Struggling to learn on a 26"

I bought my first unicycle about a month ago. Based on the posts I was seeing at the time, plus a consult with the good folks at, I decided that at 6’4" and 285lbs, I needed at least a 24". And since I’m ultimately hoping to ride on the street, and I’m not expecting to go hopping around doing trials, I went with a 26" Club.

I’ve been working at it for a few weeks, and I feel like I’m making progress very, VERY slowly. I can navigate all the way around a tennis court, but only if I’m holding onto the chainlink fence with both hands. Once or twice, I’ve managed a few feet holding on with only one hand, but I can’t seem to replicate that.

Naturally, now I’m seeing all the posts I missed last time, about how much harder it is to learn on a 26.

I think I have two options:

A) I can keep struggling on the 26, and cling to the hope that I will eventually figure it out, someday, sooner or later, hopefully before I completely lose patience with it.

B) Buy a 20, even though I have no interest in doing tricks, just so I can learn to ride. (At which point, I’ll have to explain why I have TWO unicycles that I don’t know how to ride.)

Advice? Suggestions? And if (B) makes sense, any particular models to look at? I really don’t want to spend the money for a Nimbus, but I also don’t want to get something cheap that’ll collapse the first time I get on.

Thanks in advance for any help anyone can provide.

Stick with the 26. There’s no shame in making slow progress. As long as you don’t give up, you’re getting better. The 20" wheel will just be a different flavor of difficult. There really aren’t any short cuts when you’re first learning. Just keep at it. I believe in you!

I found it to be different case, I started on a 24 later got a 26 and after a bad injury I picked up a 20 and found the 20 to be much easier but I’m short at 5’ 6".

I like it because it is slower and my feet are closer to the ground so less chance for re injury during a upd.

get a cheap 20" on craigslist if you don’t care for it then give it to a kid.

Either way keep practicing and you’ll get it.


Keep going with the 26 if you can make it a few feet after letting go of the fence. Try letting go more often. It’ll be really frustrating but if you know how to fall safely it might help you progress a bit faster since it forces your body to try and figure it out a little more on its own. Best of luck and keep at it with the 26 I’m 5’2" and learned on a 24" so I feel your frustration.

Be careful. As a beginner, I practiced holding onto a chain link fence at a local baseball diamond. If I had an awkward dismount, I ended up straining the tendons in my fingers/wrists/arms.

Looking back, I think I was a slow learner. I spent more time practicing safe techniques which didn’t directly translate into riding forward … out of a fear of falling on my rear. I consider myself on the bigger side at 6’2" and 210 lbs. You’re even bigger. Big people fall less gracefully; for this reason, maybe it’s a good thing you’re taking things slowly. However, it may be time for you to lose the fence and find a launching spot, one where the wheel is inhibited from rolling backward, and one where you can steady yourself with your arms outstretched, prior to letting go and riding forward. It could take time to find this spot. Make sure you err on the side of leaning too far forward, while launching in this fashion.

Everyone should eventually own a 20", because 20" technique is cool. But, for learning purposes, I also think you should stick with the 26". Good luck, and welcome to the forum!

Keep after it on the 26. I learned on a 26. It is hard to learn period no matter what the size. You have a solid uni and it is not what is holding you back. Time and effort along with the knowledge that you will learn how if you put in the time is all you need. Relax and put in the time. Count pedal strokes (half revolutions) or get some sidewalk chalk to mark progress. Commit to a full half hour of practice and don’t worry if you make no progress on any given day. You are making progress if you are putting in time. You are training your brain how to ride just like a toddler learns to walk. They don’t give up, just know that it is possible and keep at it. And of course keep us posted on your progress. The learning process is a special memory to all unicyclists.

Stick with what you have. If you can find somewhere with a handrail to hold that would help (just a little bit). Also keep a log of your practice times. It helps to know just how much time you have actually been practicing and not just thinking about it…

It’s best to practice everyday and preferably twice a day until you have got it. Most adults need about 15 hours to get the basics of going straight… 30 minute sessions are probably best, you don’t learn much when you are tired and worn out.

Wear as much protection as you are comfortable with, that helps with the confidence because you are going to end up on your backside a few times at least. :smiley:

Go hard

I learned on a 26".

After I managed riding around the court I stopped doing that. Once you manage that doing it more doesn’t really teach you anything.

Instead I just put my back to the fence and pushed off. Repeat for an hour for a couple of days and you’ll get further and further.

