Introduction: Unicycle - Tips for the Beginner and Things Importante'

Picture of Unicycle - Tips for the Beginner and Things Importante'

Hi one and all - thought I would pop this on line as these few things I have discovered in my uni practice sessions have made a world of difference to my competence and move into enjoying the riding I do as opposed to a constant battle with the one wheeled beast.

To follow are just a couple of hints and tips that have helped me to become free from the dreaded wall and get out onto the open road.

I know you guys and girls don't want a load of bla bla and waffle but I do just want to say that nothing here is in any way meant to disrespect those great folks on Youtube and other resources that  helped me so much when I decided to to take up unicycling - Megan Rouch and good ole Unigeezer to name just two (my hero's).

The thing is this  - I have found that tutorials by really great riders can miss the subtle things that really slow ya progress - only because - when ya know how to do something - wellllll ya just kinda do it, not think so much - you know what I mean.

OK, off we go.

Oh yeah!!! - no laughing at what I am wearing and the dodgy duds, plus the look of an old Quasimodod - it was cold, I need a shave and I suffer from extreme spontaneity - meaning when I get an urge I just gotta do it or try it - - jeez I look like the fella off SAW - just before he dies - ho hum. 

Step 1: OK - -

Picture of OK - -

Most of this instructable centers around the picture you see and how much progress ya can make by buying/using an adjustable walking pole/stick.

Try the usual practice to get ya started against a wall,fence or many of the other tutorial methods, they all work great - but if you keep finding ya just cannot master free mounting or want to be riding and enjoying doing so without needing to be near a wall or curb this little fella will SET YOU FREE - no really - you'll see.

Practice mounting with the stick and soon you will be hopping up onto cycles large or small (36ers maybe not - dunno) - your just one step away from free mounting and your confidence will take such a boost.

Unicycling is a crazy sport - what other is easier to do (riding) but mounting sooo bloomin frustrating - the stick gives you a starting point no matter where you are - no curbs, no walls and once ya get the hang of it no one else needed for that helping hand - - off ya go - as far as you want - you can step on and off as many times as ya need, get right back on again and be on your way - once your doing this the distance you cover will grow really quickly - once your riding and starting to enjoy it ya wonder what all the fuss was about and anything else (mounting,going up and down curbs etc etc) is just other stuff to try out and practice - your riding - your doing it .

Following on from above - your probably thinking "riding while holding a cane is hard" - nope! and it has other benefits - you'll see.

Get sore nuts when practicing - mount up with the cane - be stable - arrange yourself - - ok lets go.

Put your pedals in a good starting position - mount up - take your time.

A truly brill thing about this aid that might mean ya decide to keep it no matter how good you become is - - your riding along, come to a point where ya want to stop (road junction,have a rest,look at something,talk to someone) - you can slow right down - put the stick back onto the road/floor and just stop! and stand - no need to idle, that will come, no need to put your feet down unless you want to - plus if you do want to dismount and your not really happy about that part yet, you are stopped,stable and in control.

Step 2: Push Off!

Picture of Push Off!

There are few times in life when to be off balance or leaning forward is a good thing but unicycling has that as part of it's necessity.
To get yourself going from a static position (untill ya can do those fancy mounts etc) is tricky - - aha! but now with the staff of power your task young jedi is just a tad easier.
Check out the different pictures (no giggling at the back - mocking the afflicted is rude) and you will see that by using an adjustable walking cane or pole you can dial just the right angle for pushing off - when your starting out I know how weird leaning forward over one wheel is, no matter how large or small your uni is.
This tool allows you to set up the degree needed to allow for you/me to put ourselves into a position where that first push off does not make us immediately crash and burn.
As you get better and can judge how your first thrust effects things you can dial the stick higher and start to ride off with much more poise.

Two things - when you push off - push/pedal - now I know you have seen the videos that say keep pedaling bla bla but it is not so easy, yes?. What I mean is - know where you need to push - learn the point that keeps you going but does not throw your balance, just pedaling can slip into panic - you are in control but your uni is trying to tell you how to ride, ya just gotta listen.

