"SUIT UP!" ...or... a lesson in unicycle safety

When i was beginning to uni, i didn’t need any safety gear, every time i feel it was on my feet (like a kitty!). When i was learning to hop i feel over once and scraped up my knee REALLY bad. The next day i went out an bought some knee and elbow pads. I wore them out like three times and never wore them again.

About a week ago, i was practiceing riding down stairs. then i feel. I’ll tell you, falling down a flight of concrete steps with no safety gear is no fun. I was so glad i didn’t break my skull. The next day i went out and got a helmet, fingerless riding gloves, and some first aid stuff.

To to all you people trying to uni, here is your lesson: You never know when, but eventually you’ll be glad you’re wearing safety gear, plus you can yell “SUIT UP!” before you go out Unicycling. That’s always fun.

I have never found knee or elbow scrapes to be too serious, they are usually just a bit of skin. I find that more permanent damage can be done to your wrists and ankles, since mostly you land on your hands and/or feet, but not always on the perfect angle. Some people will argue that a helmet is the best protective gear, I think wrist guards and ankle protection (decent boots) are the best. I learned about the ankle protection after being bucked off at the top of a seven-stair at the skate park. I didn’t touch any stairs and landed awkwardly at the bottom, twisting my ankle. A friend of mine told me soft tissue damage can take longer to heal to full strength than a broken bone. Even after I have learned the lessons repeatedly, I still never “Suit up” because I can’t be bothered wearing safety gear. When I smack my head you can say “I told you so”.

Unfortunately, you won’t understand us… you’ll be drooling as you are spoon fed by a permanent nurse.

Last I checked, neither the wrist nor the ankle control central motor functions like breathing, locomotion, speech, upper-body movement, etc.

Better safe than sorry!

This is my armour…

  1. 661 leg pads,
  2. fingerless riding gloves
  3. Helmet (with unicycle.com stickers! :p)
  4. 661 wrist pad

I also have some elbow pads now for when I MUni, coz i always seem to land on my elbow when im MUniing.

I always stick my safety stuff on, even if im just going to the shops, as…

  1. I usually take a detour and find some trials or something to play on, and
  2. It looks kool! (I think)

My best investment was the 661 leg pads!


In over seven years of Unicycling I have never hurt my head apart from purposefully smacking it while giraffing. I have hurt my knee, wrists, and ankle without meaning to. Tom implies that the brain is in control of body movement, and thats how I use my head protection. The brain is in control, making decisions about what activities are safe to try. I don’t do tricks that especially risk my head, and when I ride it is at speeds which are similar to running or walking. I think if a unicyclist (non-giraffe/coker) needs a helmet then so do walkers and joggers because they are just as likely to fall on their head. U-Turn you will find it difficult to say “I told you so” because you will be struggling to get past the parental lock which is set on your computer to prevent you from accessing adult material that might or might not be waiting for you on the internet. I think safety gear should be chosen relative to how unsafe your riding style is, not just because everyone else needs it or uses it.

hard to agree: when you learn you may fall on your head when the uni “slide” from behind you.
that actually happened to me : slam! my head hit the concrete
(making a strange sound ;))
ever since I wear a helmet (even If this is a “beginner” landmark)

I had the same problem when I learned skiing ( a long time ago)
everybody was making bad jokes about my helmet …
I don’t regret it.


I definately agree with that. I reckon that for just riding around or riding indoors you don’t really need a helmet except for a few high risk activities like learning to wheel walk where it might help. For Muni you almost certainly could do with one, especially if you ride anything at all difficult, I’ve hit my head a few times now as I’ve been riding more difficult stuff at higher speeds. If you ride hard trials, you’re probably likely to crash hard too.

Personally I think I’m significantly more likely to hit my head when riding a unicycle than running or walking, given I do it much faster and ride so I fall off all the time. Also I can think of one time ever I’ve hit my head when walking, when it was icy, whereas I can think of about 5 or 6 times in the last year of riding. Having the protective gear allows me to take the risk of doing things without worrying so much about the consequences.

