Learning to Ride (Part 3): Riding Without Support

Once you’re confident with riding along a wall or rail, it’s time to try without. This is going to be the single hardest bit in learning to ride a unicycle, so hang in there.

The thing with unicycling is that it has a very abrupt learning curve. You basically spend a heap of time falling of, and then suddenly you can do it. See the diagram below to see what I mean:

Unicycle Learning Curve (not much of a curve, is it?)

Unicycle Learning Curve (not much of a curve, is it?)

Source: Seth’s Blog

See, when you’re learning to unicycle, there’s no in between. You go from falling all the time, and then you’re riding. Just like that.

So the important thing with this step is to persevere. It will eventually just click. You’ll only be riding short distances at first, but this is when there is a learning curve (see the graph). So don’t give up. 🙂

To get going, follow the steps below:

  1. To start off you want to mount your unicycle by something you can use as support.
  2. Make sure you’re balanced.
  3. Go! Pedal away from the wall in an area where you have plenty of room.

Simple, right? Wrong. You’ll undoubtably fall off many times trying to do this. Below are some useful tips that will help to speed up the process:

  • Wave your arms! It’ll look silly, but it seriously helps to keep your balance.
  • Focus on pedalling in half pedal rotations! Count each half-rotation in your head. 1…2…3…
  • Pedal smoothly! Just because you’re focusing on half-rotations, doesn’t mean you should stop and start pedalling at the end of each one. Pedalling should be one, continuous motion.
  • Look forward! People have a tendency to look down at their feet. This will ruin your balance big time. Although it’s hard, keep your body upright and your eyes forward at all times.
  • Keep moving! Probably the most important advice I can give you. Movement = balance. Even if you feel yourself falling, try to pedal faster. You’ll be surprised how often you can recover from an almost guaranteed crash.
  • Don’t try turning (yet)! That comes later. For now, just ride. You’ll probably go in all different directions unintentionally, but don’t worry about trying to stay in control. Put all your focus on staying on the unicycle instead. This is why is good to do this on a large flat area, like a basketball or tennis court.
  • Keep your body weight forward! Also very important. Since you’re moving forward, you want your centre of gravity that way as well. Not too far forward though! The ideal spot will eventually click. It’s all a part of the learning curve. Or should that be learning staircase, with a few missing steps!

All I can say is good luck. This will take the longest to master, but you’ll get there. Don’t give up! 

Once you can ride 10-15 metres consistently, it’s time to move on to the next step. Turning.

Also, don’t worry too much about not being able to ride more than a small distance at this point. As you learn to turn you’ll find that you feel more confident and in control. From this point it’s pretty easy.

Learning to Ride (Part 2): Basic Pedalling

All right, so you know how to get on your unicycle – now it gets a bit tricky. Learning to actually ride it. Don’t expect instant results, because this step takes a while.

To start off, you want to be near a wall, like in part 1. Mount your unicycle (if you don’t know how to do that, go back a step!) and get your balance.

Using the wall as support, pedal forward one half-revolution (top pedal to bottom) and stop.

You’ll probably fall off. If you don’t, good work! Some people pick it up much quicker than others.

The next think to do it to keep trying this. If you fall, work out where you went wrong. The following troubleshooting steps are assuming you’re working next to a wall. If you’re practicing with a wall or rail on either side, you’ll probably have less trouble with the last two, but the forwards and backwards issues still occur.

I fell backwards!

This happens to most people when they start. The unicycle moves forward and you don’t! The easiest way to overcome this is to lean forward as you ride. Not really far forward, just keep your centre of gravity in the direction the uni is moving. At first you’ll probably fall forward instead (see below). It’s a matter of finding that perfect balance.

I fell forwards!

If you’re falling forwards, your centre of gravity is probably way too far in front. Since you’re only doing half a pedal revolution, you don’t need to lean forward much at all. To correct this, try bringing your body more upright. Never lean backwards though, otherwise you’ll fall off that way. You want your body and the unicycle going in the same direction, after all.

I fell sidewards into the wall!

A lot of people struggle with this at first. Since you’re still finding your balance, it’s very tempting to put all your weight on the wall to keep you on the uni. Not a good idea. Your unicycle will naturally want to go away from the wall, and you’ll be riding on somewhat of an angle. There’s a good chance it will slip out from under you, which is probably what happened. To fix this, try to only have one hand on the wall, with the other one for waving around to keep yourself balanced (get used to it, you’ll be doing it a lot!). Focus on keeping your body upright and if you feel yourself pushing on the wall too much, either correct yourself or stop and start again.

