Tips on Riding Backwards.

Howdy Foks,
I’m looking to start riding backwards on my Uni. I was wondering if
anyone had any tips or advice on how to acquire this skill in an efficient
manner. Thanks for your time.


Can you idle?

Learn to idle, then learn to ride backward 2 rotations and return to an idle…then 3,4,5, etc…

Where a helmet too, because falling backwards sucks…i know

You don’t need to learn to idle first…but…

You probably do need to learn the following:

Ride forward.
Pedal 1/2 rev backward.
Continue forward.

At this point the two skills (idling, backward) diverge.

Then just try one rev backward, etc.

There is some value in learning to always go back a predetermined number, then reverse. It gets you into a learning cycle.

But occasionally it is also good to just go back to see how far you can go.

Re: Tips on Riding Backwards.

“gerblefranklin” <> wrote in
> Can you idle?

Not yet. I figured that working on riding backwards would help help with my
idling. I had planned on that being the next skill I’d work on after
getting a good feel for backwards.


Coincidentally, I was thinking of posting on this subject after I made a major breakthrough yesterday.

I’ve been able to ride backwards for several months, usually for 50 - 100 pedal strokes, but I’ve not been confident, and turning has been a problem. Yesterday I was whizzing backwards round the carpark like nobody’s business.

Back to basics:
Reversing is the first of the basic skills which is genuinely dangerous: it presents a real risk of falling backwards. You could crack your skull, or damage your spine or coccyx (sp?) (tailbone!).

DO wear a helmet. Gloves or wristguards recommended too.

Find somewhere smooth and level, and be confident that the area behind you is clear of obstacles.

Now, I think riding backwards and idling are very closely linked skills. Practising one automatically leads to practising the other. Develop one skill, and the other improves.

Start by riding forwards, then stop, allowing the bottom pedal to pass bottom dead centre and start to rise behind you.

Allow the unicycle to tip back ever so slightly (i.e. the wheel is in front of you an inch or two).

Pedal back a half turn, stop, and ride forwards.

The first and biggest hurdle is pedaling back so that the pedal passes over top dead centre. It’s a psychological hurdle, as there’s a moment when you feel you have no control.

Soon, you should be confidently doing this:
Forwards, stop, reverse half turn, ride forwards.

For idling, the development is:
Forwards, stop, reverse half turn, forwards half turn, reverse half turn, ride forwards.
And then build up into 3s, 4s and so on.

For reversing, the development is obvious:
Forwards, stop, reverse a whole turn, stop, ride forwards… then
Forwards, stop, reverse 3, 4, 5 (etc.) pedal strokes, stop, ride forwards.

For idling, you CAN practise by holding onto a post or steadying yourself against a wall. I think it’s better to learn in the open.

For idling, look a fair distance ahead and focus your eyes on a specific object. You should idle with your head almost completely still, and the unicycle swinging beneath you.

For reversing, look quite a way ahead of you. At first, focus on a specific object, as with idling.

Now here’s the breakthrough:

As you reverse further and further, what do you do with your eyes? If you look at one particular object, it gets further away, and also it doesn’t help if you want to turn!

If you look at the ground, it whizzes past you in a blur, and eventually your mind becomes boggled and you fall off.

If you look over your shoulder, you balance is all wrong.

So do this: look at a specific object on the ground and focus your attention on it. It might be a leaf, a pebble, a crack in the pavement, anything. But focus your attention on it and ride away from it.

After 5 - 10 yards/metres, a new object will come into sight on the floor. Make a positive effort to refocus your eyes on that object, and ride away from it. Keep picking new focus points every 5 - 10 metres or so.

The idea is that you balance with your brain, not your mind. The mind is an obstacle to learning complex motor skills like balancing. Keep the mind out of the way, and let the brain do its job! If your attention is focussed on a particular mark on the ground, the brain is receiving clear signals about speed and position, relative to a fixed point, so the calculations it has to make are much easier. Also, by making a conscious effort to choose an object and focus on it, your mind is kept busy, so it doesn’t get under your brain’s feet.

Have fun, be careful, good luck.

Re: Tips on Riding Backwards.


I have been riding backwards for 35 years now.
I can smoothly 180, from forward to backwards, backwards to forwards, etc.
I can spin greater than a 360 and never quite know if I will end up with my
momentum going forwards or backwards, but when you can ride backwards that
is not much of a concern. Additionally I have ridden from mount to dismount
about 3km or 1.8mi. I am very confident with my backwards riding ability.

