Teaching help

Hello,

I am teaching a friend of mine to ride the unicycle. He is doing fairly well but
is having a recurring problem. As he rides, holding on to my arm on his left, he
tends to lean to the right and fall off. Its been years since I taught anyone,
so my teaching skills are weak. Does anyone have any advice for me?

Thanks, Beirne bkonarsk@mcs.kent.edu

Re: Teaching help

>
>Hello,
>
>I am teaching a friend of mine to ride the unicycle. He is doing fairly well
>but is having a recurring problem. As he rides, holding on to my arm on his
>left, he tends to lean to the right and fall off. Its been years since I taught
>anyone, so my teaching skills are weak. Does anyone have any advice for me?
>
>Thanks, Beirne bkonarsk@mcs.kent.edu
>
Some helpfull hints for learning to ride the unicycle (a teachers perspective):

Seat height - often a beginner will find it easier with the seat fairly low
(less distance to fall I guess), but as soon as they gain a bit of confidence
put the seat up. The best height is much as it would be for a bicycle - so the
rider can straighten their leg with the pedal down by dropping the heal towards
the ground (ball of foot should be on pedal).

I’ll assume the rider can get on the thing hanging onto something/someone
and can complete a few revolutions of the wheel (while hanging on) in
reasonable controll.

  • Hold one of the riders hands and walk alongside them while they ride. Swap
    sides frequently, so they don’t learn to lean to one side.

  • Minimise the contact between you to force the rider to do the work.

  • Wean the rider from you as soon as possible - As soon as they can ride
    without pulling your arm out of it’s socket get them to take off from a wall
    and go for it. When taking off from the wall it’s best to take off at an
    angle (from holding the wall with one hand) rather than pushing off with both
    hands with your back to the wall.

  • Tell the rider not to think about going in any particular direction. Most
    beginners will try to travel in a straight line so when they start tilting to
    the side they keep the wheel going straight and consequently fall off
    sideways. Rather, tell them to ignore direction and encourage them to twist
    lots. As they get better they’ll be able to reduce the twisting and smooth
    out the ride.

  • Every now and then (particularly if the rider is showing signs of
    frustration) take their hand and lead them around a bit encouraging them to
    let go as much as possible.

I have found that most beginners will be so worried about dropping the seat on
the ground that they try to hang onto it all the time. They’ll grab the seat at
the slightest loss of control and often fall off when they could have stayed on.
It’s certainly good to encourage the rider to catch the seat but most seats can
withstand a few drops on a smooth floor so try to get them to resist grabbing
the seat until the last second.

Some general hints for the rider:

  • Stay upright as much as possible. The taller you are the easier the riding.

  • Hold your arms out the sides for balance. This also makes twisting easier
    which is essential to stay on board.

  • ‘Look up and live’. Looking up (I mean at the opposite wall not the roof!!)
    encourages you to stay tall and straight. But DON’T look at a particular
    spot, this would only make you try to ride directly towards it. See above.

  • Persist.

Good luck!

PS I’m undecided whether to encourage people to put most of their weight on the
pedals or the seat or somewhere inbetween. Any opinions?

Re: teaching help

Since posing the question of where to put your weight while riding, two people
have suggested that the weight should be on the seat. Both used the same
argument that trying to ride with the weight on the pedals is like trying to
ride an ultimate wheel.

I BEG TO DIFFER.

The difficulty with the ultimate wheel (I can ride one so I’m speeking from
experience here) is stopping it from tipping sideways. This is made
impossible simply by having the seat between your legs. You don’t need any
weight on the seat.

It’s not very difficult to ride a unicycle standing up (no weight on the seat).
Try it and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Mark

Mark Sands o o o E-mail M.R.Sands@iasos.utas.edu.au o o IASOS/CRC Ph: +61 20
2941 Fax: +61 20 2973 ------------------------------------------------ o
Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies o @_/ CRC for Antarctic and
Southern Ocean Environment /|
#
/
** **

Re: Teaching help

> PS I’m undecided whether to encourage people to put most of their weight on
> the pedals or the seat or somewhere inbetween. Any opinions?

Thank you for the reply. Since I asked the the first question, I won’t act like
an expert here, but I will add my opinion on seat weight. I always encourage
people to keep their weight on the seat. There is a lot more weaving if the
weight is on the pedals. If putting the weight on the pedals made riding easy
then the ultimate wheel would be easy to ride.

