Tips for starting out Unicycling

Hi Folks, Figured after chatting with a few people that I would start a thread with observations and tips to help those starting out at the Beginner stage. Maybe this may become a sticky later on if the moderators decide to. Feel free to add anything you found to help in the learning stages or beginning.

Few things I found out starting… Not necessarily in any order…

  1. If you buy a unicycle, get it with the longest seatpost possible and cut it down. As of this posting, if you buy a Torker, the seatpost has to be cut down because it’s a standard 400 length (very long unless you have a 36" to 40" inseam).

  2. To figure out how long you need your seatpost, install the seatpost, measure from the top of the lowest pedal with the pedal at the 6 o’clock position, to the top of the seat. Then measure your inseam with shoes on, from the floor to your crotch. Subtract the crotch measurement from the uni measurement to get the length of seatpost to cut off.

Example, Pedal to seat top is 36", crotch to floor is 29". You need to cut off 7" at a minimum to fit on the unicycle. (36-29=7)

Also at this point you should subtract an additional 1" to allow the seatpost some adjustment down, for starters, as you may find that the seat at 29" is too high or uncomfortable, but at 28 1/2" it feels great.

  1. Youtube and are your friends. Those 1 to 2 minute videos to help get started are worth their weight in time spent learning. Watch them over and over to get the concepts down.

  2. Be careful of your surroundings. I use an archway to practice balancing, I use 1 hand to stabilize, and stay in one spot. Just make sure that the significant other isn’t around when the uni shoots out from underneath you and the dishwasher or other items of importance, stops the uni from travelling too far away.

  3. Proper PPE. Helmet, gloves, shin guards, closed toe shoes, arm and elbow pads. At a bare minimum, the helmet and gloves are definately what you need, the shin guards are also necessary. This is common sense, the brain bucket keeps the brain protected in a fall, the gloves protect the hands, and the shin guards help keep the pedals from kicking back around and beating up your shins. The arm and elbow protection are optional, but if you are travelling at any speed, if you go down, the arm and elbow protection will prevent lots of road rash.

  4. Air pressure. This is an area of debate, but some folks say a softer tire is easier to learn on. My view is use enough air above the minimum to get the tire up on the tread with you on it without balloning out the sidewalls or pinching the tube when just starting out, then when you get more comfortable, increase the pressure to reduce rolling resistance, but don’t exceed the manufacturers maximum tire pressure.

  5. Start on a learner uni first. Yes the Kris Holm or Nimbus model may look awesome, but any of the less expensive unis are more than capable to learn to ride on, with less of a hit on the wallet. Torker, Club, Sun, are good to learn on, then upgrade to a more expensive unit, Nimbus, KH, etc. you’ll be dropping the uni lots of times, let it be a cheaper uni that can be replaced if damaged that bad.

  6. Ride in short periods to start, don’t try to learn it all in one day. I do 10 to 20 minutes practicing with the uni, and my balance is getting much better. Some may find that getting on may be easier, some may take longer, but don’t over do it. If you start to get fustrated, take a break, because if you’re too fustrated, you may not try to continue to learn. learning to ride takes between 15 to 20 hours, it’s not instantaneous, but you do need to put in the time to learn, but a 10/5/10/5/10 (10 minutes on, 5 minutes off) pattern at first gives you time to rest and evaluate what you’ve been doing, plus 3 ten minute sessions is 1/2 hour of riding.

  7. Cycling shorts are sometimes necessary for comfort. The extra padding or gel layer is definately worth it, less soreness, more comfort, which makes riding fun.

i’d add to the part about buying a cheap pos uni to not get discouraged if you find yourself turning one way a lot as the cheap units aren’t necessarily unbiased and may force you to turn one way, and so any turning bias a learner has may not be a problem with themselves but rather their equipment.

noted from personal experience.

also, expect to be sore. muscles that you don’t normally use much will be saying hello.

also, aim for very small goals. don’t aim to ride around the block the first day, instead aim for one pedal revolution at a time. the first few turns of the cranks are the hardest to accomplish. each tiny achievement makes it all that little less difficult.

also, don’t get caught-up trying to emulate others. they probably ride different to your future self, mount different to your future self, and so on. find your own way. listen to others and try to understand what they have to teach, and then use that to help build on your own understanding of riding and your own style.

Yikes, this thing is scary!

I had to cut about 3" off the stock seat post on my Torker 26, and I’ve got a 35" inseam.

