Congrats! About a month or two ago, I spent around 30 minutes messing around with riding backwards and I didnt get too far, mainly because of lack of focus.
However, Bill was here in Jackson, MS this weekend, and on Sunday morning, he and I had breakfast and then practiced skills on our 20" cycles. I find it a LOT harder going backwards on the 20" Stealth Torker than it is on my Hunter off-road cycle … the 24" has more room for error and it has that nice fat tire.
Still, I did pretty well practicing going backwards with Bill. I also managed to go backwards 3 or 4 meters on that little 20". The 20" makes me focus more on my ride.
I was so jazzed by the practice session that, later that afternoon after I had said goodbye to Bill, I went and practiced for a couple more hours.
I attacked it from 2 directions. First, I wanted to be comfortable going from a very unstable riding position to a stable one when riding backwards, because I don’t like only knowing how to use my skill in perfect conditions. So, I spent about 30 minutes doing a rollback mount straight into going backwards. In fact, there was no forward motion at all, so it wasnt a rollback per se. I just put my right pedal at 7:00 (down and slightly back) and stepped immediately into going backwards.
After I did that for 30 minutes, I had gotten it down to the point where I was pretty decent at transitioning from an awkward moment (a mount straight into going backwards) to a stable moment (weight on seat and going backwards about 2-3 meters).
So then I moved over to an outdoor basketball court. It is just a half-court in size, compared to a professional one, but plenty big. I checked to make sure that my plastic (but nice, still) pedals couldn’t scratch the paint, and fortunately, they leave no marks even if I deliberately throw down the cycle hard, or even if I take the pedal to the surface and scratch hard. So I was safe there.
A basketball court is nice because I just mount while holding onto the goal post. The purpose is to get all my weight on my seat. For me, it helps to relax and put my weight down solid, because riding backwards for me works best when I’m not using my legs too much for balance. Instead, I just use them to control speed and to put energy in the system.
So, I mounted up and gently pushed backwards. Being a basketball court, its OK if I veer off a straight path so I can test my correction ability, my turning, and distance. The various lines on a basketball court are especially nice for measuring and gradually increasing your distance.
I was able to go half court (quarter court on a real court) about 85% of the time by the time I had warmed to it, and in fact in most cases I went 2/3 court. On 2 occasions I went the entire court in length! This is equivalent to half court on a pro sized court. I was very happy with this progress, especially on the 20" cycle, because I find that my mistakes are harder to correct on it, so I have to be more focused. It helped! I’m glad I carefully memorized the shot markers and line patterns on both sides so I didnt smack my head on the far goal when I got down there. I knew just when to stop!
The last thing I did was to practice riding forward on the court and at some point transitioning into going backwards. The earlier practice with Bill, as well as with the mount-into-riding-backwards stuff I did, helped that part feel easy.
So, I’d ride forwards a few meters, then back a few, and forward a few, and back, as much as I could until I would fall off.
Oh, and I wanted to point out that a helmet and wrist guards make a lot of sense for this. I could even see other types of protection being useful. To my surprise and delight, I didn’t take any bad falls, and every fall I did take ended with me landing on my feet. No tumbles or rolls. That is because most of the time I fell because I pedal a little too fast and the wheel gets behind me, so I just jump down onto my feet. I never seemed inclined to falling backwards. It was a pleasant surprise. But remember, the unicycle is a tool. Whenever I fall, I let the unicycle go and I just focus on getting at least 1 (preferably 2) feet down solid so that there won’t be any seriously bad fall.
Anyway, I was pretty happy with my progress and I may get out and try again today. I wish I had someone else to ride with, I really enjoyed riding with Bill because the practicing-your-skills vibe is greater with others around, sometimes.
Hopefully, this long winded post may help someone who is working on their backwards skills, or at least give you hope. If I can do it, YOU can too!