In practice, though, I think the weight starts at the pedals and moves up. The
beginner starts with their weight on the pedals out of fear. When they learn
that this makes them wobbly, they sit on the seat more, but their legs are
tense, so they are somewhere in between. Once they are confident and can relax
the weight goes on the seat. I suppose the question is whether the location of
the weight or the confidence level is the cause.

Beirne bkonarsk@mcs.kent.edu

Re: teaching help (fwd)

Forwarded message:
> Since posing the question of where to put your weight while riding, two people
> have suggested that the weight should be on the seat. Both used the same
> argument that trying to ride with the weight on the pedals is like trying to
> ride an ultimate wheel.
>
> I BEG TO DIFFER.
>
> The difficulty with the ultimate wheel (I can ride one so I’m speeking from
> experience here) is stopping it from tipping sideways. This is made
> impossible simply by having the seat between your legs. You don’t need any
> weight on the seat.

I haven’t tried an ultimate wheel, but I assume that the wheel can tip in any
direction, but the sideways one is the biggest problem because the wheel hits
your legs. Attaching forks and a seat to a wheel eliminate the sideways tilt,
but still allow the wheel to wiggle to the right and left in the front.

>
> It’s not very difficult to ride a unicycle standing up (no weight on the
> seat). Try it and I’m sure you’ll agree.
The point is not that is impossible to ride standing up, or that it is even
difficult for those that can ride. Once you learn to ride, you can ride anyway
you want. I can ride bent over forwards, but I would not recommend it for a
beginner. As I have been teaching my friend recently, I could tell when he was
putting too much weight on the pedals because the front of the wheel would
wobble back and forth.

In summary, new riders should put their weight on the seat, and those that have
ridden for a while can do whatever they want.

Beirne

Re: teaching help (fwd)

I wrote:

>> Since posing the question of where to put your weight while riding, two
>> people have suggested that the weight should be on the seat. Both used the
>> same argument that trying to ride with the weight on the pedals is like
>> trying to ride an ultimate wheel.
>>
>> I BEG TO DIFFER.
>>
>> The difficulty with the ultimate wheel (I can ride one so I’m speeking from
>> experience here) is stopping it from tipping sideways. This is made
>> impossible simply by having the seat between your legs. You don’t need any
>> weight on the seat.

Beirne Konarski correctly interjected:

>I haven’t tried an ultimate wheel, but I assume that the wheel can tip in any
>direction, but the sideways one is the biggest problem because the wheel hits
>your legs. Attaching forks and a seat to a wheel eliminate the sideways tilt,
>but still allow the wheel to wiggle to the right and left in the front.

Me again:

>> It’s not very difficult to ride a unicycle standing up (no weight on the
>> seat). Try it and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Beirne (once again correctly - but slightly misinterpreting my remark) says:

>The point is not that is impossible to ride standing up, or that it is even
>difficult for those that can ride. Once you learn to ride, you can ride anyway
>you want. I can ride bent over forwards, but I would not recommend it for a
>beginner. As I have been teaching my friend recently, I could tell when he was
>putting too much weight on the pedals because the front of the wheel would
>wobble back and forth.

To which I say:

When I teach a beginner I encourage them to wobble. The tendandy seems to be to
try and keep that wheel pointing straight ahead. The only way to maintain the
balance is then only with the arms and upper body (much like a tighrope walker).
If the rider can wiggle they can ride the wheel under their centre of balance
even when their balance is upset to the side. In my opinion this is the key to
succesful riding.

I therefore remain unconvinced about Beirne’s following summary:

>In summary, new riders should put their weight on the seat, and those that have
>ridden for a while can do whatever they want.

I’d still like to be convinced one way or the other though. So keep trying.

Mark

Re: teaching help (fwd)

Forwarded message:
> From M.R.Sands@iasos.utas.edu.au Tue Nov 23 23:32 EST 1993 Message-Id:
> <199311240432.AA07239@diemen.utas.edu.au> Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1993 14:38:14
> -0300 To: bkonarsk@mcs.kent.edu (Beirne Konarski) From:
> M.R.Sands@iasos.utas.edu.au Subject: Re: teaching help (fwd) To which I say:
>
> When I teach a beginner I encourage them to wobble. The tendandy seems to be
> to try and keep that wheel pointing straight ahead. The only way to maintain
> the balance is then only with the arms and upper body (much like a tighrope
> walker). If the rider can wiggle they can ride the wheel under their centre of
> balance even when their balance is upset to the side. In my opinion this is
> the key to succesful riding.

