For a while now I was convinced I was one of the only people in my state who rode a unicycle. Aside from one time I saw a sign-waver outside a pizza place, I was convinced that I was alone in my hobby. People tend to look at me like I’m some kind of oddity.
But tonight that changed. Earlier this evening, my girlfriend and I were out for a little late night exercise. She wanted to go running, and I decided to be lazy and ride my 20" behind her. On the way back, we’re walking back toward my house and a big green truck rolls up behind us.
“Nice unicycle!” the driver says, a guy about my age. “I ride too! Can I try it?”
I figured that if he ended up making a run for it, I could chase him down in his truck. As it turns out, the guy is incredibly talented and lives on the same street as me - just five houses down! After a little spin on my Nimbus, he popped open his garage and fished out an older Torker giraffe, which he proceeded to freemount, idle on, and hop pretty high with seemingly no effort. It was really shocking not only to find another unicyclist period, but one with skill and on the same street to boot.
So let’s hear your stories! Have you ever run into anybody in public who surprised you with unicycle skills of their own?
There was some activity on the forum a few weeks ago about the same subject.
Some people are fortunate enough to live in cities where there are unicycle clubs; for the rest of us, connecting the dots with other riders/past-riders/beginners is the best way to keep the movement going.
Here’s a list of my unicyclist encounters:
A 9 yr. old beginner unicyclist moved into my neighborhood last month. I was pretty thrilled! I have helped him out with his setup, and I’m pushing him to ride a little off-road. Then, a couple weeks later, a visiting Chinese boy staying with some neighbors showed me his riding. The neighbors were amazed to, all of the sudden, see three people riding in the same small neighborhood.
I was stopped by a neighbor living 1/4 mile from me who rode in the past; he free-mounted and rode 20 feet. He kept apologizing for his riding, but the way he mounted made it clear he was once a decent rider.
I met another kid in the local park; it was unclear whether or not he was my neighbor. He had nice, solid, beginning skills.
Someone in my town rides a 36" Oracle. I saw him once while driving by, and he has been sighted at the local *$s.
I ran into a guy unicycling from his home to his new job, as a test of how practical it was to commute the 3 miles. He’s apparently a member of the LA unicycle club, “One Love”, but I haven’t seen him at any organized rides.
A family friend grew up riding. He had pretty good skills and performed a stunt at the 1/2 time of a football game when in college…he rode the uni with another guy sitting on his shoulders, and they were playing a trumpet duet at the same time! I just lent him my beginner 24", and he’s looking for something more robust to eventually do some off-road riding.
My brother in law rode unicycle as a kid. He got on and rode a few feet. He lives out of town.
My wife’s violin student rode unicycle. When I was a struggling beginner, he demonstrated riding forward and in circles on my 24". He said he couldn’t ride backwards. I made it a point to learn to ride backwards as a show of one-upmanship. He moved out of town.
So, that’s my list of unicyclist encounters. I live in a populated area. Still, the sight of a unicyclist is pretty rare, as demonstrated by the comments I get from passers-by. I have attempted to get a couple friends into unicycling, but so far no luck.
The best hope for unicycling is, I think, getting kids into riding. Then other kids will see them, then get interested themselves.
I have never randomly met a stranger who could do more than ride my unicycle in a wobbly line down the street, and even those are quite rare. A girl once approached me who said she could wheel walk, but my seat was too high and I didn’t have my Allen wrench.
The level of exploitation in NYC is too high for much unicycling to happen. As I mentioned on another thread, Harlem seems to have had a strong unicycling tradition at one time, but from what people tell me, it was decades ago, when even a minimum wage job could get you your own apartment in Manhattan. Times have changed drastically.
I live in a fairly small community and am part of a club with a fairly high profile (we’ve won awards in parades, have been mentioned in the local papers many times, some of our members are professional performers, etc.). I used to get peeved when I saw other unicyclists in the area that I didn’t know because why wouldn’t they contact our club and join us for practice or rides? But there are plenty of people who just want to be left to their own devices and that’s fine. They may ride as much as any of us, may have a lot of talent and ability, but are not members of the forums or facebook group and don’t seek out others. One time I was blasting down a steep section of a bike path on my high-geared freewheel unicycle, coasting at 12-13 MPH and passed someone riding a unicycle in the opposite direction. I may have missed it but I didn’t seem to get even the little nod or wave I’ll get from bicyclists riding on the road, no curiosity, nothing.
If the rat race could only be conducted on unicycles, rather than on a tread mill! I have begun to think of unicycling as an expression of the leisure-time afforded to the middle-class. Unfortunately, the middle class is shrinking, and this may not be a good thing for unicycling.