The idle or pause is not necessary to learn how to ride backwards. It is
only needed for transition.
How did you learn to go forwards? You can start off riding backwards, and be
just as successful as starting out forwards. The difference right now is
there is a distinct difference in your forward and backwards riding ability,
and as you have noticed, the fact that you can ride forwards, doesn’t really
assist that much learning to ride backwards.

If you can’t idle, then you won’t beable to do a standing mount, and change
directions backwards.
So do what you did before you could do a standing mount. Hold on to
something, steady yourself, and begin to pedal backwards. You do have an
advantage knowing how to ride forward. You know where the sweet spot is
located. When you are still, the sweet spot is directly over the wheel. As
you gain forward momentum, the sweet spot shifts, with the seat slightly
ahead of the wheel center. You know the feeling of where that spot is, and
that is why you don’t fall with regularity, like you did before you found it
by feel.

Going backwards is the same, but in reverse. The sweet spot is slightly
backwards, witht he seat slightly behind the center of the wheel. Most
beginners start pedalling backwards, and lean slightly forwards. Then the
wheel goes backwards and the seat goes forward, and you get dumped, just the
same way as when you were learning to ride forwards, and leaned backwards,
the wheel shot out from under you, and you got dumped.

You have to get comfortable witht he new position. You have to lean back
slightly, and pedal faster to correct when you start to lean backwards too
much, which will upright you. Its the same are when you leaned forward too
much, and by pedalling a bit faster could upright yourself, and avoid
falling forward.

The problem is until you find that sweet spot, which is the opposite angle
of the 90 degrees you have found forward riding, the odds of falling
backwards goes up considerablely. You would rather fall forwards while
riding backwards, so you can use your hands to break your fall, than risk
applying what you already know about ridig forward, and that is you must
lean slightly in the direction that you are traveling. For backwars riding
this means leaning backwards.

Don’t be afraid to extend your arms fully to the side like a balance bar. It
helps, If it had no effect then high wire unicyclists and tightrope walkers
would not be able to do what they do. You can lower your arms once you get
the hang. The other advantage is your arms are already in a position to
break your fall, should you go gown fast and hard. And yes, if you are on
pavement, as most people that learn are, it will hurt. But a broken arm is
much better than a skull fracture, or broken spine.

Don’t be afraid to look where you are going. I have seen too many people
learning to go backwards that never look where they are going, be it the
concerete stairs they never thought they’d make it too, or onto the street
into oncoming traffic. And that is not as easy as it sounds. You will find
the motion of turning your head over your shoulder to look, will through
your hips off, and you’ll start to turn, and backwards turning is the
hardest part of backwards riding to master.

Those are the only things I can think of to mention to those learning to
ride backwards. The rest is like learning to go forward, practice, practice
and practice.

But once you have mastered backwards, you become one with the wheel. You are
then capable of a ballet, of movement that cannot be duplicated by any other
sport or pastime.

Hope this has been of some help!

“Tymm” <timmcken @> wrote in message
> Howdy Foks,
> I’m looking to start riding backwards on my Uni. I was wondering if
> anyone had any tips or advice on how to acquire this skill in an efficient
> manner. Thanks for your time.
> Tymm

I don’t consciously use objects to look at when backing up, apart from periodically checking that there are no obstactles. I agree with not looking over your shoulder while learning, just make sure the area is clear before setting off. Eventually you learn to twist your neck without falling. For riding backwards, my advice would be the opposite of learning to go forwards. Usually I say “Lean forwards and pedal”, but in this case the advice would be “Lean backwards and pedal backwards”.

Re: Tips on Riding Backwards.

Thanks for all the advice and tips on riding backwards… I’ll keep ya
posted on how it goes.


Re: Re: Tips on Riding Backwards.

Since I also want to learn to ride backwards I carefully looked at people riding backwards, … though most lean backwards I’ve seen others with torso leaning forward and seat-post leaning backwards.
(torso a bit like ice skaters going backwards :))

are there people on this list with this technique?


P.S: i have posted a very similar remark on people going down steep declines
and having torso thrown “in” the slope (just like when you ski)

I hope I don’t get too hammered by opposing opinions. But I use the “learn a bad habit, unlearn the bad part leaving the habit” method.

This works for beginners to learn forward or backward riding. Since “the dead zone” is feet at 12 and 6 and “the control zone” is feet at 3 and 9, I suggest making a series of controlled half-strokes.

