Unicycling after 50

Great camera angles!

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I learnt about ten years ago aged 54 on a 20 inch I bought for $10 at a garage sale. When I saw it, I was reminded of a childhood fantasy of riding a unicycle. It was way too small but I persevered. It still amazes me that I learnt to ride it at all.

I quickly progressed to a better 20, then 24, 26, 29 and 36. Rode mostly on the road. Also bought a 19 inch trials and 27.5 muni. The only one I ever bought new was the Nimbus 24 inch standard track uni when I aspired to setting Australian age records but never succeeded. I fell ill in the weeks before the championships and was not back in form when they were held.

I got seriously into hill climbing. My skills and fitness peaked after about four years. My doctor freaked out about my 42 bpm resting heart rate, saying “an office worker should not have the resting heart rate of an elite athlete”. Completely cured lower back problems I had had on and off for years.

Then I had some health problems and lost my physique. Now I just ride along our flat rail trail mostly on the 27,5. I miss being able to ride up really steep hills but I don’t have enough free time for long enough periods to build up that strength and fitness again. Even moderate hills leave me sore for days now.

I used to feel so good after a 14 km ride on the big wheel over serious terrain, arriving home thinking I could just go again. I would look down in the shower and wonder how I had gotten the legs of a young man.

Interestingly, my heart rate is still low despite not riding so much now. After he set me up with a 24 hour monitor, the heart specialist literally told my doctor to stop pestering him with his concerns.

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Great, looking forward to seeing more.

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yep mine was slightly higher (45) but my doctor was only concerned by my low blood pressure. I rode less recently so my heart went up to 55 :wink: and occasionally jumps much higher when it’s hot :grimacing: I need to practice more (and live in a cold place).

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Speaking for myself and others that have mentioned it, this could be a recurring topic for this thread…

My doc sent me to get the full raft of tests with my lower resting heart rate.
My ECG is recording 48bpm.
In another post, I uploaded the graphs from a medical VO2max test… If anyone is interested in that type of testing and data.

https://unicyclist.com/t/vo2-max/84249/10?u=unicyc

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Newbie here thought I can’t count myself as a unicyclist unless 2 full crank rotations count! I have long been interested in the wilder shores of human powered transport and amongst my machines count an upright racing trike, several 2 wheel and 3 wheel recumbents, and several kickbikes. I bought a unicycle a few years ago and have had it gnawing in the back of my brain ever since with repeated attempts to learn using different YT suggested techniques. At the moment I’m trying out the crawl along the wall approach, hopefully this time I can keep at it long enough to gain a bit of mastery.

My machine is an Indy Freestyle 20”, chrome plated with ISIS cranks. The engine is 55 years old and in reasonable condition from years and years of running.

My ambitions? Firstly, to stay on the thing long enough to make some progress. Ultimately I’d like to get it out for some reasonable distances. I also hope it will improve my core strength and translate into better aerobic fitness. Most of my running is done in the local forests and I’d be very happy if I could get into the woods with it.

Reading the posts here is very encouraging and reassures me that it’s hopefully not a fruitless cause!

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I started this post because alot of us are just like you either restarting our unicycling after many years or taking up unicycling from scratch after 50 years of age. We have heard from riders coming back from major injuries and health concerns that have conquered the one wheeled beast. While some of us enjoy rather tame road and bike path riding, others have excelled at muni, trials, hill climbing and long distance touring.
My hope is that this thread continues and will be a source of inspiration and a resource for new riders over the age of 50 as well as inspiring all of us to continue riding . Don’t give up, this forum has many resources to help you learn to ride. Keep us posted on your progress.

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Cool Thread!

I started when I was 42. That was 21 years ago. I was rockclimbing the best I ever had while I rode. IT helped with fine tuning my balance. Took to MUni and loved it for 3 years. I spent hours here reading nightly learning and even organized some unicycle gatherings. I thought I would never stop.

@ 7 years later, I did stop losing interest and eventually sold all my unis a 29er, two trials unis, and a Wilder Muni. I kept the original Muni I bought from UDC, though. I gave that one to one of my sons recently and he is learning to ride it at UC Davis.

