By the end of the convention my righthand axle and crank were so trashed after a
hockey match I had to start using other people’s unis…
My first choice was the star German girl’s giraffe. I’d ridden one before
briefly when I was first learning to ride a few years ago and was surprised by
how easy they are, given basic competence on a uni and a good dose of
After a while I had learnt cornering and idling on either feet. The trick I
really wanted to learn though was free mounting. This may seem like a basic
move, but is in fact quite difficult. Before attempting it, you’ll need to have
learnt mounting it holding on to something first, following the outline of the
technique below. I started even one stage before that, with Jez holding the seat
tube while I rather inelegantly clambered up.
Here’s a description of free-mounting, ie with no other support. I totally
worked this out myself, there and then, having not seen anyone else do it, and
not asked advice (everyone was watching a basketball semi-final) so there may be
bits that can be improved.
Have the pedal on your strong side set at just off its lowest position, slightly
forward, when the uni is also pointing forward slightly (10 degrees?). This
causes the uni wheel to move forward, and align itself vertically when pressure
is applied to the bottom pedal.
Now place the ‘weak’ foot as high up the tyre as possible, half wedging it
between the frame struts. Hold the seat at the front/side. (I held it with my
weak side hand and never got round to trying it with the other.) This is the
‘launch’ position from which unfortunately it’s a series of fluid movements that
all happen rather quickly, so you’ll just have to go for it.
Now’s the time to visualise the rest of the moves. Think about climbing stairs
fast. Your aim is to put your weight first on the tyre foot, quickly placing the
other foot on the bottom pedal. As soon as you’ve got this foot on, all the
weight goes on to it and you push up. Imagine your body moving in a straight
line up, as though you had jets on your feet. The idea is to keep the uni
straight up and not bend forward. As you push up on the pedal foot, it’s
surprisingly stable. That’s not to say it is stable, just it’s not as scary as
it’d seem. Nearing the end of the push up, as with normal mounts, make sure the
other foot gets on to the high pedal quickly. With the hand holding the seat,
stuff it in and sit down as fast as possible. Give the pedals a kick and idle.
So the motion is: left foot on tyre (if you’re that way round), right on the
pedal, left on the pedal, seat in. Imagine this all happening, and you just
being propelled upwards (straight back, uni vertical(ish)). It’s important to
look forward and not let the uni lean forward. Imagine how the weight is
transferred. The weight transfers need to be more or less complete, not sharing.
left right backside.
It really is quick, step-step-step-sit-idle, all in a half second. I found it
very useful imagining I was climbing up a ladder with rungs set far apart.
One annoying thing that I kept doing as I had two feet on the pedals was for the
free hand to come along and offer its assistance by gripping the seat. This
completely got in the way, and I had to make quite an effort to persuade it to
help keep balance rather than interfering with the seat. Once I’d managed that
the other hand could get on with getting the seat under my arse and it clicked
Since I was learning this in the last hour or so of the convention I didn’t have
time to perfect it. I pulled the move about five times, and only once did I
manage to stay in the idle. The other times I pedalled comically backwards out a
few metres before coming off. I’d basically sussed it though.
As I said, this is all self-taught, but it did work in well under an hour. One
thing I do now know is that I have to buy a giraffe