Newby Learning Journal

Howdy! I recently caught the unicycle bug, and my new uni just arrived yesterday! I put it together, set the seat height and have spent a few minutes in the garage trying getting on and trying to feel how it balances and how it feels putting weight on the saddle and getting off, with my hand on the wall. Hopefully I’ll have some time this weekend to make my first riding attempts. Tips and suggestions are welcome!

  1. Make sure you have all the tools for tightening the unicycle. It is common for stuff to get loose, especially during the break-in period, and during drops, which are going to happen frequently.

  2. Getting used to the feel of the unicycle, the motion of the pedals, etc., while holding onto something…is a good idea. You may need to experiment to find the right “crutch”. It could be a wall (or even better two walls in a hallway), a fence, a chair, etc. Don’t feel like you have to rush into riding unassisted.

  3. Read the forum for advice on what safety gear to wear. As a beginner who is launching off of stuff (as opposed to free-mounting), your chances of falling onto something are increased. Wrist guards and a helmet are a good way to start. Later, you might add shin guards, gloves…then even later, knee pads, ankle-covering shoes. Getting the proper safety gear is a kind of evolution; hopefully, you can get the correct gear ‘before’ you need it, rather than ‘after’. You will feel more confident with safety gear on, especially if you are old, like me.

  4. When I picked up my first unicycle from the bike store, the technician gave me this advice: go out and spend six straight hours at a time, learning to unicycle. Well, I never did that, but I typically spent 1-2 hours at a time during the initial learning process. As a beginner, from one practice session to another, you may find yourself slipping backward. I think that is typical. It took me at least 30 minutes of practice to replicate the successes of the previous day.

  5. Learn how to measure your success in a variety of ways, rather than focusing merely on how far you’ve ridden (though that is exciting). For example, you may not be riding farther on a particular day, but your success at mounting may be improving. Just learning how to place the second foot on the pedal involves a process of improvement. If you can break down unicycling into a thousand little skills, you will feel some satisfaction when one of those skills has progressed.

  6. It is typical for beginners to feel winded and/or have burning leg muscles after the shortest of rides. This is referred to as “beginners’ inefficiency”, and it is totally normal. I still feel it whenever I am learning a new technique.

  7. Don’t quit.

Happy riding! Keep us informed about your progress.

Thanks! I’ve looked at some tutorials, and I’ve also got a helmet and wrist guards. For the moment, I’m between the car and the wall holding myself up on the uni. I’ve only had the chance to get on it for about half an hour. Hopefully it’ll stop raining and I can go to the park tomorrow for a couple of hours.

By the way, my goal is to be comfortable just riding around by the end of the summer. This fall I want to take a circus class.

Ask 3 People, Get 3 Answers

As with every single hobby/activity I think I have ever pursued, I have found that with unicycling, if you ask three different people, you will get three different answers, and everybody who knows anything at all will offer their own opinions about what you are doing right, wrong, perfectly, or abominably. Case in point: myself. I have about 4.5 hours of total practice in, yet here I am preparing to offer you my two cents. With all of that in mind, KEEP in mind that you will develop your own answers, and no two people are ever going to have the same experience unicycling.

A lot of my “knowledge” comes from reading what other people have written, and, when I read something that seems well-reasoned, I tend to adopt it as correct and see how it works. As I develop my skills, I will find out which bits of “knowledge” work for me and which do not. I use that as a preface because I am going to poorly contradict the advice you have already been given AS IT APPLIES TO ME, and want both you, and the person I am contradicting, to realize that my advice is related only to my own experience, and that your experience may prove completely incompatible.

I have read that learning to ride a unicycle relies heavily on the brain’s ability to take the day’s experiences and file them away where they belong in your brain while you sleep at night. The exact mechanics behind it are lost on me, but it made sense when I read it. The point being that a single, 24-hour long session of trying to learn to ride will not give you the same overall effect as 24 1-hour long sessions over a 24 day span, with sleep intervening. Or 48 half-hour sessions.

I have also read a very non-scientific study that said that, on average, those who learned to ride in the fewest actual hours of practice are those who practiced for around 30 minutes per day, and that longer practice sessions seemed to actually increase the total number of hours required to reach the same skill level. Even in that unscientifc study, it was admitted that the trend was not a hard-and-fast rule, but just a general tendency with many exceptions.

I have also read others who flatly contradict both of those premises, so…

My own system is to set a timer and practice for 30 minutes per day. I don’t have the patience or temperment to put hours into falling down over and over. Initially, I was ready to give up at the 10 minute mark, then after 17 minutes, and it’s only been the past few days that I feel like continuing after the timer has gone off. Contrast that with the mention by another that their first 30 minutes practicing was basically getting back up to what they had done the day before. You should maybe try both ways, or develop your own hybrid. The one thing I can say with fair certainty, though, I haven’t found contradicted:

Practice every day, even if just for a few minutes, whether you want to or not. Every single day. No exceptions.

