What did you learn from your unicycle injury?

This thread is for those of us who seem to get injured too often and wonder what we must be doing wrong. Hopefully this thread will allow us to learn from other’s mistakes without having to learn everything the hard way. Whenever I get injured I like to figure out what went wrong so that I can reduce the likelihood of repeating my mistakes. I know that some helpful information can be found within other threads but I’m hoping this thread with serve to gather all this helpful information in one place. There are other threads about injuries but none seem to be focused on learning from your mistake. I’ll start off with two injuries that I’ve suffered this year that have sidelined me for 4 months! I have too many people in my life telling me that I’m an idiot for riding a unicycle and that I should give it up. However, I love it way too much to give up that easily. However, if these injuries continue over the next year I may have to reconsider unicycling. Since I’m not a big risk taker it is obviously lake of proper technique that is hurting me. Hopefully I can learn from my mistakes and other people’s mistakes before I destroy myself with this sport!

My first injury this year (pulled back muscle)
My first injury was pulling a muscle in my upper back while learning to hop. I took 1 ½ months to recover from this injury before I could ride again.

What did I learn?

I realized that I was pulling up hard on the saddle at the same time I was pushing down on the pedals with my feet. Not on purpose, mind you, but due to lack of coordination since I was just learning to hop. Of course my lower body is going to win this battle every time and the result was a pulled muscle in my upper back. Since then I resist the temptation to pull hard on the saddle when hoping. I should just pull hard enough to lift the weight of the unicycle and if I find myself out of sync then I should just let my grip fail.

My second injury (broken fibula and sprained ankle)
I was riding muni downhill in slightly wet conditions and as I crested a root at the top of a small drop off (5 inches) the wheel shot out in front of me and I fell on top of my ankle (my right leg folded under me). I was wearing ankle braces which saved my ankle from major ankle surgery (according to my doctor) but I still suffered a sprained ankle and a broken fibula. The fibula broke at the thinnest part up near the knee. My doctor said the ankle braces did their job by transferring a lot of the force away from a joint and into the middle of a straight bone. A break in a joint is much worse than a break elsewhere. This happened to me on July 12th and I’m still not allowed to put weight on my right foot or even drive! Imagine not being able to drive for two months? My wife has repeatedly reminded me how much of an inconvenience I have caused my family and how much time I have lost doing things with my son due to my “crazy” hobby. I go back to the doctor this Wednesday and hopefully I can start rehabilitating my leg and ankle. If all goes well I’m hoping to be able go on my first ride on October 1st.

What did I learn?


  • Don’t ride in wet weather. I know that others have done this successfully but at this point I need to find ways to reduce my risk and this is one of them. This is one reason my unicycle slipped on the root.
  • I was too tentative. I was “braking” with my feet as I crested the root whereas I should have allowed myself to ride over the root with at least a little bit of speed. Braking doesn’t work well in slippery conditions.
  • I was leaning back with a very upright posture. Kris Holm mentions in his book that this is an unforgiving position from which it is hard to recover. Apparently I need to bend a lot more at the waist instead. This will take practice since it does not come naturally for me. [/LIST]

    In addition to my injuries this year I have sprained both of my ankles (not at the same time) when I first started muni several years ago. I now wear ankle braces. It took me a month to recover from each sprain. So I’ve had my share of injuries and while I realize that the risk of injury can never be zero I’m hoping I can dramatically lower my risk of injury with proper technique. I hope this thread will prove useful to others who seem to be plagued by injuries.


  • lessons learned

    My injuries are all related to my 29. I love my 29, just having more accidents with it than the 20 or 24, usually a twisted ankle or road rash from UPDs. Worst was a cracked knee bone that happened when I heard a twig in the spokes and looked down and my messenger bag somehow caught the seat. That sidelined my riding for months.

    What did I learn?

    1. Carry a backpack (should have known that)
    2. Wear 661s and not some cheap knee pads that don’t stay on your knees.

    Next purchase is decent elbow pads.


