RE: New member; Questions on Riding a 9 footer
> We just received our group’s 9-footer and haven’t tried it yet.
So you’re in a club. Any others with 9-footer experience there? What club,
and where did you get the unicycle?
I have a 9’, and I ride it in the occasional parade. Not too often though,
because I don’t like being stuck up there. I have a lot more fun on my 45"
wheel. Plus, it’s easier to either drop off or pick up the car with a big
wheel than to drag 9’ of unicycle around with you…
Anyone who is going to ride the 9’ should have a basic unicycling competence
level before they get on it in the first place. At a minimum, the rider
should be comfortable with riding forward and backward, and idling
indefinitely. Without those skills, a rider up there is in a place where
they don’t belong.
There are many ways to get on a 9’, including freemounting. Mine has an
articulated step on the back, which stops the wheel so you can run up it
like a 6’. I used to be able to do it about 33% of the time. Tall giraffes
can also be mounted in the open with three or more spotters to hold the
thing up while the rider climbs it. This takes practice and skill, but makes
for a good show in a parade if you have time (or need) to do it.
But if you’re like most people, you’ll be using a stationary object, such as
a telephone pole. You can solo-mount a tall giraffe using a telephone pole.
Watch out for splinters. Make sure the seat is firmly pressed against the
pole, and that your preferred mounting pedal is forward and about 45 degrees
down. Put your hands around the pole to “squeeze” the unicycle against it.
Watch the seat and make sure it stays put until you get up there. Once you
step on the forward pedal, it won’t be going anywhere. Then you can ride
If you’re lucky, you’ll find a wall next to a downhill sidewalk. When we
ride in the Auburn Christmas Parade here, we have just such a wall right in
our formation area. I can step right onto the 9’ from there, as well as
riders on any lower giraffe size.
Otherwise, you’ll want one or two spotters to hold the unicycle steady
against whatever you use for mounting support.
Before riding all over the place, I always do an equipment test. This starts
before I get on, with a check of the chain tension, tire pressure, and a
search for anything loose, such as seat clamp, pedals, wheel bolts, etc.
Then when I get up there, I hold onto something and do some real hard and
fast rocking. My purpose is to stress the unicycle as hard as I will in the
heat of a parade, while holding onto something. So if my bottom sprocket
decides to let go, or if my chain breaks or comes off, I’m ready. Because my
giraffe is only ridden a few times a year, I do this every time.
Giraffes are easy to ride. Any difficulty is mostly in your head. But that
mental difficulty can cause you to fall, and possibly get injured, as
effectively as a pothole. If you’re scared, you’re dangerous. Practice
riding the unicycle before showtime, and don’t ride close to spectators
unless you’re real comfortable on it and not likely to panic if you start
The main drawback of visibility on tall giraffes is that you’re looking
straight down at the ground, and it’s hard to see the texture. Bumps just
don’t show up as well, especially when the sun is high. So scrutinize the
ground carefully. You don’t want any surprises!
Keep a defensible space around you when riding. Leave room for your wheel to
roll out if you have to dismount, and be aware of the people and obstacles
around you so you don’t mix it up with any of them. The higher the giraffe,
the more damage that can result if your wheel hits something during a
roll-out. You can potentially injure yourself before you even hit the
Watch out for unskilled riders around you, small children, or anyone not
paying attention. In unicycle traffic situations, the right of way should go
to the taller giraffes. This does not mean everyone around you is paying
Riders preparing for a show or parade should practice these things:
- Mounting (you might have to get on in front of audience)
- Dismounting (the end of every good giraffe performance)
- Sharp turns (left and right)
- Idling (either foot)
- Backing up
- Obstacle avoidance
- Falling off to front, rear, left, and right
- What’s that? Don’t want to practice falling off (landing on your feet)?
Maybe you shouldn’t be up there then…
When the rider is comfortable with the idea of falling off, he or she will
be less afraid, and therefore less likely to fall off in the first place.
RIDING BACKWARD ONE-FOOT:
The first time people ride a tall giraffe, there is a tendency for people to
go one or two pedal turns, then freeze. This is a good way to practice the
dismount, but not the best way to get started. Remind new riders to “just
keep pedaling” once they commit and go. Then it rides pretty much like a
lower giraffe, only more separation between your center of mass and the
You can fall off a 9-footer, land on your feet, and still catch the seat.
But it isn’t easy. It’s much better to have someone catch the unicycle for
you. Don’t drop it, because tall unicycles tend to be heavy, and can bend
their crank arms or seat posts in a single drop.
I look for a patch of grass that’s higher than my riding surface. Best-case
scenario is a grassy hill right next to the pavement, which effectively
makes your fall a lot smaller. Sometimes I also have the opportunity to
dismount onto a flatbed truck, stage, or other type of platform that makes
the dismount a piece of cake.
When dismounting, don’t let the wheel roll out unless you’re in a situation
where you don’t have room to go down like a tree. If you keep the wheel
stationary, your fall will effectively be slower. Plus you will be better
able to plan where things will end up. As mentioned above, you don’t want
your wheel to be stopped by something in a roll-out. That can really hurt.
If you’re stuck with flat ground, get a spotter to catch the unicycle so you
don’t have to. The spotter(s) can even slow the fall of the unicycle, to
make your landing easier.
That’s all I have time for now.
Stay on top,
“Next time, I don’t want to camp the old fashioned way. I want the new and
improved way… WITH NO BEARS!!!” – 10 year old nephew Austin Miller, on
our recent camping experience (in a flimsy tent, with a bear trashing the