Newbie Needs Help

I searched the forum, but never had found a thread on this topic. First of all, I am 67 and have been practicing for a few months now. I can ride straight, make turns, do roll back mounts and idle with either foot. My biggest obstacle now is not able to ride continuously for more than 200 feet at a time. Stamina is not an issue here. My crank just seems to end up at the dead spot after a short distance. I have tried counting revs, using feather light pedal pressure, concentrate on making smooth rotations, and looking straight ahead to no avail. I am sure it’s all mental. Hope some of you guys can give me some suggestions.


Hi Unihooper!
Welcome to the community. Others more knowledgeable than me will likely chime in here, but I’ve found keeping weight in the saddle to be the single most important factor affecting pedaling, steering, and overall balance. In the beginning, I really had to focus on this, and I found that, even if I thought I was firmly planted, I could usually sit down more.

That might make sense and I haven’t even thought about that. I’ll see how that goes next pratice. Thanks!

Still having the same problem

So I started my workout on the uni today concentrating putting more weight on the saddle as suggested. Unfortunately the same thing happened. For some strange reason, I can’t seem to go farther than the 200 foot limit without the crank ended up in the dead spot position. It was like my brain was telling my foot to stop pedaling and dismount. Maybe I just got into some bad habits in the beginning because I rode the uni back and forth on a very short stretch of road. Just very frustrating.

Hi Unihooper! I haven’t run into exactly that, but I do remember getting to a point where I needed to switch my mindset from “riding as far as I can go before dismounting” to “just on a unicycle unicycling around.” When we’re starting out, every ride actually does end in an unplanned dismount, and maybe you’re anticipating that happening even though you’d be able to keep riding otherwise.

These things seem to generally work themselves out just from riding, but if you’d like a suggestion for something to try, you might see if you can leave the “how far can I go this time?” factor out of it. You might ride slowly and not in a straight line, not paying attention to how far you go or how many crank turns you do, just getting comfortable sitting there and casually cruising around your practice space.

But practice and time in the saddle take care of most of these problems, maybe despite what we try to do to fix them more than because of it. :slight_smile:

Every so often people in their 40s post on this forum, asking if they are too old to learn to unicycle, so it’s nice to hear from someone who learned at 67 and already knows how to idle!

I could already ride 20 miles before I learned to idle or even dismount from the rear, so Mr T, perhaps you have an unusual riding style, a bit of cautiousness about going forward maybe, and that’s why you learned to idle so early? Just speculation, but if you are really concerned, you might experiment with shorter cranks (smaller dead spot) or a different wheel size. Whatever you do, I have a feeling this problem will sort itself out within the next few days of riding or even of not riding. It’s just too weird to be long-term.

Good work with the idling! I still cannot do that after 2 years of irregular unicycling, though I can ride miles without dismounts, do a bit of balancing and hopping etc.

What if you start from the pedals level, and very deliberately go with one half-turn after another, so that you definitely don’t stop in a dead spot? If that’s hard, maybe practice stillstands with horizontal pedals, or maybe light hopping? I thought maybe you have developed a habit of stopping and balancing with pedals vertical instead of horizontal. Sorry if I’m on a wrong track.

In any case I’d think it will go away in time if you just decide to practice something else and not mind the dismounts now and then.

You are right. I should just ride and have fun. I tend to over train; after all the more the merrier right?. I am sure this 200 foot ride and dismount thing is because I have been practicing this for so long that my mind just tell my feet to stop at that distance. Well, I need a vacation anyway. Thanks for the tip!

Song, your observation is AMAZING. I actually learned to idle before anything else. The theory being that I can improve my balance first. At my age, I do have to be cautious about spills and face plants. I probably don’t have a picture prefect riding style due to a curved spine and one leg being longer than the other, but I can’t do anything about that. I am using a 137mm Moment crank on a 20 inch wheel so you can say it was a tat too long. Then again I need all the help I can for control. Thanks for your reply, I should have joined UC a lot sooner!

Goodgulph, I take riding for miles over idling anytime. I cannot hop yet and that is supposed to be easy. Maybe I should learn to pogo stick first, LOL.

Try riding downhill, as steep a slope as you’re comfortable with.


Thanks for the tip, but you are asking this oldster to risk his life and limps. Seriously, I will order extra body armors before proceeding.

Sounds like it could definitely be a mental thing. Do you ride in the same area every time? Just wondering if your eye is catching the same landmark that tells you it’s time to dismount. If that’s the case, change location and see if you can go longer distances.

Good suggestion, MuniCO

I live in the downtown Portland area, so finding a suitable practice area could be challenging. I don’t drive so my other form of transportation is my own two feet. There is a small urban park a couple of blocks away where I practiced almost daily, but the pathway there is usually teaming with people, kids and dogs. To one side of the park, there is a large cement area . That is where I have been using for the past 2 months. Yes, I could definitely use a change of scenery, but the question is just where.

Unihooper, what blows my mind is how much technique you’ve learned in spite of your 200 ft. issue.

