Wheel Spin & New Riders

I bought my wife one of the clearance Koxx unicycle on Amazon because she’s interested in learning to ride. After making a couple of small cosmetic changes, I rode it around a little and couldn’t help but notice how easily the wheel spins with new bearings. For those of us who are already riding; I see this as a plus; however, it also seems like something that might be a hindrance for someone learning to ride.

For those of you who have taught others how to ride, have you ever made an effort to slightly increase wheel resistance to help with the learning process? If so, did it help? It seems like this could easily be done either by tightening the bearing holders or creating a light drag with a brake.

I wouldn’t recommend it. Why risk damaging your unicycle by jamming up the bearings? I see any unnaturally increased resistance as being counterproductive to learning to ride. The feel will be totally different once you remove that resistance and the person will have to unlearn bad habits just to figure it back out again.

I like the sink or swim philosophy of learning. Strap her up with a bunch of gear and let her figure it out as it’s meant to be figured out! Eventually, she’ll get it. Unicycling is one of those amazing things where the smallest amount of progress creates an almost audible “click” in the brain, saying “let me do that again!” or “I can go further next time!” No need to make those clicks quieter.

Hmmm… you definitely make some good points. From my experience (which is mainly limited to strength and contact sports), sink or swim almost exclusively leads to sink; however, I realize that riding a unicycle is a little different. Still, I do like the idea of an incremental approach to training.

Just out of curiosity, did you learn on a trainer or one of your Nimbus unicycles? At different points in the learning process, I used an Avenir, a Sun, and a Torker. None of these wheels would spin like my Nimbus and Koxx wheels do. I’m simply thinking about slowing the wheel down to the point where she can better understand what the wheel is doing without having to finesse it. For example, if it spins 12 times freely now, tightening up the bearing holders so that it only spins 4-6 might make it more manageable.

Ultimately, I realize that it’s up to my wife, and she’ll either decide that she wants to learn or she’ll give it up; however, if I can help provide some early victories, I’m hoping that it might help her persevere.:smiley:

Thanks for your thoughts!

I can’t see how increasing the resistance to pedalling is going to help at all. It’s not going to make it any easier to keep the wheel underneath her, which is what you have to do to ride a uni. Slowing the wheel down isn’t going to slow down the speed at which she falls over.

OTOH I suggest you look into getting new bearings for your uni.

In my opinion, the whole process of unicycling - from the first pedal rotation to the last double-frontflip inverted 1080 unispin with a twist - is an incremental approach to training. It is always a series of small steps that build on each other, and no matter how long you’ve been riding there are always more small steps you can take to learn something new or do something better.

Let’s say you start on a fence. Before long you learn to awkwardly balance while sitting on the uni. Then you start to pedal, holding onto the fence. Small steps, but progress. Eventually, wow, you’ve gotten two rotations without touching the fence! And that turns into three, which turns into three yards, which turns into three miles.

Then you take those same small steps and apply them elsewhere - “wow, now I can learn to go backwards. One rotation… two…” You master that, and then you apply the same series of small steps you’ve already conquered to idling, and so on, and so on, for 200 years or so until you decide to change your last name to Holm or Schulze.

That’s one of the main reasons I don’t think any unnatural restrictions would be a good idea.

I learned on my Nimbus 20". I knew it was what I wanted to ride, so I figured it was the best thing to start learning on. Likewise, when I learned my 36", I started with the 114mm cranks because I knew that’s what I wanted to ride with as opposed to really long ones. The initial frustration might have been greater, but the dedication to mastering it won out by a long shot.

Learn on the grass. :slight_smile:

I think this might be where I’m getting hung up.

Why wouldn’t slightly increased residence improve pedal control? It works with a rolla bolla (e.g. learning on plush carpet instead of tile), and the balance aspects seem similar to those used when learning to ride (before you really start putting weight in the seat).

As far as bearings are concerned, I’ve gotten rid of everything but the Sun. Bearings are on the list as soon as I can convince myself to stop buying unicycles!:stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for humoring me! I know the only legitimate answer is really just to put her on the thing and see what happens.

+1 cause dirt don’t hurt. A wider high volume tire at lower psi would also add a few watts of rolling resistance. The Maxxis Creepy Crawler on our KH19 is 2.5 wide made to be run at 10-12 psi. Whereas the 1.95 wide Kenda on our 19" Club needs more psi robbing you of that precious rolling resistance you seek.

If you are really so convinced that the best way for her to learn is on a slowed-down wheel, I agree with David Hood that a fat, soft tire is the way to go. When I was learning, though, I quickly gravitated toward higher tire pressures because I liked feeling sure of myself, and under-inflated tires have a certain squishy ambiguity that I only learned to appreciate later on.

