The look of terror

Am I the only one who experiences this? Typically it happens when as I am approaching a pedestrian on the sidewalk from the opposite direction. As they look up and see me, the look is similar to “OMG a charging rhinocerose is loose and coming at me.” Or “Quick take cover a rabid dog is loose.” I was going to simply chalk it up to me being big and ugly, but I have noticed it happens mostly when I am on my unicycle.

One of my favorites was when a woman was pushing a stroller in front of her and close by had one child on a trike and another on a bicycle with training wheels. As she looked up and saw me coming she knew she did not have enough hands to round up all her little ones and get them safely out of the way, so you could see the look of utter terror and helplessness as she was trying to decide which child to recue and which to sacrifice. Of course she knew full well that anyone on a unicycle is completely out of control, never mind the coffee they have somehow manage to carry down the road and are sipping as they toodle along.

Lately I have been enjoying “the look” and am inclined to lock eyes with them and display my best look of complete panic. This can supplemented with some arm flailing or even a good blood curdling scream of terror.

How do you deal with “the Look”?

I’ve never quite gotten the “look of terror” but I have had cars swerve clear into the middle lane for me – as if I was about to jump into the middle road at any second. After the first few seconds at least, it should be pretty obvious that I can ride in a strait line, shouldn’t it?

hey, I’m going to take all the lane they’re willing to give, if being on a unicycle makes them more cautious around me, so be it, I won’t argue. : P

I’ve noticed this effect too. I’m pretty sure they think you’re insane and you’re going to kill yourself.

i usually yell “woah!!! LOOK OUT!!!” and do a couple of erratic looking turns.
to make it even more fun you find a pedestrian who isnt looking where they are going (usually someone texting) ride straight at them, wait till the last second and yell “watch where your going!!!” just as you turn away.

no matter how much control you have while riding people will always fear the unknown, so i just mess with them.

That really made me laugh. “watch where your going!!” thats great stuff. Im gonna have to try that.

I usually dismount, especially if they have kids or dogs running loose, or the path is not that wide. It just seems more polite not to get them excessively worried. I don’t want them to think unicyclists are rude.

Though sometimes, even after I dismount, the Look remains. Like they think I’m from Mars. Then I know the person is not so much worried, but they can’t grasp why somebody would ride such an ungainly contraption. It’s too illogical for them.

I would say stick to enjoying The Look! I have never gotten it quite as bad as you describe, but I did very closely pass a woman who had just gotten off the bus and was obliviously blocking my path, and before I passed her I was following behind her very closely, very slowly, and a bunch of people were gawking and I think she thought they were looking at her, until I brushed by her and I heard from behind me a VERY shocked “AHHH!” right after I went by her. She sounded like she saw a ghost. I laughed.

When I was riding my 29er right at sunset I passed by a group of teenagers who said nothing to me, but admitted amongst themselves (my girlfriend was jogging a good 50 feet behind me) after I had passed that they thought I was a giant monster and were scarred shitless.

I get that sort of situation a lot on the bike path. In which case, it’s the small children on the wheeled vehicles that should be getting The Look. No matter what you do, you never know if they’re going to suddenly make an oblivious turn into your path.

So how do you know she wasn’t getting The Look because she expected that might happen? In any case, you have to ride past small children (on wheels or not) with the utmost caution. Sometimes it requires a dismount or going real slow. On my local bike path, there is the basic premise that it’s a roadway for human powered vehicles, with a speed limit of 15 mph. If you stop, it should be off the pavement (plenty of room). If you’re about to cross it, you should look both ways. People don’t, of course, just like real roads. But at least there’s a basic premise to the place. If you’re on a regular sidewalk/pavement, the expected speed is much slower and pedestrian-oriented.

Mostly I don’t look back. My response is to ride predictably and safely, to gradually impress upon my local bike path users that I’m as worthy of that place as anyone else. If anything, it’s they that need to get over themselves.

I had my first experience with “The Look” this past Sunday. A woman with small child in arms scurrying late to Church along the sidewalk. She looked so terrified she actually frightened me. I slowed to a crawl, moved to the extreme right, and averted my eyes so as to not appear threatening.

What’s so scary about a 200 pound 49 year old guy riding a unicycle???


I hate how they try to move to give you extra room(as if we arn’t capable of turning) then you turn to stay out of their way, and then you almost collide and “the look of terror” turns into “the look of"why are you riding on the footpath”". If people didn’t try to move and just walked normally, this would never happen.

Hahah :slight_smile:
This made my day!

I get a lot of concerned looks/behavior on my local trails.

