The Schwinn Unicycle Hub
The Schwinn Unicycle
This is my 21-inch Schwinn Unicycle.
I purchased it new in 1983, after selling the original 20-inch model I received as a gift at the tender age of twelve years old.
Previous to this gift my elementary schoolfriends and I in grade 5, had started a mini-unicycle club. Mini-unicycles were created by removing the handlebars from a tricycle, cutting the front wheel and frame off the tricycle, and taking the tricycle seat and sticking it in the hole on top left by removing the handlebars. Usually this worked out fine, as the seat post and handlebar post were the same diameter.
The tricycle featured a solid pedal and crank assembly, meaning when the front wheel turned, the pedals turned as well. Unicycles did not 'glide' like a bicycle, you had to keep pedaling! Being low to the ground meant crashes were less spectacular than from a bike or larger unicycle, you were only 12-inches above the ground when seated on a mini-unicycle!
Our 'gang' could be seen riding our mini-unicycles around the school before class in the mornings. One challenge was to hang onto the slippery seat, made out of shiny painted metal, with one hand. Jeans were prone to slipping off and then you said hello to the hard surface you were riding upon!
The Schwinn Unicycle - Side View
Learning to Ride The Unicycle
OK, now the question I'm always asked, "so how did you learn how to ride it?".
My cousin Keith preceeded me in aquiring his Schwinn Unicycle as he was two years older. He explained to me that he learned by holding onto a parked car fender in his driveway. The driveways in those days had a real live, growing grass strip between the concrete or gravel wheel tracks of the driveway, a holdover from the horse and buggy days when our homes were constructed, around 1906 in Los Angeles County, California.
My cousin explained that he would place both of his feet onto the pedals, balance as best he could in the vertical direction, and push away from the car, using the grass strip as a primitave speed control, somewhat like teaching a kid to ride a bike on the grass. The soft soil and grass tends to hug the tire so that speed is reduced. He would pedal as far as he could before falling, yes falling is part of the training period!
I followed his advice on a neighbor's drivway that had grass on both sides so I could fall on it and not damage the unicycle's seat or pedals on the concrete driveway. After practicing all day that first Saturday I could pedal to the bottom of the driveway and turn onto the sidewalk at the bottom.
Later that same week i was shown how to mount and pedal the unicycle from a standing start, with no car to hang onto. This took some time, and caused damage to the nose of the unicycle seat as I stepped off before crashing. The method improved when I placed my leg against the tire, acting as a brake, while wearing blue jeans, which prevented the unicycle from rolling until I could quickly remove my foot from the ground and pedal forward to maintain balance.
Later I learned to reach down and grab the seat just before stepping off in the forward direction. After about two weeks I could pedal continously for 15-20 minutes as my legs got used to the constant pedaling to stay upright. After another week I could balance in one place without pedaling.
I never did learn how to pedal backwards, my concern for my personal safety, and any garden plants or objects behind me prevented any further backwards practicing. My cousin was able to ride backwards for a distance I recall.
I was invited to participate in our town's Fourth-Of-July-Parade, but deferred the task to my cousin as I was travelling out of town. His picture appeared in the local paper, with red, white and blue bunting threaded into the spokes of his unicycle, and sporting some clown makeup I believe, he was semi-famous around town for his unicycle ride in the parade.
Now it's years later, and I still drag the 1982 model out of storage for a ride around the neighborhood, to the astonished stares from neighbors and their kids.
"Are you a clown?" they would ask. "No, although I like Clowns!", I would reply.
Unicycles are a great form of aerobic exercise, you cannot glide, but must continue pedaling. The added strain on your thigh muscles, and using all of your leg muscles to balance makes for an exhausting workout!