Somehow it lost it’s luster for me. :slightly_frowning_face: Not sure why. I moved on to two wheels and MTB. Though, recently, I picked up uni riding again to ride at vintage trailer rallies in Southern California. The larger rallies (180+ trailers) often do a Saturday morning bike ride through the RV resort hosting the rally. I am becoming the unicycle guy at trailer rallies. :smile:

Cheers,

Rod

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I’m 70, and have been unicycling for 23 years (including muni but also road/tour and track racing).
Like wobbling_bear, I hope to continue for a long time. I don’t know about the serenity he seems to value, but I would agree that’s a lot better than senility :slight_smile:

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In the spirit of keeping this post going I would like to bring the topic of aches and pains. As some one who live in the north east of the US and as colder damper weather approaches my aches and pains are more prevalent, particularly in my hips and lower back. For me I have dealt with lower back discomfort for many years but the hip thing is new. I would like to hear how other older riders are dealing with their aches and pains. I also think it would be interesting to hear from riders that have rebounded from joint replacements and back surgeries.

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I have different worries.
I am suffering more and more from heat exhaustion: when temperature rises I can’t move anymore (that hampered my participation to the last UNICON) I am eagerly waiting for fall and winter :thinking:
My other problem is severe orthostatic hypotension : jumping on the 36er is often a nightmare.
(no aches and pain after riding : I am lucky)

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Maybe I’m just lucky but after 4 knee surgeries (5 screws in) and a partial knee replacement when I was 64 (due to ice hockey and soccer injuries), I really don’t have any pain that prevents me from unicycling (or cycling or golfing). I fractured my elbow when I was 67 (that was due to unicycling!) and I have 7 screws in there now but no pain. The only time I really feel it is when getting out of bed in the morning but after ten minutes of walking around my lower back pain resolves. But I’m probably taking the unicycling easier than you. I stick to smooth roads and roller hockey rinks. 70 now, FWIW.

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As a 50+ rider, who has been injury free for the past few years. Full disclosure not always had the following:
a.) Torn hamstring muscle
b.) Wrist sprain
c.) Pec Sprain
d.) Shoulder, rotator cuff issues
e.) Grizzly bear shin tears(thanks to aluminum stud pedals)
All from the learning process, riding new terrain, and not respecting fatigue.

I want to share a few “do’s and don’ts” to remain injury free:
1.) Always, always, always, wear the same shoes when riding. Not just for grip, but also for release. This must be consistent and predictable, and for "gosh sakes(Mayor Wilkins, Sunnydale) never ever wear clip-on pedals with unicycles, because you need to bail, sometimes.

2.) Never lose touch with the unicycle more than a week. Unavoidable, during a big injury recovery…in which case…be ready to start from zero, again. However, when healthy but “busy with life” get your butt on the one wheel at least once/twice a week. Just free-mounting, idling or riding for 5 minutes in an empty parking lot, keeps your unicycle brain active and sharp, so you never get brain freeze and fall, when you do actually go for a long ride.

3.) Always, wear the same pants or bicycle shorts when riding. A few millimeters can make a big difference in riding elevation. This ofcourse is not as critical as the shoe thing.

4.) Always(actually you cannot consciously will this action) jump off the pedals with both feet and land on both feet. This is a benefit from practicing item (2.), above.

5.) Every now and then, do an intentional abort. It is so easy to forget how to fall, or what falling feels like. So, now and then I will ride into grass and jump off. Perhaps, even practice the classic judo roll. However, this is something I easily forget to do, periodically.

So, do any of you 50+ riders have any “carved in granite” rules to follow to avoid injuries?
…slam

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My only general rule is protect/try to understand your body so to continue enjoying unicycling to the max!

My unicycle learning / body adjusting injuries include:
Firstly, Ankles taking repeated impacts from UPDs
(this was the first time I was afraid my unicycle days were over)
I got ankle braces (with hinge) and wore them until I felt my ankles were protected/grew accustomed to the new sensations.

Yesterday, I started learning to ride my 36" Schlumpf unicycle, with many UPDs. I’m back to being careful to protect the ankles again.

I go through shoes pretty regularly, the soles seem to detach.

I always wear wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads. Recently, I have added a plastic Knee shield (from a gardening knee pad) - over the knee pads - this provides a sliding hard surface on the road, saving me falling forward onto wrists.
Recently I came off the KH36, flying forward faster than I could run. I instinctively when down on knees, leaned back and slid for a few meters on the plastic knee shields (same as how skateboarders land on knees in the skate bowls.