Feet at 3 and 9, a momentary pause is ok here, then pump once to 9 and 3, momentary pause, then 3 and 9, then 9 and 3, then 3 and 9, then 9 and 3, then 3 and 9, then 9 and 3, etc.

Eventually diminish the pause part until its gone entirely. Then smooth things out.

“Look ma, I’m riding [front or back]wards”

Re: Tips on Riding Backwards.

“wobbling bear” <> wrote in
> Defender of Enormous Manhood wrote:
> > *. For backwars riding
> > this means leaning backwards.
> > *
> Since I also want to learn to ride backwards I carefully looked at
> people riding backwards, … though most lean backwards I’ve seen
> others with torso leaning forward and seat-post leaning backwards.
> (torso a bit like ice skaters going backwards :))

Correct. When I mean lean backwards, I don’t mean keep your spine inline
with the seat post.
My spine, or torso leans forward, my butt leans backwards, pushing the seat
just behind the center of the wheel. I think if you lean on the same angle
as the seat post, you’ll fall backwards.

For people who can ride forwards, backwards, and hold a stationary position
(without idling) are very aware of where the seat is over the wheel. Forward
motion, it’s slightly foward of center, stationary it is directly over
center, backwards it’s slightly behind center.

For a beginner, the only way to get the hang is to lean back. Usually you
figure it out because you find that spot during a fall, that doesn’t happen,
because you found the spot. So I was offering a tip. Even though I lean
backwards, what I am doing is leaning the seat & post backwards. But I bend
at my waist with my shoulders countering the backwards tilt.

I don’t know it that is the best technique. When I think about it, from that
postion, bend forward, but leaning the seat backwards, when you do fall, you
are already set to roll, rather than splat on the pavement. Get the idea?

So let me be clearer, lean the seat backwards slightly, but lean your
shoulders forward slightly.

> are there people on this list with this technique?
> bear
> P.S: i have posted a very similar remark on people going down steep
> declines
> and having torso thrown “in” the slope (just like when you ski)
> –
> wobbling bear - GranPa goes-a-wobblin’
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> wobbling bear’s Profile:
> View this thread:

I am still getting my “legs” back after not having a uni for a few decades. This evening I thought I would work on regaining backwards ability. Practising at a tennis court, I worked ~20 min going backwards around the perimeter. Harder than I thought it would be! I felt like a rank beginner, working on “stroke” control. Those “dead” zones that Memphis mentioned kept getting me stuck. With the fence to grab, I didn’t UPD much, but I hung on at precarious angles a lot of times!

It helped my ego to zip around again, forward, for a while before packing it in for the night!

I didn’t see a big difference between looking off at a distance, and looking down somewhere ~6 ft away. Controlling my pedal stroking was what kept getting me.

I have never learned to idle.

Well tomorrow morning is club practice ( At least I got some individual time in this week before meeting folks at my first club practice.

Re: Tips on Riding Backwards.

On Fri, 19 Sep 2003 19:44:02 -0500, grey
<> wrote:

>I didn’t see a big difference between looking off at a distance, and
>looking down somewhere ~6 ft away.

In my personal belief system, that means that you are getting there.
As we probably all agree, the natural tendency of most beginners, both
in forward and backward riding, is to look down rather than away.
Experienced riders tend to look further ahead rather than down most of
the time. For both, I believe they do what helps them best.

When I was a beginner, it helped me to get the visual information from
the ground nearby, to assess and correct imbalance. Now as a more
experienced rider, I feel restricted in my information when I only
look down. Ergo: I never instruct people to look further ahead if they
don’t feel like it (yet).

My personal belief system seems to be a minority religion. Therefore I
have constitutional protection!

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

If the crank is moving then it really sounds as if it’s loose. - onewheeldave trying to pinpoint the cause of a clicking crank

Re: Tips on Riding Backwards.

You know if you hang on to a pole while you practice idling, you may find
that helpful, kinda like a training wheel.

“grey” <> wrote in message
> I have never learned to idle.

Re: Tips on Riding Backwards.

Going to a club practice Saturday was a big help. Seeing others doing something that you want to learn (if there are others around to ride with) can correct something that you may be doing wrong.

I got the basics of idling down, though I wasn’t trying yet to make any personal record. I got going backwards from idle for several yards, then back to forward motion without losing it. All of this was out in the open. It seems that the sooner you get away from props, the sooner you (or I) get the self confidence to keep it up.

I took it to a church picnic today, and was assured by non-riders that “you’re really good!” I know better, but thanks anyway.