unicycling makes you smarter

Hi, I found this link to a scientific study on Lutz Eichholz Instagram post:

It says:
"Learning to ride a unicycle results in reorganization of different types of brain tissue facilitating more automated postural control,
clearly demonstrating that learning a complex balance task modulates brain structure in manifold and highly dynamic ways."

Huh. Didn’t work for me.


I read that it changes your brain. Or maybe it made me dumber?

Isn’t this true for all New skills learned?

Smart? How about Insane?

I think they define insanity as “doing something over/over and expecting a different outcome”.

That about describes the desire to learn how to unicycle. No analytical or theoretical derivation pointed the path to learn how to uni.

Pure energy and defiance of nature and the way of the world. There are so many reasons to “not” try it, that I had to try it…over/over/over.

I don’t think this came from the smart side of my brain.

Those who believe this is the central skill of riding only learn once they forget it.

Such was the case when I learnt so it took me a long time.

However, subsequent theoretical analysis and observation undertaken after learning to ride myself has pointed to paths that have helped me teach others to learn very quickly.

Unicycling likely isn’t anything special, but the result that physical activity, and learning movements helps our brain is important. Whether thats gymnastics or unicycling probably doesn’t matter.

I know what you are getting at, but adjusting balance can be getting your contact patch under your center of gravity by “riding where you are falling”, or getting your center of gravity over your contact patch (or opposite to where you are falling). It’s an article about your brain activity when unicycling, not a physics article anyway…

Also, most people who unicycle have no clue which of the two they are doing, they just do it. Conciously analizing is not always necessary for learning a skill. If you tell a kid to try standing on one foot, you don’t tell them “You need to use your calves to push more with the front of the foot when you fall over.” You say: “try again” after they fall, and they figure out how not to fall without knowing what they did differently.

Absolutely. However it can help to analyse but only if the analysis is correct.

The big problem with so much analysis about unicycling is that it is plain wrong and it works against learning. A lot of “saddle physicists” fail to actually validate their presumptions through observation.

Among the most common are those who advise that the unicycle should be ridden perfectly upright. They usually argue, citing how many riders they have taught, until I ask them to post a photograph showing someone riding this way.

Their usual justification involves an analogy with “balancing a stick on your finger”. They come to the wrong conclusion because the analogy is inappropriate.

I assume the thickening of the cortex of the subjects, reported in the study, happened regardless of whether or not the subjects consciously analyzed what they were doing. It was the physical act of unicycling, not consciously thinking about it, that caused the change in the brain.

And, by the way, what I’m saying is extremely enlightened, because I took a long ride this afternoon!

The article reminds me of the importance of learning new unicycling skills. I spent a lot of time recently struggling to learn the wheel walk. I wonder if that helped my brain. To an onlooker, I must have looked like an idiot! Struggling to ride my guni in high gear throws a monkey wrench into basic riding. I wonder if that strengthens my brain.

The most demonstrable form of intelligence demonstrated by unicyclists is a kind of emotional intelligence that allows them to persevere with little or no gratification during the difficult learning stage.

Yup. It reminds me that one of the important things that kept me going, back when I was trying to learn to ride on one of the world’s worst unicycles (Troxel). It was the simple fact that other mere mortals from my own local neighborhood could do it. If they could, why couldn’t I?

And like people do when they try to apply “simple” physics to unicycling, I left out crucial details. They were on Schwinns, with ball bearings, real pedals and air tires. I was not. :astonished:

I’m probably in there somewhere. I would counter that with the advice being what the rider should strive for, but doesn’t have to be perfect. However if you’re not there to offer feedback as the person is learning, you won’t be able to tell them they don’t have to sit up that bold upright.

Having said that, you won’t be surprised to know I can provide plenty of examples of pictures of people riding perfectly upright. While this is the exception rather than the rule, it’s not impossible.

Enjoy the pix; mostly posted just for fun. :slight_smile:

With freestyle, sitting upright is more required, as I think you can make those fine turns best that way, only slightly hanging the way you want to go, but with municycling or with a strong wind like I had yesterday, ur more bound to ride bent over bit. I suppose riding uphill while sitting as much upright as you can, requires a lot of leg muscle.

Exactly. As in any steering system, one trades stability off against responsiveness by shifting the geometry to more or less rake on the forks.

One of the interesting things about a unicycle is that it is the only wheeled vehicle with completely free suspension and steering geometry. Add in the forces coming in via offset cranks and you have a seriously complex matrix.

One night I discussed the subject with a family friend who has a lifetime of racing motorcycles and knows everything there is to know about bike geometry. He told me the next day that he lay in bed after our discussion trying to comprehend what goes on in a unicycle and it “blew his mind”.

It is remarkable that unicyclists’ brains are able to build a mental model that really works. I have only been riding for five years and I am amazed at the reflexes I have developed that allow me to stay upright under duress.

Better that the learner understands it only takes a tiny body lean (not hunch over) forward to cause the unicycle frame to lean back a little and that this geometry is what one must strive for while trying to gain control of a unicycle.

Too upright and the the unicycle becomes very unforgiving of imprecise operation. Sure advanced riders on flat surfaces can get close to upright but just check out what you instinctively do next time you ride over the rough.

The first two photos are in circumstances where it is very hard to judge the riders orientation.

The muni photos clearly show the frame leaning back. In order to maintain that lean, the body must lean slightly forward to put the centre of mass above the contact point of the tyre on the road, which is the fundamental requirement of a unicycle and rider in a steady state.

There are notable exceptions while accelerating or retarding where the body must be in a position to use gravity counter overturning forces. Similarly with a geared uni where there is a reaction torque applied to the frame.

The freestyle shots don’t count. They are clearly pirouetting anyway so leaning in the direction of movement is impossible. Besides, freestyle riders have sold their souls to buy the rights to ignore the laws of physics.:wink:

The more I think how to do something new on a uni, the greater my chance of failing. I just say “do it”… followed with very short prayer at times.

Probably less leg than back; the power requirements for the hill would stay the same, but by trying to sit upright, you take away some of your flexibility to bend your waist as necessary for dealing with the bumps. For me, the steeper the terrain, generally the more I’m leaned forward.

That dude really should learn to ride one; he’d appreciate the process more than most! Plus he would then be able to wrap his head around it. :slight_smile:

Exactly. When present to help the rider, this usually translates into “sit up straight” and you can then tell them if they’re overdoing it. That’s why written instructions need to be more detailed.

Picky picky! I would say that’s pretty darn upright for singletrack in the thin air of a Utah mountain. But yes, as the terrain becomes rougher or less predictable, most riders will tend to increase that angle between upper body and frame.

Oh, so you’ve seen Kazuhiro before! He killed it at Unicon 16, winning the Individual title. Now he coaches the young ones. :slight_smile: I threw that picture in because it’s just cool, and of course they’re very upright.

Here’s an example for uphills cranking: Irene Genelin, riding around Lake Tahoe in 2007. It looks flat, but she’s riding up a fairly steep slope, at over 6400’ above sea level. Her lean is necessary to help keep her out front of the contact patch. She rode 100 miles that day, along with 4 or 5 other unicyclists!