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Learning to Ride

At Unicycle.com we not only sell unicycles, we ride them and teach others to ride them.  For inspiration you'll find our great selection of books and DVD's here and we'll provide a free copy of Unicycle Skills DVD with your new Learner Unicycle to get you up and started.  You'll find more information below on:

Learning To Ride A Unicycle

How To Get On A Unicycle

Unicycle Skill Development

Teaching Location

Teaching Reduction of Risk

Teaching Stages of Riding 

Riding Locations

Adjusting Your Unicyle

Mounting Your Unicycle

Balancing On Your Unicycle

First Unicycle Steps

Launching Your Unicycle
 

Learning To Ride A Unicycle

Welcome to the fun-filled world of unicycling! To kids young and old, you're about to embark on an adventure that will last a lifetime. The average time needed to learn unicycling is 10-15 hours; that's about an hour a day for two weeks.  

Safety Gear: Unicycling is generally not dangerous, but as with any physical activity, like riding a bike expect to fall every now and again, especially while learning. We strongly recommend wearing a helmet and wrist guards, sneakers or running shoes and trousers. 

Where to learn: The ultimate space would be a smooth corridor with a hand rail along each side.  Not easy to find! Look for a space clear of objects that might obstruct you.  It must be smooth and level, any pebble or dip will knock you off when you are beginning.  Tennis courts and school yards are generally good.  If you are lucky to have a juggling or unicycling club in your area they generally have appropriate space in a hall or gym and can also help you learn to ride.

Does this thing have a front and back? Yes. The seat post clamp skewer (bolt/nut or quick-release handle) is on the back - check this is on the correct way round, the slot in the frame under the clamp should be at the rear! The pedal marked "L" should be on your left, "R" on your right.

How high should the seat be? When you're seated on the unicycle, with the heel of one foot on a pedal in its lowest position, your leg should be almost straight.  This is important, if the seat does not go high enough we sell extra long replacement seat posts.

Getting Started:

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1. Stand with both feet flat on the ground, legs apart. Put the seat between your legs.

2. Spin in the wheel so that the pedal is in the 4:00 o'clock position.

3. Put both hands on the handrail/fence.

4. Step on the pedal closest to you. This is different from a bicycle, where you step on the forward pedal. Bicyclists are used to moving forward when mounting. On a unicycle, you want the wheel to rotate 1/4-turn backwards. Step on the pedal and you should now be on the seat with the wheel underneath you.

5. Pedal backwards 1/4 turn to get your feet horizontal (backwards is easier than going forwards to get out of "the dead" position when your cranks are vertical).  You are now ready to go forwards.

6. Hold onto the handrail/fence tightly and lean forward slightly while pedaling slowly. Take it one "step" at a time: from horizontal feet with your left foot forward to horizontal feet with your right foot forward. Its just like learning to walk. Make sure you are sitting up straight (but still relaxed).

7. Build up from one step at a time to two steps, then three steps. Try to hold the rail/fence less and less until it is only needed for the occasional balance correction.

Congratulations!  Soon you'll travel a few metres without assistance, then a few more, then you'll soon discover the secret to unicycling: 

Tips:  Here are the top ten of tips; memorise these and you will be well on your way.

1.   "Sit on the seat" (don't hold your weight on your legs)
2.   "When the unicycle starts to fall, let it and don't catch it"
3.   "Don't look down, look ahead"
4.   "Lean forward not back"
5.   "Point your shoulders in the direction you want to go"
6.   "Sit on the seat"
7.   "Faster, like a bike it is much harder to ride very slow"
8.   "Do not try to stand still"
9.   "Don't worry, you will learn to turn right later, just turn left for the moment"
10. "Sit on the seat!"

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How To Get On A Unicycle ("Free Mount")

The next stage of learning is to be able to get on the unicycle without holding on to anything or anyone else. This is called a "free mount". There are two basic techniques for free mounting.

You stay still, the wheel moves.
Place your first foot on the nearest pedal at about 4.00 o'clock (this varies slightly with size of wheel, bigger the wheel the lower the pedal) with the seat in position. Apply weight to the pedal, the unicycle will then move underneath you until the pedal is at the bottom (6.00 o'clock) and the frame is vertical. Place the second foot on the other pedal which will be at the top and apply a backwards motion. This makes the wheel move backwards about 1/4 turn. All of this should be done in a smooth action with the shoulders staying almost still. Fall / topple / lean slightly forward and start to pedal forwards to bring the unicycle back underneath you again. This is a good start for the more analytical learner and can be done holding on to bar or wall because your shoulders should stay almost still.

You move and the wheel stays still.
Place your first foot on the nearest pedal at about 3.00 o'clock with your seat in position and one hand on the front of the seat.  Move forward as if stepping up on to a step... but, with putting as little weight on the step as possible.  As you move forward it often helps to push the saddle forward slightly to keep the cranks horizontal where you want them (this also helps men!).  This can be done relatively slowly and does not need to executed rapidly.  The pedals should stay horizontal during whole of this exercise. When you are on top of the unicycle and the pedals are horizontal you will be ready to ride off.  Lean forward to get some forwards momentum. This tends to be better for the rider who is a "go for it" learner. This is the better mount to learn because it allows you to get on in a variety of situations that may not allow for the slight backwards motion of the first type of mount (for example on rough ground).

