Victorian Uni Society in The Age

In today’s (Friday) Melbourne Age there was an article about the
Victorian Unicycle Society. It had a few pictures and seemed like a
good portrayal. I haven’t read it yet, so I don’t have pages or
details, but I’ll pass them on when I get a chance.

nic

Re: Victorian Uni Society in The Age

The article is below.

Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ

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The Culture - Not just clowning about, this is serious fun.

By Chris Johnston.
721 words
3 January 2003
The Age
3
English
© 2003 Copyright John Fairfax Holdings Limited. www.theage.com.au. Not available for re-distribution.

VICTORIAN UNICYCLE SOCIETY

Unicycles, say members of a Melbourne club devoted to them, are not just for clowns. A one-wheeled bike can be used to ride to work. Or it can be employed in extreme sports. The clown thing, they say, is just a misconception. Although a driving force behind the club is a clown.

Matt Wobbly, 30, also known as Mr Wobbly, makes his living clowning at corporate gigs, kids’ parties, circuses. He’s also the Australian backwards unicycle champion.

“If you call my telephone message bank,” he says, “you’ll hear, `Hello, you’ve reached the Australian Backwards Unicycle champion, but he can’t take your call right now …'.”

What’s your real name?

“Wobbly. I come from a long line of Wobblies.” No it isn’t.

Mr Wobbly reckons if you want to become world champion in something you have to be either really good at it or pick something “esoteric”. He did the latter.

Club member Sally Murray, 30, won silver in the women’s 100-metre, unicycle sprint, making her the second-fastest female unicyclist in the country.

“That’s right,” she says. “But there were only three in the race.”

The events were at the Unicycle National Championships, held in Canberra last year. As well as backwards riding, there was unicycle basketball and unicycle hockey. There were also races (100 metres, 200 metres, etc) and jumps. Did you know that, in unicycle long jump, riders stay on the unicycle, whereas, for high jump, they don’t? So it’s far from just clowning around. Many involved with unicycling consider themselves athletes and distance themselves from the sillier aspect.

“In the wider world of unicycling, there are divisions,” says Hakan Yaman, a member of the Victorian Unicycle Society.

“Some clubs would simply not allow a clown anywhere near them. They wouldn’t want to be associated with any pie-in-the-face stunts, nothing like that. It’s a very surreal scene when you go to something like the National Championships,” he says. “There are all kinds of people there and some have the whole unicycle lifestyle. You’ll say, Hi, I'm Hakan'. And it'll be, Hi, I’m Conan the Bubbleman’.”

Yaman, 37, says the emphasis within the 30-member Victorian Unicycle Society is fun, pure and simple. Apart from Mr Wobbly, there are no other clowns. Yaman, for example, and Murray, are emergency-ward doctors who unicycle whenever they get the chance and meet with the club to ride on a Carlton park’s basketball court most Friday nights.

Learning, Murray says, is hard, but, after that, it’s easy. Deceptively so. “It’s all about finding a new way of balancing,” she says. "You sort of balance from your waist, which takes a while to get used to, but, once you do, it’s fine. All it takes is lots of practice.

“The best way to learn is wedge yourself on the unicycle in the hallway of a house with your hands on the walls, or between two friends, or between two parked cars. After that, you graduate to a basketball pole or something like that. Basically, if you can ride a bike, you can ride a unicycle.”

And contrary to popular myth, falling off is not really a problem.

“Your feet are so close to the ground,” says Murray, “that you always fall right on them.”

Not content with riding to work or tootling about on a basketball court or even competing in races, sports and jumps, two Victorian Unicycle Society members, brothers Phil and David Owen, aged 42 and 39, have modified their unicycles to go off-road and extreme. They dodge mountain-bikers down tracks on Mount Dandenong, for example. Or ride in the snow at Lake Mountain. Because there’s no freewheeling and no gears, this kind of thing is difficult and gruelling.

“It’s an amazing workout for your quads and lower back,” says David Owen, who rides 60 kilometres a week to and from work in the CBD.

“But the only reason you’d ever ride a unicycle, in the end, is for fun. It’s a ludicrous form of transport.”

Contact the Victorian Unicycle Society through victurs@yahoo.com.