Tips on learning horizontal idling

I already know how to do regular idling, and can even juggle balls and clubs while doing it. I can also idle one-footed.

Besides starting from cranks in a horizontal position and cycling back and forth slightly, is there anything else I need to do differently from regular vertical position idling? There’s so little good info on horizontal idling or “circus idling” as some call it, and I’ve looked everywhere. The very old discussions about horizontal idling on this forum are lacking in the “how to” aspect of it, and there’s lots of dead links.

For those who have learned horizontal idling, is it really more difficult than vertical idling?

Also, will learning horizontal idling help me with learning still stands?

I hadn’t heard the term before, so I can be pretty confident in saying that this trick has very much grown out of fashion. (As you have also probably figured out) I personally don’t see a point in it, and don’t think it will help you much with stillstands.

For stillstands, just start at something to hold on, let go of it, and try to balance while standing still. When that works a bit, try riding or hopping before you do stillstands. Look at a fixed point in front of you, and have your upper body in an upright position.

I would guess that practicing stillstands would be good practice for learning horizontal idling. Horizontal idling is kind of like a sloppy stillstand. The functional purpose of horizontal idling is to stay in one place, but be able to take off at a moment’s notice.

I imagine that definition would fit with “circus idling”, since I don’t really know what that is, but if you are part of a larger group of moving things, and you need to pause but be ready to go, it makes sense to do it that way. It’s also great for uni basketball, and probably uni hockey as well, though I don’t play hockey much so I’m not sure about that. For circus use, you would figure most movements would be intended to look good, in which case a regular idle might look better, or a full-on stillstand.

A regular idle is problematic in situations where you might need to go suddenly; all a player has to do is wait until you start to roll your wheel forward (in an idle) and then take off. They have to pull the wheel back before they can go and you have the jump on them.

Too funny!
I can’t idle vertical but I can horizontally.

I try a new skill at the end of every ride. They come slowly but they do come.
I’ve tried vertical idles many times with little results.

My stillstand though is very good.
So after I acquired the stillstand skills, I tried one revolution backwards then forwards to another stillstand. It was easy.
My horizontal idle was born.

I never really thought about it but as John says it feels like a cleaner move that’s ready to move into anything else. (riding forward, hopping a different direction, backing up)

Can’t help you with how to learn fast though. I try to let my skills come to me.

Maybe try riding to a stop, stillstand, and then ride away.
Next try riding to a stop, stillstand, 1/2 a revolution backwards, and then ride away forward.
Next ride to a stop, stillstand, 1/2 a revolution backwards, 1/2 a revolution forward and then stillstand again or go backwards again. (whichever is easier to save)

Keep stacking up.
… and repeat.

Thanks for the advice, John. I think it would make sense to practice still stands and horizontal idling together since they’re closely related. In fact, I just watched a bunch of still stand videos on YouTube and I’m not sure if any unicyclist was performing a true “still stand”, but was rather doing very slight horizontal idling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe44_0MEqQg

I’m starting to suspect that no one actually does a true “still stand”, at least if we go by the strict, literal definition of what a still stand is supposed to be. The better still standers all look like they are horizontal idling, though very slightly and slowly. At unicycle events during the still stand competitions, do observers disqualify competitors if their horizontal idling exceeds a certain angle or frequency?

Maybe the reason horizontal/circus idling is so obscure is because so many unicyclists just think of it as “poorly done still standing”.

I’m hoping horizontal idling improves my juggling while idling ability, especially if I club juggle with a partner.

I watched part of that video, but at almost 15 minutes, I knew it would be one of the boringest things ever. Stillstand is a difficult and impressive skill, but watching an entire, expert stillstand is worse than watching other people play golf.

That guy is really good at the stillstands. His beam probably takes a little bit of a hold on his tire, which may or may not help in the twisting portion of the movements you can make to maintain balance.

In competition (a relatively new event at the IUF level), riders must stay on what I believe is a circular platform that’s either 10 or 15cm in diameter. There also may be a limit on how much the pedals can move, but mostly this is limited by the platform. Your body must move to maintain balance, and for competition you have to set limits but not restrict the rider’s balancing movements/adjustments. The rules may change in the future, and you can also read how it works in the IUF Rulebook.