Almost every person walking a dog seems very concerned.
Sometimes it seems they’re protecting their dogs, sometimes protecting me from their dogs.
It’s kind of funny when a dog owner sees me coming and has 30 seconds to get their dogs under control. Panicking and fumbling and getting all tangled up. Now who looks like a clown? :p:D

I slow down for most people, especially with dogs or kids. But I don’t dismount unless I have to get too close and I think it would make them uncomfortable.
I don’t want them to feel threatened, but I also want them to learn to be more comfortable when I ride past.

I googled ‘look of terror’ and found this.

I have to be honest, I don’t really get that kind of look when I’m out riding.

Looking terrible

Since I almost never ride on the sidewalk, I don’t encounter that look of terror much anymore. I do ride on trails, though. People there tend to be a little surprised, but by and large they are a bit more fleet of foot than sidewalkers, therefore they don’t find me as threatening.

I do remember one instance about 20 years ago when I was riding on the sidewalk in Portland. The sidewalk was wide, there was plenty of room, and only one pedestrian a block away. Being courteous, I slowed down and made sure that I was riding towards this pedestrian on the right side of the sidewalk, while she walked towards me on the left. When she realized that I was riding towards her on a unicycle she decided to get in my way by switching over to the right. At first I thought this was an accident, that she wasn’t paying attention. So I took evasive action and switched to the left. We were about half a block away at this point. Then she darted back over to the left and and revealed this drunken maniacal laugh. That’s when I realized that taking evasive action back and forth might not be the most effective means of avoiding a collision with this wayward soul. I changed tactics and accelerated directly towards her, looking her straight in her crossed eyes. That’s when I saw it. That look of terror. A terrible look of terror. Knowing I meant business (of course I didn’t, but she didn’t know that) she shrieked and dashed off to the side, allowing me free passage. I had won my first and only game of chicken.


I tried this one recently (minus the scream). I live near an elementary school and it makes a stir among the children on the playground when I ride past. A week or so ago I was riding by and they were making a fuss so I started riding reaally fast and flailing my arms like I was out of control. Funny thing is that I almost really lost it and just barely pulled it together before I fell. I have no idea what the kids thought.

I get a sense that people don’t know what to expect from a unicyclist in their path. They don’t know how much control we have and are surprised to see us. People often do foolish things like jumping straight in the way. Just yesterday I was crossing the street and a woman with a stroller got right in my way on the corner I was heading to. Why? I don’t know.

I often ride on a bike path near home and people walk there too. There are lanes painted for bikes and pedestrians but pedestrians generally don’t pay attention. If I am coming up behind one of these people (on my bike or uni) I try to just hurry up and get by them because I am afraid they will jump right in the way If they know I’m coming.

I shout obscenities just to let them know that unicyclists are mean. (just kidding):smiley:

I think I am pretty lucky that here in Whittier no one has seen a unicyclist before, 'cause I ride through Uptown, one of the most human trafficked places in town, on the sidewalk and in the street, and I actually haven’t gotten any Look of Terror. I think because I focus on not looking unbalanced (I ride kinda like Kris Holm, with my arms straight down) most people don’t assume that I am going to fall over at any moment and let me pass right next to them. I weave in and out of the street and sidewalk when I see hordes of people I won’t be able to pass without saying something, 'cause it’s just easier to avoid those people and even though it’s not illegal (in theory) for me to be on the sidewalk, pedestrians are still less advantaged than I am…

One day I do hope to scare the crap out of someone just because I will laugh hysterically.

Dreams make the world go 'round!

Hey Brad, I ordered a 29er!

Ahhh! I just bought a 20" Trials Nimbus!! If we go on distance rides together you are going to leave me and my 24" with 175mm cranks in the DUST. :frowning:

I can’t afford another unicycle for a month or two. I think I’m going to get a 36er, I just don’t know which one. I liked my 29er but if I am going to get dedicated road uni I might as well go all out, right?

You gonna use it on trails, too? Spill all the details! Which one? What cranks?

Sorry for being off-topic everyone!

Nimbus Touring 29" in blue with standard 125 cranks. Should come next week. I’ll use it for the road. Going to get by with my 24" for muni for now. Eventually I will probably want a 36" too but thought I’d work my way up. I have more toys than time as it is.

Do you have shorter cranks for road?

Cool! I had the 29" Nimbus in blue with ISIS and dual hole 125-150 moment cranks. I never used the 150 holes, and the ISIS hub was a waste of money and just made the unicycle super heavy… it is a beautiful unicycle and I miss it quite a bit.

No, I wouldn’t even know what kind of cranks to try to put on my 2007 DX, the default cranks are very weird looking. I’ve been doing all my long distance road riding with these 175mm cranks.