower. Maybe I should try a little 1ft wheel walking?

  • Start with the other hand/ foot: Right now, I exclusively start with my right foot on the frame. I should practice the other way, too. In juggling, starting with my non-dominant hand is weird, but, it gives me all the time in the world to focus on that first throw, and, my next throw, with the dominant hand, is easy, since it’s my dominant hand. So, I get two throws for free. It’s almost easier once you get the hang of it.

This post is incredibly long. However, I think enumerating the vague similarities between otherwise unrelated skills is a good way to think about general practice techniques, so hopefully this helps somebody as much as it helped me writing it.

Great write up and great method. Keep working at it! I’m not sure if you’d seen my tutorial or not but I thought I might as well give you another resource.

I’m at the low end of natural ability with unicycling and juggling and it takes me a lot longer to learn tricks for both activities than most people. However, I would say that for me the learning curve for 5-ball juggling is much steeper than regular wheel walking. I got to 5 revolutions after a couple weeks and 10 revolutions after a few more weeks (and it took me a year and a half to learn one footed backwards riding!). I’ve been practicing 5-ball regularly for over a year (and on and off long before that) and max out around 100 catches. So for me the learning curve for 5-ball may be more like gliding (which I cannot do yet). Of course, everyone’s different.