I look forward to seeing what kind of system you develop. And remember that everything I have just said came from a person who cannot remotely claim to be able to ride a unicycle yet. But I am pleased with my current progress. at 4.5 hours of total practice, my average riding distance per try, over around 60 tries in a 30 minute period, is around 16 feet.

Good Luck!

1 Like

Agree with this. I started out believing that the passing of time was just as important as the amount of practice done and I still think that’s true. All kinds of adaptations take place when learning a physical skill like unicycling, not only in the brain but throughout the nervous system and in the muscles being used. Physical change takes time, and food and rest too. Patience is a big asset. Time really is on your side.

OK, you’ve pretty much forced me here. :slight_smile: I’ve never come close to doing that. Starting past the age of 50 and in a rather hot and humid summer, there were more than a few “recovery days” when I was tired and sore from the preceding days and didn’t feel like battling the heat again, or just plain had something I needed to do or wanted to do more. And I think it’s turned out OK. (If it matters, my longest ride so far is 18+ miles. Not spectacular compared to what others have done but it’s a lot more than I imagined doing starting out. And it was a nice pleasant ride, not a grueling test of will and endurance.)

Going back to your point I quoted above, I think those adaptations go on for more than 24 hours after the last practice session. At least I didn’t notice any backslides when I skipped a day or two. When/if you get to the point where you’re doing muni, road unicycling, and maybe working on some freestyle or trials skills, you won’t be able to practice all of those every day anyway.

I’ll add: It’s not a race, and there’s more to life than efficiency of training and rates of progress. If you’re still unicycling two years from now–and I truly hope you still are–it will matter little if at all whether you needed two weeks or a month or two months to be able to ride 100 yards. And if you keep doing it, you’ll keep getting better. Unicycling won’t make you rich or famous no matter how fast you learn or how well you do, and it will come to you eventually if it’s your thing. There are plenty of other hobbies out there to try if it turns out not to be.

Enjoy the process. We’ve already sucked all of the fun out of most of the things in our lives. Go practice because it’s fun being outside and trying something new. The main thing is to keep at it and keep having fun, and just don’t let too much time pass between sessions. And when you’re done, think of something good to say about that session, even if it’s just–as it will be sometimes–“That was a rough day but I got it out of the way.”

Good luck to both of you!

[Edit] I forgot to say but really need to: Tell us how things are going for you. I’ve relied heavily on my virtual online unicycling pals, even had a chance to meet a few of them in person now, and I’m very grateful for their help. Practice can be a solitary and sometimes lonely business, and it can help a lot to know that at least a few people out there will understand and appreciate what you did.

One thing that I ve learned is that there is no set rule to learning. Everybody learns at their pace. Some teenagers can spend 4 hours all in one day and get it right away. Some takes two months. For me, 30 mins a day, 100 ft on the sixth day.
Some people, it works better when the “beat” themselves up for not advancing faster. Some have the patience and rather enjoy a slower pace.

Just enjoy it,


See what I mean? Everybody has an answer :smiley:

So I revert to my original theory: Ask 3 different people, get 3 different answers. I do think the common thread among all of the replies seems to include something along the lines of, “Keep at it. Don’t get discouraged if it takes awhile to pick up. Don’t get arrogant if you pick it up quickly (Fate has a thing about people who get arrogant).”

I have this theory that every person who has ever learned how to walk has learned to ride a unicycle once in their lives. At some point, very early on, everyone has tried to switch from moving from four supports on the ground to two, and they almost invariably fell numerous times in the process. Of course, we were all closer to the ground at the time, and likely had padding of enviable softness to cushion our falls. But we all had to figure out why we fell left, right, forward and backward when all we wanted to do was walk. The cool thing is that, by now, it’s so easy for most people that they don’t even have to think about it.

Of course, again, I am pretty much the least qualified of all to offer an opinion here, and yet I offer one anyway. If anyone finds it unsatisfactory, I promise to refund you every cent of what you paid for it :smiley:

Thanks again for all the suggestions and encouragement! I’m in no rush- I’ve gone 44 years without knowing how to ride a unicycle and somehow survived. I have no misconceptions of doing 3 meter drops while doing a backflip and juggling flaming knives in the next few weeks. I just want to be able to simply ride reasonably comfortably by the end of the summer. The drops, backflips and juggling may take until winter or so…

Deke and Johnny_Mojo, glad to have you both on the forum. Your reflections are thought-provoking. There is so much to respond to, and I still don’t understand how to use the “multi-quote” feature. Duh.

I have had quite a few dreams about unicycling; I figure that’s my subconsciousness working out a problem. Recently I dreamt about one-footed riding; it happened just as I was learning to ride one-footed for a single revolution.

