Progress thread - Dingfelder

Hi all … thought if I put up a progress thread it could help both me and others: me by letting me go back one day and see how far I’ve come, as well as hold me to account, and others by letting them know there’s someone out there just as bewildered and untalented(if not more so), yet still hopeful, as they are … with the chance of better things in store. spinningwoman’s thread inspired me, and I think it helped do both those things.

So here goes…


I started with a Nimbus Oracle 24 about two and a half weeks ago. The general recommendation I see is to start with a 20 and then decide where you want to go from there. I wanted to save money by starting on a unicycle still small enough to learn relatively easily on, but big enough to be useful later on. At 6’1" and wanting to ride trails rather than do tricks on city streets, I figured a 24 muni fit the bill and a 20 would be useless to me in (hopefully) short order. I also live in a very hilly area and the 24 Oracle was said to be an outstanding climber.

Skip ahead in time, I got the 24, gouged myself good, twice, on the pedals falling backwards in the first half hour, and realized that was unsustainable, bodily integrity being actually kind of a thing. I’m not crazy about my fat, but my meat I want to keep. So now a 20 incher is on the way, supposed to be here by Tuesday.

Hardly practiced at all in the interim, just 15 or 20 minutes here and there doing stepovers and various leans and trying to hover or move ahead a pedal or two at a time holding a table, exceedingly cautiously because I couldn’t afford to hit that bad area below my calf even once, or it would mean a trip to the doctor.


Put in a bit less than an hour at my mother’s house. She trains dogs and has a big set-up outside on dirt and wood chips, slightly slanted ground, with the sort of obstacles the dogs run around and through and in and over. One of them is a platform with ramps up and down. I got on the right and left side of it a few times, went forward and back, leaning heavily and trying to straighten out as much as I could. Did the same at the long work-bench in her garage.

Noticed that a little ways away, again on slightly tilted ground, there were two trees not far away from each other. I think I can string a rope up there through some branches, tighten it up between them, and grab that to secure a mount … and then try to roll along with my body more upright, and able to catch myself if I fall. I think I read of someone who saw or used a training program in a gym using something similar. It sounds better than training while leaning to one side. And I can always take one or eventually both hands off to increase the difficulty.

I did seem to do better today by not trying to be a unicyclist, just a tablecyclist. I just tried to keep movement smooth and under control while getting a few pedals in, leaning all the way. Decent upper body work-out! And at least I got the feel of what it’s like to move on the machine.

Going to get a hex wrench from the hardware store to remove the metal studs from my pedals tomorrow so there’s less chance of getting gouged.

You need armour man.
You will wipe out, a lot, some hard.

KH kneepads, elbow pads, gloves, and a helmet will take away the fear of getting hurt and speed up learning.

Thanks, I do have, though. Re the injury, the problem was that I got gouged behind my lower leg, not in front. In a lot of reading, I saw people say watch out for the pedal spiking your shin, you need shin guards. I didn’t see anyone talking about injuring the other side and have never seen any kind of guards made for it. Those that mentioned falling backward mostly said don’t worry, you tend to fall forward.

So of course I fell backwards twice within my first half hour. :smiley:

I have the KH leg guards on order, but already have knee guards from my rollerblading days long ago, shin guards, D30 elbow guards and gloves, and shorts with hip and leg pads, as well as a Triple 8 helmet. None of that did me any good at the time. :slight_smile: So now I wrapped a stretchy foam sleeve around my whole lower leg (getting tight!) and will probably wrap it around the KH leg guard when I get that too, as it is only nylon from what I understand. And both expensive to replace and not that much protection in the back part. I may get some big pants to wear over the whole thing, if my next contact with that area still feels light on the protection.

Those studs are serious business.

I think I may also get a backpack for more protection, as when I start falling, it’s backward more than forward. I’m actually pretty good at falling, having done jiu-jitsu for years, but I’m older now, falling on pavement is never fun, and there’s no point taking chances when you’re not a kid anymore.

Happens more than you think! Yep shin guards are good because the pedals love to smash them as you learn to mount. But the calves also pay their price if you lose your balance to the rear. It’s more rare but it can still happen. Check my recent ride in London, and look at the third picture. Graphic violence warning!

But if you fall all the time to the rear, then your position is wrong. Unicycling is a constant fall to the front with your feet and the wheel catching up.

Get some plastic pedals. Bruises still hurt but better than broken skin.

I think I’ll do that, but I’ll probably get the 6 mm hex wrench too.

Well, about 40 minutes today, mostly going back and forth along the platform outside. Fell forward a couple times, but I stumbled out of it. All I can do on the platform is lay my hand flat against it, and it’s low, so it’s very limited support. I can support myself on it, but doubt I could catch a real fall.

I spend a fair percentage of practice time just trying to balance while not moving too. Trying to lean less and less by slowly straightening my arms against the platform. I need the side support because even staying straight forward-to-back is plenty enough of a challenge. Honestly it seems harder to me than keeping from tilting left and right.

