Road riding tips/advice

Over the Christmas period I’ve taken advantage of the quieter roads and been out on the 29-er.

It seems much better suited to being on the road rather than the pavement and I’d like to continue with it.

The uni i’m using is a 29-er with 125mm cranks and a reeder handle, as much of the riding is in the evening I’ve got front/back lights and reflective waistcoat.

I was wondering if those of you who have done a lot of road riding had any useful tips/experiences that they could post?

I’m interested in opinions about the safety of unicycling on roads- my feelings are that a high degree of riding competence is required, but even with experience and skill is it more or less safe than cycling?

I’m aware of the theoretical factors such as pros- being more visible than cyclists, higher position for better point of view; and cons- chance of UPDs etc; I’m more interested in the practicalities experienced by those who’ve spent many hours in the traffic.

Also, any tips about problematic situations such as turning right at a junction (in England we drive on the left) where, on a cycle the thing to do is wait in the center of the road till it’s clear. It seems to me that idling in the middle of the road would be a bit dodgy?

I did a search and didn’t really find much on this subject, although: -

has some stuff about what to do at traffic lights

Unicycling on the road… borderline legal, borderline safe. I’ve done some long road rides, but I’m very careful where I ride.

My general theory of unicycling is that if you acto like a cyclist, you will be accepted as a cyclist; if you act like a pedestrian, you will be treated like a pedestrian; if you ride like a clown…

So, to ride on the road you need to be dressed like a cyclist and wearing a helmet and possibly a daygo/reflective top. Send out 'I have a right to be here" messages!

Keep the speed up, but well within your comfort zone. A UPD on the road is a serious problem. Be seen by the wrong person (e.g. a Policeman) and you may provoke an incident.

Imagine being knocked off your unicycle and appearing in court to make your claim for compensation. First question: “Why were you riding that dangerous toy on the road?”

Turning right: if there’s any traffic at all, dismount tidily and walk across the junction. If you’re confident you can make the turn, then give clear signals.

Idling: generally, don’t. Better to time the junction by approaching very slowly. Dismount if you have to stop. idling is ‘circus’ and will confuse and alarm other road users. Idling is a fine opportunity to UPD - then how silly do you look?

Choose your roads carefully. Country lane = good. Busy ring road = bad.

Use the pavement/footpath/ cycle path when approrpiate.

Build your confidence and experience step by step.

Remember that in this country, 9 people die every day on the roads, and nearly 100 are seriously injured. That’s a September 11th every year, but we don’t hear about it on the news. I read accident report forms for a living. Most motorists do not understand that they are responsible for the consequences of their actions when driving.

Good luck.

Don’t dismount for anyone unless you have to. You are normally best off riding through gaps in traffic rather than walking because it is much faster. I think idling in the middle of the road is OK if you can do it, same with hopping on the spot. Ignore the traffic rules, go through red lights. It’s OK because Unicycles fall into a loophole in the law. Just make sure you don’t get hit by cars because that wouldn’t be fun. I wouldn’t worry about how much traffic is out because no matter how jammed the cars get, a Unicycle will always fit through the gaps in between them. Dress how you please, and helmets are optional. I think the chances of landing on your head are fairly slim compared to on a bicycle.

There goes wreckless Rowan. Take his advice, go on, I dare you.

When i steal Nicks coker to go out for some distance riding, I generally find myself looking further ahead and planning what I’ll need to do at the next corner long before I actually get there. By doing this I can often speed up or slow down to time the light. If I can’t make the light i usually just play it safe and grab ahold of something to wait it out. If nothing is available, I’ll hop off and hope for better luck at the next corner. You really don’t want to put yourself in any kind of danger. Also, try to make it look like youre not endangering anyone.

When I need to turn across traffic (left here in the states) I usually just go onto the sidewalk and wait for the light, then cross with the pedestrians.

:smiley: It is not fun I’m sure.

Never mind anyone else’s rights, after all, it’s a free country. Just do what feels right at the time. Hey, none of those drivers will ever have seen a unicycle on the road before, so they’re not likely to be startled, lose concentration and crash into someone else. And if they do, you won’t be hurt, so that’s all right. Of course, it could lead to bad publicity for the sport, but so what?

And the helmet thing is partly a costume issue. Look like a responsible road user, be treated like one.

Also, your risk assessment is faulty, because it’s not landing on your head that’s the problem, it’s the glancing blow to your head as you roll, or as a truck’s mirror clips your head - and it may be very unlikely, but the consequences can be life changing.

I’ve been investigating road accidents since 1981. When you’ve read a few Coroner’s reports, you take road safety seriously.