And - and this is important - videos will tell you to lean forward (more than we all thought - ok) what they don't mention is that you need to get upright and balanced pretty quickly - not in a panic but up and finding the sweet spot for proper distance.
The thing is this - we need to be off balance to push off but not to ride, that point is just a smidge off center - depending upon gradient - stay scrunched up and your gut (skinny or a lardy like me) gets in the way of your legs, until you get better and begin to ride off in a more upright position - you'll see.

Step 3: Looking Ahead

Picture of Looking Ahead

Looking - looking ahead is the single most important and bloomin hardest things to master - sounds easy but as many a good vid will tell ya - where you look is where you go - - and if your looking down well you know the rest.

Looking ahead is the thing that automatically puts your body in the right riding position - get your eyes up and you will be stepping off the uni a lot lot less - - but it is hard when your startin - I know brutha, I hear ya. Your worried about falling, making sure your feet are in the right position, wondering if you'll crash into stuff etc - the staff of power will put you right and keep you safe.
With practice you'll be mobile but if you can get that cane up in front of ya - comfy distance and balance - put it where you want to go and keep it there - look around, check stuff out but return to the tip of the stick, if ya look and see uneven ground ahead, ok slow down, deal with it, then eyes up.
I know I look like a plonker but when your doing it and riding, with folks saying how cool it is to be doing that and they never could - well it's worth it - - aaannnd when the kids are making funny noises or shouting at ya - keep looking, stay focused and you will keep on truckin and not fall, I promise, I promise.

Also - when you get used to this extra appendage you can of course - push in the button on the side of the cane while riding and retract the inner shaft into the outer, making the whole thing a lot smaller if you want.

Step 4: Lastly

Picture of Lastly

And finally for now as your probably tired of my jabberin on.

Depending upon the staff etc you decide to use, when you get comfy with your riding and balance you can always hold the stick in a different position or even put into a device for holding it should that be preferable - be aware - if you fall off, step off or generally come a cropper will the place your keeping the cane smash you in the mouth or break a rib - just a thought.

This one tool has made soo much difference to my enjoyment and freedom - as always I hope you find these instructabites helpful - have fun.



RondaMattern (author)2016-09-04

Thanks for the tips. Packing up my son to come home after graduating college & in his dorm was a unicycle. He has no idea how to ride it & doesn't care to learn so don't ask me why it was there. Jokingly I told him I'd learn to ride it by Christmas & that would be his gift. Well he took me as being serious. So here I go....

K1yo (author)2016-09-01

And there was me thinking I was the only person who has gone down the route of riding with a hiking pole. I've only been able to ride unassisted for the last four weeks but free mounting is just pure witchcraft to me. So until someone sprinkles me with fairy dust in my sleep I'll be out and about with my trusty pole. Respect to everyone who has attempted the black art that is unicycling.

advrider29 (author)2016-07-02

Enjoyed this Darren. Is the stick useful for learning to go backwards? I started 5 months ago at age 65. I learned to ride forward by using a fence rail along a sidewalk as a crutch. I can go for miles. Now I'm back on the rail learning reverse. Much harder.

darrenhall (author)advrider292016-07-02

Hi - cheers for looking in - - I would think the stick could help with keeping an upright posture and eyes ahead, not looking down - - as to riding backwards though, ya got me, never had call to do that, my ride was used as a road bike but the discoveries you make in this area will be of great interest to others no doubt - look forward to your instructables on the subject - all the best with your practice and progress.

advrider29 (author)darrenhall2016-07-14

I gave your method a shot, using a fully extended hiking pole. Right away, i discovered that i could stop and with minimal assist from the pole, stay upright. I took the pole on my ride and used it like i would on a hike. Just light pecks at the ground. It provided a sense of comfort. I didnt attempt to go backwards. Still building up the proprioceptors for back peddling. Thumbs up to your approach.

darrenhall (author)advrider292016-07-21

go for it - we want to see piks though

Bless you for saying your age! A real confidence booster for others.