There are times when I feel like I’m getting a split second of balance in by moving slightly, and times when I feel like I’m getting it by freezing in place like all my body parts are dead. Which feels more competent but more impossible to sustain at the same time. Either way, I hope my nervous system is getting the chance to pick up cues.

You are thinking this all wrong. Nobody learns to ride a bike by trying to still stand first. Same with a unicycle.

Riding a unicycle has very little to do with balance. It is about the dynamics of a continually saved fall. Lean forward and steer towards the direction of the fall. Put the wheel in the same place where you would put your foot if you were walking.

Sideways and back and forth are all part of one action. Once you get this happening, the balance ability to still stand comes with riding practice.

In almost every aspect of unicycling, the techniques for a beginner are quite different from those of a skilled rider.

Get away from supports. Supports get in the way of that requirement to steer into the fall. You need to be able to ride in any crazy direction to get the wheel under you. Hold onto something to start and ride away from it into the open.

To start, lean quite a lot and accelerate the wheel quickly under you as you begin to fall. This is to get you up to a reasonable speed. Like riding a bike it is more difficult the slower you go.

Remember the uni leans slightly backwards while the rider leans lightly forward. The worst advice ever given was to align the uni and your spine which is what you are doing trying to still stand.

OneTrackMind is spot on with the moving thing. I learned to ride a bicycle about 35 years ago, I still can’t track stand (balance without moving) on a bike for more than a few seconds but I can ride a bike just fine.

The same with a unicycle, the primary skill is all about movement. Remaining completely stationary is a much more advanced skill.

OTM, Thanks, that is a great post, very helpful. I’m very new at this. I have been limited to riding on gravel with my 26” Nimbus Muni since the beginning. I now have 22 hours of practice over 21 days. I have gotten out to 120 feet, but yesterday I remembered about a nearby piece of safe to ride unused highway. I did 40 attempts at riding on it. Out of 11 of the tries I lost it and bailed during the launch. I had a lot of good short runs that were 20 - 30 footers. The best part was, I got to 120’, 129’, 245’and a fantastic run of 250’. All of the rides were pretty erratic with a lot of arm flapping. I was at times, aware of not being fully settled into the seat and my pedaling action was jerky, but I was riding. I will be going back to that spot again regularly. Does anyone think that I should ride the paved road exclusively for a while or would it be beneficial to mix it up with my riding on gravel at home. Almost all of the roads around here are gravel or bush trails. I guess I’m going to have to start to try and learn free mounting soon. Thanks

I think the most important thing to note with unicycling is that even when you’re not making progress, you’re making progress. Dealing with frustration is the most important part of learning to ride a unicycle, and you’re still learning even if your performance doesn’t show it.

It’s been nearly 3 years since I first learned to ride a unicycle, and I vividly remember my learning thread and how helpful everyone was. I had many of the same issues you’re experiencing, Dingfelder — nearly everyone experiences them.

I also started out on a 24" and struggled for weeks with it; I came so close to purchasing a 20" because many suggested it would be easier. So it took me nearly 4 weeks to learn to ride 1 hundred feet unassisted.

One of my biggest issues was simply not pedaling enough; I would ride too slow, which is harder to do than riding at a more moderate pace. It seems lots of beginners struggle with not pedaling enough and it’s largely because it feels scary riding so “fast”.

Sadly, the Club 24" unicycle I learned on is falling apart. Between the seat deteriorating, the pedals deteriorating and threads becoming increasingly loose(I got it backwards so used to ride it “backwards” while riding forward for miles before I realized what was wrong), and bolts popping out, I decided to purchase a new 24". This time it’s a Nimbus II. Almost considered a 20" again, but if I get a 20" it should be a giraffe.

Good luck do you, Dingfelder!

There is no shortcut to learning that skips this stage. Gotta have sketchy technique before you can have smooth technique. Doesn’t help studying the style of decent riders. Beginners might be better off watching videos of complete beginners.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the specifics of Dingfelder’s falls, where he gashed the backside of his calf. It seems like the most pressing concern right now is figuring out how to avoid that. When I was a beginner, at some point in my progress, I was uncertain about where in the pedal stroke to safely bail out. Memory serving, the thing that helped for me was practicing free mounting. I was terrible at it, making many, many failed attempts, involving bailing out, before landing a single mount. However, one thing I learned from this was the correct position to bail out. The position of most control for a dismount was the same as for a mount. For every failed mount I practiced, I was also practicing a dismount. I learned that, when a dismount was about to happen, I had to wait a portion of the pedal stroke before removing one foot. Sometimes I mounted, then was able to ride only one pedal stroke. But, if I was able to dismount in a position where the last foot removed was in the 6:00-8:00 position, things were good, and I felt more confident.

Dingfelder, looking forward to your progress log. I did not keep a progress log, except for informally posting my progress on various threads on this forum. My learning style involved sometimes focusing on some small aspect of technique. This gave me more ways to feel I was progressing. Some days I rode further, and other days, I didn’t ride further, but I was more consistent on shorter rides.