Wow, this is a LOT harder than I thought it would be. So far I’ve managed to sit on the seat while leaning against the kitchen counter, but forget pedaling even an inch!
As soon as I try to move in any direction, I fall off.

Just sitting stationary on this thing feels like trying to stand barefoot on a greased beach-ball! :astonished:

I think fear this may be a much longer road than I hoped. :frowning:

Tim, it comes slowly (see Matt’s item #8 above). I probably spent my first 2 hours (in 10 minute sessions) just sitting on the seat, holding on to a countertop, rail, or wall and rocking slightly with the cranks vertical. Soon you’ll be able to hold on with just one hand while rocking and then you’ll get the itch to try to a revolution while supporting yourself along a wall.

haha, yeah i remember those days.

just try to get comfy and relaxed on it. if you can manage that then you can try to move a bit.

the biggest key to all of unicycling is “sit on the seat”. if you can dump all your weight into the seat then pedaling around and riding becomes infinitely easier. EVERY time riding feels difficult or awkward it will be because there is weight on the pedals.

idling is another matter. i put a lot of weight on the bottom pedal when idling, but that’s well-beyond what you need to concern yourself with just yet.

lol enjoy falling over :stuck_out_tongue: . it’s all part of the journey.

I just wish I had a garage where I could practice the more embarrassing moments in private. :stuck_out_tongue:

Hang in there Timbo. Some people take a few days to “get it” but more require couple of months to start riding. If anything, just make sure you sit on it for at least 10 minutes/day. Don’t even worry about pedaling right away. Just get a feel for it and don’t give up. Many unicycles end up on Craigslist because people don’t get it within a week. Do your bicycling and just practice getting used to the feel of the unicycle. Use your wrist guards and helmet.

That’s the advice I was given and it worked for me. I learned when I was 12 (took about a month) and then came back to it at 49. It didn’t take long to pick it up again.

I’m way too obsessive about everything I do, so when I got my first uni it was all I did for a while.

I can say from experience: put in 14 hours a day and you’ll learn shortly-- one weekend in my case.

Don’t feel bad if you need to take a break from it. My first attempt at learning was about two weeks (not every day) and I threw in the towel in the end. A few months later I decided I was gonna do it and got back on the horse, I figured it out. Been great ever since, very glad I learned.

Hey Timbo, I started by using the Wall Method.

Actually, it was the Chain Link Fence Method: I would practice alongside 10’ high section of fence that had a nice sidewalk next to it. The sidewalk was a block in length. I wear gloves and a helmet, I was able to use the fence as a support for mounting, and could skim my hand along the fence for support. I counted the sidewalk squares as a measure of my progress. Later, I relied on the fence less and less.

Key Points: 1) Lean forward more than you think you should.
2) Pedal in a smooth, relaxed pace.
3) Look forward, not down.
4) Flap your arms wildly, this helps with balance and
people will leave you alone.



Thanks for the encouraging words, everyone… I actually managed to make a full revolution of the cranks today (before my crash and burn), with my hand on a wall.

It took a little rearranging of the contents of my apartment, like putting my kayak on the roof of my car for a while, and moving furniture around, but I managed to clear a 22’ section of wall for my practice space.

I’m amazed just how tiring it is to do this.

Hopefully it’s OK that I’m practicing on carpet. I’d hate to have to move my practice outside just yet. :smiley:

Hey Timbo,

Nice to hear you are making progress. You need to get outside! Go public with your strange obsessions! The “helpful” comments of friends and strangers will give you incentive to get back up on that unicycle and ride it. :roll_eyes:

Why don’t you track down mbalmer and get some first-hand pointers. It is useful seeing someone else ride, and she is in your area.



OH! I thought you meant your balls. Very glad you cleared that up, otherwise we’d have to start talking about your balls… oh, i think, yep, i just did. My bad y’all.

For me, I learned with poles (or sticks) and of course used them as canes.
With two sticks in your hands, you have three points (the tire, and the two sticks), and with the sticks forward, you have what it takes to stay upright (just like with a chair needing a min of 3 legs to stay up.
Then from there, you you make little moves that just get bigger and bigger as you get better.
Then you can also drag the poles on the ground and use them as training wheels, sort of.
Worked for me!

I dont know if this wa mentioned above but i know its hard but as you gradually get better, try putting as much of your weight on the seat as possible, but still have a firm grip with your feet, this enables you to try longer. Its like wall sitting for 20 minutes, not fun:)

That is definitely a good tip, although I am not quite there yet. LOL
I can ride a uni, but my legs get tired out fast…so this is exactly where I am at and what I have to get over to get better.