It’s true that almost everyone who does stillstands does tiny bits of forward/backwards movement. As John describes, there is a small pad that one has to stay on during competition, and I think there is a general understanding that you are not supposed to do any sort of constant idling motions, I can’t be bothered to check the rules if there is an actual rule for that. I think the motions being small, slow and in an irregular pattern is what makes it not idling.

To almost everyone stillstand is just a skill to practice for fun/because it’s a great skill when riding on a rail (you often essentially ride from stillstand to stillstand). It’s really not a great competition format I think, if it disappeared again it wouldn’t be a great loss from my point of view.

I think you’re right in your earlier post that horizontal idling is nearly obsolete as a skill. It’s hardly ever talked about, it’s not on any skills list and it seems few people bother to learn it. I also agree with John that it can be boring watching still stands.

I’ve tried doing both horizontal idling and still stands the past few days and can do either a few seconds before dismounting. It seems to me at this point it’s like learning the same skill. I keep having to do small or not so small forwards/backwards movements even when trying to do a “still stand” I’m essentially doing sloppy horizontal idling.

I have no interest in doing still stands on a rail so will probably not focus too much on this skill, it’s better to learn one-footed riding or seat-in front. Or to focus on juggling tricks while unicycling. Thanks for your response!

Maybe for learning horizontal idling using a balance pole would be an easy step.

Interesting discussion.

I spend a few minutes, every time I’m out on my 20", working on still stands. The longest I’ve ever gotten was about 10 seconds (which sucks). But my average time is increasing. Sometimes I practice riding successive half revolutions and stopping into a still stand. Or three half revolutions. The point is so I alternately practice with either foot in front/back. I practice the still stands in a few variations. Hands in the air, two-handed-seat in front (I’ve gotten almost 10 seconds 2H-SIF and am able to make larger balance corrections), hands-on-the-seat-SI, seat-in-back.

I like still stands, because they isolate the body-balance portion of my riding. In most other situations, I’m mostly relying on the steer-the-wheel-under-the-fall principle. Still stands have helped me the most in climbing. As I am more comfortable riding into a still stand, I am better at slogging up hills. There is no sustained momentum to this approach, but the momentary still stand allows me to apply greater leverage with my hands on the bar-ends…to the next pedal stroke.

Yup, that and the Slow Races (forward and backward!). :stuck_out_tongue:

Skills don’t get obsolete, though I suppose they can be said to go “out of fashion”. But Horizontal Idling is kind of not a stand-alone “trick”, I consider it more of a utility skill, most useful in uni-sports as I mentioned above. Regular idling is more relaxed, easier, and more visual if you are performing for an audience. Horizontal Idle is not impressive for an audience to watch. Like Coasting, which is 100x harder, the audience mostly doesn’t realize you’re doing something hard, beyond the actual balancing of the unicycle!

Can be? Well I guess. If it’s only one person, that might be worth watching for a really long stillstand. Or a contest, with multiple people all going at the same time. But in competition format, where the equipment generally allows only one person at a time, that’s seriously dull!

I’m not sure why, but usually you only see balance poles like that when people are on skinny things, generally tighropes, slacklines, etc. Maybe because you need space for the pole to tilt to the sides, without hitting the ground. Because that would be cheating!

The photo linked above is of an informal Stillstand competition that was held at Unicon 11 in Tokyo (2004) Two brothers from the Philippines, who were both really good stillstanders, were the only ones left at that point, and continued to battle it out for about 15 minutes! That event followed an even more informal demo that the two brothers did at the Trials course on an earlier day.

Vertical vs. Horizontal Idling

I spent some time yesterday practicing horizontal and vertical idling. I’m not sure it was explicitly stated previously in this thread, but (to my understanding) vertical idling is centered around the 6:00/12:00 pedal position, and horizontal idling is centered around the 3:00/9:00 pedal position.

