Sunday, October 25, 2009

Commuting by Unicycle for Everyone!

Commuting by unicycle is a great way to put your unicycle skills to test, get better balance and technique, and get super fit.  Unicycling to work or school or to get groceries every day will make you super amazing in almost every way.

Commuting by unicycle is pretty similar to commuting by bicycle, so you will need some similar things.  Make sure you have a helmet, and some sort of light system.  Maybe a flashing light for your backpack, and a headlamp if you will be riding at night.  Also be sure to be prepared for the weather.  I am thinking at least a rain jacket and pants, and some shoes with a lot of tractions.

Also when unicycling to your destination, feel free to use the sidewalk.  That is right, the sidewalk.  You are not an official bike, you fall more in the realm of wheelchair. This allows you to go almost wherever you like outside. Just be sure to be courteous of other pedestrians and let people know that you are about to pass them.

If you do not have a 24" wheel unicycle or larger.  I would consider getting one before I tried to go anywhere more than a couple of blocks.  The larger the wheel the faster you will be able to go. Conversly, if you get a really big wheel, say a 36" Coker, you will lose quite a bit of control, and have to turn wide corners, and start slowing early.

As I am sure you are aware, unicycling is difficult.  I recommend trying to unicycle in half mile incraments until you get to your desired distance.  Your body may need some time to acclimate itself to the crazy things you are making it do.  Your body will slowly get used to the saddle, and your legs will get strong.

If you have any tips, please leave a comment!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Unicycle Training Wheels and Aids

Are you still having trouble riding a unicycle?  I recommend that you try out some unicycle training aides.  I guess that is just the fancy way of saying stuff to hold onto while unicylcing, but lets go over some cool ones.
  • Shopping Cart:  This is a really amazing way to learn to ride a unicycle, and it makes perfect sense.  Just hold on to a shopping cart and pedal.  They are heavy enough to support you, and will roll in your direction.  Shopping carts are probably the best kind of training wheels you would ever want for your unicycle.  
  • Friends:  As I have recommended in previous Unicycling Tips posts, you should learn to ride with friends.  If you have two, they can walk with you as you hold onto their shoulders.  This is one of the most fun ways to learn to ride a unicycle, but it does require that you know at least one other person who wants to learn. 
  • Crutches:  Or any long poles that you can use to lean on.  This will help you walk forward while also pedaling.  This is probably not the best, but it may work for some.
  • Skinny walkways and hallways:  These are great because you can support yourself on both sides and pedal forward at your own pace.  Just be careful not to punch a whole in the drywall...
  • Handicap Ramps: These are really nice if they are skinny enough for you to be able to grab a rail and go.  Especially if they are kind of chest high.  This is the way that I learned and it seems like a great one.
If you have used any other training aides or unicycle "training wheels" to help you get started, please leave a comment and tell us what you learned with.

Friday, October 23, 2009

What Size Unicycle is Right For You?

When learning to ride a unicycle, you want to practice on the best fitting model.  There are three our common sizes of unicycles for beginers, but the basic idea is:
  • The Smaller the wheel, the more manuverable
  • The bigger the wheel, the faster you will go.
The 16" Wheel Unicycle
This unicycle is used almost exclusively for children.  It has great maneuverability, but you have to pedal very fast to go any distance.  The 16" unicycle is appropriate for children with about a 21" inseam. 

The 20" Wheel Unicycle
20" unicycles are great for learning on.  They are very maneuverable, and they are easy to pedal.  This would be the ideal size for adults that are trying to learn new unicycle skills.  the 20" unicycle is also a great size for performers.  Because they are so maneuverable, this size is often used by Trials Unicyclists, and those that want to learn advanced techniques and tricks.  If you have a 24" or greater inseam this size would fit you fine.

The 24" Wheel Unicycle
This is one of the most common sized unicycles.  They take a little bit of extra power to move and maneuver, but they are also somewhat fast.  If you were interested in riding a unicycle to school or work, this is the smallest size you would want to consider.  This is the size unicycle that many of my friends have learned on, and it is very good for general riding and skill building.  This unicycle is appropriate for those with a 28" inseam or larger.

There are many sizes of unicycle wheels out there.  These three are just the most standard that people use when they are starting out.  All of them can be purchased relatively inexpensively, and then beat up with practice.  As you get comfortable riding one of these unicycles, you will probably know what you would like to focus on, and buy a different sized unicycle for your future goals and needs.

