Why do unicycles exist?

This topic is intended to draw discussion, similar to the “Quote of the day from non-unicyclists” thread. You can offer silly responses, offer interesting replies, or both. This was inspired by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’s season finale, which just aired (with dozens of unicyclists riding all over his set dressed as garish clowns). I’ll start:

“Because people like to do annoying things.”

I’m sure some of you can do better!

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This conversation happened during a recent unicycle group ride. After a couple responses, one member said, “Unicycles were created after people started to ride their Penny Farthings on the front wheel only, by leaning forward and lifting the back wheel off the ground.” The follow-up question was, “Why would someone do that?”, which prompted the reply of, “Because they could, and it was a challenge, and it was fun.”

So, that is my reply. “Because they can, because it is a challenge, and because it is fun.”

To tack onto your initial question, I wonder how many other sports and/or hobbies exist for the same reasons as unicycles?


there’s only ONE god!
ONE wheel to ride them all! :wink:


Well it’s quite simple – back in the mists of time ‘man invented the wheel’ – what else was he going to do with it when he just had one?


In an infinite universe there must be infinite permutations of all possible existences. Fortunately “I” (whatever that is) happen to live where there are unicycles to ride.

tl;dr: Dunno.


Does anyone know, when the second wheel was invented?


That makes me wonder: If a two wheeled device exists, is it logically possible for a one wheeled device not to exist?

Or to come at it from the other angle: If there is such a thing as a wheel, is it possible for a unicycle to not exist?


I just thought the period between the invention of the first wheel and the second wheel must have been the heyday of the unicycle.


Ockham’s razor!

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The second wheel was invented a few days* after the first when the original inventor’s friend saw it was pretty cool and wanted to go on a ‘group ride’ with him and maybe learn some tricks… it was probably a different size wheel, probably with a different kind of tyre made of harder or softer animal skin, just to see how it rode and handled.

  • It was a few days after since it took the first guy a few days to learn how to ride the darn thing since nobody had posted any YouTube videos about it yet.

I’m sure the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ will have an entry on the existential nature of unicycles… just watch you don’t disappear in a puff of logic.

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Yep that’s what I read. Actually I think the small wheel would break off and that was in part why folks would ride with one wheel. Something in that ball park.

I think you mean “does anyone know, why the second wheel was invented?” :grinning:


No I meant when. The second wheel was certainly invented by someone who also wanted one, but was weaker than the first and thus could not take his.



I was making a joke - but not everyone gets my humour…the smiley at the end was the giveaway


I think my answer to that would be “Almost all of them.” Excluding sports that are the basics, like Track & Field, anything that involves a ball, or other props that are not derived from tools or weapons.

Of course, we took our silly one-wheeled contraptions and, over time, have adapted one sport after another to them, starting with Track. Now we have Field (jumping comps) and a ton of other things.

That’s why we call it the B.C. Wheel.

Correct! I don’t know if archaeologists know what the earliest wheels were used for. Were they one-wheeled things like wheelbarrows, or did they go straight to two or more wheels for more carrying power?

This topic probably needs a bit more background as to the original question. For those not familiar with John Oliver, he has a particular style of humor that is hard to describe (a good thing). In the case of unicycles, I believe that for him (in his comedy at least) the unicycle represents something that’s frightfully hard to do, to the point that it makes him nervous even thinking about it. Perhaps like many non-unicyclist “commenters” we encounter, there are those that are viscerally affected by the sight of somebody riding one. This usually comes out in responses from moms or older ladies that are either concerned for our safety, or offended that we would ride one on the same footpath as them because clearly we could crash at any moment and injure them.

So John Oliver’s thoughts about unicycles is that they are ridiculous things, which have no logical reason to exist. And he is correct in that. If we want to go somewhere fast, a unicycle would not be the vehicle that comes to mind (Shush, you owners of super-powerful E-unicycles!). And not a safe thing either. So with his inherent unease about unicycles, he questions “Why do unicycles exist”? Which is funny.

If he really didn’t like unicycles (or clowns) he wouldn’t invite as many as possible to ride on his set! Based on the casting calls, their intent was to have about twice as many as they actually got for the show, though that would probably have been too crowded to do interesting things with them; it would just have been a crowd of slow-moving uni-clowns…

So, in his own irreverent way, he honored unicyclists in his season finale! And at least a few people who have been on these forums were there, I think. :slight_smile:

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Here is the segment from John Oliver’s show to give some context:

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I’ve heard the unicycle was invented by the government to keep the people preoccupied. Personally I don’t believe the unicycle exists. It’s fake news.


Good point. Unicycles probably aren’t even real.

Oddly similar reasoning as for the development of the atomic bomb:

Once a piece of technology is feasible to develop with the current scientific knowledge and manufacturing possibilities, it will at some point be developed, not matter how terrible it may be.

Only the kind of being terrible is very different:

  • atomic bombs are terrible because they can turn most of this planet into rubble.

  • unicycles are terrible because they are objectively pretty bad at everything.