Traditionally it’s suggested to lower the pressure in the tire for learning, but this mostly makes it more resistant to twisting to the side. For a total beginner rider, a small difference in bearing friction is not going to be notceable; not a factor in learning.

Fat, soft tire is good, but it’s also heavier than the equivalent “regular” wheel of the same diameter, so you gain a bit but maybe lose a bit.

I learned on a Troxel; a unicycle made by a tricycle company, out of tricycle parts. Nylon bushings for bearings. If you want friction, get one of those. Balance that against the rigid plastic tire though; you can’t let any air out. That thing was so crappy it was probably twice as hard to learn on than any brand of unicycle you can find today. :slight_smile:

Agreed. Have taught two uni riders, both on my KH trials with a Creepy Crawley at fairly low pressure across grass then moving on to harder surfaces.

They were both riding short distances on the grass with less than an hour in the saddle and thirty metres across hard surfaces not long afterwards.

Well, it looks like the general consensus is that I’m in the weeds on this one. On a positive note, the unicycle already has a trials tire, so that might help a little with the learning process. If not, I’ll just have to hope that my wife is willing to part with it!:stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t think the idea that greater resistance can be a useful experience at some stages of learning is necessarily untrue - had an interesting experience this weekend with first attempts at riding up a hill that got gradually steeper, and found that the way more and more effort would have to go to turning the wheel seemed to change the effort “wasted” on controlling it.

In contrast, trying to ride the same 20" wheel on a lawn was just frustrating, given the inch-by-inch variation in resistance.

So finding a hill where one can mount on nearly flat portion and then charge up a steeping section might be worthwhile.

This is a really interesting observation.

When I first started riding, I quickly took to muni. I live in a pretty mountainous area with the slopes on the wilderness trails greatly exceeding the grades on nearby roads and bike paths. For me, riding off-road has had a pretty significant carryover to road riding. If I were to guess, for every muni ride that I did, my skill/comfort level would increase an equivalent amount to three urban rides (long distance riding excluded). I had assumed that this was due to the uneven terrain; while I’m sure that this is partially true, the control gained by navigating numerous hills may have played an equally important role.

If my wife decides that she wants to ride, this is definitely something that we’ll include. If I can figure out a way in include hill training in my own training, I may do so as well.


How does resistance affect the learning process? Resistance comes from three places I can think of: hub, tire and terrain.

  1. Hub: I think resistance in the hub would be a bad thing for a beginner. When the rider’s center-of-gravity gets a bit in-front or behind the axle, the unicycle starts rolling out in that direction, causing the pedals to start turning. The rider must, at this point, exert an opposing pressure to the imbalance. Adding resistance to the hub would mean that, for small increments of forward-back imbalance, the normal feedback in the pedals would be masked by the resistance of the hub. In other words, the feet would not necessarily know the exact moment you became unbalanced.

  2. Tire: A softer, wider tire might aid a beginner in mounting and riding straight, but a similar masking of feedback to the feet would occur with a soft tire, such as I mentioned above with the resistant hub.

  3. Terrain: I am a big fan of learning on the grass. Fine gravel is also nice, because when falling, we tend to slide sideways, rather than jamming all our weight directly into the pavement. It is difficult, however, to start moving on a resistant or uneven surface. Perhaps a meter-square piece of plywood could be used for the launch, then the rest of the ride could be done on soft grass. This would provide a low-friction launch-pad and a soft, easy-to-fall-on surface on which to ride, after the initial momentum was achieved.

Me too. Best start learning on grass until the rider is able to fall off well and avoids falling backwards before moving on to harder surfaces.

I started learning on rough grass. There were numerous irregularities that I tried to ride around but, as riding comes before steering, many times I cursed having to ride though the holes which threw me off most of the time. But I learnt a lot about the dynamics of riding on the occasions where I did ride though them and I certainly learned how to fall off on the others.

Interesting idea. A flat mown area works well too. My learner launch area also has a very slight downhill slope which helps towards getting moving.

The average patch of grass, in my experience, is deceptively hard to ride on due to constantly changing levels of friction, and invisible irregularities to the ground beneath. Unicycle races on grass can be interesting because you never know when you’re going to hit a bump or hole that will knock you flat. Don’t tailgate in a uni race on grass (I speak from experience)!

I can’t imagine grass being anything other than a psychological thing, in that it’s much more friendly to fall down on. Most grass is too irregular to be anything other than frustrating to a beginner rider. If you have a known area of grass over nice, smooth dirt, like a golf course when nobody’s looking, that would probably work really well though, and come with a decent dose of friction as well.

“I learned on a Troxel” With a name like that you didn’t have to add any more!