I’d agree that wristguards are the most important thing though, I’ve used mine countless times now.


I’ve smacked my head hard on pavement several times trying tricks like mounting directly into backwards seat-in-front and riding backwards one-footed. Instead of waking up in the hospital paralyzed from the neck down I pop back up and try again. Nobody’s making me; I simply would rather learn the skill rather than learn to walk all over again.

My experience in the bike shop has brought me several stories about how helmets have saved riders’ lives, often because of accidents beyond the rider’s control.

Listen to the man who trained for several months, riding against the clock for 1 or 2 hours at a time, on and off road, keeping a record of ‘personal best distances’, then missed the race because of a hand/wrist injury…

…and now I’ve bought some wrist guards… just a bit too late.

But I’m not at all sure that the wrist guards would have prevented the actual injury I sustained.

They may have prevented or reduced a previous injury, though.

In several years of bicycling, motorcycling, and unicycling, my helmet has never once hit the floor. What a complete waste of money! It’s hot, sometimes itchy, and makes a noise in a strong wind… but I only need to use it once for it to be a good investment. I always wear a helmet except when performing to an audience, and then I ride well within my limits.

I once tore the palms of my gloves right back to the wrist straps, and never drew blood. I always wear gloves when riding, except when performing, and sometimes then.

So helmet and gloves are top of my list.

Wristguards? There is a respectable body of opinion that wristguards change the type of injury you receive, rather than preventing injury. On balance, they have to do more good than harm. If you’re riding hard, or practising dangerous stuff, they’re a good idea, but I’d say not essential for normal easy riding.

Knee pads, elbow pads, shin pads? I own all three (or all six!) but seldom wear them. I choose to balance risk against comfort. The level of risk varies with the size of the wheel, the speed, the type of ground… and the experience of the rider. I can ride my Coker 12.95 miles in an hour without dismounting or falling off… but the other day, I fell off at not much over walking speed, on grass, on an easy stretch of path, and injured myself.

You can’t eliminate risk, but you can assess it, reduce it, manage it, avoid it, or accept it. You have a choice.

I’ve spent my working life dealing with the consequences of people who incorrectly assessed, reduced, managed, avoided or accepted risks: I investigate motor accidents. I have not noticed that cars with advanced safety features are LESS likely to be involved in an accident. I have not noticed that motorbikers in one piece race leathers are LESS likely to fall off and die.

A helmet won’t stop you braking your neck; wristguards won’t prevent permanent injury to your coccyx; gloves won’t stop you catching your eye on a twig; knee pads won’t stop you running over a child in a crowded park.

Safety equipment is not the same thing as safety.

If you want to be completely safe, though, do nothing… but it’s better to die than never to live.

Yeah, I am a big fan of gear. In an extremely innocuous parade last week, I was going at high speed on my 20" (Erin and I were pretending to play chicken), and I lost it and flew off down the centre of the street. If my armour had been metal, there would have been sparks flying off my knees and palms as I slid along the asphalt on all fours like Bambi on ice. The grinding plastic made an appalling noise, the crowd gasped, but I was able to leap right back on my unicycle with only bruises to the top of my shins (found later, from the impact of hitting the ground). Happily, I didn’t have a need to test my helmet in that particular UPD.

I agree that safety and safety gear are two separate things. I understand that other riders are more talented at staying atop than I that perhaps do not feel the need to “suit up”. Personally, I enjoy the ability to “follow through” when I take a tumble, preventing any strain that results from trying to protect various body parts in a fall, as I am confident in the knowledge that my leg armour, wrist protection, and helmet will protect me from common injury. I really hate sitting around healing from preventable injuries when I could be riding.