One technique for learning the second mount is the place the wheel up against a curb so that it can not rotate backwards.  This alleviates one part of the process as the curb will keep the wheel still.  

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Unicycle Skill Development

Just get out there and ride.  Try to find others to ride with.  Start a club in your area.  Commute to work or school.  The International Unicycling Federation has their online "Trixionary" with plenty of ideas for new tricks to try.

Unicycle Hockey:  One of the best way to improve your unicycling and have fun while you do it is to play unicycle hockey.  See the Games & Fun Stuff page for Unicycle Hockey and more ....

Where To Unicycle:  Link up with the Australian Unicycle Society's Website to find a club, group or rider near you.

Teaching Others? Try our book Teach Unicycling.

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Teaching


Teaching:  Location

Finding the ideal teaching space is very hard to do. Firstly it should get a smooth flat surface clear of any obstacles or debris. You should have at least one long clear wall, without any doors or alcoves in it. Ideally the bar should be at chest height.

The ideal space is often not available, so pick the best space that is available!  Here are some of the things to look out for.

Doors - Beware as you may hit or fall through a door when placing weight on them.  It is possible to fall backwards closing the door and inadvertently trap fingers.  Ouch!

Grass - it is not that this is unsafe, just a lot harder to teach on if the wheel is not on a smooth surface.

Carpet - unless it is very thin it tends to track the wheel and makes it hard to ride on.

Astroturf / Composite Rubber - these can be found on tennis courts, there seams to be no set answer here; sometimes they are great places to learn other times they are nightmare with catching the tyre and tracking like carpets.

Flagstones - check for them being smooth and without large gaps between them.

Tarmac - this can be good to ride on but when people fall they will get scrapes on their knees and hands.

Glass - a lot of modern spaces now have large glass window panels. Avoid!

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Teaching:  Reduction of Risk

Environment Check - be sure that there are no tripping obstacles on the floor or walls.

Unicycle Check - are all the unicycles in working order?  Quick releases fitted and tightened properly and pointing down, pedals tight and tyres pumped up. Be sure that it is fitted to the person correctly. From sitting on the seat the leg should be absolutely straight when the pedal is at the bottom of the stroke.

Safety Talk - warn people that this is a physical activity and that they should expect fall at some point.  They should be aware of riders around them and not ride too close to them.  They should listen to advice given as it is often guided towards keeping them safe.  Tailor the talk to warn people of the dangers of the environment they are in eg. avoid doors, pillars, holes etc.  Ask people if they are prone to falling or breaking bones; if they are then recommend wearing safety equipment.

Clothing Check - no baggy trousers, no scarves, or dangling bits, including ensuring shoe laces are tucked in shoes.  Your own shoe laces should also be tucked in as an example.

Safety Gear - when you are doing basic level teaching of unicycling safety gear may be seen as superfluousness, being only required to totally reduce the risk of injury or if a rider is prone to injuries.  A learner should be taught to fall properly, and without this then yes they do need protective gear.  There are exceptions to recommend wearing safety gear; this is where the environment or the person requires them. For example on tarmac; then knee, elbow and wrist guards are useful against grazes.  Learning to ride a unicycle is as safe as playing most sports played in schools.

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Teaching:  Stages of Riding

There are 5 key stages to the riding. Different riders will need different amount of time at each stage. There are also different techniques to help at each stage.

Getting on the unicycle
1. Find a wall next to some flat ground with a grab rail ideally at chest height.
2. Get the learner to stand side on to the wall holding the wall bar with one hand and holding the front of the seat with the other.
3. Ascertain which pedal is going to be their leading foot - just ask them or look at which foot they want to put on pedal first.
4. Ask the learner to then sit on the seat then show the correct position for the lead pedal, it should be about the 4 o'clock position.
5. Get the learner to then press on the pedal so that the unicycle winds up underneath them. The pedals will then be vertical then ask them to use the other pedal to ride backwards so that the pedals are horizontal.

Finding Balance
Leave the learner for about 5 to 10 minutes just sitting on the unicycle. This is time just to allow them to familiarise themselves with the experience of sitting on the saddle and finding their balance.  Emphasise:

1. Keep their weight on the saddle.
2. Sit upright.
3. Keep the pedals horizontal (although some moving to find balance is good).
4. Keep one hand one the wall while the other is straight out.
5. Look at ahead at fixed object.

Dismounting:  Demonstrate to the riders how to dismount safely.  Get them to step forward off the unicycle letting it fall away to the floor.  Do not let them catch the unicycle.  Repeat this a few times.  It will also help build confidence at getting on the unicycle.

