Unicycle Challenge

I learned to unicycle mostly as a side-effect of learning to juggle. It was
probably early 1986 or so, when I was very active with the University of
Minnesota Jugglers. The club had a few unicycles: a 6’ (20"?) Schwinn, a 24"
Schwinn, and a Cycle Pro. I mostly learned to pedal along using the
one-hand-on-the-wall-of- the-gym technique, and it took me a long time to
learn to turn to the right. About the time I managed that, lots of unicyclists
started showing up at juggling club (Connie Cotter for one), I think mostly
because of the unicycle festival in Minneapolis that summer (or was that
'87?). By the standards of 1987, I think I’m a level three rider, but am now a
level 2 rider (I don’t ride over objects well).

Unfortunately, this has not been a banner year for me – I had a friend buy a
20" Miyata Deluxe for me (I already owned a 24" Miyata Deluxe) that I knew a
bike shop in Boulder, CO had. He was going up to Boulder for the day (I’m ~100
miles from Boulder), and got it for me. I was skiing that day (this was in
January), and had my first bad skiing accident, spraining my right knee. So I
didn’t get to ride my new unicycle until last month!

I have managed to spread unicycling some. Some very old friends of the family
have an eldest daughter that always wanted to learn to unicycle. While in high
school, she had her parents draw up a list of classic American literature that
they figured would round out her knowledge of American authors and literature.
She set to work on it one summer, and got through by September. For her
birthday, and partially in reward, her mother set about attempting to locate a
unicycle for her to ride. I advised on this and, being a Miyata bigot,
strongly recommended a Miyata.

Unfortunately, in 1987, no bicycle dealer in Salt Lake City carried Miyata
unis. A few bicycle dealers attempted to discourage buying a Miyata (“It’d be
too good”), and recommended a Cycle Pro (ugh!!) or a Schwinn. So I bought a
Miyata 20" in Minneapolis and shipped it out. It was apparently a great hit –
she learned to ride within a week. She also discovered that the man next door
had learned to ride 30 years before. (His wife was very surprised, too!)
Harriet is extremely possessive of her unicycle, and has ridden it just about

This last Christmas, I gifted her two younger siblings with a unicycle I saw
advertised on this mailing list; that has been well received, too. (It has
been named “Ethelred” (The Unready).) Last I saw, about a week after I gave
them the 'cycle, the youngest was toodling up and down the street, and the
middle was riding most of the length of their driveway. Fortunately, Mom is
a pretty tolerant type – when the driveway was iced over, practice was in
the kitchen!

Next up, getting two of my coworkers who have not ridden for > 10 years
back on unis.

Robert Herndon rh@craycos.com


At 01:35 PM 6/7/96 -0700, you wrote:

>I kept pushing myself closer towards the heart of the beast and a passer-byer
>on a bicycle was at a distantance and there was no air closer than a bike pump
>so to his surprise he was flagged down by a monkey-man in silks and a leapard
>skirt and fighting staff with a 6ft.uni.With the tire now solid just the way I
>like, I mounted and road towards the emence crowd.Once the police and security
>parted the crowd for me I had cart blanche and the light was green!I became the
>Monkey King! and as soon as I hit the middle of the street and did a few tight
>circles whilst screeming and yelping myself into character the crowd went
>BANANAS!There was much more to it but my potato was done before this retelling
>got to the parade.It was a challenging ride though.
>Greg Mooney Digital Illustrator, Martial Artist, Humorist
>http://www.warmcove.com/cove/greg.mooney gregm@warmcove.com

To save everyone’s eyes, I have not copied his entire paragraph, which ran for
about 1000 words. Congratulations on an interesting story, and a fun time in
the parade.

Let me tell you about the Monkey King I know. In 1989 the Big Apple Circus used
the Monkey King and a generally Chinese theme for its show. We saw their Monkey
King do several traditional Chinese skills, culminating with the balancing of 3
ungimmicked raw eggs on the end of a chopstick, on his nose.

How do I know his eggs were ungimmicked? I got to watch him perform that act
dozens of times – from backstage! Little did I know that a few years after
appearing in the Big Apple Circus for a very successful season, Mr. Yang Xiao-di
would come to work for the National Circus Project. Last year when I went back
to NY for two months to work for them, I lived in his house (56 Lion Lane) and
spent a few weeks on the road with him.

As a seasoned professional with extensive training in Chinese acrobatics,
Mr. Yang can ride a unicycle, and he can juggle five rings, but since he
never “really” learned how to do it one almost never catches him in the act.

Not much of a unicycle story, but you circus fans might find it interesting.

Anyway, we have two unicycle clubs here in the Sacramento area, and if you’re
ever up here you’re welcome to ride with us. We meet on Wednesday and Sunday
evenings, this time of year. Just give me a call at (916) 783-0837.

Hope to meet you soon! One thing though, I hope you talk in shorter paragraphs
than you write! John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone unifoss@calweb.com


At 05:36 PM 6/20/96, Dennis Kathrens wrote:

>> Little did I know that a few years after appearing in the Big Apple Circus
>> for a very successful season, Mr. Yang Xiao-di would come to work for the
>> National Circus Project. Last year when I went back to NY for two months to
>> work for them, I lived in his house (56 Lion Lane) and spent a few weeks on
>> the road with him.
>The address sounds familiar: wasn’t that Bill Jenack’s address? Can you share
>some unicycling trivia about this coincidence?

The famous Jenack house (where the USA Newsletter was produced from 1974-77, and
the IUF was incorporated in 1984) is 67 Lion Lane. It’s still there, and is the
offices of the National Circus Project. This house appears in many of the
pictures in Jack Wiley’s books, especially the older “Unicycle Book” and
“Bicycle Builders Bible,” as well as older issues of the USA Newsletter.

The once unicycle-filled garage and workshop was transformed in 1984 into a
large studio/office space, and the whole end wall of the house is a giant floor
to ceiling bookshelf, holding a small part of JeanPaul Jenack’s vast book
collection. Parts of the video “Unicycle” were filmed at the Jenack home, in the
garage and on the street out front (facing away from number 67).

56 is of course a few doors down, and was purchased by the National Circus
Project (so they really own it) a few years ago to provide housing for
employees, especially those that are from out of state or other countries.
Mr. Yang, with his wife and son live in the upstairs, and the downstairs has had
a constantly rotating bunch of people. Some of them have been locals, or
out-of-area people staying temporarily while working in the NY area, or from
Latvia, Russia, England and elsewhere.

These are Levitt homes, which are interesting to people with an architectural
background. When they were new (1950 on Lion Lane), they all looked almost
identical. JeanPaul Jenack tells us that his father bought the first house on
the block, and that the builders asked him what he’d like to name the street. It
had to be a word starting with “L” because that was the “L” section, with all
“L” streets. Too bad he didn’t buy a house in the “U” section!

John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone unifoss@calweb.com