Unless they are made of Nerf. Then it might be fun, as long as the pavement, trees and rocks are Nerf too.

Rowan, are you ironic?
I hope!

Concerning the legal issue, it’s apparent from posts on this forum over the past couple of years that it varies from place to place; in some places unicycles are classed as being in the same class as cycles, whereas in others they’re not.

In England I suspect that the police would intervene if they saw a unicyclist on the road at night without lights, and rightly so. I’ve got lights on mine not just for the legal aspects but because it makes good sense; I also have a reflective waistcoat for the same reason.

I agree fully with what Mike Fule says about following the road rules and behaving responsibly; if unicyclists start getting run over or causing accidents then it will have an adverse effect on unicycling.

I went out on the 29-er again this afternoon, the roads had more traffic today and I felt a little vulnerable and didn’t really enjoy the ride.

I’m aware of the fact that roads are pretty dangerous even if you’re 100% focused and safety orientated due to the fact that some car drivers aren’t; I feel this even when on a normal bike.

My feeling is that the 29-er is less stable than a bike, but that’s maybe offset by the fact that car drivers are unlikely to not see a unicyclist (I noticed today that there was a lot of slowing down and reluctance to pass me; whilst I know that I’m competent on a uni, I guess that car drivers are going to be somewhat dubious).

Tonight I’ve decided to address my reluctance to experiment with crank/wheel setups by switching the 125’s onto my muni, and the 150’s onto my 29-er, so tomorrow I’ll see what difference it makes.

I may have been a little harsh on Rowan there. Sorry.:o

But let’s look at this pleasant fiction about unicycles being a grey area in the law.

Unicycles may in some areas fall between the gaps in regulations. Regulations are part of the law, but are not the whole of the law.

UnicyclISTS are people and are subject to the law whether they are unicycling or not. Unicyclists have statutory and common law obligations to behave in a way which does not obstruct the flow of traffic, cause a danger to other road users, cause a breach of the peace, and so on.

I am sometimes too strident about road safety, but this arises from far too much experience of the consequences of bad attitudes on the road.

In England, at least, most members of the public, and most coppers, have respect for the principles of the law, even if the interpret the regulations rather flexibly. That’s why I say, act like you ought to be there, be treated like you ought to be there. Act like a nuisance, be treated like a nuisance.

Yeah I was using just a tad of sarcasm, but I was making a point about not taking things too seriously. When you are riding a Unicycle you are not expected to behave just like a regular Bicycle commuter. I am not saying you should ride dangerously, but you can ride agressively in traffic without causing accidents. I was joking about the loophole, because if Unicyclists misbehave the grey area will soon be made black and white to keep them in line. If you are worried about a truck mirror beheading you, then you may as well wear a helmet indoors too, in case someone leaves a cupboard or a dryer door open for you to smash your head on. Apology accepted Mike, I deliberately provoked you by contradicting what you said, so it is my fault really. I don’t think I have a bad attitude on the road, and I mostly ride on the footpath, considering how some drivers get all prepared for the worst when passing me, giving a wide berth. I mostly give way to all road users, to be safe.

Re: Road riding tips/advice

“onewheeldave” <> wrote
in message
> In England I suspect that the police would intervene if they saw a
> unicyclist on the road at night without lights, and rightly so. I’ve got
> lights on mine not just for the legal aspects but because it makes good
> sense; I also have a reflective waistcoat for the same reason.
Before I first climbed on a unicycle, I would occasionally see a guy on a
unicycle, riding on the A6, just South of Manchester. My thoughts as a
car driver were “wide berth”, “fruitcake”, " that’s interesting " etc
etc. My worries were that he appeared to be commuting, as I saw him
several times along the same route, that he appeared to have no lights, no
safety gear and was riding along some very busy trunk roads at night, during
the rush hour.
I did fear for his safety, apparently rather more than he did.

I haven’t seen him recently, probably not for 4 or 5 years…

Since starting to ride myself I have often wondered who he was, and indeed
whether he survived.

Anyone know who used to ride Dialstone Lane and the A6 past Stockport


Well, I’ve just done a short ride (8 ish miles) on the 28, with about 3 of those miles on the Queen’s highway. For the road section I was wearing a fluorescent green cycling top as well as my helmet, wristguards and Camelbak. The wheel is a 700c which makes the uni look more akin to a conventional bicycle than, say, a 20, 24 or Coker would.

