Tips on teaching beginners?

Some days ago, the sister (40yrs old, no sporting history) of my wife’s friend wanted to try out unicycling. I had thought about possible didactics of unicycling before and got the chance to try it out.

  1. I showed her a unicycle wouldn’t be harmed if it fell down, so she was to concentrate at all times on hitting the ground with her feet and not to concentrate on catching the uni.
  2. I let her mount with a railing at the side, the outside pedal at 6-o-clock. Then she was to move alongside the railing holding it with both hands until she felt comfortable with the movements involved.
  3. I told her to move into a position with horizontal cranks and find a balance point so she could let go of the railing for a fraction of a second. It took some tries until she could do 1.5 seconds.
  4. my wife and I walked around with her in between the two of us until she felt comfy with pedaling at a steady pace.
  5. I told her to hold onto the end of the railing with one hand, pedals horizontal, lean a bit forward, put pressure on the front pedal and step off the uni when the pedal is down. Let the uni drop and get a feeling for the freely moving unicycle.
  6. when the movement was smooth, I told her to try to pedal further and step off later.

After a total of 30 minutes she had done 1.5 revolutions three times. In all this time she only fell off once uncontrolledly.
1.5 revs is something I achieved myself after about 5 training sessions of 30-45 minutes, but without anyone teaching me.

I would like to know how you (teaching experienced forum members) teach a first unicycle contact to non-unicyclists. After her marathon in 2020 my wife wants to try it out, too. Until then, she won’t try it, because she does not want to threaten her long term marathon goal. She has seen me do too many UPDs.
I’ll be a lone rider for a long time. :frowning:

[QUOTE=Onewheelhenni;1697634I’ll be a lone rider for a long time. :([/QUOTE]

That‘s your fault, I offered you a meeting more than once

My problem is unfortunately, that I have very little time capabilitiies of planning ahead. Usually I will not know in the morning if and when I will find the time to ride that day. I work at a university and on some private projects.
I hope that the time between summer and winter semester brings some relief. There is a project I have to finish end of July which means that August and part of September could be more plannable.
I definitely feel I need a break.

this is the crucial part : tell the learner to try to feel comfy and zen while seating with horizontal pedals. Do not move: just feel that suddenly you feel the “force” going through the seat :stuck_out_tongue: (up to your head).
Ok torso straight up … do you feel the “zen” feeling.
now just try to balance a little more with small movements back and forth with the pedals.
now be ready to fall forward! do not “push” on the pedals (or you will get out of this comfy seat) and please listen to the rythm “yop yop yop …” if you stop pedaling you fall (always forward!)
and so on …

I don’t reccommend holding onto a railing with both hands (even though many people have done that), since it has you sit twisted. Having something on both sides is much better, as a kid I learned to ride holding onto the backs of two benches. One hand on the railing, one with a helper is good too.

My method for teaching groups (which is slightly different to just teaching one person since you can’t help everyone at the same time) is:

  1. Teach them how to mount and pedal inbetween to things to support them. (Wall and railing, wall and high bench, whatever is available. Have them practice there until the pedaling is smooth, and most common problems are fixed (not sitting straight, and not sitting down mainly).

  2. Have them ride around while holding onto my hand. Once they need only little assist, I encourage them to let go of my hand, and only grab it when they need to. I also switch from assisting them on foot, to assisting them while riding my unicycle at some point.

  3. Starting at a point to hold onto while mounting, have them ride as far as they can. Starting at a railing (or similar) that they can hold onto for the first few revolutions, then letting go of it is usually a good idea.

To break the exercising up and make it more exciting (Important if you are teaching kids), I alternate between 1-2, and then 2-3 (depending on the students progress) during a session. If you only have one student to care for, you might do it as a straight sequence from 1-3

Show them the safe way to mount against the wall.

Encourage them a bit then leave them to it. If they really want to learn, they will.

You can show how but you can’t teach someone to ride. They need to learn.

Too much talking at them will cause them to overthink it.

All the time you’re demonstrating how and talking about it, they’re not actually learning to ride.

I’ve taught 2 teenagers and a 50 year old adult to ride by showing them it was possible, then making sure they had access to a unicycle, with no pressure to learn.

I agree with the not too much talking. But you can certainly give them exercises in ways that will lead to a fast and fun learning experience. I am amazed that some people learned riding by mounting at a lamp pole, and then just trying to ride away from it. Most people would quit immediately if that is their introduction to unicycling. But if you give them manageable exercises like riding along two rails, it’s not as frustrating. And sometimes a tip or two helps a lot. Many beginners would not notice that them not sitting down is hindering them, most don’t even have the capability to notice they are not sitting straight because they haven’t learned to be concious about something like that.

It’s easy to teach someone that is really motivated, especially, since opposed to what people like to think, unicycling is not that hard. The first bit of learning is really steep, which makes it a bit of a mental exercise, but overall, really not that much practice needed when comparing to other sports.

