What's next? Tales of an old guy..

As an old-guy unicyclist (learned at 50, now 53) I have been riding off and on for a couple of years now. Less recently.

It seems like I have lost momentum on my progress. I started on a 24", bought a 29 and 36, and I loved them, but could never quite feel comfortable, and I am back to my KH 24" muni. I have great confidence on this particular uni.

My skills consist of being able to free mount almost first time very time, riding on roads, and dirt bike trails. I can turn in the width of a suburban road and do figure eights. I cannot go backwards, cannot idle. I find riding in grass on uneven lawns a bit challenging

I would really like to be able to stop, idle and, not get thrown off any bump over 2". I need some challenges to give me something to work toward. I am not sure what a good next step would be?

Thoughts?? thanks

Well, it sounds like you’re at a good point to try to learn idling, although I just did it on a 20-inch, which might be easier than on the unis you have. It took me about three weeks of almost daily practice, but I am a slow learner, so you might get it sooner.

There are probably some good idling tutorials somewhere on this forum, but in a nutshell: first, learn to stall, then try to do a tiny backpedal while stalling, then make a bigger backpedal and try to do more than one per stall. The key for me to get beyond two or three backpedals at a time was to learn to rotate right or left while traveling backwards. That way you regain your balance without giving up your idling. You can try it against a wall as well, though I’m not sure how helpful that was for me. At a certain point in the process, rather than a linear back and forth, you’ll be drawing flowers on the ground with your wheel, where each petal of the flower is outlined by a curving forward and backward journey as you struggle for balance. Later, you’ll get more stable, and the flowers will be gone.

Good post, bluesman. I’m still on the steep part of the curve about five months after starting, but I do think a lot about what I where I want to be eventually and what I ought to be working on to get there.

I’ll be interested in seeing how you go with this. What would you think about working toward doing some tricks as a goal, along the lines perhaps of what kahunacohen has been up to? There might be an old-guy tendency–myself very much included–to think first about covering ground, point A to point B. Maybe look toward things to do in a small space?

I really like the “flower” simile, song! I’m trying to learn to idle now, and I see what you mean.

My advice to bluesman is to continue going off-road as much as you can. I’m in a similar situation as you (although I’m only about a year in to it now). I delayed going off-road until quite recently because I was pretty nervous about trying it. I’ve only gone on a couple of trails so far, but my riding has improved noticeably in all respects from so doing. The very uneven nature of the trails forces your body/mind to make lots more corrections than on the street, and after that the street seems easy. So keep challenging yourself. (In this particular activity, there are certainly no shortage of challenging things to try!)
Good luck! (and post pictures!)

Congratulations, song! That’s a real accomplishment. I’ll have to try your flower practice.

And trying a small wheel might be something else for bluesman to consider. A small light wheel does seem to ease the curve of learning new skills.

20 inch uni

I do have a standard Torker 20 incher so that sounds like it might be a good way to try new things?

I would suggest learning to hop, which is easier than idling, and will be more useful for riding off-road. Air down your tire (for the KH MUni, it probably can go as low as 15-20 psi), hold onto a pole or a wall with your off hand, hold the handle with your handle hand, and start pogo-sticking. Flex your ankles to push down on the tire, and then pull up. You don’t need the hops to be big at first, just enough to get the tire off the ground, re-compress it, and hop again. If you get to the point where you can hop in one place with small hops, you’ll have a skill that will translate in a lot of different contexts.

Also, find a group to ride with; seeing how other people handle obstacles can help you make huge gains in your own technique.

Great to see that you are still riding, even if less frequently. I would divide your goals into two types: basic skills and muni skills. The basic skills (stopping and idling) can be practiced on your 20" in your driveway (or anywhere you can ride). Song’s advice on how to practice idling is good.

Practicing the muni skills requires some bumpy off-road terrain that you can ride until it becomes second nature. Riding in grass can be tricker than riding on a dirt trail because you can’t see the bumps/holes.

Don’t forget to just go out and ride for fun as well. If practicing becomes your only riding you can sometimes forget why you want to improve your skills. Have fun!

I’m 50 and I just started up again after more than 30 years - I bought a 26" Muni and I’m learning all over again - I was able to ride 20 feet or so the first time I got on but I have forgotten how to sit down and let the uni do the work - my stamina is crap, and I’m out of shape - All I want to be able to do is to ride off road on some trails here in Houston at the moment - I’m not gonna give up. some day, Ill ride downhill, down rocks, all of it - Then Ill get a 36er!! :astonished:

Good ideas

Hopping and idling seem to fall in the same type of skill (not moving forward) and sound like a great next skill challenge.