No problem with the motorists. Indeed, the ultimate compliment: Mr. Safety-Conscious Volvo Driver overtook me without slowing down or moving over tot he right - just as if I’d been on a bicycle. :0\

Bloomin’ cold day for a ride. That makes about 8 miles on Wednesday on the Coker, 8 on the MUni on Saturday, and 8 on the 28 today - and I’m off for a short ride this afternoon with my mate Andy. :0)

:wink: Rowan

In the UK riding a unicycle you’re legally a vehicle.

This means

  1. You should be on the road

If you’re not confident or you’re riding a small wheeled unicycle, it’d be dumb to ride on the road and I’m pretty sure no-one is going to pick you up on this one. However, if you’re riding fast on a 29er or a coker, the place for you is in the road (or on a cycle lane if you like to ride them), not on the pavement.

2)You should be obeying the rules of the road.

As a road user you’ve got the responsiblity to everyone else not to do anything stupid. Even the most stupid of car drivers don’t actually want to run you down, you should do everything you can to make it easy for them not to.

  1. You’ve

oops, posted half of it, I’ll try again

In the UK riding a unicycle you’re legally a vehicle, the road traffic act is very specific about this fact. So,

  1. You should be on the road

If you’re not confident or you’re riding a small wheeled unicycle, it’d be dumb to ride on the road and I’m pretty sure no-one is going to pick you up on this one. However, if you’re riding fast on a 29er or a coker, the place for you is in the road (or on a cycle lane if you like to ride them) or offroad on public bridleways, not on the pavement.

2)You should be obeying the rules of the road.

As a road user you’ve got the responsiblity to everyone else not to do anything stupid. Even the most stupid of car drivers don’t actually want to run you down, you should do everything you can to make it easy for them not to. You shouldn’t ride through red lights at junctions, because some poor driver might go through their green and run you over. You should also not do anything that might hurt pedestrians, like riding through red lights on pedestrian crossing. Signal if you’re turning. If you signal, most drivers will let you turn and be much more polite to you than if you just swerve across their path.

  1. You’ve got a right to be on the road

Sometimes if you ride a unicycle on the road, you’ll end up in arguments with people who say you should be in the pavement. These people are wrong. At big junctions, you’ll sometimes need to be in a filter lane, sometimes car drivers will not like this. The safest thing to do in this situation is stay right in the middle of the lane and let them overtake only when there’s another lane for them to do it in. At a red light, idling or hopping on the spot is a perfectly sensible thing to do, just be confident that you can start again without falling off. Be confident of your right of way, for example on roundabouts or when going along main roads.

  1. If you’re on the road you need lights at night.

Legally you need a British Standard or equivalent front and rear light. Vey bright lights aren’t actually BS, but fortunately thanks to the EU, you can use anything that fulfils a similar standard in any EU country, so you can use bright offroad lights. Also, there’s no rule saying you can’t have extra lights. You’re also supposed to have a rear reflector, I’ve got a cateye light & reflector combined and have a 12w front light and a bright red light on my helmet. I’ve also got red and white reflective tape from halfords on my unicycle.

  1. You should be nice to other road users

It’s also nice to generally be polite, if someone is stuck behind you for ages and isn’t beeping their horn lots or being rude, then let them go past if you can. Falling off in front of people is particularly impolite, you definately shouldn’t ride on major roads if you still fall off when riding on tarmac. Ride a bit below your maximum speed so you don’t fall off.

  1. Everyone is out to get you

90%(*) of car drivers drive like nutters. Always assume they’ll do the wrong thing and be ready to stop quickly or swerve. Keep your eyes open for cars coming off side roads, or cars going fast across roundabouts, or for people driving through red lights. From experience, if people cut you up don’t give them the finger in case they turn out to be a car full of very scary looking geezers and stop and run after you making you feel very lucky that you can ride faster.

  1. They’re not really out to get you

The more you ride out, the more you’ll find that the encouraging comments outnumber the get out of the road comments 20 to 1. You’re doing something odd and most people seem to respect a little bit of eccentricity. Most other road users will be lovely to you most of the time. If people are nice to you, be nice back, a friendly wave doesn’t cost anything.

  1. Don’t have the helmet debate.

This always comes whenever bike or unicycle safety is mentioned and it’s a waste of time going over it again. Some people wear helmets. Some people don’t wear helmets. There’s not much scientific evidence that helmets protect you very much, there’s even some evidence that says they make you take more risks. In the end, outside of organised events the helmet thing is up to you and its a waste of time arguing it. If you want to know the arguments either way, google for “helmet debate” or something.

