Tips for a newbie?

Here are pictures of my first unicycle.

I bought it probably 10 years ago. I brought it back to my office and, trying to mount, I flew in to the whiteboard only to limp away with a nasty mark on my shin.

I didn’t touch it again for many years except to replace the saddle and seat post. Every once in a while I’d pick it up but get no where.

But this fall is the time. I’ve started working about 45 minutes a day. I started on a chain link fence. I’ve moved to balancing on a truck in my driveway and just trying to pedal away. I’m up to a fairly frequent 1.5 revolutions with an occasional 3 to 4. I’m starting to feel the possibility of balance. Just before I start trying to pedal, I feel a fraction of a second balanced with a slight lean forward to start moving. I’m hopeful. I’m resigned to it just requiring a lot of time. But if you have any tips, I’d love them.

My tire is old. I’m missing some spokes. The pedals look like tools from the inquisition. But I don’t know if any of that impedes the learning process.

Thank you in advance,

uni1-compressed.pdf (117 KB)

uni2-compressed.pdf (115 KB)

Seems like you’re well underway. In your case I would stick with the uni you have. Once you can ride 100 metres and then some, you might start looking for a stronger uni. when you just start it is just about getting used to the balance. The size of the uni is good for a learning uni.

just keep at it and even though it can be extremely frustrating, persistence will get you through.
I learned through tons of youtube videos and a 2 your practice every evening for 3 weeks. Some peeps here are much faster than that and others slower.

I was a pretty slow learner. I practiced every day 1-2 hours. It took me about 6 weeks to ride the 1/4 mile loop around my neighborhood without dismount. During that time, I also devoted a lot of practice to free mounting.

Adam, welcome to the forum! Sounds like your attitude has changed from 10 years ago. You understand, perhaps, that this is going to take practice. On behalf of all the other riders, let me say that the practice time is worth it, because unicycling is super fun!

Sounds like your unicycle is a real piece of junk. Whether or not that matters at this point in your progress…is debatable. You’d have to run a controlled experiment with many subjects, some riding crappy unicycles, some riding nice ones…to answer that question. If you can learn on your POS unicycle, then you will have bragging rights on the forum.

You mentioned the pedals. Are they smooth or grippy? For beginners, I think grippy pedals are a bad idea. It’s better to slide off the pedals in the early stages of a UPD (un-planned dismount) than to remain stuck on the pedals then do a face plant or fall onto your back. Make sure your pedals are threaded tightly onto the crank arms and that the direction of tightening for both pedals is the same as the forward rotation of the wheel.

Good luck!

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Here is a photo of Adamcanderson’s uni:

The key to learning is persistence, keep at it.

Thank you all. I appreciate it. Here’s hoping.

At least the saddle seems decent!

Adam, I live in Chandler and have plenty of more modern uni’s that I’d be happy to let you try out. PM me some contact info and we can set up a time and place to meet, if you’re interested.

You should replace the missing spokes if youre riding that thing. All the best in learning to unicycle. :slight_smile:

Hi Adam,
What you have is a Classic Schwinn 24", that’s from 1980 or earlier. Later ones had square taper (cotterless) cranks. It uses a non-standard tire, so when shopping for a replacement you’re going to have to dig around, like on Amazon or eBbay, for 24 x 1 3/4" tires that fit the Schwinn S7 rim. You cannot use 1.75" tires; this “tire math” doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. Those tires can be found; just make sure you’re not buying one that’s as old as your current one. That tire will be fine until it gives up the ghost, though.

Spokes should be easier. You can probably get them done at a bike shop, maybe inexpensively depending on if the replacements can be threaded in without taking anything apart.

Your unicycle is about 100 times better for learning than the one I learned on (Troxel, 16" hard plastic tire, tricycle cranks and less). During my struggle on the old Troxel, I had one opportunity to get on a Schwinn, just like yours. In that one attempt I went hundreds of feet; way better than I had done on mine at that point.

So don’t blame the equipment; unicycles are just hard to learn. But well worth it. Make sure your seat is not too low. You don’t want to have a lot of bend in your knee when the pedal is at the bottom, but you also don’t want it to be locked out all the way straight either. Just a little bit of bend.

Don’t quit, and you will learn. Those Schwinns last virtually forever if they aren’t abused too much, so future generations might learn on it later on. :slight_smile:


Thank you for the offer. For now, I’ll give it a go with what I’ve got. But I may take you up on your offer later, assuming I ever conquer this thing. Where do you Muni? I just rode Hawes and TRW trails yesterday (2 wheels) and wondered how anyone would do those on a uni. Also, how is climbing on unis? Could anyone climb and descend Usery Pass if, for example, they wanted to ride the Tour de Mesa event on a unicycle?

Thank you, 2 left feet.

Thank you, John. I appreciate the information. Like everything else, it’s just time and work, right? We’ll see if I’ve got what it takes.

I have MUni’ed a lot of Hawes and all of TRW. My favorite rides when I was 2 wheeling. Now that you can’t park on the Bush Highway, I mostly ride south Mountain for MUni. I have ridden Usery Pass on my 36". I did the 17 mile loop starting at the park and ride on Power. I plan on doing it again, now that it’s cooling off here.

Any time you want to get together let me know. I don’t mind doing park sessions with beginners. I usually work on my idling and going backwards. And I love to sit around and talk uni. It’s good for beginners to work with others. Even if it’s just once in a while. I greatly improved when I started working with two people that had less experience than I had at the time. I think it’s just the exchange of ideas that really helps. I may see something that can help you, you may even see something different that I can try.
I’ve been working with two beginners in Scottsdale and I’ve really been enjoying it. If you want, I can let you know the next time we all get together and you can join us. One of them, I believe, is at about the same level you are, the other is a bit further along.