Thank you Candace. Yeah, if I can learn it, just about anybody with patience and dedication can.

rbeech1 (author)2016-07-11

I have had a very nice 24" Schwinn but I got frustrated because I could not get the seat tube tight enough. When I would swing my legs the seat would twist in the frame. Anyone else experience this? Any suggestions. I am anxious to learn.

GregW31 (author)2016-07-05

I have three unicycles in my shop from when my son rode them. One is a commuter with a 36 inch wheel. I really should learn to ride the darn thing.

It only took him 30 minutes and the little turd was juggling on it.

advrider29 (author)GregW312016-07-06

That's hilarious Greg. 36 is on my wish list. I learned on a 29.

gsvanwinkle (author)2016-07-05

Thank you for this. It provided the encouragement to convince me to give it a go.

GrayandGimpy (author)2016-07-05

Hi, I have been a unicycler for over 40 years.

If this advice works for you then use it.

HOWEVER, it is very hard to learn how to ride a unicycle that has low tire pressure as seen in the photos. Get it up to 60 psi for the fastest response. Otherwise, your cycle will be sluggish and learning will be frustrating.

enfelice (author)2016-07-05

I learned to ride my unicycle by practicing in the hallway (the walls saved me many a time at first) of my house twenty years ago and still ride to this day.

enfelice (author)2016-07-05

I learned to ride my unicycle by practicing in the hallway (the walls saved me many a time at first) of my house twenty years ago and still ride to this day.

Nikiniku (author)2015-09-02

If one pole is helpful, two will guarantee success. Take a look at this video. This is the answer! By the way, I'm 77, and I'm goig to be a unicyclist as soon as my poles arrive.

Nikiniku (author)2015-09-02

I bought a unicycle several weeks ago, but I didn't try to use it until yesterday. Unfortunately, although I had hoped using it in the hallway would be much easier than outdoors, I had to give up after a few minutes. Anyway, I saw your article today, and I've ordered an adjustable pole. I might even add another one, because someone said that he was given two to start. It helps to see other people unicycling. For this reason I tried to find something I had seen on--I think--60 minutes many years ago. It was a school where ALL of the students used unicycles throughout the day, and the sight of maybe hundreds of students cycling around the campus, through hallways, up and down stairs, etc.was very encouraging. Unfortunately, I could find no trace of it today on Google. I know it wasn't a dream, so I'm wondering if you know anything about the school. I believe it was a prep school.

stickmop (author)2014-11-25

This trick with the cane really help me get going. I had a unicycle in the 70s but never got adept at it. I picked up a cheap 24" one a few months back and can go about 80 feet max (my practice sessions are like 5 minutes several times a week).

What I'd like to work on now is going "straight". I ride on hard smooth gravel a bit and the tracks looks like I'm slaloming down the driveway

darrenhall (author)stickmop2014-11-25

Hiya - cheers for the look in - for a straighter ride ya might examine your leg setup - make them just shy of fully extended when your at the bottom of the stroke, the more bent the leg is the harder they have to work, plus with the knees sticking out in front half way down n the stroke can have ya wobbling all over the place.

glad the trick worked, keep up the great work - wanna see some vids of ya on youtube soon.

stickmop (author)darrenhall2014-11-25

When I test fit the pedals per all the internet FAQs I only have a slight bend in my knees. When I ride, it seems like I'm half on the pedals and half on the seat. Maybe my seat is over-cushioned. I also ride using the balls of my feet, not flatfooted as you appear to. I'll crank the seat height up some more.

The FAQs also say "twisting" could be due to posture, a bent frame, wheel out of alignment or misaligned cranks.

This one was obtained used from an acquaintance so it's very possible that something is bent or out of whack. Something other than me that is. :-)

darrenhall (author)stickmop2014-11-27

Hi - hhmm seems to be being troublesome - I would not advise using the balls of your feet till you are riding really well, think about this, if your using the balls then extra muscles are being used and made weary, pushing with the flats allows you to lock the heel of a shoe against the back of the pedal and not slip off at an inappropriate moment, plus you remove a muscle group and hopefully make a more controllable pushing structure.

