Scientific backing for having multiple unis

Here is an interesting bit of research that confirms what most of us discovered while learning to ride a unicycle.

Our brains do learn between rides, especially if we vary aspects of our equipment and training such as wheel size and crank length because it stimulates the brain to “reconsolidate” the variations to the mind model of the skill. I always found it fascinating that I often return to better riding technique after an extended break. I have also noticed improvements transferring between them now that I am regularly riding several unis.

Below are the main points taken directly from the article.

The research goes somewhat against the old assumption that simply repeating a motor skill over and over again … was the best way to master it.

“What we found is if you practise a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practising the exact same thing multiple times in a row,”

… the surprise was that the group that had repeated the original training session actually did worse on the test compared to those who had mixed things up and trained in new areas - in fact, the group that modified their training did twice as well as those who’d repeated the original skill.

The researchers believe it’s due to something called reconsolidation, which is a process whereby existing memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge. It’s long been suggested that reconsolidation could help to strengthen motor skills, but this is one of the first experiments to test that hypothesis.

This is also why the researchers gave the participants a 6-hour gap between training session - earlier neurological research has shown that’s how long it takes for our memories to reconsolidate.

Although there’s benefit in mixing things up with your practise, Celnik said the key was adjusting things subtly - for example, adjusting the size or weight of a baseball bat, tennis racket or soccer ball in between practise sessions.

“If you make the altered task too different, people do not get the gain we observed during reconsolidation. The modification between sessions needs to be subtle,” he added.

This is a funny discovery for somebody named “Onetrackmind” to be commenting on!

It is interesting, though. I had just noticed that my wheel walk practice sessions are only productive for the first half hour or so, and somebody named Superbant, on a recently resurrected wheel walk thread, suggested trying different wheel sizes and switching shoes. So yeah, I guess we know this already, but it’s cool to see it corroborated in scientific literature.

Thanks for posting the article. It helps reaffirm the need to get out of a learning rut, which I can easily fall into.

Nice found OTM!
I didn’t know I was following a scientific experiment, but yep it helped me when I was learning to free mount. I would alternate the Roll Back mount with the Static Mount, I had noticed that it helped my brain and my body memory.

Thanks for sharing this article. Lately, I’ve been thinking about focusing on one wheel size. Now, I’ll continue to use multiple wheel sizes.

Cool article! Now we have scientific proof when we go to our significant others to explain why we need yet another unicycle. Thanks! :slight_smile:

I’m really glad you posted that! I was saying just that on another thread the other day, that usually I felt varying equipment helped learning, but it felt so disorientating going back from 24" to 20" that I had more or less decided to leave the 24" until I had cracked the initial phase in case it slowed me down. Now I’m thinking it would be good to continue to mix it up. Thanks.

Mastering a uniwhip on a giraffe will prove this point :slight_smile:

Great post- thanks for sharing! Timely for me as today I made some nice progress learning to wheel walk on my 19" after I got home from a 36er ride- after many sessions with very slow progress I managed a number of 4-5 foot contacts before dismounting.

Excellent post, thanks for sharing Onetrackmind!

While I can’t be 100% sure that this applies to unicycling, I’ve long been wondering about that, if learning to ride or practice skills on more than one unicycle will make you a better unicyclist than if you trained on just one unicycle. For example, I have 2 unicycles, a 24" and a 29", and I’ve wonderd if riding the 29" has made me better on the 24" and vice versa. As far as I can tell, it has. Similarly, I think riding backwards has improved my forward riding ability a little bit.

These days I usually spend more time practicing skills like idling and backwards on the 24" than going for long rides on the 29", but whenever I do a long ride on the 29" I’m not rusty at all, and usually better than last time. I used to worry that I wasn’t riding enough on the 29" to improve my 29" riding ability, sometimes doing only a short 15 to 20 minute ride around the neighborhood on the 29" after 1 hour of backwards, idling, and juggling practice on the 24". Now I won’t worry as much.

On the other hand, juggling while unicycling hasn’t made me a better joggler; in fact, sometimes I think the opposite has happened. :frowning:

I’ve noticed even switching between skills helps… Working on freemounting, helped my distance riding… working on changing which leg I mounted from, helped my trail riding…and so on. Yet, simply riding daily, but not working on any skill seemed to slow my progress way down (maybe even send it backwards when I felt stale and it became a near boring chore…) Even taking a short break seemed to help my skills over slogging it out doing the exact same thing for days on end.

Maybe it is the novelty of the change that causes the brain to take notice rather than adopting a “been there done that” mentality that stalls advancement when a skill is precisely repeated.

Does switching from one size to another help improve learning…hmm…to a certain beginner I believe so. But to the mastery level, one should dedicate solely to a specific size, specific skill to master.

With that being said, Im terrible to this dedication thing. Just as I was getting good with the 26" Oregon I go jumping on to the 36er. Then got good with the 36er, and decided to fall in love with the 29er. Then the 700c. From getting used to long cranks to going to short cranks and now back to finding the climbing advantages to longer cranks.
But the problem is, Im starting the relearning process all over again to get my body get back the rythem to the longer cranks. Is not that I have started back to where I have left off, but a lot of time in the rededication of that particular wheelsize /crank/skill.

I’d say, dedicate more to a specific, and less jumping around, like me.
In other words, if you enjoy that one particular wheel, particular crank size stick to it more.
For this is how I see it, for example, riding 26"/127s will not improve your abilities to ride 150s better. It will only improve in your 26"/127s abilities and nothing else. Riding a 29" will not improve your 26". Riding your 36" will not improve your effeciencies on a 29er. Riding a bacon slicer will not improve riding your 29"/ 3.0 Knard.
Because even each crank size has it’s own mastery curve and to go back and forth feels terrible at first, and to start back to its inefficiencies.