  1. Do have the argument about riding unicycles on the road

People will tell you several reasons why you shouldn’t ride unicycles on the road. They’re all rubbish. A few common ones are listed below

a) It isn’t safe

A unicyclist is in full control, far more than any other vehicle user, they can stop on the spot, turn 180 degrees, ride a perfectly straight line deviating less than an inch either way. A good road unicyclist only gets off when they choose to and doesn’t fall off unexpectedly. You’re more visible on a unicycle, so people are less likely to crash into you.

b) You’ll slow people down

Almost all the time when people slow down for any kind of cyclist, they’ll just accelerate afterwards and get behind the same car they were behind originally, so not losing any time. Anyway in London, the average speed for cars in the rush hour is 8.5 mph, a good unicyclist can average 11 or 12mph in the same conditions and is only held up by car traffic. Using the same logic, we should ban car traffic in London and only allow cyclists.

c) You’ll cause a crash, someone will get killed etc.

Firstly, yes bad driving / riding can cause someone else to crash. That’s the same for any vehicle, so unless we’re banning all drivers, it doesn’t mean unicyclists should be on the road. However, there are very few cases where a cyclist has been charged with causing a dangerous accident and as far as I know no unicyclists have. Its definately far fewer than car drivers who caused accidents.

Secondly, people will say that it’s odd and people might crash because they’re looking at you. It’s true that’s a possibility, but then should we ban women wearing low cut tops in summer, morris dancers dancing on village greens, fireworks, odd cars, or anything else out of the ordinary, just so that stupid drivers don’t get distracted.

(*)Okay I made that figure up.


About unicycles falling into the “grey area…”
Most places do have some sort of default. Here in Utah, the default is the “human powered vehicle,” whereas it sounds like unicycles in the U.K. are road vehicles by default. I personally use the ambiguity between common perception and technical definitions to my best judgement. Sometimes, it’s just plain unsafe to be riding on the streets/tarmac, even if the law says you should. The town I live in does not exactly have bicycle friendly roads. However, there also comes a time where the sidewalk/pavement is not a good place to be riding. So I pick what I feel is the most appropriate for the situation. When I get to an intersection, I generally become a pedestrian, where the cars are oblligated to stop for me. But in areas where the foot paths are congested, I hop into bicycle/ vehicle mode. One of the things I find beneficial about riding my uni is that I can follow the safest route without being bogged down by laws that “make things safe.”

If there are no cars coming, then ride straight through the red light, you won’t hurt anyone. Signalling is a bit of a weird thing too, because flailing arms could be confused for signals. Swerving into their path isn’t a good idea, because they are bigger and heavier than you, so common sense would have you swerving out of their path.

Everyone falls off sometimes. It is not rude unless your Unicycle goes out of control and gets in the path of the people who are following you. I think the best place to crash is in front of people so at least someone gets to appreciate the humour of the situation. If you have a nasty fall with no audience it is wasted pain, a bit like a tree falling in the forest making no sound.

I think it is best to give way to all vehicles, unless they insist on waving you on. I usually don’t even bother getting the right of way at pedestrian crossings unless it is really busy and I’m in a hurry to get past.

This is the reason I think it is best to give way to other road users. If you plow into a car (or vice versa) it is not going to be the car who gets hurt, regardless of right of way.

I think the finger is an appropriate gesture to express your frustration or dislike towards someone, without expending as much energy as you would if you shouted abuse at them.

Why not? It is fun to debate controversial subjects such as hell-mates.

Why? Seems more boring than arguing about helmets. Offroad is better than the road anyway, so get off the road!

It’s a bit far fetched to say a Unicycle is always in control. Faster vehicles have greater consequences when they crash, but Unicyclists crash a lot, or UPD, momentarily losing control. There are many good road unicyclists who crash unexpectedly. We are all human. Even Wobbling Wally Watts crashed (breaking his collarbone) during his Round-the-world unicycling adventure.

You are more visible than what? Small children? Most forms of transportation are at least as visible as Unicycles, and being relatively small a Unicycle would probably fit pretty well into the blind spots of mirrors. Not that I have ever been crashed into, I just rely on my own judgement to avoid cars, rather than expecting them to see me.

That is exactly what I meant by the grey-area/loophole. Unicycles don’t usually have specific laws made for them, they just fall under other general categorys. A police officer in New Plymouth tried to tell me that a Unicycle falls under the definition of a skateboard in the local Bylaws, and is not allowed on the footpath in the Central Business District (under threat of confiscation). This is a rediculous suggestion and I am (lazily) trying to get the wording of the Skateboard bylaw changed to exclude Unicyclists. The only reason it fits the description is because the definition of a skateboard vaguely includes “or other similar recreational devices”. If (/when) there are more unicyclists, I think the laws will be changed to include more suitable legislation, until then we can continue using our common sense and try to keep our reputation as road users untarnished by mishaps.