I think that this is a fairly normal tendency regardless of activity. Many people tend to avoid asking for help when they need it they most. It’s easier for some to avoid contact with others who have similar interests when they feel that their current level of skill isn’t where they expect it to be. In fact, I’m doing this right now with another sport by trying to regain some strength before attempting to train with my friends at the gym.
Plus, some people tend to prefer flying solo as opposed to being in organized groups. I don’t use Facebook for instance, so just because someone didn’t join the Facebook group doesn’t automatically make it a rejection. Plus, sometimes people can just be shy.
I have a master plan to start offering unicycle lessons and marketing them toward fitness. I’m a personal trainer as well as all the other stuff I do, so I have this lofty idea of getting people into unicycling as a new fitness trend. Just look at how much yoga exploded in the past five years. Previously, it was “that weird stretching thing that people did in India.” Now there’s practically a yoga studio on every block.
Your biggest challenge might be finding people with a genuine interest in fitness. In my area, a lot of people like to play pretend in order to affiliate with certain fitness cultures. Kayaking, 5Ks, CrossFit, etc. are all very popular here because they require a minimal time/resource investment to become part of the club. Each of these activities require significant skill at a higher level; however, little is effort required to participate as a beginner.
Obviously, it’s not quite so easy to say “I ride unicycles.” I hope that your experience as a trainer helps you find the right clientele. I think that must of us would agree that unicycling is an excellent fitness activity.
I decided to take our 24" and 29" Nimbus unicycles to our BSA Summer Camp in California last week to try to introduce Muni as a sport to boys at camp and expected to be the only ones there with a unicycle. Low and behold there was another leader there that brought his 20 year old unicycle. He was shocked to see us and was amazed at the improvement in technology. He had never seen an off-road unicycle nor one with a brake let a lone a disc brake. It was fun to talk and I did get quite a few comments from boys saying wow that is cool… Check that out. etc… My son had his 24 and helped a few boys up on it. It at least opened some eyes.
Yeah, the petty bourgeoisie is definitely getting hollowed out, and the upper crust of the working class has mostly disappeared as well.
If you want to market unicycling as a fitness activity, you might want to actually target people who do yoga. They work hard on things like balance and concentration, so a lot of them probably have the potential to become good unicyclists, and you could piggy-back onto the yoga craze, which is probably starting to fade by now. I used to do yoga before I discovered unicycling, and definitely felt that there was some common ground between the two activities.
Oh, you’re definitely right about the pretenders. I’ve run into plenty of people who get empowered by the fact that they pay $100 a month to be a member of a crossfit box, yet probably only use it a few times a month at that. Oh well, whatever floats your boat.
The entry barrier for unicycling is definitely the biggest hurdle, although I think I might be able to market that as well. “Anyone can ride a bike,” “Learn something you never thought you’d be capable of,” “time to take the training wheels off,” etc.
At least in my area, yoga is still booming. Two of my close friends are fanatical about it (and one is learning to unicycle from me), and there’s a new studio that opens up almost daily. It’s still in full blown craze mode here, and I think it’s a great thing to leverage - the meditative focus and balance are a definite common ground between them.
Was the other unicyclist just staring, with open mouth? I’m pretty sure that’s what I would be doing while a random unicyclist approached me on a trail. The whole time I’d be saying to myself “Looks like a unicycle! Nah. What are the odds? But he’s closer and it still looks like a unicycle! Can’t be. But check it out! It really is!” – and then you were gone. This is coming from the guy who created the Muni Weekend. Part of why I did that was to have other people to ride with on the trail! But since then, almost 20 years now, I’ve run across a random unicyclist on the trails here a total of one, possibly two times. That’s it.
But then again, prehaps more realistically, the other unicyclist was looking down, sensed another rider coming, was looking down, and heard/felt the other cyclist go by.
Definitely go for it! Keep your expectations low, and be prepared to front the money for the unicycles. Maybe the Japan Unicycle Association’s old system would work. You could buy a unicycle on condition that you could return it later for a full (or partial?) refund. This would help people get past the “what if I can’t do it” phase.
Or something simpler, such as renting the unicycles, for people who want to take them home. This would help pay for more unicycles. But I would push for the full buy. If the student knows she has an out, I think it will lead to lots more sales.
Now there’s practically a yoga studio on every block.
Don’t expect it to be popular like yoga. Yoga can be done by ANYBODY, with no prior effort or practice. I think what’s needed to attract people to unicycling is to sell them on the idea of conquering the impossible, and how that empowers you not only physically, but mentally as well. Then possibly do games for the people already riding. They can be simple ones like tag or demolition derby (yes, it’s way fun), and work their way up to more sophisticated ones like hockey and basketball. Hockey works well for new riders as a good hockey stick can be a crutch while you develop your skills.