But UPD, that is exactly what the research is saying is not true. It may be counter intuitive to you, but that seems to be where the evidence points. To me, it makes sense because the more ‘variations’ of a skill you give your brain to digest, the more it will become able to distinguish the essence of the skill that lies at the heart of the variations. So people who are brought up bilingual actually find it easier to learn a third language. Drivers who have driven only one make of car might be thrown by the different position of gears etc, but most experienced drivers have driven many cars and scarcely notice those differences. Unicycling on rough ground improves your skills when you come back to smooth ground. Etc.

Yes, to the general basic level yes it helps. To tinker with all sizes. But I believe what you dedicate and focus on one particular size ( for instance, the 26er) for that one task, for muni for 2 years straight you will far exceed in that particular skill and size, versus somebody who dabbles on all different sizes an acquires shallow all across skills but not in depth. I came to realize my muniing on the 36er does not better my skills on muni when I get back to my 26er.They feel different and perform different. Going shorter cranks does not increase my skills on the longer cranks, vise versa. It maybe harder to balance on a bacon slicer, but doesnt mean now that I am necessarily better on my, easy to balance more stable Knard. All I know is the amount of time that I spend on one particular wheel, the longer, the way better I get it, and I slowly lose the skills that I acquired from the other size wheels, or size cranks. So when I go back to it, there’s definitely a relearning period.

Sure, there’s an advantage to learning shallowly and broadly, but there’s also the major advantage of depth from years and years of dedication to a specific wheel, specific skill.

Ok, so here’s my case in point. So I started with my 20" rode for a while. Got ok , semi good at it, was able to learn a few trick mounts even. So then I went broad learning, picking up one upper size after another thinking it would improve my knowledge in riding the 20". Well, according to theory it should right? I have hundreds of hours of saddle time across many unis, cranks sizes, tire widths, all kinds of terrains including creeks and beaches.
A uni is a uni right? I should be excelling on the 20" right?
Errhhh… not exactly…I flop when I get back on the 20, it is reallllly unfamiliar to me. My hips hurt when I turn on it.
What happened?..Im suppose to be really good on it , especially with all these saddle time on these other unis.

Im nearly back to beginner level and it’ll take me quite a while if I decidedly dedicate my time back onto it.

Yes, UPD, I’m sure that is exactly correct. No argument there. I’m still a beginner, with a 20", but when I found myself in a shop that actually sold unicycles, and which was selling the exact 24" I had been looking at online at what was obviously an ‘old stock’ price, I couldn’t resist and bought it. The first time I used it, it took a little while to get familiar, but then when I went back to my 20" it was like starting all over again. The message I might have taken was ‘stick to one size while learning’ but by coincidence this thread came up and it fitted with my experience in other fields so I have continued to use both. Now, switching is not a big deal in either direction, and the science suggests that even if I have slightly slowed my initial learning by adding a new challenge, I will reap the benefits by making my learning more comprehensive. Bilingual toddlers go through a short stage when they mix up their languages, but that soon gets sorted and the parts of their brain devoted to language learning are actually enhanced by the more generalised understanding of ‘what language is’. So this theory is not saying that switching it up will be initially easy; it’s saying that the extra work you make your brain do at that point will pay dividends once it gets it sorted.

A) I’ve come to believe that the sections at the end of technical papers with headings like “Summary,” “Conclusions,” or “Recommendations” are the most unreliable part, where authors are most likely to set aside proper scepticism and make unjustified claims. Unfortunately that’s also where civilian writers are mostly likely to pull quotes from.

B) A person in our world might do nothing but drown kittens or grind up butterflies and no one would find any fault as long as it was done “efficiently.” :slight_smile: For unicyclists, efficiency means making the maximum progress in the least amount of practice time, maximum value at minimum cost. But for nearly all of us, the actual value of unicycling is the time spent practicing, not the results.

Efficiency and Results!Efficiency and Results!!
Efficiency and Results!!Efficiency and Results!
Efficiency and Results!!Efficiency and Results!!
Efficiency and Results!Efficiency and Results!!Efficiency and Results!!Efficiency and Results!Efficiency and Results!!Efficiency and Results!!Efficiency and Results!Efficiency and Results!!Efficiency and Results!!Efficiency and Results!Efficiency and Results!!Efficiency and Results!!Efficiency and Results!Efficiency and Results!!Efficiency and Results!!Efficiency and Results!Efficiency and Results!!Efficiency and Results!!! :smiley:

Well if you expect riding a 36 to help with your 20 riding you missed the point.

Try changing the crank length on the same uni, change by one wheel size and use the same crank length, mess about with the saddle height a little.

Don’t expect to come back to a 20 after not touching anything like it for months while you ride a 36 and expect the 20 to be easy.

I have a 20 with 100 mm cranks. I ride flat out on it and it helps with my cadence on bigger wheels. Riding it certainly helped when I put 100s on my 26.

When I stuck with a single spec uni for long periods I always found myself doing crazily bad attempts at freemounting immediately after changing to another. Now I mix it up with my unis regularly, I freemount them all far better and change from one to the other very easily. My freemount on the 29 with 125s improved after riding the 26 with 100s.

Combining variations in crank length and wheels really emphasises the relationship between them and I quickly developed a much better feel for where to apply the forces during the mount that I didn’t have when I just stuck to trying to get it right on one combination.