Learning to Ride (Part 6): Free Mounting

In the very first step you learned how to mount your unicycle next to a wall. This next bit is tricky and will take you some time to master.

Essentially, it’s the same as the mounting next to a wall:

  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.

This is where it’s different.

Now you want to put most of your weight on the bottom pedal and push yourself up on to the unicycle. As you do this, put your other foot on the top pedal and start pedalling straight away. Make sure that you transfer your weight from the pedals to the seat. See the blow diagram:

 

 

 

Some tips:

  • Pedal! You need to pedal as soon as you’re up. It’s the only way you’ll be able to stay on the unicycle at this point.
  • Lean forward! Most people tend to fall backwards because they try to balance before moving off. Lean forward and pedal to avoid this.

This is hard, so just keep up with it. Even now, I occasionally can’t free mount on my first try.

Once you can do it at least 1 in every 3 times, you can move on to the next step — a review of everything you’ve learnt!

 

 

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Learning to Ride (Part 5): Pivot Turning

Once you’ve mastered basic turning, this step shouldn’t be too hard.

(Note: This type of turning is only for turning sharply – you shouldn’t use this for wide bends and corners.)

To start off, you want to be riding your unicycle. If you can’t do that yet, head back to the start!

Now, instead of leaning your body to turn like you learned before, you want to pivot your unicycle on the spot.

The trick to doing this is to make use of your body and pedals. As you’re approaching the turn, have your arms out wide. When you turn, simultaneously twist your upper body in the direction of the turn and quickly push the pedal down on inside of the turn (left pedal for left turn, right pedal for right turn).

The half pedal rotation helps to quickly accelerate you and the unicycle around the corner, which I think you’ll find is a big help. Twisting your upper body helps convert your unicycle’s momentum into the turn and quickly pivot it.

If you fell off, don’t worry. It may take a few shots, but you should master it in no time.

A few tips if you’re having trouble:

  • Arms, arms, arms! I can’t emphasise this enough. Wave your arms around, and really use them to quickly change your unicycle’s direction. Who cares if you look silly? You are riding a unicycle, after all. 😉
  • Keep pedalling! Another fundamental unicycle tip. Particularly important in this part of the guide, as that quick pedal rotation really helps to pivot the unicycle and keep your balance.
  • Don’t start off too sharp! Easy tiger. Don’t go trying to turn a full 180º right away. Start off small – I’m talking turns that you could more easily do with the basic turn. Really work on pivoting the uni. Slowly build up your turns to sharper and sharper.
  • Keep the speed up! A slow and sharp turn is fraught with disaster. By now you should hopefully know the ideal speed for unicycling. If you don’t, I don’t think you’re ready for this step yet. Head back a few. Apply that speed here – but the turn itself should be a bit faster again, due to that quick half pedal rotation.
  • Practice with a pole! If you’re struggling, try to find a pole that you can comfortably ride around without risking hurting yourself. Ride up to it, grab it with one arm, and use it to sharply turn the unicycle around it. This is great for getting the feel of really sharp pivot turns.

That’s all there is to it! Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find the pivot turn is actually pretty easy and great for quickly avoiding an obstacle.

If you think you’ve mastered the first five parts of my learn to unicycle guide, you should test yourself with the skills review. Let’s see if you really know how to ride. 🙂

Once you’re confident you can do all that, we can start some of the fun stuff!

 

 

Learning to Ride (Part 4): Basic Turning

So you can now ride your unicycle. Sort of. You just can’t control it yet. Well, don’t worry. This small guide should get you turning your unicycle in no time!

Before doing anything, you want to be confident with just riding the unicycle. If you can’t ride 10-15 metres 9 times out of 10, go back a step.

Basic turning is really quite simple. It’s a matter of leaning your body slightly to the left or right, so that the unicycle wheel is also angled. By staying in this position while pedalling, the unicycle will turn. The further you lean, the sharper you’ll turn. If you’re confused, see the below diagram:

How to Turn on a Unicycle

Notice how your body has to stay upright and in line with the unicycle – everything leans together. As always, keep your focus point in the direction you’re travelling and keep pedalling. Around the turn itself, pedal faster. It will help keep you on your unicycle.

This way of turning won’t allow you to turn very sharply, but it’s the best way to start. You’ll be able to get more control and confidence once you can at least manoeuvre around a bit.

Some tips:

  • Use your arms! Turning will feel weird at first, so wave your arms around to stay balanced. It seriously helps!
  • Keep moving! This is a general unicycling rule. Always keep moving if you can!
  • Pedal faster! Around the turn, you’ll definitely want to speed up. It will help keep you on the unicycle and make the turn more stable.
  • Pull out of the turn if you think you’re going to fall inwards! If you turn too sharply, your pedals can hit the ground and you’ll hit the deck.
  • One direction may be harder to turn than the other! At least this is what I found. I’m a right-footed person, and turning to the left is much harder for me. I’m not sure if this is normal or not, but if you’re experiencing this, don’t worry! After six years of riding, I still have trouble turning sharply to my left sometimes.

Once you have this down pat in both directions, try going in large circles or figure eights, gradually making them smaller with sharper turns. Another good activity is to rule a curly line on the ground in chalk for you to try and follow. It’s harder than it looks, but an excellent way of practicing!

Easy, huh! In the next step, we’ll be learning how to turn more sharply. Don’t worry, it’s not very hard!

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!

 

 

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?