    So far I’ve had minors falls, EXCEPT the day I decided I was going to have a quick practice and I didn’t need any padding for that. That was the day I feel forward and sprained my ankle (scared the hell out of me, because I heard a crack at the same time and was hoping I didn’t break that ankle, as I drive a stick shift!!).
    My lessons was NEVER get on the uni without pads, period.
    That and something I already knew but didn’t do and that’s when I fall, don’t fight it, roll in the direction of the fall, that way any fall will create less injury to me.

    Get off the unicycle before you fall.

    I am actually being serious, there are ways to dismount that help you keep your feet under you:

    Using the handle and your feet, push off from the unicycle as you would from a pommel horse, letting the unicycle go, DO NOT TRY TO SAVE THE UNI.

    This has reduced my “ground falls” ~90%.

    I definitely need to learn how to do this. Too many times I’m on my belly before I even know what happened. I’ve gotten past trying to save the uni but it seems that my reaction time isn’t fast enough. I would love to learn how to do this since it would greatly reduce my likelihood of injury. How do you react fast enough? Perhaps I need to repeatedly crash into a big root and purposely practice this technique.

    As my brother told me ‘don’t pull up on the saddle when you hop, just jump’. I’m a terrible hopper mind you (never practice it really) but his hopping technique helps me to retain control of the uni especially in impromptu hops (E.G. front hopping a root).

    Safety gear

    While it wasn’t a unicycle accident, I broke my patella in half mountaining biking and that has put a severe damper on my entire summer, i.e. no unicycling, no biking, no walking, no fun, etc. :frowning:

    I’m looking at a very long recovery but a recovery nonetheless. Had I been wearing knee protection this absolutely would not have happened. I’ve been riding for many, many years and this was a freak accident.

    When I return to the bike and uni I must ride with knee protection - I can’t afford not to. I’ll also have elbow and shoulder gear as well.

    This has been an exhorbitantly expensive lesson learned.

    It’s not so much about how fast I react as much as how I react. We have all had UPD’s where we walk off the uni, so now all you do is add a bit of downward push on the pedals and seat. The idea is to “get some air” so you have the time and balance to spot a landing or run it out.

    I think of it as “punching out”.

    I still have the odd ground fall, esp if I catch a pedal at speed, or hit something when I’m not paying attention. I suppose staying loose and relaxed helps, avoiding becoming so overly committed that any mistake is a ground fall; i.e. to aggressive in my forward lean.

    I had a upd once, after crossing a street and getting on the sidewalk on the other side, at the bottom of two hills. I instincly jumped back and managed balancing and landing on my feet…except I had chucked my unicycle out onto the middle of the road…luckily no cars were rushing down the hill.super lucky…

    I learned to be more careful and just fall on my body and get a scrattch or two…if I’m wearing protection…versus trying to stay on and ending up falling awkwardly(dislocated a toe once)

    Know your limits and jump off before you get ahead of yourself (skill level) . Landing rib to pedal on your uni will teach you nothing. Frustrating as it may be, learning to ride a unicycle doesn’t have to be painful. Ride a little bit every day and you will get it without getting to banged up.


    Separated shoulder:
    Limit the number of factors that reduce control. For example 120 PSI tire, lead weights on the spokes and 89mm cranks, on a paved road with a scattering of gravel, going downhill as fast as you can with a large backpack and are trying not to be late for class is not recommended.

    And don’t wear large backpacks when riding faster than you can run.

    Cracked Ulna (arm bone)
    Don’t drop onto wet slimy rocks then break your fall with your un-armoured forearm.

    And buy more health insurance when your trip to the States is longer than intended.

    Road rash (arm, side, leg)
    Lace your shoes so they tie to the side, that way even if they come undone they won’t wrap around your pedal spindle.

    It’s hard to land gracefully when your tied onto your unicycle.