Another thing which has happened to me: I would spend one day struggling to learn a new mount, then perform it successfully on the first attempt, the next day. This indicates that some learning, during the practice break, had taken place.

30 minutes in one practice session? I practiced for longer in one session as a beginner. Prior to unicycling, running was my main source of exercise. For me, something changed in my metabolism around 20-30 minutes into a run. I started sweating more, if my mouth was dry, that stopped, and I felt more energy and a type of euphoria. I think this is referred to as “runner’s high”. The 30 minute mark, during unicycle practice, seemed to coincide, for me, with an emotional catharsis, before which I felt like stopping, after which I felt re-invigorated. Everyone has a different metabolism, I suppose; that is my experience, however.

Here’s a little hypothetical case of two riders:

One rider practices 5 minutes a day, and is able to learn unicycling in only 5 hours of practice. It takes him two months of 5-minute a day practice to be riding. Another rider practices 2 hours a day and learns to ride in a whopping 40 hours of practice. It takes that rider 20 days to learn to ride.

So, I am measuring time in two different ways: one is total hours spent, and the other is an interval of time between starting and being able to ride. And, yes, the example I used above is a bit extreme.

Striving for efficiency gives the impression that unicycling is an unpleasant thing which must be gotten out of the way as quickly as possible, a chore. Maybe some unicyclists spent more than an optimum amount of time practicing; this could have something to do with unicycling being fun. Spending more time also has exercise benefits.

If your goal is to ride in the smallest amount of total time spent, then you’re in danger of creating an arbitrarily low bar for what it means to be riding. Several beginners have posted that they are not interested in learning any advanced technique. How can a beginner know how they’re going to feel about unicycling in a month or a year? I think we need to keep an open mind about what we can or wish to learn; if you are only interested in mounting and riding forward, unicycling will eventually get boring. If learning to unicycle is one item on your giant “bucket list”, then you might try it then put it down.

We want you to succeed, and we want you to keep succeeding!

Nothing but Good Points

Well said, elpuebloUNIdo. At the very worst, it is well thought out food for thought, and it does seem that you’re in the majority in your opinions. My practice session today even reinforces that. At about the 20 minute mark (5 hours total practice before today’s started), I had a 13 revolution run, followed by this sequence (converted to feet travelled instead of revolutions for easier consideration):

65 (the 13 mentioned), 25, 40, 40, 105, 15, 90, 75, 45, 110, 65, 85

Then the timer went off. Prior to today, my longest single run was 75 feet, and my average runs were under 20 feet. Before that 13, my average runs today were about 25 feet, then something just clicked and I was riding off the end of my runway almost back to back.

I still quit at 30 minutes because a) I was exhausted, b) This system is working for my particular life-circumstance, and c) There will ALWAYS be tomorrow. Someone with more endurance and who thrives less on structure than I do might have taken that little end run there and ran it out to 200+ feet, though, perhaps giving their brain a few more tidbits to file away in the appropriate places during sleep tonight.

I did want to mention that the 30 minute rule I use is not “Only 30 minutes in the saddle per day”. It is “Only 30 minutes trying to learn something new per day”. Today, riding at all is learning something new. Once I can ride distance reliably, that goes outside of the practice window and freemounting will go in, meaning, at that point, I can go off and ride around to my heart’s content.

Food for thought. Everybody finds their own way.

I spent about 30-40 minutes holding a wall up this evening. By the end I could get 1- 1 1/2 complete revolutions without touching. I hope to be able to practice like this most nights this week.

I like your progress Johnny Mojo, keep it up. Some people just over analyze and bla bla bla , and it’s not like it’s going to make them any better with all the know it all regurgitated arrogance.

Point Taken

Point taken, UPD. Shutting up now. Good luck with your riding, Johnny. I think I got a bit over-eager with my interest in a new hobby, decided to talk far too much about it.

This was/is your thread anyway. Not trying to hijack it. It was just fun to “share”, even if I overdid it.


Oh, I thought he was talking about me. :o

No really, that’s what I love about unicycling, it’s pure simplicity in form, yet complex, and it’s humbling learning experience.

I thought UPDwas talking about me and I haven’t even posted :astonished: :roll_eyes:

No, you two are way too cool here;)

Aw UPD :slight_smile:

You’ve made my day :wink:

Another day of practice- about 45 minutes. I started off along a wall, then just started trying to pedal across the park with no supports once I got going. I was able to wobble about 5 or 6 pedal strokes. Very wobbly, like a drunken sailor on deck in a storm. But, I was able to keep myself up for a few pedal strokes, so I’m very satisfied. I seem to have as many or more problems side to side as front to back, but it’s all wobbles anyways.The neighborhood kids were excited and kept cheering me on. I stopped while I was still enjoying myself, but felt it time to stop. Maybe I’ll try again later tonight.