I fell sidewards away from the wall!

This will happen if you don’t have enough support on the wall – easy tiger, you’re still learning. To fix this, just use the wall a bit more. Not too much though, otherwise you’ll fall into it. Use the guidelines from above.

My problem isn’t listed here!

If you don’t know how to correct something, contact me! I’ll reply as soon as I can, and possibly add your problem to the list.

Once you’ve sorted everything out, keep trying. Practice makes perfect! Once you can do half a revolution confidently, try a whole one. Then two, then three, and so on. The troubleshooting above applies to any distance of riding along a wall, so make use of it!

Once you can ride well with support, you can move on to part three – dismounting.

Trust me, you’ll want to know how to do that!

 

 

What Types of Unicycles Are There?

There’s a lot of different styles of unicycles out there, and they all serve different purposes. Some are for fun, some for tricks, even some for transport. But how do you know which type is right for you? 

Learning

For your first unicycle, a standard learning one is the best way to go. They’re simple to ride and won’t set you back much. Depending on your age and size, you should get either a 16″, 20″ or 24″ wheel. Unicycle.com has a neat section for beginners to get an idea of what you should get. I rode a learner uni for several years myself before I upgraded to a Trials uni.

Learner Unicycle

Learner Unicycle – perfect for beginners

Trials

Trials unicycles are built to last. They’re designed so they can be hopped, spun, flipped, or whatever you want. Think of trials as the BMX version of unicycling. A good trials uni has a strong frame, comfortable seat (with a handle), thick tire and decent pedals. Definitely my favourite style of riding, and I recommend everyone gives it a shot.

Trials Unicycle

Trials Unicycle – the BMX of unicycling!

Funny

I’m sure you’ve all seen a giraffe unicycle before. They look something like this:

Giraffe Unicycle

Giraffe Unicycle – watch your head!

Awesome, right? They’re really fun to ride, but very scary at first. You can get them at all different heights, but the higher up you are, the further you have to fall! These fun unicycles should only be ridden after you are fully confident with a normal one. Other funny unicycles include:

Two Wheeler

Two Wheeler – it’s not a bicycle though!

Ultimate Wheel - where's the seat?!

Ultimate Wheel – where’s the seat?!

Three Wheeler – a triunicycle?

Transport/Commuting

If you’re looking for a unicycle to ride long distance on, this is what you want. Commuting unis have huge wheels and small cranks. That way you travel further and faster with less energy! These aren’t great to learn on, but if you’re an accomplished rider I definitely recommend checking them out. They’re a heap of fun:

Commuting Unicycle - some models even have brakes

Commuting Unicycle – some models even have brakes

Mountain

Mountain unicycling, or muni, is just that – mountain biking, but with one wheel. As I like to say, half the wheels, double the fun! Munis generally have large wheels, but not as big as the ones on the commuters. They also have thick, strong tyres, tough frames, and brakes for those tough slopes.

Mountain Unicycle - built tough

Mountain Unicycle – half the wheels, double the fun!

And that’s it. There’s more types, but most fit into these categories more or less. Any questions? Leave them in the comments!

Learning to Ride (Part 1): Mounting

These first few steps are going to be the hardest, but after them it’s smooth sailing.

To start off, you want to learn how to mount your unicycle. Place your uni by your side and adjust your seat to about waist height. (Note: This isn’t always the case, different styles of riding use different heights. For a learner, waist-height is easiest.) After this, find a wall that will be able to support as you ride along. Even better, use somewhere with walls on either sides (hallway, alleyway, etc.).

The next step is to learn how to basic mount. There is a better way of doing this which you will learn later on, but this is by far the best way to start:

  1. Place your uni in front of you, with the seat between your legs.
  2. Rotate your wheel so that the pedal on the side of your preferred foot is at the bottom.
  3. Place your preferred foot on the bottom pedal and keep yourself balanced.
  4. Using the wall as support, push yourself up and place your other foot on the top pedal. As you do this, keep your other hand on the front of your seat.
  5. Hold it here! Don’t lose your balance, if you feel your unicycle slipping out from underneath you, use the wall to bring it back. Stay on until you feel comfortable.
  6. Keep trying. You’ll only get better with practice!

Mounting for Beginners

Congratulations! You’ve just mounted for the first time. Once you feel confident, you can move on to the next step.

See! Wasn’t that hard, was it?