I have no skill in horizontal idling. I am not able to extend a still stand a significantly longer time by adding horizontal idles. On the other hand, I can vertically idle with no problems. Normally I idle slowly between the 3:00/9:00 positions. Yesterday I practiced making the idles as small as possible around the 6:00/12:00 position. I made some progress shrinking the size of my idles.

I am trying to wrap my brain around the difference in physics between the vertical and horizontal idle. The traditional vertical idle seems to lend itself to riding an arc during each pedal stroke. This arc has the same purpose as “turning into the fall” on a bicycle. Trying to emulate those physics during the horizontal idle seemed nearly impossible. I’m speculating, but for regular idling, the 6:00/12:00 position is some kind of “point of inflection”, and that point doesn’t seem to exist in the horizontal idle.

I don’t think it’s about riding in an arc, you can move the wheel under you left to right with a twist of your hip whether you are doing vertical or horizontal idling.

What makes normal idling a “good” movement is that you are just periodically pushing down and lifting up with your lower foot. Especially when you are just making small movements, it’s really just pushing down, no arc movement etc. 90% of idling is just the bottom foot, the top foot contributes very little (as evidenced by how easy one footed idling is to learn). If you do it well, it’s “naturally” a rhythmic movement, just like swinging on a swing.

When doing vertical idling, you are riding small amounts forward and backwards, feet travelling in an arc, and both feet necessarily contributing evenly. It’s not "naturally "a rhythmic movement, you have to “artificially” make the rythm.

What I described is also why I don’t see “super idling” (riding forward and backward a revolution continously) as a way to learn idling. It’s not a bad exercise to improve your general skill, but I don’t think it shares the same key mechanics as idling.

My take on this is that vertical idles oscillating around the power position, long ones are not a problem since they go from power position to power position.
For horizontal idles, it’s the other way around. Unless one has a way of getting easily and reliably unstuck from the dead position, they are necessarily short.

This is why still stands were invented.

Hahaha, I’m stoked my vid was linked up there.

But…I really wish I was part of the pic you (pinoclean) just posted. That’s incredible.

As far as doing stillstands…weight on seat. Practice riding along rails too. Arms out far. Once you get good you can rest an arm occasionally. Definitely boring to watch, but I love it.

I always appreciate your insights! I’ve also been practicing horizontal idling and it’s a struggle. It really is different enough from vertical idling that knowing how to vertical idle doesn’t help much with horizontal idling. I think I should move my hips a little more while horizontal idling.

Buck your hips fwd/back

Try that technique. Since, your pedals don’t rotate more than 45 deg you need to buck your hips back/forth to create the rocking motion. Get into a door frame and give it a try.

Tried horizontal idling today. Wasn’t all that difficult for me, I did about a quarter revolution overall forward and back (so moving 1/8 of a rev forward and backwards from horizontal). You can get into a rythm, but the movement doesn’t feel as “right” as normal idling.

Won’t get into my repertoire of skills to teach (but to me the main purpose of idling is to teach one foot idling and then one foot riding), and because it’s relatively easy to learn at the same time-ish as freemounts. When I need to stand in almost the same place on a uni I do either some stillstand, riding forward and backwards stuff or dismount, very rarely would I do a “proper” idle.

Won’t hurt to learn though, and it’s kinda similar to what you do when you mess up a stillstand on flat ground but try to get back into it without riding.

This reminds me of one of the places where I do horizontal idles; when I’m trying to set up for a stillstand. Stillstands get a positive audience response when I do them in a parade on my Big Wheel (45"). People can tell when the wheel has stopped, that I’m obviously exerting some effort, and generally make some reaction when I finally ride out of it (after not that long). They also look good on a Giraffe if you can do them, and the fun part about those is being able to control the start of the fall at the end, and then swoop out of it, toward the crowd. :slight_smile:

Exactly. For regular idling, as long as you push past the “dead spot” at bottom dead center, it is a natural movement to keep rolling the wheel back and forth, with something to push against at each end. In a horizontal idle. you are pedaling toward the dead spot; the farther you go, the more sketchy it is to switch directions. Not fun, and generally not functional.

Agreed. It’s more of a building skill for learning to stop, and learning to ride backward. Also made more interesting by doing it on a large wheel…