    6 stiches this week from going down a mega steep hill. Its about ass long as a footy ball field and is stereo. I was running fat 29er 165s and a avid elixur3. I was going down about walking pace and grabbed some more break to slow down and the break have out and caused bad cuts and I landed on a tree stump on my shoulder and had to get swen up.
    What I know now what to do is walk down that damn hill

    I had an pretty bad ankle sprain a week ago. That’s number four in two years, and they all happened well within my limits. I think the important thing is to stay focused all the time, which is difficult when you ride muni for 3 hours (pretty technical for my level). I never ride muni in the wet.

    I wore ankle braces the last time, and I believe that helped on the impact, and it was also good to have som ankle support on the 2.5 kilometers walk back.

    What I have learned: Use protective gear. Stay focused. There is a risk involved no matter what, so you need a little bit of luck too.

    Ain’t that the truth! For me, broken collar bone, 2007. If you’re wearing shoes with laces, take the time to make sure they are secured. For me, always double-knotted, even if I’m not planning to ride that day. It can’t “hurt”…

    Lesson #1: Always have travel insurance.

    • one broken ankle in the Himalayas, 12hrs on horseback, flying to Kathmandu and having my ankle screwed back together, 2wks worth of third world medicine.

    • one compound Tibia/Fibula fracture, emergency evacuation to Thailand, leg screwed back together, two weeks in hospital and a nurse flying from Auckland to escort me home.

    These injuries would have set me back tens of thousands $$$

    Lesson #2: if something doesn’t feel right on a Schlumpf, don’t ride it.

    Check out any clicks or gear slippage immediately- it could be the first sign of impending failure. Painful at 5km/hr, disastrous at 30km/hr.

    Lesson #3: tuck your shoelaces in, or don’t use them at all.

    Thankfully I only wrapped my laces around a 20" uni at high speed, not a 36".

    I disagree with that, although for many years I preached the same.
    I now have pedals that provide me a lot of grip. I don’t know if it’s imagination or real, but it feels like they are better when wet.

    Or better do like firebrigade, RIOT, SWAT, army and alike dudes: push laces into your shoes, so no loose loops at all.

    You have only one body, and damage that doesn’t recover is shit. Be careful.
    But contrary; taking no risks brings less glory.
    Anyway, it doesn’t hurt to think and especially think ahead.

    Haven’t injured myself badly yet… But one thing I learnt very early is to ALWAYS tuck laces in. I went round to my friend’s house to show him ‘look I can finally ride my unicycle more than 4 yards!’ Pedalled down his street looking awesome. Laces get tangled in the crank, I hit the ground, and my foot gets twisted into a seriously awkward position that I can’t get out of. It took my friend a minute to stop laughing and realise I haven’t stood up yet and come over and carefully un-twist my foot from the wheel to get me free.

    I felt really fragile after that - I didn’t actually injure my ankle, but I felt like I’d hit the limit on how much my foot would twist before something cracked :frowning:

    So lesson learned. As was mentioned earlier, I learnt very fast to dismount and land on my feet when possible instead of staying on the Uni and getting into a mess when I detect danger!

    If I didn’t ride in wet weather, I would not ride half as much as I do!

    Most (all?) of my muni injuries have been in dry weather, so I can’t blame the conditions.

    Falls happen, just look at what happened to Chuck (haskins) while he was riding a bike.

    I fall a fair amount for someome my age, certainly more than anyone I know who is not either a daredevil or another muni rider. I have a constant “rash” of small injuries in various stages of healing, I’m never entirely free of cuts, scrapes, or bruises.

    Ride in the wet or not?

    It depends on the trails you ride. I don’t ride technical muni when wet (XC is ok). The rocks get very slippery in some places, and it is difficult to determine how much traction there is (pedal grip is never a problem). So, for someone on my skill level, muni in wet conditions is like begging to get injuries.

    I could probably ride the easier trails in wet conditions. The problem was that I was riding a trail that is tough for me, the trail was wet and I was riding it on my 29er when I usually ride it on my 24. All of these things contributed to my fall. Unfortunately, all the easier trails that I could ride when wet are closed in wet conditions. So until I get considerably better I’m going to pass on riding in wet conditions.