I don’t own any safety gear - I’ve only been unicycling for 3 months, and the worst injury was when I lost it while hopping - fell awkwardly on foot, pressed foot up to bum -> strained knee ligament -> out of action for a week.
Since I’ve started learning to cycle backwards, I’ve been extremely wary of falls - I frequently bail out early if I reckon theres a 20% chance of a UPD withing a second. This means I feel much safer in what I do, but does it mean that i’m learning much slower as I can’t push myself to the limit?

We have a lady in our club on her second helmet right now. Her first one broke during a failed mount…in the gym.

The helmet actually cracked on the gym floor.

Sure, you don’t need to wear one if you don’t feel like it, but you’re just proving how much of a moron you can be for this ‘parental control remark’ aimed at U-Turn.

U-Turn is basing his statement on all the crap he’s seen, or can picture from his experience. Yours is based on…‘I haven’t fallen yet’

If you’re not wearing a helmet, fine…but don’t respond negatively to people telling you that you should. You’re just proving how dumb you really are.

Just take a second to think about it

Seriously though…is there really a reason not to wear any of the safety equipment that’s available? What…you don’t want to look stupid…while riding a UNICYCLE?!?

I always “suit up” when I ride MUni. On my first ride on my 28"r, I just threw on my helmet and wrist guards and rode away and within 150 feet, I found myself laying face down on the pavement. I got up, examined my bloody knee and elbows and walked back to the truck, put on my 661’s and elbow pads and finihed my ride. I learned my lesson the hard way:
Even casual road rides can become quite painful without the right protective gear!!!

Good point. I actually am one of those people who love equipement, and the only time I really wear any is when trying something new, or Muni.

In the winter or when it is cool I may be a little more inclined to don my safety gear in the neighborhood, but right now it is too hot and humid. It takes something that I enjoy into a miserable experience. I have been wearing leg protection intermitantly to break it in and get used to it. I don’t wear it all the time though. I do wear bicycling glove regulary since I have lost my footing on a UPD and caught myself with my hand. One paved surfaces most of the falling I do is fairly slow and somewhat expected. If I choose to try hoping or riding off curbs etc… on goes the helmet and leg protection. I will be adding arms and wrists before my next Muni ride.

Sofa, you achieve your “stupid” look with or without safety equipment. If you were to pay attention while reading my post you would understand that I have fallen, but not on my head. U-Turn has basicly agreed with me that he is trying stuff which puts his head at risk, like backwards one foot, which seems like a recipe for a head to hit the ground. The parental remark was to compare another safety measure that is overkill and not needed. If you dont want to wear a helmet, and you are not legally required to wear a helmet, then don’t wear a helmet. No matter how many times Sofa calls you a dumb moron it is not going to make it so. Just wear what makes you happy.

What ?!?

Is this true?




Perhaps ‘Moron’ was a bit harsh, I apologize.

Watch it though as safe as you think you’re being…POW! you’re lying on the ground looking up at the sky thinking about how lucky you are that you put your helmoet one. Just words of precaution

I’ve been there

I think that if you believe yourself to be ok when riding, then you should wear what you want. Other people can’t make you do things and you almost always stay within your own limits. For example if I am riding my coker into town I will wear helmet and gloves because I hate getting tarmac embedded in my palm and it’s a long way to fall, but I wont wear my 661s because of the sweatiness issue and the fact they get uncomfortable. If I go MUniing or I get on the coker with the intention of pushing my limits (i.e. seeing just how fast I can go downhill with my lovely 102s) then the 661s go on because I like to push myself to falling off, just so i really know what my limits are.

As for the helmet thing, I wear mine if i do anything more than going round the corner to post a letter etc. I agree with U-Turn and others. Looking a bit dumb sure beats being a vegetable. Plus, if someone sees you their first reaction isnt “Ha look at that kid with a helmet!” its usually “WTF?! Look at that kid on one wheel!”

Summary: if u think u are safe, u probably are. If you want to push yourself then u probably arent (like what joe marshall said).

I find that pedestrians are less likely to start a conversation with a rider in full gear. The gear sends a message, sort of like: “I’m a serious athlete, stand clear.”