Just FYI, I have spent most of my riding off road on the dirt trail near my house, but it is funny how even in my best shape, I could ride that uneven trail for over a mile each way without any UPD’s, but my ability to turn around in the width of a street if I didn’t practice would diminish. The trail is also flat and wide and straight, or singletrack with some roots,so I have no “hill-skills” as well. The off road riding is really great for endurance and balance, but didn’t seem to hone my turning, hill, curb jumping, or other skills.

Maybe in addition to the idling and hopping I need to ride some different trails that will challenge me differently with hills, etc.

Tholub’s right about finding a group to ride with, and also about hopping. At first, I combined learning to hop with learning to idle, as both skills require stalling, but eventually I became unable to stall without automatically going into an idle, and once you’re rocking back and forth, hopping becomes difficult. Anyway, my point is just that a lot of skills are actually more distant from each other than they appear to be at first. If you learn to idle with your left foot down, learning it with your right foot down feels like starting over from zero…

Well, you appear to be stuck, but it ain’t over by a long shot.

I think what you need to do is learn how to ride over obstacles, starting with “sticky” surfaces like grass and perhaps gravel, then move on to small roots and rocks.

Many folks don’t make the “jump” to big wheels because they never got comfortable rolling obstacles, so they go back to small wheels and hop over the obstacles instead. There is nothing wrong with hopping, but it’s not necessary for obstacles under six inches in diameter.

^^ If this is you, then the first step is to learn how to roll an obstacle. A 29" is a tad tall for learning to roll obstacles, so I’d either use the 24" or trade the 29" for a 26".

Start the process by finding a trail that is at the edge of your ability, you want success but you want to work for it, do repeats, see if you can find a line and develop a flow. You want to ride through the obstacle, letting the uni move up and over as you ride along, then once you have the basics of riding over obstacles without stopping or UPDs, then work your way up to bigger and badder.

I find road riding boring, so I only ride muni AND I rarely hop other than to regain my balance when I get catywampus :wink:

Neither can I, but honestly, I am at a loss as to understand why I need to idle or ride backwards. I never needed it when I rode bikes, so why would I need it to ride muni??

Definitely, riding different terrain will increase your skills. If you want to specifically increase turning skills, the ball sports (hockey, basketball, polo) are outstanding practice, if you can find a group doing them (or just try on your own). Another thing that’s good for turning practice is to grab onto an isolated pole and turn around it while holding on. Try to increase the amount you’re leaning the unicycle, so the circle gets bigger, and then try to reduce the amount you’re using the pole. And try it in both directions.

I rarely use idling or backwards riding when doing MUni, but I use idling all the time when riding around town (not to mention playing basketball).

If you want to be challenged to do new things you can always join the OUT superbeginner game. We challenge one another with lots of useless skills like you describe :p, while the skills themselves can be silly, learning them definitely makes you a better rider all around. It also gives you a reason to get outside and riding. It’s usually folks from all over the age spectrum so you shouldn’t feel too out of place…

I think idling and riding backward are great skills to learn. Maybe not directly usable in muni, but they develop the kind of control over the uni that’s transferable to any type of riding.

IMO any skills on the uni, freestyle, trials, flatland etc. can only make you a better more confident rider, plus they are fun and challenging to learn!

A couple of suggestions:

Commit. I’m at the exact same stage as you; I just committed to being a unicycling waiter at a Halloween party in 3 weeks. Suddenly I’m spending an hour per day trying to learn to idle and make tight turns. :slight_smile:

Ride with other people. OK, I’ve actually never been anywhere near another unicyclist while on my unicycle - yet. But it seems like a good idea: where are you in MA? I’m in Littleton; I’d love to figure out a time to get together and compare notes & techniques.


Good suggestions everyone:)

For other riders, check the map.

Sam, davidp is in Chelmsford, MA (the closest to you who bothered to put their location on the map).

OK, slight thread hijack here, sorry about that. thanks skilewis74 for the tip about the map. I never noticed it there before. There are some members not far from me, but it doesn’t appear they post here very often (never seen any). I entered information for my location, but a little red tag did not appear, so I’m not sure what I did wrong. Anyway, thanks for the info.

We now return to our regular thread topic.

Tips for rolling over obstacles

Hi Nurse Ben,

Rolling over 6" obstacles with a 24" is impressive. I would love to be able to do that.

Could you please provide specific tips / techniques for learning to roll over obstacles?