Tips on Unicycle Safety

Unicycling, like any sport done in a gravity environment should be done with some caution.  Though unicycling is not as dangerous as you may first think, you can get pretty beat up if you are not careful.  Please follow these recommendations to keep your body happy while learning to ride.
  1. Wear a helmet.  Your brain is important and concussions are bad.  Please wear a helmet starting out.  People rarely will fall to the ground before catching themselves on a unicycle, as it is only one wheel and you can control the momentum, but it does happen.  To learn how to avoid falling on your back I recommend reading 7 Tips to Help You Learn to Ride a Unicycle Faster.  
  2. Be careful when it is wet.  If your feet are wet, make sure that you get good grip on your pedals.  If there is not enough friction it can be very frustrating, and even painful as you get hit in the shin or the calf from slipping off of your pedal.  This is where grippy shoes, and quality pedals are important.  
  3. Wear Proper shoes.  If sandals and flip flops are not a good idea for bicycling, they are most definitely not appropriate for unicycling.  
  4. Protect your legs.  When learning to ride, or new tricks, or trying almost anything new, it is important to protect your legs.  It is very easy for the unicycle's pedal to hit you in the shin or in the calf.  At least try wearing pants, if not shin guards.
  5. Wrist Guards.  If you are feeling extra cautious, these may be a good idea.  It is pretty common to fall and use your hands to keep you from eating poop.  So, where wrist guards are entirely appropriate for bicycling, they may be just right for you and your unicycling adventure.
The most important thing to realize is that your body is more important than your unicycle.  If you feel like you are going to crash, do not hang on to it.  Just get off and away from it the best you can.  Later you will be able to reach behind you and make sure it does not fall, but when learning, do not worry about this happening.  My first unicycle hit the ground literally thousands of times while I was learning.  The worst injuries I ever received were scrapes to my legs.   Be careful out there, and

Thursday, October 22, 2009

7 Tips to Help You Learn To Ride A Unicycle Faster

If you want to learn to ride a unicycle as fast as possible, I recommend that you follow these 7 tried and true tips.
  1. Make sure you have good posture. It is important to sit straight up, as if the seat post was connected to your spine. If you slouch forward, you will fall forward, so make sure that you try to sit as upright as possible on the unicycle.
  2.  Flail your arms.  As I wrote about in my previous article, Learn To Ride a Unicycle, it is crucial that you keep your arms out to your sides, and use them to balance.  Do not be afraid to throw both arms in one direction to keep you upright.  As you get better, you will have to do this less and less, but flailing your arms while unicycling is an important thing to do.
  3. Fall forward.  When you start learning to ride a unicycle, you will fall.  A lot!  But that is okay, everyone does it.  Just make sure that you always try to fall forward.  This way you will be able to better catch yourself, and avoid injury.
  4. Set Goals.  After you start to ride unassisted, it is time to mark your unicycling process. When i started to learn to ride a unicycle, I would start holding onto a post, and ride as far as I could.  When I fell off, I would mark the location of my fall, and try to ride past it.  Eventually I could ride all the way around the block.
  5. Ride with friends.  Having a little help and compitition is good for most sports -- unicycling included.  Have your friends watch you and give you tips on how to improve.  Try to beat your friends in distance, or race your friends for speed.
  6. Go to School.  Seriously, learning to ride at a school is great.  There are often breezeways, where you can ride without getting your feet/pedals wet, there are handicap rails to hold onto while learning, and there are people to impress.  
  7. Practice Practice Practice.  You should set time aside every day to ride when you first get your unicycle.  Don't get discouraged that you are falling down.  You can do this!  Everyone has to start somewhere, and they start by going inches, then feet, then yards and miles.  Try to practice as much as you can, and just know that the first hours of learning will be the hardest.

Learn to Ride a Unicycle

Anyone that can ride a bike can learn to ride a unicycle. All it takes to learn to ride a unicycle is a little practice and dedication.

The best way to learn to ride a unicycle is with friends. Having friends to compete and learn with will help you go farther and faster on your unicycle than just learning to ride by yourself.

The first thing you need to do is to find a good place to learn to ride a unicycle. I recommend learning at a school. Literally, there will be nice handicap ramps with bars on both sides so that you can have something to grab on to so that you can ride/pull your way forward.

When starting to learn to ride a unicycle it is important that you learn to mount the unicycle properly. The best way to do this is to have the pedal for your dominant foot pointing slightly toward you. This way, when you push the pedal into the 6'oclock position it will rock underneath you.

After you get both feet on the pedals you should try to make yourself comfortable.  The fastest way to learn balance on a unicycle is to practice.  You will want to rock back and forth with your dominant foot down about 20 times, and then do a half rotation, and rock back and forth with your other foot.  By repeating these warm-up steps you will grow comfortable on the unicycle.

After you get your bearings on the unicycle, the fastest way to learn to ride a unicycle is to start peddling forward.  This can be done most effectively if you are next to a wall, fence, or most optimally, some sort of long handicap ramp that goes slightly downhill.  

If you are learning to ride a unicycle with friends, it is nice to have one friend on each side give you their shoulder to balance on.  You can then switch off as you get tired pedaling.  You will be using muscles you never knew you had, so these will be quick changes.

After a couple of hours of practicing rocking back and forth, and moving forward holding on to objects, you will be ready to start pedaling on your own.

When you venture away from the wall/post/friend, the most important rule to know is DON'T FORGET TO FLAIL YOUR ARMS!  Flailing your arms will help you learn to ride a unicycle faster than reading this blog!  It is the single most effective way to gain balance, so go crazy.

Keep practicing and don't give up.  If you would like more information, I recommend you check out this short video to help reinforce these ideas.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


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