Preventing injuries

Hey guys, I had a great start to unicycling, and absolutely loved it. Moved up from a 20 inch to a 26 Oracle, and was just starting to experiment with some harder terrain, not too hard, just some gentle hills on a gravel road. Then I took 2 bad spills, first time I wrenched my neck, couldn’t drive for a few days, and it is still kind of wonky. Then I landed badly and tore my hamstring. Both are mostly better, but I am chicken now. Have just started using my 20" again, but sadly, I feel pretty terrified to get on my 26". Hoping I can work back up to it. Wondering what to do to prevent myself from having these kinds of spills. Anyway, any suggestions on how not to wreck this sport for myself anymore by wrecking my body? Thanks in advance.

The type of injuries you describe I don’t know if any safety gear you could wear that would stop that. Most bad spills I have involve landing on my knees or hands. You can get riding gloves with wrist support, leg armour to protect your knees and shins and of course a helmet.

Sounds like your technique is the problem, moving onto gravel is going to be tough if you’re not used to riding off road. Maybe try practising on grass and you might have a softer landing if you want to get used to rougher terrain.

I think Unigan’s suggestions are good ones.
Maybe try riding a 24” too as an intermediate step to the 26.

For your neck, if it’s not already completely better, please see a doctor, I’d really hate it if you have anything more than a muscle strain resulting from your crash.

A few things you can do:


  • Wear safety gear. (Kneepads, gloves, helmet.) They don't directly prevent injuries like you experienced, but they help you to fall better.
  • Fall better. There is techique to falling, martial arts style rolls can help a lot, and in general not being to afraid of the ground. You want to dissipate the energy you carry over the longest distance possible, to minimize forces.
  • Avoid falling/plan your fall. Sounds obvious, but developing a feel of what you can safely manage, and also what the worst case fall is going to be can really help. For example, on steep downhill sections, you always want to fall backwards, never forward. If you fall forward, it's a long way until you hit the ground, falling backwards is much safer there. A general risk awareness is one of the best things to prevent injury, I think.
  • Be strong. The stronger your body is, the less you get injured. The human body is capable of dealing with insane impacts, if you train it enough.
  • Be flexible/mobile. Flexibility is shown in studies to (surprisingly) not decrease your chance of getting injured, but I still think it's a good idea in general for your health. There are also conflicting studies. [/LIST]
  • Were these forward falls, where you landed with your hands-out in front? If you ride without a hand on the saddle, the unicycle can be knocked out from under you by an obstacle, causing a bad forward fall. Learning to hold on with one hand will help prevent this outcome. And you need to practice riding on resistant surface, such as grass, or up a steep hill, to make a hand on the saddle absolutely necessary. Even if this doesn’t prevent you from dismounting off the front, it’ll slow the dismount, giving you more time to land on your feet. Sorry about your injuries. Happy healing. Good luck!

    I think this one is key. I’m an older guy who is just starting on the 24" uni. Fortunately for me I used to be a decent martial artist back in the day and we actually had several seminars just on falling and rolling (my favorite exercise was running and diving headfirst over a tennis court net and rolling out of it along the back of a curved arm, across the back, then pop up on the feet-- all with star trek fight music playing in my head…)

    When I fall I focus on

    1. tucking my chin in to protect the neck

    2. try to roll out – avoid taking the full impact on the hands and stiff arms (= wrist breaks). That’s actually hard to do as your hands will instinctively come out to protect you, but you must think of your hands/arms as crumple zones and work to taking the hit along the side of the body. My hands do often hit the ground but it is in service of rolling over and my arms are always curved. it is even better to have the hands not hit the ground at all but like I said that’s hard to accomplish.

    3. If I can’t roll out try to at least land on my side

    I’m wearing hiking boots to protect my ankles, but there were a few times where I did not land with a good foot position- as soon as I feel any tweaking in my feet, I just dump myself to the ground with a roll- I’ve prevented a few sprains that way.


    Lot of good suggestions have been posted here. One additional thing to keep in mind is that failing or falling on a unicycle is simply the nature of the beast. A rider will get better with more experience but the risk of crashing will always be there. Even super long distance riders do occasionally crash. You should and can try to prevent crashes but you will not succeed. Expect to crash and prepare for it with the safety gear of your choice.

    Part of the fun of riding unicycles is the excitement and risk. If you want a lower risk and less fun, ride a bicycle.


    Thanks everyone for the great suggestions, I already wear all the safety gear, but I will definitely try riding with my hand on the saddle and practice my falling. I really don’t want to give this up, it’s so much fun!

