Learning How to Ride a Unicycle: Falling My Way to a New Hobby
I just got back from a unicycle ride. At 49, it is one of my favorite ways to exercise. On January 23, 2002, the UPS man delivered my first unicycle, ordered from unicycle.com. I like to call that my “universary.” I was determined to learn how to ride it. That may seem out of order, to buy it, then learn to ride it. It turned out, that was part of the motivation I needed. I was, and am, cheap, so I was determined to get my money’s worth. And I have. In fact, it became a hobby that paid for itself.
I had another motivation that may surprise you. I was, and am, incredibly clumsy. I read something to the effect that anyone can learn to ride a unicycle. I was curious to know if that applied to a clumsy guy like me.
The UPS man delivered my Adult Trainer Unicycle, with a 24” wheel. It came with wristguards, elbow pads, knee pads, and a helmet, called a SkidLid. It also came with a training video. The video showed a boy learning how to ride on his deck, holding on to the rail. The first thing taught was how to fall. Another priority tip was to look straight ahead.
Riding in Shawnee, Oklahoma
Different ways to learn
I set out to find places near my home with a wall, a fence, or a rail, something to hold onto as I tried to develop the muscle memory necessary to ride without holding on to anything. Others have learned by getting a couple of friends to help them get started by holding on to the rider as long as necessary. Others have learned by using ski poles or the like. I saw a video of a guy using crutches to help him ride a unicycle. I took time I would have normally been riding a bicycle or playing basketball, and applied it to learning how to ride on one wheel. It amounted to a few days a week, about thirty minutes each time I worked on it.
After five weeks of that, the time added up to about thirteen hours. On my breakthrough day, I was at Spaulding Park, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, alone on a basketball court. I used the pole for a basketball goal to help me get up, and I set out to see how far I could go without falling. I rode over fifty feet four different times that day, and I was on my way.
Riding at Earlywine Park in Oklahoma City
A hobby that pays for itself
I still didn’t know how to turn. That required more muscle memory, which meant more practice, but it came quickly enough. I was soon riding through my neighborhood. I was invited to be a speaker at my children’s elementary school, and rode my unicycle to begin my talk. I found myself riding and talking at halftimes of Upward Basketball games. This led to me riding and talking at other Upward events, which involved honorariums, and is part of how my new hobby paid for itself.
Riding at Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City
Looking straight ahead was important, and learning how to fall, and learning from my falls. When I teach others to get started learning to ride a unicycle, I find myself saying, “Don’t fight the fall!” If you feel yourself falling, let the unicycle fall, land on your feet, and then try again. And learn from each fall. There are good life lessons there, too.
Ready for a rainy neighborhood ride in Shawnee
Being clumsy helps?
It could be that my clumsiness not only served as rich motivation, but it may have helped me in other ways, too. Learning how to ride a unicycle definitely feels awkward. You can simply sit on a unicycle and get that awkward feeling. Some people instantly don’t like it at all. Maybe I was used to feeling awkward and clumsy, and falling, and that helped me somehow to get past that awkwardness to experience the feeling of riding a unicycle down a road or a trail. It has been compared to riding on a cloud. There is nothing quite like it.
Yogi in the park
I think now of riding my unicycle one day, in March of 2010, at the Little River Park in Moore, Oklahoma. A guy looked at me and said, “That looks more complicated than it seems.” What I said back to him isn’t important now, but his statement didn’t make much sense to me at the time. It sounded like something Yogi Berra would say. It still does. Learning to ride a unicycle may look complicated, but it is really about investing time, developing muscle memory, and being determined to stay with it until you can ride on that cloud. That makes it like just about anything else in life that is worth learning to do.
Where can I get a unicycle?
- Unicycle.com - Please Choose Your Country
The Premier Unicycle Source. We sell a large range of unicycles, parts, , accessories and more! For unicyclists, by unicyclists. Welcome to Unicycle.com, the source for UNICYCLES! Yes, you can buy UNICYCLES here and SADDLES, TIRES, UNICYCLE FRAMES, H