Interesting coincidence to see a thread on this. Earlier this summer, I was looking for training aids that might help my wife learn to ride uni and came across Adam’s uni-trainer. I emailed him to see if he would sell me one, but he said that they are reserved for use in his training program. He did, however, offer to come out an put on a unicycle clinic if I could get enough participants together to make it economically feasible to fly him out to Utah. Adam is one of the 36" pioneers who famously rode his 36" in Manhattan in Brian McKenzie’s Inner Balance DVD.
I also came across David Kano’s unitrainer design. Unfortunately, he did not obtain his patent, so the design never made it into production. I was immediately enthralled with the design and especially with the concept of gradually adjusting the degree of balance augmentation over time, as the learner gradually acquires muscle memory. I was also enthralled by the idea that balance augmentation significantly increases the time in the saddle, which increases the rate at which the muscle memory is developed – as opposed to a one- or two-second ride, stopping, getting set up again, and then having another one- or two-second ride. After all, learning some basic muscle memory while leaning against the walls in a hallway or against a fence or other people is really just a different form of balance augmentation. None of this, of course, takes away from having to eventually launch into the abyss and try it unassisted, but I’m proceeding under the theory that launching into the abyss is easier if there’s already some muscle memory developed.
Similar to Nurse Ben, I thought about making my own unitrainer – either something like Adam’s or David’s. However, in the end, David graciously agreed to sell me one of his prototypes. It arrived last week, so we’re just in the early stages of trying it out to see if it will significantly speed up the learning process. My wife has ridden it in two different sessions for about 20 minutes or so total, trying to establish muscle memory for unicycle posture, specifically working on front-to-back balancing. I have been giving her realtime feedback on her posture, similar to the feedback David gives in the the video below. So instead of feeling what the proper posture feels like for a second or two at a time, she’s feeling it nearly continuously.
The next step will be for her to gradually lean against the handle bars less and less. When her front to back balance is pretty consistent, we’ll try an unassisted unicycle, which will still present a psychological barrier, as has been mentioned in a previous post, but I’m hopeful that she will have acquired enough front-to-back muscle memory to shorten the learning curve. Interestingly enough, my daughter’s friend, who can probably ride all of about 5 feet on a uni (using the “launch-into-the-abyss” method that my kids and I learned with), has also been riding the unitrainer around. It is going to be interesting to see whether her learning process is speeded up, as well. Having helped about ten people learn how to ride uni, I am looking forward to seeing how the process unfolds using a unitrainer. Kind of like a life-sized science experiment! Sounds fun!
Here’s David’s video showing how the balance augmentation can be gradually decreased as the learner’s balance improves. Also, here are a few pics of us and the prototype. I should note that we took these pics on the first day trying it out, before David told us the handlebars were adjusted too far forward, so we were all leaning a little too far forward with our upper bodies.