Worst injury was a grade one ligament tear, and was off unicycling for a month. (this was the second time I thought my unicycle days were over)
I found some great You-tube rehabilitation videos and learnt more about the functioning of the human body.

I have clocked up 4800km on the KH36 since April 2022, and that is the first thing I tell work colleagues and the boss, to emphasis my safety attitude. I’m certain everyone is watching me as I walk in the office in the morning - seeing if I have any limps etc.

You guys that can ride with pains are so amazing in my eyes, I’m a big wimp when it comes to enduring pains.

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I took up uni 5 years ago at 67. I’m a bicycle fan, and when my accumulated mileage surpassed the distance around the earth, I decided to learn uni as a challenge. I set out with the goal of being able to go around one block. I attended classes at the University of YouTube, and was NOT PREPARED for the level of difficulty. I managed to successfully go around a rather small block near here (with houses, so it wasn’t too small), but I still consider myself a beginner. I can’t go anywhere until I learn to freemount, so that’s my current goal. I’m really not giving it much attention, though, because it’s hard to find a good, safe place to practise. At this point, I can ride an average of 150 m/500 ft, and that’s been unchanged for the past 2 years. Now it’s getting cold here (Montreal, Canada), so I will probably have to leave it until spring.

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Don’t give up, in my opinion having a judgement free zone to train in is very beneficial to progressing. Look around and see if there is an indoor bike park in your area. I’m not one to ride in the winter so I rode at one in my area for several winters to keep my skills up. I plan to ride there Jan through March of the upcoming year, they have a nice open space to ride.

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I started riding 3 months ago at age 67. I was 80 lb overweight and wanted to use the unicycle as motivation to lose weight. At first, I thought for sure I would have a heart attack. That didn’t happen.

I have gotten so I can ride my 24” around parking lots, but my legs are still getting tired quickly. The farthest I have ridden without dismount is about 900’.

This week I have been working on freemounting my 19”. I’m over 50% successful now (last evening it was 80%). I’m ready to hit the bike path and stretch my distance chops.

As for injuries, I have taken a few spills that made me question the sanity of a 67 year old fat guy doing this. A few nights ago, I tumbled on one of my freemounts. The uni kicked back, my feet came up, and I landed on my garage floor chest first. After a few minutes on the concrete, I decided I hadn’t broken anything, got up (slowly), and continued. Gotta get back on the horse, right? After last night evening’s success, it’s time to work on freemounting the 24, which to this point has been only 20% successful.

I don’t know how far my uni adventure will take me. I have asked for a 27.5” Muni for Christmas. We’ll see. And so far, I’m down 20 lb.

John

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I know when my weight is up 5 or 10 pounds I see a marked difference in my riding and mounting. As you loose weight I’m sure you will see a difference.
As for mounting practice you may find mounting in an open space better. I know when I would practice in the garage the closed in nature of not riding off or focusing on something in the distance effected my success rate, maybe no so much with smaller wheels but definitely with 26 and up.
Once you experience several miles of uninterrupted riding and the ability to freemount at will you will be hooked. Before you buy your next uni make sure you are focusing on the type of riding you plan on doing. I know my 26 nimbus muni with the duro wildlife tire is a lot heavier than my nimbus 29er road with a schwable hurricane tire. My 29er is easier for me to ride and maneuver on pavement and crushed limestone paths. I usually ride the 26 when I know I’m going to get into some mud, roots and chunky gravel. The muni is not as comfortable on pavement do to the aggressive tread and lower tire pressure.
Good luck and keep at it.

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I agree with you, Bug72, but the weather is so crappy around here right now that it’s either practice in the garage or get no saddle time. Plus, we no longer have evening light. This weekend it’s supposed to rain constantly and the following weekend I have commitments. So, at least 2 1/2 weeks before I can hit the trail.

On the bright side, tonight’s mounting practice in the garage was great. I got 80% success on the 19”, so I pulled out the 24”. On that, I got just over 50% success, a new record. And no falls, which is ALWAYS a good thing. :grinning:

John

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To be honest, if you started unicycling at the age of 67 while 80 pounds overweight, and you’re still doing it, you win! That is super impressive. Quitting is so easy. Persevering, not so easy. Impressive.

About the same age, I started on the 24" and recently moved to a 20" to work on idling. I know the math doesn’t make sense, but a UPD from a 20" is so much, much less impactful than a fall from a 24". Wish I had started there.

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