Stupid question, Flat VS Freestyle?

Ok this has confused me for a while. What is the difference between the two?

i think freestyle involves more SKILLS (like one-foot, coasting, etc) and uses the unicycle as part of a performance
flat uses TRICKS (like rolls and flips) that are linked together to create combinations. it generally doesn’t have the performance aspect of freestyle either :slight_smile:

this is what wikipedia says anyway :stuck_out_tongue:
im sure others have a different definition too :smiley:

So freestyle is more routine-based and focused more on style and fluidity, where flat is big tricks?

The IUF Rulebook is the definitive source for the definitions of Flatland and Freestyle. They may go into a bit more detail than you want though. Here are the main differences:

  • Freestyle is performance-based. Great tricks with no act will seldom win. Mediocre or few tricks with an amazing performance can win.
  • Freestyle traces its rules back to Vaudeville, and the earliest competitions by the Unicycling Society of America (the IUF came later)
  • In Freestyle you can use any type of unicycle, multiple props, music, costumes; nearly anything goes, usually limited only by the physical space and facility rules; usually no fire; can't damage the floor, etc.
  • Freestyle is intended for indoors. Though you can do competitions outdoors, generally riders are expecting a gym floor or similar surface
  • Flatland is intended for outdoors. The purpose of this is to not restrict the unicycles; you can use metal pedals and tires that may mark up a gym floor
  • Flatland is more about the tricks you do, how you string them together, and style or individuality you may apply to your performance
  • You are not judged on music, costume, entertainment value, etc.
  • ALL riding tricks or skills are interchangeable between the two. There is no unicycle trick that is not a Freestyle trick. And you can do any Freestyle trick in a Flat performance, long as it doesn't require props.
There's more to it than that of course, but I think that gives pretty good coverage of the differences. And that last one, the key similarity that many Flat riders don't like to hear.

I somehow knew you’d be the one to give me the answer :wink:

Thanks for all the info, and the link! That was exactly what I needed to know.

I mostly agree, but do you think crankflips are a freestyle trick? I could maybe see like a 90 flip-sideways wheel walk or something in a freestyle competition if it flows, but like you said above freestyle is performance based and most flips are really hard to see, especially for non riders. I definitely see the crossover for like rolls and wheelwalk variations and unispins though, but mostly just smaller spins in freestyle cause again more than about 360 is hard to see.

I think everything should fall under the big category of “unicycle tricks,” the style you’re riding comes from how you use them.
Freestyle is a tricky word because it is usually associated with being unrestricted, but in unicycling it means something really specific.

“There is no unicycle trick that is not a Freestyle trick.” I would normally agree with this if freestyle wasn’t associated with performing. Some tricks are just not meant for freestyle routines, mostly technical tricks that a non-unicycling audience wouldn’t be able to appreciate. I think it is safe to say that freestyle is meant to be watched by people who don’t unicycle, it would be weird for a group of unicyclists to get together, put on costumes and perform tricks to a song outside of a competition or a show.

less spins in freestyle probably has more to do with the unicycle type. A freestyle unicycle will have very short cranks and a very thin tire to make certain tricks easier. That makes big spins really hard. The thin tire makes it rough on the unicycle, and gives you less cushion. The small cranks make it harder to land it.

For the crankflip, while normally not done in freestyle as long as it can be part of a performance I don’t see why it can’t be done. If someone did a fire based routine with flaming juggling clubs (while stand up ww or whatever), then I think also if they had attachments on their pedals on fire coasting really fast or a crankflip could look cool.

I dunno, Matt Sindelar did a 900 on a freestyle unicycle and Eli did a 1080, ninthflip, and outsejside on kind of a freestyle, so it’s definitely not impossible.

Of course it could be done, just like I’ve seen people do backroll’s down ledges, but I don’t think there’s any debate about whether a backroll is a street or flat trick. So if you wanted to you could pull out a hickquad in a freestyle comp, but I definitely wouldn’t call it a freestyle trick. If that makes any sense.

I seems to me that freestyle is much more choreographed and precise, following a set routine. It’s kind of Like a classical ballet, whereas flat is more like improvised “jazz”, and even the rider may not know how it will end, or what combo or trick he/she will do next. The very first time I saw someone doing flatland, I immediately thought it looked like “breakdancing” on a unicycle!

Well there is no debate for me that it is a flatland trick if done on flat ground, and it is a street trick if done with an obstacle. Almost all street tricks (with exception of grinds and grab tricks) are flat(/freestyle) tricks just taken off, up, across, ect an obstacle.

just my opinion though

While I don’t always agree with Terry, this is kind of a near perfect metaphor.

The point is, in Freestyle, any kind of trick is allowed. Some performances include super-hard tricks that don’t necessarily fit, but increase the rider’s score in the Difficulty department.

This is true. The big distinction about those types of moves is the audience. For regular performances, assume your audience can’t see the difference. For a Freestyle competition, assume much of your audience can, and hope that the judges are at least as knowledgeable. Note: all unicycling judges are volunteers; don’t like the way things are working? Get involved.

Very well said! This serves as a better way to define those styles outside of a competition environment as well. When “just playing around”, there isn’t much difference between Freestyle, Flat and Street. We learn our tricks, and combinations, and gain most of our experience, when just practicing/playing.

Also a good point. I guess we need to make a distinction between “I’m playing around with Freestyle-type riding” and “I’m putting together a routine for a Freestyle competition”. Same riding ingredients, but two very different end products.

Yes, or for anyone else to do so. Freestyle is about the show, and that’s the main thing separating it from the other events (plus the lack of restrictions). As I mentioned above, you can still throw in highly technical tricks that may not fit, or be “ugly”, but only to good use in a competition, not an entertainment show. More challenging would be to figure out how to blend such non-thematic tricks into a good show for everyone.

Ah yes, there are also the definitions of equipment type. The “Freestyle unicycle” evolved out of what people were using to win competitions on gym floors. The gym floor thing has kind of held back on the use of Street/Flat-type unicycles in there, since it’s hard to get non-marking tires for them. But in Freestyle, any type of unicycle is allowed (within the restrictions of the venue). 20" didn’t start to be the common size wheel until the mid-1980s. Before that, most people rode 24".

Of course back in those days there were only two main unicycle sizes. Using 24" kept your life very simple; only one unicycle needed for everything! Those days are so gone now! And Street/Flat/Trials unicycles are still a relatively recent addition, so I think we will see more of them used in Freestyle as long as good indoor tires are available.

Also BTW, when it comes to spins, short cranks are better! You were of course referring to other types of spins, but for “regular” spins short cranks allow you to go faster and be smoother.

That’s a pretty solid way to break it down. The only other way for such distinctions to be meaningful is if you do it in relation to their origins. But that just means all older tricks have to be Freestyle tricks, and Flat can only “own” some of the most recent inventions since it didn’t exist until relatively recently. Kind of a different way to break it down.

That is generally the case. For Freestyle to work, with the music and all, you need a set routine. Generally you can tell when the rider is not doing one. Flat and Street don’t require as much choreography-planning, though I imagine many riders have a pretty good idea what they intend to do before starting.