Just a stab in the dark, but I wonder if it’s possible that, in the course of your 200 ft. rides, your center of gravity is sliding gradually forward on the seat. Some of my UPDs have resulted from this form of imbalance.

+1 on LargeEddie’s suggestion to ride slowly. It could be that your pedaling speed (cadence) is increasing gradually throughout the ride, and at about the 200 ft. mark, your speed crosses a threshold at which point you lose control over the spin of the pedals, one of your feet plants itself in the 6:00 position, and you UPD. When I learned to slow down while riding…I crossed a huge milestone in my learning.

My first ~100-200 ft. rides were more successful on a very slight uphill, I think because I was going slower I had trouble controlling my speed on a slight downhill. On an uphill, I was relying more on the forward-pedaling force (rather than the foot-braking force), which I was more adept at.

Good luck!

Thanks all for your inputs and ecouragements!

So after just two days with the community and getting some valuable information and encouragements, I came to the conclusion that my problem is basically mental in nature, but I also need to work on better techniques too. As MuniCO had suggested, I changed to a different practice area today and was able to go a third farther than before.:smiley: The reason I UPDed this time was because I was too exhausted to go on while fighting a strong head wind and trying to stay on the uni. In time, hopefully I could be more efficient. But for now, I’ll just have to imagine myself slowly riding into the sunset in my dreams.

Thanks Again

elpuebloUNIdo, thanks for your input. Actually I was able to ride further in the beginning wobbling all over the places with no technique at all. After I got into my daily practice routine, it was like I was programed into auto pilot and can go no further without stopping after a certain distance. I had read one uni coach talked about one of his students with the exact problem as mine awhile ago, but that was before I even got my uni so I didn’t pay much attention to it. Going up an incline did seems to prolong the dismount though probably because it would be hard to get back on again at my skill level.

I found setting targets helped a lot, but I was riding a 2 mile stretch of promenade so didn’t need to worry about running out of space. The target was fluid, in that I didn’t necessarily stop when I reached it. So for example, I’d start with ‘i want to reach the mail box’, about a quarter mile from the start of the path. If I still felt OK, I’d carry on to the petrol station (half a mile), if I reached it I’d go for the swimming pool, (3/4 mile), the pier (1 mile). When I first managed to reach the mile mark I’d stop, take a quick break and ride back. I rarely managed the return leg in one go, so the goal-setting and moving goals started again, I would upd 3 times so next time I’d want to only upd twice and so on. Then when I could do the mile each way I went further til I was riding the full 2 miles out and back.

I found this approach helpful, because it gave me a mental target with physical markers to gauge progress and keep me motivated. I’d recommend trying it if you can find the space to ride without traffic or other obstacles and without having to turn too much (but keep practicing turns too, straight lines are boring!).

I also alternated between those longer rides when possible and shorter rides on a concrete yard where I’d practice turns and free mounts because without good technique it’s tiring doing 2-4 miles. You don’t want to burn out, listen to your body and don’t force a ride when your legs are saying no!

It sounds like you are doing great though, I still can’t idle after around 18 months of riding, and probably took about 6 months to get a reliable free mount. Well done!

Psychological hassles.


For my money, your problem is purely a mental block, I have a slightly different take on it, but the same really. Back in 2010 I lost the sight in my left eye, some years before that I was Unicycling quite well but sold it to get a newer guitar.... Now that I have recently got another unicycle, I find that, although I can ride a decent distance, I always veer to the right whilst striving hard to go straight.

It is the same when I take off from the start, off to the right each time. It takes somewhere like three months to accimatize the brain to Monocular vision, this enables driving vehicles, riding bikes etc, but these are propelled by themselves i.e. if you could take all your extremities off the controls, the thing would still keep going effectively. However, a Unicycle is different ,you are the propulsion, and whilst trying to stay upright, the brain tells the legs to, weirdly, push harder on one side and not the other.
I may be wrong, but I think that the brain actually controls the opposite side to the limb in question, a sort of diagonal control freak, this obviously makes the entire riding thing an extreme challenge. So, to sum up, one has to compensate quite strongly until the brain gets the hang of it. Every single time I take off from the start, I make a conscious prayer to just keep pedaling despite going right and attempt to correct the direction by judicious wobbling and twisting… I am 65 years of age, just for the record.! :thinking:

Regina Wrecks thanks for your input.

It’s great to hear someone from my generation! I think oldsters like us have some unique problems most people are not aware of. Thoughts had entered my mind that my problem could be medically related. You see, although I have not yet diagnosed, I think I do have a case of mild adult ADHD. I said mild because I could pretty much function normally daily with no problems. I could practice and practice for hours on but cannot concentrate for a long period of time. My family had a history of Alzheimer too, so that concerns me also. I don’t know what the solutions are and maybe there are none. I am not complaining, in fact learning to unicycle is a great form of therapy. I am very happy even just getting this far. I am sure when I am finally ready for retirement home, I’ll impress a lot of ladies there. :slight_smile: