Why doesen't unicycling take off like snowboarding has?

I’ve just started snowboarding, so the other day a tv program about snowboarding caught my interest. The history of snowboarding is not so different from unicycling. Enthusiasts with background from surfing and skateboarding made their own boards. A predecessor to the snowboard came in the mid 60’s and commercial production of the snowboard started in the mid 70’s. The people that developed snowboarding reminded me very much of the people that developed unicycling as a sport. In the 90’s came the young norwegian Terje Haakonsen along and took snowboarding to a new level, very much like Kris Holm did at the same time with unicycling. Snowboarding became an olympic sport in 1998.

Snowboarding is easier to learn than unicycling (basic skills), but it still requires a few days of dedicated practice to get going. Unicycling on the other hand is much more accessible, you don’t have to travel enywhere. It is also a lot cheaper. Mid range snowboard gear is about the price of an expensive unicycle. While a unicycle is free to use, the snowboard is not (14 days of snowboarding costs the same as the new KH 24 2105 model). Everybody can take up unicycling but snowboarding requires snow, so the unicycle should have greater economic potensial? Since I’m new to snowboarding, it’s great fun, but it’s not more fun than unicycling. I also think that snowboarding attracts the same people that unicycling does.

The only explanation I can come up with, is that there are lots of alternatives to unicycling, but if you want to do winter activities, there are not that many things to choose from.

This is pretty much it. Even if it actually isn’t easier to learn snowboarding than unicycling, people would still see unicycle as something that they could “never learn”, just like juggling, which is much easier to learn. It’s the perception of difficulty that people shy away from, not actual difficulty.

On top of that, unicycles are seen as novelties. A bicycle is seen as a form of transportation, or a very accessible sport. Nobody considers unicycling useful, and if they do see someone commuting to work/etc. It’s so far from their skill level, that again, they see it as too difficult or “crazy”.

Pretty much everybody I have ever met in my entire life has said they are bad at hand-eye-coordination, and give me that as some excuse as to why they can’t learn something. . . even the people that I’ve gone on to teach unicycle and/or juggling.

While it’s still learnable and doable by nearly anyone, I still do think the learning curve is higher on a unicycle than on (nearly) every other type sport. People tend to give up when things aren’t giving them instant gratification (see January gym memberships).

For what it’s worth, I’m working on a website that is going to try to bring unicycling more into the public eye in a positive view, by arranging visible and cool events (long distance rides, etc) where people can pledge per mile, etc, and all the proceeds go to a good cause. I think unicycling just hasn’t hit the public eye yet; most people still have the circus and clown associations, yet haven’t been exposed to the cool tricks, awesome muni, etc.

The more it’s presented to the public in a positive way, the more things will lean toward people wanting to learn.

Unicycling is difficult to learn, but there’s a lot of people doing difficult stuff. Maybe unicycling doesen’t look as much fun as it is? I struggled more learning to juggle 3 balls than learning to ride a unicycle. At least it felt like it - personally I don’t think juggling is fun.

That is true, but snowboarding sure has. Maybe there was just a whole bunch of bored skiers hanging around waiting for a new challenge?

Think about it this way. It takes wildly different times for people to learn things, but from the data collected in the past (don’t make me dig up the link again : P) it’s anywhere between 5-50 hours generally, for most people.

People spend that much time on a single video game. A single book. People easily spend that on learning the very basics of snowboarding. I can’t honestly say it’s any more difficult. I’ve been out snowboarding once and found it every bit as difficult to learn. I did, however, learn juggling in 20 minutes, and unicycling in about 6 hours or so. So maybe I learned snowboarding abnormally slow, and unicycling/juggling abnormally fast.

Juggling 3 balls isn’t what is fun about juggling. Learning skills in juggling will help you learn new skills even faster, to the point where you can learn a new trick in a matter of minutes rather than hours or days of practice. This keeps things fresh for each practice session. If you reach your 20 minute fill for one trick, you can go try a completely different one that requires other skills. Juggling really comes into its own when you get into 5-7 balls, siteswaps, body throws, clubs, rings, and club passing is still one of the most fun things to do on the planet in my opinion. : P Just not at the basic level (“let’s do a 4 count!” … “LET’S NOT! D:<”) that you find at most juggling clubs. It’s a fundamentally different hobby/sport than unicycling.

Here’s the thing with snowboarding: it’s big to a certain degree because there are a lot of organized competitions and there are a lot of people watching those competitions.

For unicycles, we have Unicon… and what else? A bunch of small events that never get any national television coverage (or YouTube views for that matter). Without a public perception that unicycling is an infinitely challenging and “cool” sport, most people will assume the clown thing and never think twice about it.

But that’s nothing inherent to unicycling itself. It’s all marketing. With the right amount of money and the right kind of marketing, the seed could easily be planted to make it a big thing. Put it in front of the extreme sports / XGames people in the right way, in a way that doesn’t feel too forced or cheesy, and in a way that showcases the extreme athleticism and coolness that most people don’t associate with unicycles, and you’ll have a hit in ten years.

How did those stupid exploding hoverboards (that are always mistakenly called “unicycles” on eBay) get so popular? Justin Bieber and the Kardashians.

All marketing.

Snowboarders are considered cool while unicyclists are ridiculed by the public. I think it is as simple as that.

Which all comes down to marketing. Anybody I’ve ever done unicycling in front of has been awestruck and totally captivated. I’m always asked where I learned it, how they can learn, etc, not treated like a clown. Market it right and the perception will change.

To use an old example of this, look at how Honda changed the perception of motorcyclists from “angry bad boys” to “fun, friendly, adventuresome everyday people.”


A few decades of marketing like that and most of the world understands that a motorcycle is a fun mode of transportation, not something inherently associated with lawlessness and gangs. Today, after lots of the right marketing, you only find that attitude in Harley dealerships and with hardcore fans of Sons of Anarchy. :stuck_out_tongue:

Snowboards don’t have uncomfortable looking saddles.

It might be equally intriguing and uninformative to ask why unicycling hasn’t taken off like pizza or birth control.

snowbaording is cool and unicycling is (unfortunately) not even close

Exactly what I was going to say.

I really enjoy snowboarding, but there is a huge image/culture thing associated with it. Actually, I think it used to be even cooler in the 90’s or even ten years ago, but snowboarding still has that cool, relaxed image thing sort of like a rich/elite skaterboarding culture: Sometimes half of the snowboarders hanging around the half pipe are pure posers with all the right expensive baggy clothes and cool brands and their shirts hanging out and pants hanging down just right and the awesome bug-eyed mirrored goggles, but they can’t even ride in the half pipe! I don’t have the coolest snowboard gard but I just ride :slight_smile:

But I think with unicycling it is really both:
a) people perceive unicycling as too difficult and something they can’t readily learn
b) because unicycling isn’t perceived as being ultra-cool (but rather strange or something only for young girls or cicurs clowns) people don’t aspire to learn to unicycle (compare this to aspiring to play the guitar because it is cool or learning to snowboard because it is cool or riding a motorcycle because it is cool). So no one sets out to learn to unicycle to be cool and show people how awesome they are like these activities.

As to snowboarding, I had the advantage of already being an experienced skier, but I learned to snowboard in one day (I was riding black slopes and jumping at the end of my first day). Although my best friend did not learn on the first day and fell all the time and took forever to get up and ended the day complaining of bruised ribs (he stayed with it and did learn later). Comparatively, having already been an experienced freeride mountain biker and trials bike rider, I learned to unicycle in two days in about 4-5 hours. So actually pretty close to the same amount of time, although after 6-7 hours of snowboarding I was already “cool” and jumping, whereas after 6-7 hours of unicycling I could only ride 50ft and do a few turns (not so ultra-cool and didn’t impress anyone).

I am both a fast learner and I really enjoy being challenged and working hard to learn new things (they go hand in hand). So for me it is sometimes also hard to understand why unicylcing isn’t more popular: I think, “how can so few other people figured out that this is so much fun!” My wife is trying to learn to unicycle right now (about 4 times of 30+ minutes over a few months) and she is actually doing very well. However, she gets so frustrated and would probably have quit if I weren’t helping and encouraging her.

You’re right except marketing is done because people see potential to earn a lot of money: i.e. spend money on marketing with good prospects to then earn a lot more lot money. For snowboarding that potential is huge: snowboards, lift tickets, ski hotels, jackets, helmets, boots, etc.

Likewise for mountain biking or so many other sports. If a “normal” company saw great potential for unicycling then there might be large-scale marketing, but where is the convincing business plan for all the potential cash/profit in unicycling? KH and Nimbus make great products but I don’t think they’re expecting double-digit growth: sadly I would guess the fat-bike industry has more sales and makes more money than unicycling (fat bikes also cost more but only because people are willing to spend $2-6k on a fat bike, mostly because of the cool image but also the marketing).

I see the master plan for unicycling growth falling into certain steps.

  1. Public perception of unicycling must gravitate more toward “cool.” This will only happen through the people who are already dedicated unicyclists. Nobody’s going to pay to market toward an unknown/fringe sport unless the perception of coolness is already there. The only ones who are going to work toward changing the image are the ones who love it already.

  2. Get just enough of a market impact - just enough of a viral public image boost - that some company is willing to take a risk. A single correct placement of a unicycle in a viral video or a single endorsement by a celebrity will do this. See “cheap Chinese exploding hoverboards” for an example of what I mean.

  3. Have more organized competitions that are TV friendly and can capitalize on being new and exciting. Get 20 people of skill levels approaching Kris Holm (good luck) and put them in some sort of competition with rules, slap a Red Bull sticker on it, and suddenly people will start thinking it’s the best thing ever.

Right now we’re definitely in the beginning of #1.

For the sake of promoting the sport, I guess this is a good discussion. All in all, I really don’t care if snowboarding is more popular, but I would like to have more people in my neighborhood to ride with, bounce ideas off of, and help each other with techniques and tricks. I’ve joined clubs of various kinds over the years, and I don’t really care for them. People get weird about clubs and tend to ruin it for me. I’d just rather have a few casual friends I meet up with on the trail and hang with, and if the sport were to get more popular, that would certainly be more likely.

I sort of like the uniqueness of it, though, and I meet a lot of people while riding that probably wouldn’t otherwise stop to talk to me. While snowboarding, the only people talking to me are other newbies trying not to die just like I am. Other than being in the presence of many other people, in and of itself, it was not a terribly social thing, and it was certainly not seen as being unique in any sense. You’re just another snowboarder in a sea of snowboarders, and that’s fine, but I’d feel kind of weird if unicycling were like that, although it would not ruin it for me.

This past weekend at a wildly popular park, I got more positive comments and encouragement than I’ve ever gotten in 20 years. I also saw a unicycle in a retail store today. It was a 24" Torker muni, and that’s the first unicycle I’ve seen of any kind in a retail store since 1986. The employees told me that three of them ride, and that they had just sold out of everything except that one muni. They have even stocked ultimate wheels and giraffes, and given that retail space is precious in our area, they wouldn’t stock these things if they were not selling.

I am curious about two things, UniMyra. 1) What made you concerned about this? and 2) What made you compare it to snowboarding?

To be fair, riding a unicycle with one hand on you genita…. eeeh saddle doesn’t promote a cool image.

To offset this i ride around with my hands in my pockets. Also riding on a 26" muni with a nasty, buzzing off-road tire while wearing a pair of katana’s and a pair of ultra cool sunglases is better than riding a brightly colored 20" standard uni.

That is a really bad UPD in the making. :stuck_out_tongue:

I just started to learn how to ride a unicycle in January. I am hooked! The people I tell that are into things that I do such as motocross, trials, mtb, snowmobiles etc all think it’s cool and want to try. The other friends who only do things such as stick and ball games seem to think it is a circus/ clown type of hobby. They also seem to think it is very dangerous and think they will get hurt.
Snowboarding looks much easier to learn and you get more crossover from other sports such as skiers , skateboarders, and surfers who look at it to be similar to their chosen sport. I used to ski quite often and did the snowboard thing too. I happen to like skiing better. The reason I tried snowboarding was because it was so popular on the slopes and looked fun.

I learned to snow board with the first attempt at widening the sport from the ski manufacturers, that’s circa 1985 - prior to that it was indeed very niche and mainly homemade boards from people trying to replicate the movie “Apocalypse Snow”. It was perceived as cool pretty early on, mainly because the culture existed (from surfers and to some extend skaters), but also I think because as soon as you could master the thing, the feeling was great and any wide curve in the powdered snow felt amazing.

I was born in the Alps with a outdoorsy dad, so skied from the age of 3. Skiing is fun but let’s be honest, you can’t really say it’s amazing until you’re pretty good at it. And it takes a while to become really good - though the parabolic skis are making it easier these days. But snowboarding is incredibly fun as soon as you can draw some S in the snow. And the feeling of speed participate to the adrenaline rush you get. You soon feel like you’re the guy you saw in that RedBull video indeed, and if you’re crazy enough (and have good protections), you might do scary stuff.

The adrenaline rush when you learn uni has nothing to do with that. It’s not the same pleasant feeling, it’s more a battle against yourself and against that wheel that won’t stay under your bum. And let’s be honest, you need to put in hours before you can do a bit of muni. And apart from two dozen riders on this planet, you’re never going to feel the wind in your ears (or hair, but it’s better to have a helmet) as you glide down a mountain.

Actually, we don’t glide on unis, we’re always busy pedaling. Maybe if we could glide it would become a popular sport. How about a free-wheeling uni, that sounds easy! :sunglasses:

So yep, it’s a combination of all the above which, I think, will never make uni become a popular sport.

Why does it matter? Who cares?
If you have fun unicycling why do you question why the sport isn’t as popular as another? The state of the art in unicycling gear is pretty good so that shouldn’t be a need for huge growth and development.
Now I can see why UDC and KH would want the sport to get bigger. :smiley:

Amen Brother! :smiley: The unusualness of unicycling is one of the attractions for me. Archers are a dime a dozen with the invention of the compound bow and with the modern technology, anyone can be fairly proficient in a few hours or days. I rarely run into anyone else who shoots a re-curve bow with finger release and instinctive aiming. It takes to much patience and practice for the instant gratification world we live in but that does not take away from my enjoyment of the sport.