I’d rather not see laws change to accommodate unicycles, except in instances where the unicycles keep getting kicked off the roadways. Otherwise I think it’s better for us to not have specific laws everyone can point at.

But in any case, if you use the road, you should behave like a responsible road user. This has been a good topic, with good stuff to learn for anyone who wants to ride with the cars.

In response to Rowan’s “get off the road” thing to ride on dirt, I’m sure he’s kidding but some people just need to get to work, and there’s no dirt on the way. Others are into actual road riding, and it’s not up to us MUni riders to tell them our activity is better, even if it is. But if you’re going out specifically to put on road miles, rather than get from A to B, it makes sense to ride on roads that are more cyclist-friendly.

Rowan’s other recommendations on darting between cars, etc. are likely to work fine in the short term, as long as your luck holds out. Clearly it is not advice for daily commuting or any long term way to survive. I think as we get older we get better at thinking long term. This is why “stupid” forms of death seem to happen mostly to younger people. I was guessing Rowan was under 25, and yes, according to his profile he is. When I was under 25 I did plenty of similar stuff… :roll_eyes:

My own commute to work, when I do it, is pretty cyclist-friendly. I ride along a 40 mph road that has light traffic, and a bike lane. A bike lane is a place where people park, and where cars enter and exit from side streets. A far cry from a bike path. But at least you have a line separating you from the main traffic, and a space of your own.

I have a mirror that attaches to my sunglasses, so I always wear the sunglasses when commuting. This is a good idea when riding with traffic also for eye protection, because cars can toss up some junk, and the higher speeds of commuting can put more bugs and other things into your eyes. My mirror:

My commute takes me across a major intersection, with a 4-and 5-lane road, turning arrows, and tiny traffic islands on the corners. I don’t mess around with this one, and turn into a pedestrian there. I usually remount the Coker as I’m crossing on the green light. I prefer stopping at the few lights on my commute, so I just dismount. People in the cars like watching me get back on anyway, and it’s more crotch-friendly.

I designed my commute to avoid busy roads, and I am very fortunate to have a path that works, with only a very short distance on a bike-unfriendly road. 100 meters on Folsom Boulevard I can live with. I would not commute on that road.

Cyclists are supposed to have a right to use the road (after all, bikes came before cars), which equates a form of right-of-way. One of the things I used to teach when working for the driving school: The right of way is never something you have, it is only something you can give. Rights or no rights, it’s up to you to make sure the motorists around you are giving you your space.

You don’t have to worry about the good drivers. They take care of themselves, and pass relatively unnoticed in the traffic flow. You have to look out for the inattentive, aggressive, or just plain stupid ones. They’re always there, talking on their phones, looking at the baby in the back seat, tuning their radios, etc. They have a car around them; you don’t. So the “darwinian” part of the job falls to you, to look out for all of them. It’s the same rules for motorcyclists, who also travel unprotected with the cars.

Though cycling is generally legal on all regular roads, some roads just are not good for it. There are roads that would be just plain dangerous to ride on, and you should avoid them. Same for taking your place in the turning lane (right turns for UK, left turns for most of the rest of us). It depends on the traffic level, and types of roads you’re on. One of the intersections I pass through coming home has all cars turning right in the right lane, so I go on the line between that and the left lane while waiting for the light to change. This is done with plenty of eye contact with the drivers so I know they can see what I’m up to.

Riding with traffic takes practice. You should be a confident unicyclist before putting yourself out with cars, and it will take some practice to become a confident road user. Take your time, and only join the cars when you feel relatively comfortable with them. Use your judgement as to whether you should be on certain roads.

And like the good advice already given by others, if you’re out there, ride predictably, be visible, and act like a bike, and you’ll be treated like one. Which means most of the cars will notice you, and understand which way you’re headed and what you’re doing.

A good unicyclist should not ever crash when they’re riding safely. You can tune your riding to be as safe as you like, mostly by riding a bit slower in potentially dangerous traffic situations. If you’re riding across a major junction in traffic, or riding in a lane of fast traffic, you don’t fall off. Falling off in such a situation is dangerous and stupid. I’ve ridden my current commute for about 1000 miles in total and have yet to fall off on it.

Similarly, if you’re riding well, your arms aren’t flailing and you can keep them by your side. This allows you to signal clearly in the same way as you do on a bike.

As for right of way, I’ll take the right of way as far as possible, obviously as I said you have to assume the driver is going to do the wrong thing and be ready to take emergency evasive action if so. From experience I’d say that almost all drivers give way to you even if you are stopping to give way to them. Giving way when you’ve got right of way often just slows everyone down as everyone stops.