OK, I have hit the point where my experience fails me, but I will still add a
few points for more discussion. One of the first things a riding student must
overcome is fear, and this comes with control. When the weight is on the seat,
the rider can control the pedals better and feel more connected to the unicycle.
This gives confidence, which leads to better riding. Since the major portion of
balancing is done with the pedalling motion, control should accelerate learning.

BTW, I did take some of the advice from your original posting. My friend was
leaning to the right, so we moved the starting block far to the left of our
practice area, and I told him to turn as needed to stay on the uni. He did a few
90 degree turns, but was soon going in a straight line.

Beirne

Re: teaching help (fwd)

Mark Sands (M.R.Sands@iasos.utas.edu.au) that’s me, wrote:

>> When I teach a beginner I encourage them to wobble. The tendandy seems to be
>> to try and keep that wheel pointing straight ahead. The only way to maintain
>> the balance is then only with the arms and upper body (much like a tighrope
>> walker). If the rider can wiggle they can ride the wheel under their centre
>> of balance even when their balance is upset to the side. In my opinion this
>> is the key to succesful riding.

bkonarsk@mcs.kent.edu (Beirne Konarski) replied:

>OK, I have hit the point where my experience fails me, but I will still add a
>few points for more discussion. One of the first things a riding student must
>overcome is fear, and this comes with control. When the weight is on the seat,
>the rider can control the pedals better and feel more connected to the
>unicycle. This gives confidence, which leads to better riding.

I think there are two things a begining rider might fear; falling off, and in
some cases, dropping the seat. Once they learn how to fall off safely and catch
the seat they should be confident to give it their best. So I would say that
‘control’ over falling (if that makes any sence) is the control that gives
confidence.

Maybe I’m just being difficult now but I imagine that with the weight on the
seat, the wheel would want to shoot out front (or back) of the rider whenever
the seat isn’t directly over the wheel. With the majority of the riders weight
on the pedals this doesn’t happen so you would be eliminating this factor.

>BTW, I did take some of the advice from your original posting. My friend was
>leaning to the right, so we moved the starting block far to the left of our
>practice area, and I told him to turn as needed to stay on the uni. He did a
>few 90 degree turns, but was soon going in a straight line.

That’s good to hear. Thanks :slight_smile:

Mark.

Re: Teaching help

Beirne (bkonarsk@mcs.kent.ed) asked:

>> I am teaching a friend of mine to ride the unicycle… Does anyone have any
>> advice for me?

and

M.R.Sands@iasos.utas.edu.au answered

> Some helpfull hints for learning to ride the unicycle (a teachers
> perspective):

> * ‘Look up and live’. Looking up (I mean at the opposite wall not the roof!!)
> encourages you to stay tall and straight. But DON’T look at a particular
> spot, this would only make you try to ride directly towards it.

> PS I’m undecided whether to encourage people to put most of their weight on
> the pedals or the seat or somewhere inbetween. Any opinions?

The only two things people could tell me that helped me learn (I mean, 95+ % of
the learning was from doing, not from words) were “Don’t look down!” and “Sit
your butt down on the damn unicycle!”.

I think that looking up and ahead gives you a correct idea of what horizontal
is, more than you get just from feel, and that helps you maintain correct
balance. And keeping your weight on the seat is the way to go – isn’t it
supposed to be harder to ride an ultimate wheel than a uni? If you have your
weight on the pedals, you’re trying to ride an ultimate wheel.

Dean Bandes deanb@ma.credence.com

Re: teaching help (fwd)

> I therefore remain unconvinced about Beirne’s following summary:
>
> >In summary, new riders should put their weight on the seat, and those that
> >have ridden for a while can do whatever they want.
>
> I’d still like to be convinced one way or the other though. So keep trying.

Okay, three out of three of the people that I’ve personally taught how to uni
have found the advice “Sit on the seat and look ahead” key to sucessfully
riding the uni.

Sitting on the seat removes a variable from the already complex
balancing equation.

Naturally, your milage may vary.

–Chan