    I thought of 2 very important points while warming up for bouldering:

    (1.) Warming up (Surprise). It’s so easily overlooked, but really crucial. For advanced riders, I think warming up on the unicycle is fine. It’s certainly what I do, on Muni the ride to the single trail is usually what I consider my warmup, and for Flatland, I start slow with basic tricks that I know I’m not going to have a bigger bail on. For beginners, the danger of falling may actually make it necessary (or at least smart) to warm up without the unicycle.

    (2.) Stopping before you are too tired. Injuries just tend to happen whenever you decide to do “one more before you stop”.

    Two out of three of my more serious injuries (one seriously sprained foot, and a torn? shoulder) were because I was tired and not paying attention. The last was because I wasn’t warmed up enough and had a really unlucky bail leading to a sprained ankle. That one would have probably lead to some issues even fully warm, but likely a lot less serious.

    I do a set of 20 squats before I ride-- not only to warm up the legs but also to stretch out my back. Still, I think I’ve been lucky not to pull something during the harsh early weeks…


    Lots of good advice… I think there are 3 different types of injuries and prevention strategies:

    • impact injuries from falls that can't really be prevented but where safety gear can really help
    • joint injuries like twisting an ankle -- here wrist guards of ankle supports can help, although mostly only needed if you have a pre-existing weak ankle (like my ankle that was injured 3 times for about 3 years each). Anticipation can help, but sometimes just happens that you UPD and land right on some uneven roots
    • injuries from falling poorly. As mentioned above, anticipating the fall and falling accordingly is key, with rolling being the primary defense (with helmet, knee and elbow pads and strong footwear you can roll on almost any surface without inury)

    I have to admit I am not and have never been much one for warming up.
    And although it’s probably generally good advice, I have never had a bad experience with the end of the day. On the other hand I have learned that seomtimes you just have a bad day where things just don’t feel right and then you should just accept it and not push the limits. And if you are exhausted then take a break (my worst mtb accident was when I was trying to keep up with a group of pro racers and bonked and kept on riding when I couldn’t really see much less control my bike).

    I would definitely recommend as much safety gear as you need to feel confident that you can dive and roll. Trying to stop a fall with outstretched/stiff arms is the best way to dislocate a shoulder or break a wrist! Don’t do it.

    How to be Unbreakable!!!

    Not really(Couldn’t resist a clickbait title…ha)

    Anyways, I totally agree with Finnspins two recommends and here’s a third tip:
    1.) Warm-up first. I like to start by always riding “heavy pedals”. That means maximum weight on pedals and “less” on the seat. Just like when you ride off-road or on the grass with mystery bumps. You cannot “react/compensate” when you are fully balanced on the seat. You need to crouch/lean forward with weight on your pedal for that lightning fast reflex to save you.

    2.) Taking breaks. Hey when your butt is sore and your quads are pumped. You’re not at peak unicycle balancing powers!!! I am guilty of “not taking breaks” when I get on a long bike path. Let’s see how far I can go without stopping, right? Wrong!!! Guess what, most of those paths are “crowned” so you really need “constant/subtle control” to track straight. Also, how’s your foot placement on both pedals? Not so perfect? Yup, more coordination needed. When you get back on the unicycle after a rest, doesn’t it feel much easier? Remember that feeling. Don’t push it.

    3.) How to jump off. After I got better I “almost” forgot how to jump off the unicycle cleanly? If you have small studs on your pedals(steel or plastic) they will tend to catch. Down you go. Also, as you get “better” your body naturally tries to compensate and “save” if you get into trouble. I like to ride on grass with “invisible” bumps/holes, so “saving” is all I am doing. Well, sometimes it works against you. It takes some practice to over-ride this new unicycle “stay on” sense. Sometimes a loud karate yell helps to break this spell/hesitation. So on mental command I will: a.) Forget about my $700 unicycle. b.) stop pedaling lift my feet and hunch forward. c.) shoot the unicycle forward d.) as I am literally in the air, bend my knees into a strong crouching squat position e.) touchdown with both feet square. Success.

    The key is to be able to do this quickly and instinctively when something goes wrong. Rather than let your body try to “save it”. Abort. Get off. Controlled landing. I try to do this every time I ride. Keep on.

    It is a pity you got those nasty falls. It would be sad if you don’t ride anymore because of it. Since you only just changed to the 26", I take it you only just learned to ride? I don’t think loose gravel is the best underground to ride on and your wheel might slide away. Maybe it is better to make some kilometres on the 26" on asphalt or hard dirtroads first while getting a better feel for the uni and how it behaves when riding over bumps and such. A 26" is less twitchy than a 20". My second uni was also a 26" and I did a lot of exploring with it.
    Good luck and hope you stick with unicycling.

    Thank you

    Thanks very much, great suggestions, will definitely try these out!