Newbie Question

Hi everyone,

I’m new to the forum and to unicycling, just started about a month ago with a friend’s Torker Unistar LX. I can go a pretty decent distance now (about 300 yards/275 meters) and make not-too-sharp turns, but I feel like I’ve kind of a hit a plateau in the learning curve and am wondering if I’m doing something wrong.

My legs are very tense when I ride, so I get tired very quickly - my thighs start hurting too much to go farther than about 300 yards at most, and I can only practice maybe 20-30 minutes at time (not riding constantly, that includes walking back to the starting point each time, since I can’t freemount yet). I’m not very athletic, so maybe it’s just a question of needing to build leg strength, but I just want to make sure I’m not doing something wrong. I’ve heard that you balance with your stomach muscles, but I don’t feel that at all, just my legs. I also wonder if I’m leaning forward too much - it’s easier for me to look down a bit in front of me than straight ahead.

Any tips as to what I’m doing wrong/where to go from here would be greatly appreciated! I’d also be interested in finding a good unicycling book if anyone can recommend one, and I’ll definitely keep looking around this site too.


Your legs will tone up as you ride more, but you need to start putting all your weight on the saddle.

Try raising the saddle. This forces you to place your weight on the seat rather than your legs. Once you’ve got the general feel for it, lower the seat a bit. Rinse and repeat until the seat is as the correct height.

I’m in the same position. I have changed my shoes, changed the tyre pressure, changed the seat height. But nothing has worked so far. In fact, I just changed back to my old shoe (after it seemed a new shoe I got was not quite suitable) and had a bad fall and hurt my knee today. I think the learning curve, or to be more precise the learning incline, becomes very slight once you learn to ride for a certain distance. I empathize with you. I have been practicing for the past 6 months (but only about once per week). Oddly that seems to suit me best. I don’t seem to have much success when I try to practice more frequently! It seems like forcing the issue and becomes frustrating. Practicing about once per week keeps it fun and interesting.

I wish you luck in your efforts.

work on having fun

It really is all about enjoying leaning to balance. You can’t rush it.

As far as leg pain goes, I don’t think that is conditioning. Let’s say we put Lance Armstrong on a uni for the first time. I bet he would get leg pump (be all tensed up), same as you. It just takes some time to learn to ride loose. Until then, you will be all tight and sweat everything.

Once you get the hang of it, you can ride even a 19 for miles, with a low seat, and it will be easier than walking. It’s hard when you start to learn, even if you are Lance Armstrong. Don’t be to hard on yourself, or think you are to out of shape. Unis use a weird front-back sort of tension to keep balance. It exhausts everyone who tries it, the first few days are a sweat bath.

Being in good shape has almost nothing to do with it. When I ride my 19 to the local park, or take the 36 8 miles down town, it’s the same. You just learn to relax and get used to it. These toys are actually easy to ride, even for an old fat guy who is not in real good shape. The first 100 yards you learn are kinda brutal, after that, I could ride miles before crabbing about the seat. A whole different subject, but anyway, just stick with it. Uni is pretty easy IMHO. The leg pain crap is just at the start, before you know it, you will be going miles, and bitching about your seat, just like the rest of us.:slight_smile: Once you learn to ride those first few blocks away from the wall, your legs will relax, and you will be styling.

I’ve just pushed through this plateau myself, and I found that the secret is as simple as keeping your weight on the saddle.

If you hold yourself up with your legs, it’s exhausting. If you sit on the saddle and only use your legs to pedal, then it’s not too terribly much more tiring than riding a bicycle.

Of course, there was a lot of balance and technique to be learned before I was able to really rest my weight on my saddle.

Raise your seat a tad, sit upright, look forward and drink two beer (or one if you are a lightweight.)

The beer is to loosen you up a bit. It is easier if you relax.

Wow, thanks so much for all the replies!

I practiced some more tonight and tried to really focus on relaxing my legs and putting more weight on the seat. At some points I was able to feel the difference briefly, it did feel more like riding a bike, just pedaling instead of using my legs to hold up all my weight, and I found myself sitting up straighter too. Now at least I have a better idea what I’m aiming for, so hopefully I can start doing that more!

I’ve already raised the seat as high as it goes - whenever my legs started hurting I would raise it, since at first it was especially hurting my knees and I figured from bike riding that meant the seat was too low. But now I’ve had it on its maximum height for a couple weeks (this is my friend’s unicycle and she’s quite a bit shorter than me) and I think it feels pretty good at this height, is there a particular way to tell how high it should be?

Luderart, I’m sorry you’re stuck at this plateau too, I hope some of these replies have been helpful to you too! Good luck!

Thank you all so much for the advice and encouragement, I’m having so much fun with this and it’s good to know I’m on the right track! :slight_smile:

I tell my students that it is best for their leg to be nearly straight when it is at the bottom of a pedal stroke. The optimum height can be different for everyone- bellybutton height seat is a rough guide but legs and cranks and wheels are all different sizes so you are better off measuring between the pedal and the seat.

It feels a lot better when you stop battling your other leg each time you pedal and the balance allows you to put minimal effort into pedaling. Put your feet on straight, relax, sit up straight, arms out, only use gentle pressure on the pedals and keep most of your weight in the seat.

Don’t worry there are plenty more plateaus ahead of you which will tempt you to reach even further into what you once thought impossible-

I never thought I’d be able to coast and now I can do it on purpose!

Good luck and keep persisting!