Stability Uphill

I’m very new to unicycling and I live in south Fl, where I thought there were no hills. There aren’t many, but there are a few. Even when I was first learning, I noticed that even on a very slight incline my stability increased. I was expecting difficulty at the first driveway I went up, but I could pedal hard w/o any wobble. Going down any type of hill though is almost impossible. I’m riding a 36 now, the distance the wheel travels from one pedal to the next is so far the speed builds up and when the pedal comes around again, slowing makes the wheel jerk side to side. I see the need for a brake, even though I know that I couldn’t use one yet, I can’t even hold the handle. At the park the kids skate board down the hill and walk up, I ride up the hill, but have to walk down.

hey Mike. …the other 36er noob here. Yeah, downhills w/o brake definitely slow me down. I also find that at least one arm always comes off the handle and gets used for balance. If the hill is really steep, I use both arms and my wheel is all over the place. But here’s what I noticed with more and more saddle time: As you know, I practice alot in my parking garage, which is nothing but hills and turns, and the downhills were my biggest challenge at first. But then, slowly, they started to get easier and easier and faster and faster. With downhills, as with all other uni skills, I saw the same thing happening: the body just teaches itself how to do 'em. By maintaining a steady, constant resistance against the pedals, rather than using the jerky “pedalling a cube” sort of action, I found I had WAY better control on the way down. Try this: pick a gradual hill or set of hills and make them part of every practice session. I think you’ll find that as you get better at 'em, they’ll become less strenuous and you won’t bail unless they’re hella steep. :wink: Eventually, I think I am gonna get a brake, though, just to help with really long downhills.
Keep practicing, because the 36er get seriously fun! This morning I did my 14-mile commute again, and broke my speed record again without really trying–you just get faster and smoother as you ride more. I also discovered two-handed t-handle turns, which feel amazing!
Ride on!

When I was new, I would practice trying to hold or touch the seat handle with one hand. Someone suggested learning to ride with both hands clasped behind your back. Well THAT was not possible. Touching the seat handle with one hand was almost impossible for more than a few revolutions. I worked on touching the handle until I could hold on to it. Because of the common “noob knee pain” from riding down hills, I put a brake on. Again, new learning curve. Worked at it on downhills. I had better luck setting the little dial thing to hold the brakes for me.

Fast forward a bunch of months. I could hold on to the seat handle and brake without that little dial (which I can’t imagine using now). I tried putting my hands behind my back and could go for a long ways without letting go. I don’t have a brake on my 36". I have one but I’m too lazy to put it on. I can go down steep hills, though quite slow. A brake would allow me to descend faster. I find it to be almost more of a workout than climbing and I like the workout. If the hill is more than 7-8% I just focus on descending one foot at a time.

Mostly it is time. Time riding/practicing. I’m still practicing. My free mounting is usually successful, though I don’t feel confident free mounting the 36 in traffic. I prefer to hop onto the sidewalk and hold a light post at a red light. There will always be something to work on. I think that’s part of the reason it doesn’t get old.

When I saw the name of the thread, I thought it was another clever bot offering viagra…

Nothing serious to add to this thread unfortunately.

I guess I wasn’t very clear, and then got carried away with not being able to go down hills. I know everything that is difficult requires more time and effort to learn. I was more wondering why it seems so stable going uphill. I think the contact patch/pivot point is moved forward when going uphill, but not really sure why this would help. When going uphill, I can pedal hard with no need for back corrections. Everything just seems locked in place.


Gravity is the reason I fall, it can’t also be the reason for extra stability going uphills. I have been blaming gravity for my failures, now I need to give it credit for success.

When going downhill you have to hold back with your legs. I find this to be somewhat unstable and requires more concentration to stay in control, as the unicycle wants to pick up speed. Uphill is harder for the huff and puff, but is easier to control. You “fight” gravity either way. That’s all I was meaning when I said gravity:). On a bicycle gravity creates a free ride downhill (mostly).

I wonder if part of the reason for the difference in stability between up and downhill might have to do with the way legs are designed, and the different ways the various muscle groups are brought into play in each case. Aren’t we more “stable” walking up stairs, for example, than walking down? I’m really just grasping at straws here, but I think physiology must be part of a complete answer to the question.