As to your seating position, maybe your nose needs lifting, unless your uni is really cheap like my very first one then you should be able to kinda move the saddle forwards n back.

Bottom line ( pardon the pun ) this little bleeder is all about practice and what works for you - I jotted down some stuff that got me going but I bet you will other find ways.

You'll get there - good luck.

stickmop (author)darrenhall2014-11-27

After 50+ years of bike riding, using the balls of my feet is too ingrained I think. I've seen the suggestion about locking the heels against the pedals too, but I only have two pair of shoes and neither have heels. I rarely slip once on the cycle, but I could see where heels may help with unassisted mounts.

My unicycle is cheap but the seat does have some adjustments so I'll play with that. Good suggestion, thanks!

Beekeeper (author)2013-03-03

I'm sure those tips are very useful for all potential unicyclists, a phase in life that is now passed for me. When I was young, a friend of mine's father said 'can you ride your bicycle (2 wheeled type) backwards?' whereupon he sat on the handlebars and peddled around the yard going backwards. Over my younger life I tried it hundreds of times without any success whatsoever. I think a unicycle might well be easier than riding a regular bicycle backwards.

On another point I found your text somewhat confusing to read as you use the possessive pronoun 'your' when you mean the abbreviated form of 'you are' namely you're. I don't know why this mis-use of the language is creeping in so much these days but I blame the teachers.

I agree with your comment about 'your' and 'you're'. If only when somebody uses 'your' they just said out loud 'you are' they would understand it doesn't make sense and vice versa. You're (you are) correct. You can't say 'your' correct because it's not yours you don't own it. Please, please, please do an instructable on correct usage of the English language. You might throw in 'their', 'there' and 'they're'. ....and how an apostrophe in a word means there's a letter missing and the apostrophe is get the idea....sorry about the rant and probably incorrect word usage.

darrenhall (author)2013-03-03

Hiya - slackline!! - strewth I thought the uni was hard - big big respect.


Skymeat (author)darrenhall2013-03-04

Strewth - Is that like 'damn!'? If so It wasn't too hard. Just a few afternoons working it out for the basics. I always assumed the uni was hard to learn. If you think the line is hard to learn perhaps we're at just about the same level of difficulty?

bricabracwizard (author)Skymeat2013-04-15

Strewth is a shortened form of " to tell you the truth"

MastaDann (author)2013-03-04

Interesting, I never considered the staff. I have found lots of practice as the primary key. Every time I get on my Uni with a quest to discover my balance I learn a little bit.

Most recently, I found that looking backwards helps to start learning the balance of backwards motion. I'm currently becoming more acquainted with leaning backwards while facing forwards to move backwards.

Key = TIME (patience with self)

Skymeat (author)2013-03-04

I've been thinking about commuting on a unicycle for a while now. I think with my mountain poles that may be the difference between success and failure. It took a while to figure out the slackline, but it's a breeze now.

mr.frob (author)2013-03-03

Great idea! I will definitely have to try this out, I've been having so much trouble starting... this just might be the thing I've needed! Thanks for sharing!

codongolev (author)mr.frob2013-03-03

just keep at it. it took me about two weeks to learn to ride in a straight line. it pretty difficult. just remember; the object is to be constantly falling forward but never landing.

svkatielee (author)2013-03-03

Aww.. sorry. No photos. It was more than 50 years ago and I didn't keep any that long. I can still ride when I come across one that the owner will trust me with, but I'm too rusty for the tricks like one foot off the petals and pickiing stuff up off the ground, up steps and such.
Just get an old bike. Take the handle bars off, the front fork out, and put the handle bars back in to the fork tube without the rest of the bike. Nothing to it.

J-Five (author)2013-03-02

If I ever wanted to use one I would need training wheels.

darrenhall (author)J-Five2013-03-03

Cheat - if your into computers and robotics ya could build your own self balancing uni - post it on here - - then uummmm sell it to me. I am terrible, if I get hooked I want one, but the electric uni's can be mad expensive.


