my previous post:
Unicycling skill grew steadily from there. At around 100km, confidence in my ability to turn had grown enough to attempt and turn out U-turns. I found left U-turns easier than right, where I often flailed a lot to avoid UPD on near completion of the turn. This is probably since the wheel is inclined ever so slightly to the left in the frame. Back then, I could do a uwey in a standard suburban tar road. I think I can do one in about .75 of that now, but cambered gravel is still a challenge… Some things I’ve learnt about turning (and am applying). 1) It’s easiest to turn when the pedal on the inside of the turn is at its lowest point. 2) Putting some weight forward (leaning), will also help the turning, but you’ll have to accelerate a bit to compensate. 3) Leaning into the turn is necessary; I tried to avoid it initially. Now, I plot my course, visualise how much I should lean and do it; centrifugal force is a loyal partner.
“Mounting comes at a premium” was a constant thought during the first 30 days of learning and thereafter. Mounting with support obviously involves locating a support and walking to it. After the ride, the process must be repeated. The method of freemounting I used-- a leaping mount with seat in the crotch-- was also energy-intensive, especially if a few attempts were needed.
When I learnt a new method, however, mounting got a whole lot easier. Nowadays, I put the seat in my crotch as before with the back pedal level; slightly lower than level if it’s on an uphill. Instead of jumping up off the left foot with minimal pressure on the right pedal, I do just a gentle push up and throw my hands forward, leaning forward over the seat. (It’s a hands-free mount.) The uni pauses, poised upright, as my left foot hits the pedal. I straighten my back and I’m ready to pedal off. Comparing the two methods, it’s the difference between lifting one’s weight and merely shifting it. Less effort in freemounting means one can dedicate sessions to learning a skill, such as turning.
Currently, I’m working on idling. So far, I can stall with right foot down and ride off again. Sometimes I can reverse just slightly and still ride off. As far as possible, I try to practise idling when doing a planned dismount. During a practice session, I try to do four normal revs followed by three deceleration revs. If all goes well, the last of the latter is a successful mini idle and I do another 4 + 3.
Something I’m getting better at is holding the seat with one hand whilst riding. I hold with my right hand and trim with my left. I do this on public roads and cars feel better about passing me; we drive on the left in South Africa. Along with this, I’m applying seat-holding to hill climbing. There’s a hill nearby with about 20m to the top. I’ve almost made it all the way up. It’s fairly steep and a bit bumpy, yes it’s gravel too.
In December I was in Cape Town and climbed some steep hills with a mountain bike. There I used the third largest of seven rear cogs and the smallest front cog; it had 7" cranks and I could rev smoothly. Now, I wonder how my uni’s 26" wheel and 6" cranks compare to that 26" bicycle in 3rd gear. My reason tells me pedaling ‘difficulty’ is the ratio between crank length and wheel radius. Thus if a mountain bike in its lowest gear would be a 1:1 drive ratio on a 7" crank, the same wheel size with 6" cranks would be like a drive ratio of 7/6:1 (1.167:1) on 7" cranks. Any comments? I’m looking forward to getting 5" cranks but first want to master hills with the cranks I’ve got.
Finally, I think uniing’s the best way to travel when you’re not in too much of a hurry. Whether it’s shopping, exercise or just joy riding, there’s nothing to compare: hands free, but in control; seated above just one wheel but feeling on top of the world.
Final words (October 2008)
The above words were not the final words but these are intended to be, at least before this segmented blog gets posted. You’re probably wondering where I’m at now.
Reflecting on what I’ve written above, I did manage to climb that hill successfully, although I haven’t done it since. I ended up getting 4.5" cranks (114mm) and not 125mm. With those cranks, I climbed a steep ramp in Bloemfontein. (I still want to take my bevel square and spirit level to measure it.) It was 20m long but very smooth. Oh, holding the seat comes naturally now.
I was thankful to get a 20" trials uni last year. For me, it was certainly the best choice; there was the option of 24" muni too. Thought however the 24" would be too similar to the 26". Struggling as I am to learn some flatland skills, I’m relieved to be trying them on a smaller wheel.
A progress report on skills:
drops: not exceeding 6" (15cm) although one I do regularly is onto a down-sloping surface.
hops: can do the same height as drops successfully (proceed to ride on). Can almost do 180deg hop and turn.
idling: can do a single idle on the move. Can release support and idle up to 4 times but struggle with side to side balance
one-footing: think this has potential; remove left foot and UPD with right foot at top, just about to move downward. Must lean forward and pedal…
seat out front: have done 3 revs; this seems to be coming on
backwards: struggle to do or exceed two revs but haven’t seriously tried for some time
moving mount (in crotch): can go a rev on either uni before mounting
Milage is close to 1300km now (Actually reading today is 1282km/ 800 mi.) Got 1220km on original tyre and have averaged 13.2km/h on new tyre. It’s a 1.5" slick. Would appreciate any tips on where to get a 2" slick (non knobbly). The original tyre was 1.75". Had good grip but the groove down the centre suffered on gravel.
One thing that’s astonishing is how one’s skill can increase. Can honestly say there’s a lot to learn between 300km and 500km. Am dreaming of riding a 36" big wheel next. If I could order one, I’d want it with 125mm cranks. For now, I’m riding both unis daily and enjoying them. Uniing’s done a lot for my fitness and certainly keeps my weight down. The only thing I regret about the sport is … discovering it so late in life!