Take the downhill part away completely. Going uphill seems much more stable than flat ground, I just wondered why. I like being able to pedal hard going uphill or in the grass w/o my speed building up so quickly that I chicken out and slow down. Pedaling hard with rolling resistance, either in the grass or especially uphill seems more stable, left-right, front-back, everywhere.

The more you ride, the less you’ll think about it and the more you’ll just ride.

I have just been out for a 22 mile ride on my 36. I rode up and down the biggest hill in my area - admittedly, it’s moderately small by most standards.

The first time I ever rode this hill was downwards and I struggled to keep the uni under control. I arrived at the bottom with jelly legs. I was afraid of the hill. Today I rode down it for the second time in my life and it was never an issue. I haven’t become a better rider in a few months; today I already knew I could do the hill.

The first time I rode up it it was an epic requiring grim determination, commitment and bulldog spirit. Today I rode up it for the second time and it was just a bit of a slog but the outcome was never in doubt. Again, it’s mainly knowing that you can do it.

In all cases, holding the front of the seat and pulling up will give you more oomph, whether you’re going up a steep hill or down one. However, that only becomes true when you can ride with your hand on the seat front as your normal relaxed riding style. Until then, it feels artificial and making a point of doing it for a steep descent will make you very aware of your sudden loss of balance control.

It’s all about doing it until suddenly it’s easy.

I think going uphill is easy when you’re starting out because it’s using the same set of muscle skills you learned on flat ground - pushing down on the front pedal if you are tipping forward, easing up if you are tipping back.

Riding downhill is a new set of skills, based on pushing down on the back pedal, and it’s going to be a little harder until you learn them. BTW if you have a brake, you can put it on hard enough to turn downhill into, effectively, “uphill”, where you have to pedal into it, and you may find that you are actually faster with the brake on!

The hill gives you something to work against so you don’t gather speed, you also don’t have to worry about using back pressure to control your speed, you can simply peddle harder or softer to manage forward momentum.

I prefer riding uphill to riding flats, esp on a unicycle.

And like Mr Impossible suggested, if you have a brake, try gliding it as you peddle downhill, it will give that same sense of reistance as you felt on the uphill.

And if you find the guitar difficult, buy an autoharp.

If you learn to depend on the brake on hills that are ridable without one, you will never develop the technique to ride brakeless.

I get a real buzz out of climbing or descending a big hill under my own steam. I don’t ride a unicycle because it’s easy.

I can imagine in extreme circumstances such as a very long or exceptionally steep descent, a brake would help, but I think I would get less satisfaction from a tricky descent if I knew that one finger on the brake lever had done most of the work.

I find downhills much harder than up and agree with most of the logic posted above. I’ve only had my unicycle about 6 weeks and only actually been able to ride it without a fence/post for about 3 weeks.

Did a long ride (okay 5 miles, but that was the furthest I’ve ever been on one!) yesterday which was mostly downhill for the first 2 miles and found it wore my legs out pretty quickly. Tried a section of it again today and nearly lost control on one of the steeper downhill sections. I started pedalling faster and faster, but not through choice, and discovered I was talking to myself saying “Woah! Slow down! Push back on the pedals!!” Hehehe.

I think I’ll tell Roger that I’ll take the 150 cranks on my 29" when I get it. It’s a bit hilly around here - I can always change them in a couple of months if I start finding it a lot easier once my muscle endurance builds up a bit. :smiley:

You give your age as 52. I’m 50, and I’ve been riding for many years. I have recently taken to using 150s on my 29 rather than the shorter setting. You lose a tiny bit in top speed in perfect conditions, but the extra control off road or on steep sections is well worth it. You also use more of the range of movement available in your leg muscles, and I find that this causes less fatique.

A few years ago - say early 40s - I tended to prefer shorter cranks.

[QUOTE=Nurse Ben;1571991]
The hill gives you something to work against so you don’t gather speed, you also don’t have to worry about using back pressure to control your speed, you can simply peddle harder or softer to manage forward momentum.

Ben, You hit the nail on the head. There is no back pedal to be ready for, just pedal hard with maybe a little let up every now and then to simulate a back pedal.