Another tip would be to find somewhere you can hold on with both hands at either side. Holding onto a fence has your body twisting, when you should be riding straight…

Welcome to the forum, I look forward to reading your progress :slight_smile:

+1 This is what I did. I kept track of the time that I practiced too. It took me 11 hrs to be able to ride consistently about 30-40ft without holding on to anything. if I didn’t keep track of the time I would have thought I rode a lot more hours, and I would have thought I wasn’t ever going to learn.

I’m 5’4" and chose a 26" for the same reason you did. That’s what I learned on (then I ended up getting a 20 anyway to learn to hop). I also held onto a fence at first on my 26, but found it to be somewhat of a hazard for the reason Elpueblo mentioned. A finger got caught in the chain link fence once, and scared me away from fences.

I agree that it might be time to start launching away from things. That’s where a smaller unicycle would probably help. It’s just a little less scary and the consequences of an awkward fall would be less severe. A baseball diamond was helpful to me because I wasn’t so afraid of hitting dirt. The most helpful of all was riding along side the net on a tennis court. That way, I could let go, but have the net to steady me if I needed it. But, I am the right height for that. You would probably be too tall for a tennis net. I would try to find a long flat area with a hand rail. That way, you would have the ability to reach down if needed, but the rail wouldn’t interfere with hands flopping around, as they will right now.

I do think it’s important to start launching away from structures sooner than later. I learned the hard way that it’s important to learn to fall… a lot. I erred on the side of caution too much, rarely fell in the first couple of months, and then when I did have a fall out on gravel roads, I was injured. Still waiting to get back on the uni, and that was in May. Good luck!

Having switched from a 20" to a 26" about this time last summer when I could just barely ride, I’d have to say the 26" is far, far, easier. It’s much more stable, and reacts more slowly. When the time comes, it will also be easier to free mount, because it will move less while you are trying to do so.

Someone else who tried it at a local club meeting recently said it felt like a Cadillac - for cruising around, there’s a lot to be said for a wheel and crank size (I have 127’s, and some would call even those long) that give your legs a little more to work against, and some conserved angular momentum to even things out. In contrast a little wheel and long cranks means it is easy to end up working your legs against each other, since the unicycle itself gives you so little load. Learning to relax and just push the pedals along to move and gently influence balance trends rather than trying to “control” the wheel is really key to going more than a few meters.

The one downside of a larger wheel unicycle is that it is more intimidating to sit up higher on top of it… I joke that the first time I managed a few block section of a local bikeway in one go was because I’d just gotten up on my new 26" and was too scared to try to get down again!

I think kamikaze is spot on, listen to him.

What wheel size is easier to learn on is one of unicycling’s big mysteries. A wise man (probably John Foss) said that in order to determin that, you’ll have to learn on one wheelsize, then unlearn to unicycle, and then learn again on another wheel size.

+1 on what kamikaze said. The fence is working against you at this point, so just use it to mount and get situated. Then just launch. It will take a while, but you’ll get it.
Good luck!

Thanks for all the advice and encouragement. It’s much appreciated (and clearly, much needed).

At this point, I think my brain is saying, “Time to launch,” and my nerves are saying, “But… but… but…” Sounds like that’s perfectly normal, and it’s time to stop making excuses and dive on in.

Think good thoughts…

Try to find an old parking garage (without too many cars) that has lots of closely spaced support posts (sometimes as close as every 2 spaces). I learned in one and it was perfect–in addition to all the posts you have a nice selection of level smooth concrete plus modest up and downhill sections to practice on.

Stick with it but stop holding the fence! I’m 6’2 and learned on a 24. I put 165mm cranks on and swapped the tyre for a maxxis hookworm.

You don’t really learn til you start launching into open space and falling off, repeatedly! If you are worried about falling get some knee pads and decent gloves with wrist support and just go for it. Focus on the positives, even if it is as simple as going a foot further than the last practice session. It will happen for you if you give it time.

Split the difference. Circle the tennis court and as you near the corners, cut across to the other side, making longer and longer “leaps.” This is how my daughter learned. Knowing she had a safe “landing” within reach made it less intimidating to her to let go.

I took a while to learn on a 24" and now have been helping my daughter and wife learn, both of which are learning much faster than me. I think one of the key things is to learn how to safely get off the unicycle both front and back as it really takes away the fear of letting go of the wall and going for it.

I’d second the tennis court, nice and open and smooth. I started out learning on my patio hanging on to deck posts, and a nasty crash into a post really set my learning back.