I want to learn unicycles


Like any sport, unicycles will always seem difficult at first. But the next one can make it a little less frustrating and hopefully will make you learn a little faster.

Where to practice

It's best to practice on a flat surface. A parking lot is often good, a gym too. The width is not really important, but the length is, if you don't have to be afraid to ride a wall at the end that's a worry less. On a long floor you can practice longer in a row and you can also set yourself a goal: up to that stripe, or up to that pole.

A helping hand

It's best to stick to something sturdy that's about as high as between your waist and your chest (if you're on the unicycle). At least on one side, but it would be ideal if you had something like that on both sides. A bridge railing or fence (watch out for splinters!) can work well, a wall rack in a gym is also fine. A mesh fence like around a tennis court is also fine.
One or two people to hold on to works, of course; You can hold their shoulders or hold their hands. People have to be next to you, or actually something in front of you so that your curved arms stick forward a little bit, especially once you're ready for (supported) driving. Please note that you have to hold them, not the other way around, because you have to decide for yourself how much support you need. And they certainly shouldn't hold your unicycle, because YOU have to keep the balance.

Saddle height

If you put your foot heel on the pedal in the lower position, your leg should be almost straight, but not oprovided. (This is not the normal foot position to drive, see further down.) The saddle height depends on your personal preference so you may deviate from this directive, just see what you like.

Basic skills

This method of learning unicycles emphasizes the learning of basic skills, rather than 'just trying a little'. Some people can drive a bit after just a few minutes, but most need at least a few hours. So you might as well take a little more time and learn it well.

This method has proven itself in practice. Nevertheless, you will have to practice yourself. Unicycling is not difficult and anyone with normal legs can learn it, but your body just needs time to learn the good reflexes.

Stepping down

To get on a unicycle for the first time can be amazingly tricky (and funny to watch). A good way is to stand next to your support with the unicycle in front of you. The place next to your support is important, because once you're on the unicycle you have to sit upright, and don't have to lean towards your support, or get away from it. Put the pedal of your 'strong' foot at the lowest point. (If you don't know what your strong foot is, try them both.) Place the ball off your foot on the bottom pedal., hold the saddle against your seat with one hand, and hold your support with your other. Put your weight on your lower foot so that the wheel doesn't roll forward, and pull yourself forward; you can use one or both hands. Place your other foot on the top pedal. If that feels fairly stable, reduce the pressure on the pedals so that your weight gets more on the saddle.

The power position

Now slowly roll back by pressing the top pedal back until the pedals are the same height. Keep your weight on the saddle, and stay upright. You are now in the 'power position'; In this you have the most control over the unicycle.

Foot position on the pedal

With regular cycling (on a two-wheeler) you probably have a favorite foot position on the pedal. For uni-cycling, you can use the same foot position. To learn unicycles, and also for most styles of riding on a unicycle, it is usually recommended to have the ball off your foot on the pedal.

Rocking back and forth

On a regular bike, all you have to do is keep your balance to the side. If you learn to ride a unicycle, it is best to practice the front/back balance first. Then you have to focus on fewer things, and learning is easier and faster.
Grab your support tightly with one or both hands. Let the wheel go a little bit forward and backward, no more than say ten or twenty centimeters. Keep your weight on the saddle, and your upper body straight and upright. Your lower body has to go back and forth like a pendulum. Practice this in both strength positions, so both with your left foot in front and with your right foot in front. Don't go to the next exercise until you don't have to hold on to yourself.

Wheel rotations

Now you can start driving forward, each time with half a wheel rotation at a time, as you drive past your support (or move your support with you). Start every half rotation by leaning a little ahead. For a moment you keep the wheel in place, then you quickly kick half a rotation to get the wheel back under your centre of gravity. By stopping in the power position, you can find your balance again, and it also forces you to exercise to exert backward force on the pedal.
If this works well, you move on to whole rotations of the wheel at the same time. Stop again after each wheel rotation. Remember: sitting upright and weighing on the saddle.

Continuous driving

Now you can move on to uninterrupted driving next to your support. The main thing here is to maintain your forward speed so that you pass the least controlled position (where the cranks are vertical). Try to exert less and less power on your support as your self-confidence increases. Once you can, hold your support with one hand, and swing your other arm in the air for balance.

Driving without support

If you're going to practice this, you're going to drive this first next to your support, and let go if you have enough speed. If you're going loose, you can keep your arms wide for balance, but let them wave as it suits. It is perfectly normal to move wildly with your arms when you learn unicycles.

General tips
* Don't drive too slowly. Slow driving is a challenge in itself, because in fact it is more difficult to maintain your balance. On a 20" is a walking person about the good speed. On a 24" the easiest speed is slightly higher.
* You probably tend to fall off at the front of the unicycle. Sure, you have to lean forward a little bit, but you have to kick hard enough so that the wheel can keep track of you. It can be useful to think, "Keep the wheel under you", instead of "Stay above the wheel". Maybe you think it's a scary idea to kick harder to avoid a fall. In that case, drive a little slower and lean a little more backwards.
* If you drive forward and threaten to fall to the side, you should avoid it by steering in that direction. You steer with your hips, so that you rotate the saddle in the right direction and roll the wheel in the desired direction. (Keep the wheel under you, remember.) You don't have to be very conscious about this, your body will find this out.
* Don't worry if you can't avoid falling, in any direction. That problem has all the novice one-wheel teachers. It can be frustrating, but as you exercise more, correcting your balance will become easier and more natural. After a while, the reflexes in your motor memory are cut and the balance is completely unconscious, just like walking or just cycling on a two-wheeler.


International: http://www.unicycle.com
Germany: http://www.municycle.com
List of stores in the Netherlands (internet and plain): eenwieler.startpagina.nl