J-Five (author)darrenhall2013-03-03

I would last about 0.05 seconds on unicycle.

chaydgb (author)2013-03-03

Thanks for the tips! I got one for me and my little brother a few years back, he became really good and I just gave up and stuck the unicycle in the shed. Perhaps this summer I'll give it another go... :)

giles2606 (author)2013-03-03

Great intro - so true that its difficult to express those simple things that, if you don't know them make it hard to progress. I'm inspired to dig out my unicycle again !! :-)

darrenhall (author)mr.frob2013-03-03

Walls or railings, the longer the better helped me - but if ya can just start and get a bit of free pedaling distance then I hope you go from strength to strength if these tips help.

Cheers DZ

svkatielee (author)2013-03-03

I won't mention the date I started riding, but it was some time ago. Great idea you have here. I tried a number assist devices with each of the unicycles I had. An 8" tricycle tire with seat, a 10" tricycle wheel, a 20"x6' chain drive from 2 bicycles, a 24"commercial cycle and a 26"x4' chain drive 3:1 gear for high speed travel.

But, the reason I'm posting, I took the front wheel and handle bars off of a bicycle and put them back together without the bike. Holding the handlebars helped with the balance like your cane.
I also had a pet crow (raven). He liked to ride on my shoulder while I was on the unicycle. If he rode on those handle bars, the backs of my shirts stayed much cleaner!

darrenhall (author)svkatielee2013-03-03

That uni with the handlebars - do you have a picture, sounds cool.


ephraimephraim (author)2013-03-03

I learned with mounting and riding by a sturdy railing. The Harvard Bridge (Massachusetts Avenue across the Charles River) is great because there's about a third of a mile (.5 km) of continuous railing at a good height next to an uninterrupted sidewalk.

5km - you better watch out or you will have a load of uni learners wanting you to adopt them - - aaaahhh 5km pure blisss, ya lucky devil.

Cheers DZ

darrenhall (author)giles26062013-03-03

Go for it - ask any of the guys/girls any where - once your up and getting some distance you wonder what all the fuss was about - this is a made sport, but such a buzz no matter what level your at.


JimTheSoundman (author)2013-03-03

The main key to learning to ride a unicycle is persistance. It probably took me trying 500 times over the course of ten hours. I did it all in one day which makes it much easier. Yes, you will fall off over and over again, but soon you will be able to ride it like a champ. Trust me, if you are just persistant, anyone can learn this.

That is so very true - in fact probably the first thing we all should know - others do it and so can we,no matter how old - - good post.


fred_dot_u (author)2013-03-03

That's a pretty handy idea you've posted. I learned to ride the unicycle only recently and never really mastered the start. I learned from using a step or a curb as a backstop, but if an unplanned dismount happens and there are no steps or curbs about, it's a long walk to find one! A walking stick for starting would make that a good bit easier.

I've since moved to a Focus Designs SBU (Self-Balancing Unicycle) and gotten lazy, since it does the hard part for you. I wanted to get back on the pedal uni but it now terrifies me! Those falls are brutal on this old body.

Thanks again for a great idea.

ecsaul23 (author)2013-03-01

Very nice. I learned to ride when I was about 10 and my unicycle came with a set of 2 poles to help you learn. They are great because when you are losing your balance you can use the poles on either side to keep you upright so you can ride longer and get the hang of it easier.

vincent7520 (author)2013-03-01

Let's start by the most difficult thing first : get some bricks and mortar and build that wall.

Actually I love this instructables as it really helps to start.
Thanks for sharing !…

jessyratfink (author)2013-02-27

This is such a smart way to go about it. Awesome instructable! :D

darrenhall (author)jessyratfink2013-02-27

Hiya - cheers for your feedback.

I was wondering if a question would be ok - I see you have some instructables that are to do with sewing etc (please forgive my ignorance if that is the wrong way of putting it).
I have access to bike inner tubes for free and I was thinking about hand stitching a pair of fingerless cycle gloves from this material - was wondering if there was a stitch you thought might be best to be strong, tidy and avoid pulling or tearing.

Thanks again - - DZ

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