Every trendy or popular activity will have pretenders, or posers. Even unicycling, but it’s awfully hard to fake basic riding. The great equalizer is that you can’t both be a poser and ride a unicycle. If you learn to ride, you’re the real deal.
That could be a good approach. Like something “beyond” basic yoga, while maintaining many of yoga’s qualities.
I think everybody should do some form of yoga as they get older. If we take care of our joints and connective tissues, I believe it will keep us much healthier and flexible into retirement and beyond.
I really like your ideas, and especially so because they’re very similar to the things I’ve been coming up with as I’ve been mulling this scheme over in my head.
I definitely think I’m going to have to invest in a handful of learners that can be rent/bought afterward, which won’t be too big of a deal considering it involves buying unicycles. I’d probably look at some basic learners like Clubs. I’ve seen things like these cheapo Chinese 20s on eBay for $45, but I have a feeling they’d self-destruct rather quickly. And that yellow-and-green tire is probably the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen.
Still, they claim they use a “somatological design…”
I’m also fortunate because I have a local community center that really caters to a lot of these types of classes. People teach martial arts, advertise group b*ke rides, pottery, yoga, and the list goes on. And I have a good reputation with them because I designed some software for their central video system back in high school. If I play my cards right, I might even be able to get studio/gym space to practice as well.
At the very least, I’m excited about the direction this little project might go.
Met a guy on the East River bike path tonight while I was dealing with freemount frustation after an initial success, who claimed to be a former circus rider. He really wanted to have a go - had some trouble getting on as well, but got a rollback to several cycles of idling before dropping it. After that he seemed to remember and managed to get back on and do a little lap of the bike rest area to cheers from his friends.
When I got it back I missed a few more freemounts, gave up, found a pillar to get up by and rode off, making my longest distance yet of a few blocks until a sort of intersection spot.
Hoping I’ll cross paths with a few others at the “Summer Streets” closure of Park Avenue Saturday morning (I’ll be the guy with a magnetic attraction to lamp posts) - but then planned meetings don’t really count for this thread.
I live in Arroyo Grande just down the street from you. I’ve never heard of the local club. How would I get ahold of them and and would a 62 year old enthusiastic newbie be welcomed. Thanks. Reid
Last year there were a bunch of us riding muni (6 or 7 of us at least, I forget) on Mont Royal, and as we came around a corner on the main cycling/jogging path there was a guy riding towards us. Benoit yelled something like “Hey, a unicycle!” and the guy responded with something non-committal as he rode past us, if I recall. Benoit then yelled something to the effect of “so are we!”, causing the guy to turn to look at us and then fall. He had been so focused on riding he had totally missed we were also on unis
Hi, Reid! I sometimes go on muni rides with a unicyclist from AG (home from college for the Summer). Our group has ridden in the Harvest Parade a few times, too. There are a couple of related facebook groups:
The Friday juggling and unicycling group hasn’t been very active over the Summer (at least the unicycling part of it) but should pick up soon. Our unicycle basketball practices are Tuesdays 5 till whenever at Meadow Park in San Luis Obispo (depending on weather and participation, usually 6:30-8:30 or so). Besides unicycle basketball we have many learners that come out and practice near the basketball court including lots of kids. We also organize (mostly impromptu) muni and road rides at other times. What type of riding do you like to do? I’ve done a couple group rides in Huasna Valley.
Sorry about the delayed reply. I’m a commercial fisherman currently fishing out of Ketchikan Alaska. I only have cell and Internet service once every 6 days or so when I’m in port and then I’m kinda busy.
I’ve only been riding about 6 months now. I am surprised how much I enjoy it. I live in Huasna Valley which is where I learned. I hope to eventually ride simple trails and easy muni but that seems rather unlikely at this point. I’m a little concerned about ‘old dogs and new tricks’ but have high hopes. I have a 20, 26, and a 36 and for the most part ride the 36. The Bob Jones trail from 101 to port San Luis is one of my favorite rides for my current skill level. I brought my 36er to Ketchikan with me. Lance B recommended a smaller uni after reading my post about my local commute. I should of listened to him… The 36 is to large for the short crowded commute here.
I go home at the end of November. I would love to ride with other people however I’m new and older(bit of an oxymon I just realized ). I might not fit well with your club. But I would sure like to try.
Thanks again for your reply
PS I suppose there is a better way to correspond between individuals on the forum but I have not figured it out yet