Learning Resolution #1: Unicycling


Unicycling is something I’ve always thought looked really cool. It’s the epitome of the quirky things people marvel at, but rarely attempt. That’s why it was just perfect for this resolution.

I had no idea where to begin and don’t know anyone who has any clue either. That led my son and I down to the local bike shop where we had seen unicycles for sale, and often contemplated purchasing one, but never pulled the trigger. We bought one suited for his size figuring we could share it. He’s about 5’4″ and I’m just a hair over 6′. We went for the 20″, which according to the kid behind the counter is the standard size for beginners.

My son spent a couple of hours following the suggestions of a single youtube tutorial for beginning unicyclists, cycling back and forth while holding on to the back of a bench. The next day I joined him, this time on our driveway using the garage door for balance. In his limited experience, he became convinced you can’t fall off a unicycle and get hurt so in our early attempts we went without helmets or pads. One trip to the floor convinced me otherwise and we quickly added helmets.

Over lunch we referred back to YouTube and watched several tutorials which offered far better advice than the original. Armed with this information we took to the local elementary school’s basketball court for a smoother, flatter surface. My son, Jackson’s skill level exploded. He was flying up the learning curve while I was singing his praises in soprano.

It quickly became apparent this unicycle was too small for me and I was torn between getting a more appropriate 24″ thereby improving my odds of success versus staying with the 20″ and maintaining my excuse. After much coaxing from Jackson, we made a second trip to the bike shop and acquired our second unicycle.

It made a big difference. Now instead of falling after just one rotation, I made it to four. Whoopee!

Day 2 we decided to change venues again. We spied the slick surface of the outdoor roller hockey rink at the local YMCA and inquired at the front desk whether we could utilize it for training. They were perplexed. No one had ever asked about unicycling there. The manager asked for some time to inquire with the higher ups, while the kid at the front desk asked, “Whats the difference between that and rollerblading?” We later got approval and an awesome venue for continuing our training.

Within minutes Jackson was learning to turn and riding at will, while I simply found a smoother surface on which to break my falls. For every effortless rotation he made while my progress sputtered my frustration level ticked a notch higher. I kept thinking, “maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Day 3, we returned to the elementary school playground (the rink was being used) where kids were playing soccer and soccer moms were looking on. For the first time we enjoyed the benefits of an audience. Every time the cycle would snap back into my crotch or a pedal would smash into my shin, there was at least one other person  whose expression would empathetically mimic my own. It was equal parts humiliating and encouraging. Jackson was now offroading and doing circles, while my great leap forward was getting from the basketball hoop to half court. It may not sound like much, but I gotta say, Im finally feeling as though Im making some progress. My muscles are beginning to understand their individual roles and working together to make this happen. I truly believe I am on the verge of “getting this”. So far the only injury would be sore knees.

Day 4, some real progress. I pulled my groin muscle early on and for some reason, from that moment on I was really starting to ride. Could it be whatever I started doing to compensate actually brought things in line? In any event, today I experienced for the first time what it feels like to truly ride a unicycle. For brief moments I was as relaxed as I am when riding a bike. Those moments still don’t last more than a few seconds, but the progress is tangible. I’m actually starting to enjoy it. Oh, and not to be outdone, Jackson cycled the entire length of a basketball court while carrying a basketball, and then put it in via a layup!!!

For those of you anxious to learn, I highly recommend Step 1 should be to watch the brief video on howtodorandomstuffnow

73 thoughts on “Learning Resolution #1: Unicycling

  1. Little people made of rubber can always do things better than us old crotchety types made from silly putty that was left outside all weekend. I still think it’s evolutionary cheating. Anyway, kudos to you for trying! I think you’ve inspired me to give this one a go myself.

    Good luck!!!

  2. Just bought a unicycle – after a couple of alarming false starts, it’s been sitting in the corner and we’ve been glaring at each other for a couple days now. You’ve inspired me – I’m going to conquer that thing, no matter what!

  3. Looks fun yet challenging. Oh well, I’ll never be able to learn how to unicycle. I’d be sure to get lots of bruises and cuts, it’ll be to late for me to be able to learn this stuff. Congrats on making this post to freshly pressed, by the way. 🙂

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  4. Considering I can barely ride a regular bike without falling over, I don’t think I’d give unicycling a shot. But kudos to you and your son for sticking it out and learning a cool new skill! 🙂

  5. that’s awesome dude. I tried that a couple times but fell. Got to have good balance for that. I’m more of a two wheeler, add one more wheel and I can ride with no hands on the steering.

  6. You did better than I did on my first try!!! I am on a quest to try everything and everything this year, and unicycle was last week’s challenge. Man is that hard. My video is much more of me struggling with two men holding me up.

    • Yeah, my son and i had an initial goal of unicycling on the trails. We accomplished it on flattish trails and he keeps pushing to do more daring things.

  7. This was just dinner table conversation at our home. My husband decided he wanted to ride a unicycle when he was in high school. Our children were trying to figure out what ever inspired the scientific, logical manager to want to ride a unicycle. The answer was simply “just because I could.”
    Now the gauntlet has been thrown down and our teen boys want to see if they can learn to ride a unicycle. God forbid that there is something dad can do that they can not. So next week we are heading to Grandma’s to see if we can dig the unicycle out of the back of her garage.
    This should be interesting.
    Great post!

    • Ha, thats awesome! In my house, Ive thrown down the gauntlet so often my kids have become immune. Im curious whether “it’s like riding a bicycle” for your husband, where he’s able to jump right on and go.

  8. Excellent post. This is really a good work. I appreciate your efforts behind that.
    Thanks for sharing!

  9. I first read this post . Then I watched the videos sans sound. Then I sent a kid upstairs to get some speakers so that I could hear what you were saying. I laughed so loud when you told your son that you were going to go around the corner and come back and you could barely get up there. So funny and fun! Congrats.

  10. That’s great, 12 resolutions in 2012. I once signed up for 10 races in 2010 and every year I buy a new journal and write down 100 new goals or so, like reading a certain book, seeing a movie, walking/running so many miles, learning to bake a baguette, etc. It’s a wonderful way to feel fulfilled and challenge yourself! Good luck with the rest!!

  11. Fantastic feat!

    I tried unicycling when I was 12 (very briefly) but never managed to succeed. Maybe I will give it a try again now that my leg-eye coordination is better as an adult (or is it worse? ;))

    Enjoyed reading your post!

  12. I learned it on a undersized unicycle, 10″ baby, those clowns are some serious talent.
    The little one was a bear to learn, and I never could go backwards on it.
    It got stolen though so I’m going to buy a 24″ sometime =D

  13. Very cool that you two learned to ride together. I learned as a teen and it really helped my esteem given I had little athletic ability or interest for team sports. Have fun and keep on riding. Congrats on being FP!

  14. When I was 15 I had to teach myself to ride a unicycle simply to break the cycle (no pun intended) of being an utter spaz. The most important thing I learned is that it does not help to try learning on a hill thinking the gravity will help. And the 2nd most important thing I learned is to tape a towel on the seat which are always under-padded.

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