Thank you, Tinbender, I’ll PM you. And again, thank you all for the info and encouragement. This evening I rode, several times, almost 30 meters. I was very excited.

Hello Maria! Welcome to the Unicyclist forums. People here are very helpful and encouraging. I’m fairly new too (been riding for a few months, but I’m a slow learner), and I’ve have excellent advice from the regulars. Tell us a bit more about yourself – what unicycle do you have? What stage are you at? What are you having trouble with?

The first tip, which you will hear from everybody, is just keep trying. If you can’t ride yet, every practice session brings you closer to the time when you can.

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Opinions about what works varies a lot. In the end what matters is finding what works for you. Persistence is the most important skill. Keep trying different things. You brain will work it out eventually. Just don’t give up and you will get there.

My advice:

Start by sitting on the uni holding a support for a few minutes to get a feel for pedaling and learn how to steer the wheel by twisting the uni between your thighs.

Don’t spend long on the fence and start trying to ride into the open from a support or backstop. The fundamental skill is to steer the wheel under your fall. A fence or wall gets in the way.

Try thinking “put the wheel where you would put your leading foot if walking”. This can employ some of your established neural pathways. Of course riding is far more complex but it may provide some foundation to build on.

Have the seat as high as you feel confident that you can catch yourself in a sideways fall. This will be below the optimum for riding but it is better than being terrified. Fear is a great inhibitor to learning. The best height for a beginner is a compromise and depends on confidence.

Aim to get your weight on the saddle but start with most of your weight on the pedals. The uni will pop out from under you if you try to sit before you learn to keep the uni under you.

Try gripping the saddle between your thighs to stop it slipping out. If you have the saddle too low your thighs will move around too much to grip it. You will just need to be braver and raise the seat if too low is the problem. It is very difficult for a beginner to ride with a low seat.

Most novices start by sitting balanced on the uni and start pedaling. The uni moves forward and the rider stays still. Only one outcome from that and for most it is their last attempt. Falling backwards is very unnerving. Much better to err in the direction of leaning too far forward.

To ride away, lean both you and the uni forward until you are nearly falling then start pedaling rapidly to bring the wheel under you. This gets you quickly up to speed. Like on a bike, riding slowly is not a beginner’s skill.

The first thing to learn is the emergency dismount, running out of a fall. It is all you will do for very many attempts and is important practice.

Falling is a constant companion while learning. Make friends with it from the beginning. I recommend starting on smooth thick grass with a slight downhill slope. You won’t be able to ride straight away anyway so best optimise for falling.

Once you can manage a couple of turns move onto a smooth flat surface.

When you actually manage to get moving, don’t sit up too straight. Lean your body slightly forwards at the hips but don’t hunch. When you are in the right position, the uni will be leaning slightly back and your centre of mass will be above the contact point of the tyre on the ground. The uni is far more forgiving of imprecise positioning than when upright.

Try to keep you leg movements in line. Thighs are heavy and flailing them about doesn’t usually help your balance.

Wear protection, especially on the wrists. A cheap set of skateboarder knee, elbow and wrist guards is a good investment. Wear sturdy boots that cover the ankles because they can get whacked. This reduces the movement in your ankles too, removing one of the degrees of freedom in your movements, making it simpler for your brain to grasp.

The technique required by a learner is radically different from that of an accomplished rider. If you have access to an experienced rider, get them to show you how they ride off road and try to copy that on a smooth surface. They will use a style that affords increased stability and this is what you need to emulate as a beginner.

As you get better you will learn to sit on the seat with the uni in the much more responsive more upright geometry. But first you need to learn how to ride badly.

If it gets frustrating (it probably will), take a day off practice. Many riders report surprising improvement after a break. It give the brain a chance to consolidate what it has learnt without more overwhelming stimulus.

Good luck.

Yep, use the search engine on this website. :smiley:

Good question, maybe lockdown was another opportunity to learn it! Let’s ping him and see. Hey @adamcanderson how’s the uni doing?

I don’t think it’s necessarily the time. I spent massive amounts of time learning, but I never felt discouraged, mainly because I felt like if I continued on in what I was doing, I’d be successful (which I was). So I guess people who get frustrated and give up might be doing something really wrong and so feel like practice is useless. That’s how I felt with idling until I read your tips, and I did end up essentially quitting.

Also, it might be uninteresting (I know, sounds crazy - unicycling not being interesting!?!?!). I have a brother who learnt to ride maybe 50 meters, and then stopped. He didn’t find what he was doing fun, and so he never felt a need to go on. I have another friend who randomly bought a unicycle, did the same thing that Adam Canderson did at first (tried it once and never touched it again). That’s probably a different story, when it’s an impulse-buy and there’s no real desire to learn.
Unicycling appeals to a very niche group of people. Most people who aren’t the type don’t try to learn, I assume. Maybe the quitters are the people who, for one reason or another, end up with a unicycle and no desire to get riding? From what I’ve heard, a lot of those people come back years later and end up learning to ride, so who knows.

Well in this world of instant gratification, rare are the people willing to spend a lot of time acquiring a new skill. So if it doesn’t click within an hour, the uni ends up in the back of the garage. Or on Craigslist.
The bored type are another niche group. I remember watching some youtube tutorial and a guy had commented “Unicycling is pretty boring, once you’ve done 20 meters what else is there?”. I don’t know if it’s boring, or if it’s a total lack of interest and curiosity.

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