New rider introduction + 2 newbie questions

You have bought the perfect uni for learning. With your bike trails experience I am sure you will be able to learn very quickly. I have taught three riders and they were all doing basic riding within an hour or so.

Plus one for staying away from walls and fences. They just teach you to cling to things. Definitely stay away from tennis court chain wire fences which can result in serious hand injuries if your fingers get caught.

I do recommend starting out for no more than a few minutes with a rail (such as the top of a fence) to get a feel for the dynamics and how to change direction. Then move to a backstop start. Back the uni against a stop so it won’t roll backwards. This takes out a lot of the complexity of mounting. An aerobic step is the ideal back stop as it also gives the rider a raised platform to mount from.

Position the non-dominant pedal at four o’clock (or eight o’clock depending on the side). Step all of you weight onto that pedal, step up to the other pedal, leaning a lot further forward than you expect, and ride away.

Like walking, unicycling is a “continuously saved fall”. You need to get your body moving then bring the wheel underneath you. As you step up the uni will be leaning forward too. The first pedal stroke quickly brings it to the normal slightly leaning back position with your body leaning slightly forward and your centre of gravity over the point of contact with the ground.

At this point you and the wheel are both moving. Just as on a bicycle, learners don’t usually have the skills to still stand, which is why you have to go almost instantly from stationary to riding speed. Hence the big lean forwards start technique.

Each time you take off analyse what didn’t work. Too far to the side. Can’t get over the top to the next stroke. Too much lean, not enough lean. Foot placement. Then choose one thing to focus on for the next attempt. Eventually they will all come together.

Have the saddle at a height where you can just reach the ground on both sides. This avoids the “sitting on a stick” feeling where you can’t control which direction you are going to fall.

Wear strong boots. Put most of your weight on the pedals and grip the nose of the saddle between your thighs. Weight on the saddle is something to aim for but difficult until you learn to keep the uni close to upright.

Balance with your arms comes naturally but the goal is to balance by moving your hips to keep the point of contact under your centre of mass. However balance and steering are intimately related.

Steer towards the direction you are falling. Initially you will steer by twisting the uni against your body inertia. The goal is to steer by leaning the uni. This is done by leaning the uni and counter-leaning your body, keeping the point of contact under you. (Leaning the body into turns comes much, much later.)

Find a smooth grassed area for the initial attempts. You will come off a lot better from the inevitable falls and learn how to save yourself. The grass needs to be as smooth as possible as dealing with irregularities isn’t trivial. A very small downhill slope helps get of the dead spot in the pedalling.

Once you are comfortable with bailing out and usually staying on your feet, move onto a smooth hard surface. I strongly advise you wear protection, especially wrist guards.

The biggest and most real fear is falling backwards. Err on the side of leaning too far forwards to avoid this. You can run out of a forward fall.

Learning is mostly about persistence so your brain and body learn to respond fast enough. Don’t keep at it if you are getting miserably frustrated. Leave it to tomorrow or you will be just learning to fail. It is surprising how sometime you can improve between sessions.

The reward you get once you can ride is magical.