I suggest that, after your 20" arrives, you practice riding away from a crutch or backstop, into the open, arms flailing. Also, practice some free mounting for the reasons I mentioned above. Definitely, do that on grass. Beginners tend to free mount closer to the 6:00 position, and you might need to temporarily lower the seat (because of your lower starting position at 6:00) while practicing this. Good luck!

Thanks for all the comments, OTM and others. It’s a lot to take in all at once.

I do look forward a lot to the 20 arriving, supposedly tomorrow. I’ve been checking the Fed Ex transit log like a crazy person, but unfortunately the 20 has been languishing in the same place in Oregon for the last three days instead of getting driven to me! sigh

Acro, hope you like that new Nimbus II 24 incher. Even if the Club only lasted you three years, it still comes out to this being an inexpensive sport/hobby.

OTM and others, what do you think about a beginner holding onto the seat with one hand? Should I try not to do that, go for whatever feels natural at the time, or what?

I am too!

It’s hard to picture what’s happening there, because once the balance backward is lost, the fall comes much faster and less controlled than a forward fall. So that makes it hard to even detect, much less analyze, what I’m doing wrong.

I think part of it may be that I don’t have a good sense of the relationship of all the parts to the ground, from my own to the unicycle’s. For instance, I can’t easily picture the angle of the seatpost beneath me when I’m on the unicycle, and looking down at my feet only makes things worse. It’s a sensory thing I haven’t developed the sensory perception for yet, which means I have no tools in my toolkit to address problems with. My conscious mind and most of my senses alike are near useless. How straight am I really sitting over the unicycle? How far back from the perpendicular is the seat really? I have little idea. I think a great part of the process of learning is going to be virtually blind.

Your arms are still more useful for balance for now.

Once you are getting some considerable distance your focus will be to get your weight onto the seat. The sheer physicality of riding standing up demands it once you can manage a few tens of metres. The progress at this stage soon becomes amazing so it is really worth working at.

Then progress to steering by moving your hips to lean the uni and you won’t need your arms to balance so much.

I’d say what ever works for you. With a hand on the seat you have more control and can put more force on the pedals to maintain forward and back balance. However with a hand on the seat you do lose some control and ability to turn left and right to maintain balance in the sideways direction. The faster you go the more likely a hand on the saddle will help and when the going gets tough most experienced riders will keep one hand on the saddle so it is a useful thing to learn.

Agreed, but I’d keep the hand on the saddle for later, except on mounting to make sure everyone is in place and confortable. You’ll need both hands and arms to flap around at first. You can try to squeeze the saddle a bit between your thighs if you’re worrying about the uni going in directions you don’t want.

Thanks guys.

Did mostly some step-over practice today, too busy for a long session. I was waiting for my new 20 to come in … supposed to be by today, but it has been stuck with FedEx a couple hundred miles away for the least three days without moving. Welp, it didn’t move today either. sigh

Now supposedly it’s coming tomorrow.

I feel your pain.

I remember when my 36 went missing in transit. Two years waiting for a 36 to appear on Gumtree. It arrived right to my house but nobody was home so they took it away again even though they should have taken it to a designated local drop off shop. I rang the local drop off and was told that they knew nothing about even being the drop off point for the carrier company. They enquired and discovered they were indeed registered as the drop off but confirmed they hadn’t received anything.

The carrier’s tracking system didn’t have a facility to continue after a delivery attempt and nobody knew where my uni was for two days.

I eventually managed to get past the carrier’s robotic phone system and speak to someone who couldn’t locate it either. I was pretty distressed by then. I mean it was a Triton - 36/29 Titanium frame, carbon fibre seat, 36 and 29 wheels, extra tyres, two sets of KH Spirit two-hole cranks, disks and Shimano Saint pedals. You just don’t find that kind of rig for $1K very often.

They eventually called back to tell me they had found it and promised to call before they attempted delivery again. Fortunately my wife happened to arrive home just as they turned up again, without calling.

That is one carrier that I will never ever use again.

I believe the best way is to not hold on to anything and use both your arms for balance.

A couple of things I remember from the learning period: I mounted up against a wall and turned so the wall was behind me. In the begining I held on to the wall with both arms out to the side before taking off. After a while I discovered that if I held my hands behind me with just my fingers against the wall, I would be in better balance when I launced off.

I also discovered that if I pushed/let go of the wall and THEN started pedaling I would fail. I had to be ready to pedal the moment I let go. I remember pushing my front foot down on the pedal a little bit to build up tension i my leg muscles before I pushed off.

A general advice that might be helpful: Fail different. If you always fall to the left, try to deliberately fall to the right (and so on).

I remember thinking “this is the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to learn”. The first period until you can ride 20 meters is the hardest and not all that fun. It takes a lot of perseverance, but when you get there the fun begins and you’ll make progress all the time for the next years.