I have worked with groups of kids learning to ride, and yes, the easiest students are the ones that really have the desire to learn how to ride. But when you are working with that group, you have to deal with the friend of that kid who came along but isn’t so motivated, or the kid who was sent there by his parents. You can teach those how to unicycle too, if you take care that they are not getting frustrated. And then, when they learned how to ride, they will have just as much fun as the person that desperately wanted to learn from the beginning.

as I was teaching unicycling to inmates in jail I told them “the wall is your friend”
to which they answered "not really! :astonished: "

I learned by riding away from a wall, time after time.

My two sons learned by riding away from a pole time after time. Neither was going to be outdone by the other.

Two adult friends learned, separately, using the same process, one with quite a bit of encouragement from me.

No more to it than that: just a desire to do it, the confidence that you will succeed, and the opportunity to try.

There is some basic guidance you can give, but people only really start to take it on board when they are already able to ride:

Keep your backside in, keep your back straight, and look a long way ahead. Keep your weight on the saddle and pedal smoothly.

These things help you to be a better rider. I’m not sure anyone who can’t ride is likely to put them into practice when learning. Once you can do ten pedal strokes, these tings will help you to do 20, or 30, or 100.

Your a bit like the old man telling the kids that back in their days, people were taught how to swim by forcing them to jump from a platform and leaving it to them to figure out how to keep their head above the water, and that all the modern swimming aids and starting in a pool where children can stand to get them used to the water is nonsense.

Just because that is the way you learned, and you saw a few other people do it, it doesn’t mean it’s a good method. I learned how to windsurf on a board that was way too small, and a sail way too big. Did I learn how to do it? Yes. But if a friend that wants to go windsurfing with me for the first time comes with me, I’ll give him a big board and a smaller sail, because I have seen that other people succeed quicker on that.

I’m not claiming to be the greatest trainer of all time, and that my methods do miracles here. But after teaching likely over a hundred children, visiting many different unicycle clubs, and seeing how they teach, and experimenting around a bit, I am confident in saying that for the best learning experience I recommend what I described above. Things I say like don’t hold onto a railing on one side with both hands don’t come out of nowhere, I say that because I have seen that kids that do that take longer to learn than kids who hold onto something on both sides. And I have more than a few times seen how much further people can go after I instructed them to start riding while holding onto a railing, and let go of it after a revolution or so, compared to them trying to start riding after using a pole for the mounting part, because getting the first revolution right is a difficulty in itself at first.

Unicycling for the most part has been autodidactic for me, and that has been fun, and I believe that teaching it to yourself can teach you a lot more than just unicycle tricks. But you are probably going to learn faster with a good trainer. Not because he can communicate you exactly what you have to do to keep your balance and ride, I would say 3-4 fairly general tips are all a trainer needs to give for learning unicycling, but because someone who has seen many people learn can decide what exercise is going to be most effective at which point.

I am a bit like an old man: I’m 55. However, one of the friends who just learned to ride by doing it was older than that at the time, so I’m not just looking back at how it was 30 or more years ago when I was a boy.

All of what you say makes perfect sense and of course with patient guidance and encouragement, and the odd well-timed hint, a person will learn any skill faster.

However, offset against that is something that has a value of its own: the special kind of confidence and independence that develop when you just try things and make them work without depending on someone else to show you the correct way.

As a society and as individuals, we have become overdependent on instructors, courses, qualifications, and approved methods. Of course, they are vital in some contexts. A scuba diver needs to learn and practise safety drills; a musician needs to be shown correct fingering and structured exercises to learn scales and arpeggios; someone who wants to compete at squash will benefit from a coach who can show them techniques and tactics; and someone who wants to learn advanced skills on a unicycle will benefit from working with someone who can coach them.

However, every single one of those skills was invented or developed by someone who was the first to try it.

Riding a unicycle is simple to do but difficult to learn. There’s not much to it. The biggest single factor is learning to feel through the pedals and seat what is happening below you, and responding to it intuitively. Whether they do that with a wall, a pole, two parallel bars, a Zimmer frame, or leaning on a friend’s shoulder, a determined and confident person will learn it in a few half hour sessions, and someone who is not that interested will give up, however much help they get.

I am not knocking you for teaching people, or using your specific methods, and I don’t doubt that your methods save time and bruises.

However, I’m saying that the time spent, and the bruises, have a value of their own which society has largely forgotten about.

I bought an almost new q-ax 12" for my 6 y.o. son… I asked him to try several times, but he did try only 2 time for a total of 30 minutes. Today my family is on holiday while I’m working till Saturday when I’ll meet them. I left the small uni in their holiday apartment… my 6 y.o. nephew as already spent 3 hours on it!!! My son also seems to have find interest in unicycling too according to the photos my wife sent me…
As you said: desiring to unicycle is the biggest step to learn riding it

This is how I learned. I did not know any other unicyclist. I first got on a unicycle at 56 years old.