Moving:  Get the rider to move slowly along the wall bar at walking pace. Emphasise that they need to rotate the pedals smoothly, put all of their weight on the saddle and look forward. They should have only one hand on the wall and the other should be held out away for balance.  A large group you should set up a one way system along the wall. This stage varies in time between individuals from 5 minutes to an hour or so.

Launching:  When the riders have succeeded in moving smoothly along the wall get them to launch away from the wall. There are 2 basic techniques; to veer off from the moving position or to launch out at 90 degrees from the wall.  To launch out at 90 degrees is preferred as it gets the rider safely away from the wall faster.  Have the learner practice dismouting before launching.  Do this several times and be confident the learner is walking off the front of the unicycle upon dismount and not trying to catch the saddle.

There are several additional aids and tip to help at each of these stages.  Demonstrate all the stages pointing out the key things at each stage, helping the learner see what they should be doing clearly.  The moving stage can be helped by using two assistants to hold a broom handle out at the right height in front of the rider for them to hold.

For nervous riders it is often useful to give them a hand to steady them. This can be done in several ways, for maximum stability use two hands, one to hold the elbow and the other with palm clenched and facing downwards down to allow them to hold your wrist. When they are more confident you can offer them just your or hand. A good technique at this stage is ride next to the learner holding their hand - be sure to have your hand palm outstretched so that they can disconnect at any stage. This offers moral support and a perfectly smooth platform that moves that the same speed as they do. When working with large groups it is recommended to split the group into pairs allowing the learner riders to help each other, particularly in the moving stage where a steadying hand is helpful.

One of the best ways to help people to learn to ride is offer encouragement.  Encourage continuation of their learning by finding their local unicycle Club or Group.  Click here for the Australian Unicycle Society's page.

Things not to do
1. Don't use walking poles, these are dangerous to the rider and other around them, they also encourage stooping.
2. Don't try and teach too many people at any one time,
3. Don't support the saddle at any stage except in an emergency to stop a rider from falling off backwards, then go back to teaching the correct dismount.

Teaching is often as rewarding as actually doing a new trick or playing a good game of unicycle hockey.

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Location



Places to Learn
A gym or indoor area with a smooth wooden floor and a hand rail about elbow height.

A tennis court or outdoor concrete path that is swept free of small stones and has no bumps or cracks. A firm rail or fence is helpful.

A narrow corridor allows you to hang on to both walls. Work your way along and back, trying to hold on less and less each time.

Start between two chairs placed back to back in front of a wide open space. Get your balance then launch into space Get two friends to hold you up, or get between a friend and a wall. The friends should be half a pace in front of you and carry none of your weight. It's cheating if you have your arms around their shoulders!

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Adjusting



Quick Adjustments.
The wide part of the saddle goes at the back. Double check: the pedal and crank marked “L” should be on your left, “R” on your right.

When you’re seated on the unicycle, with the heel of one foot on a pedal in its lowest position, your leg should be almost straight. Getting the right height is important. If not your riding posture will make learning much more difficult. If the seat does not go high enough you’ll need a bigger unicycle or a longer seat post.

A quick rule of thumb is to stick your thumb in your belly button. The top of the saddle should be 2-3 centimetres below.

Unicycling is generally not dangerous, but expect to fall every now and again, especially while learning. The vast majority of unicycle falls result in the rider landing standing uninjured on their feet. We recommend wearing a helmet and wrist guards, sneakers and trousers.

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Mounting


Mounting in Eight Steps
1.  Stand with both feet flat on the ground, legs apart.

2.  Put the seat between your legs.

3.  Walk forward so that one pedal is in the 4:00 o'clock position.

4.  Step onto this pedal.

5.  This is different from a bicycle. If you stand on the front pedal, the unicycle will roll away as you attempt to get on it. Hold on to the handrail or fence.

6.  Step onto the lowest pedal.

7.  As you step up the wheel will rotate 1/4-turn backwards. You should now be on the seat with the wheel underneath you. Pedal backwards 1/4 turn to get your feet horizontal.

8.  This gets you out of the “dead spot” when your cranks are vertical.

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Balance


Getting Your Balance
Now that you have mounted, rock there for a moment and feel for balance. You can keep your body still and let the unicycle move under you 1/4 turn each way.

1.  Sit up straight

2.  Not too stiff with your chest puffed up

3.  Not too floppy with your bum stuck out the back: Watch for Elvis Pelvis

4.  Straight but relaxed is good

5.  Keep your weight on the seat.

6.  If you stand up or put too much weight on the pedals the unicycle will wobble as you ride.

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First Steps


Taking Your First Steps
Now you you can balance you are ready to go forwards, along the rail.

1.  Reach forward and grab hold further along the rail. Lean forward slightly while pedaling slowly.

2.  Pause when your feet are horizontal again to check your posture and that you are sitting on the seat and not trying to stand up on the pedals.

3.  Take it one “step” at a time from horizontal feet with your left foot forward to horizontal feet with your right foot forward. Its just like learning to walk.

4.  Make sure you are sitting up straight.

5.  Build up from one step at a time to two steps, then three steps.

6.  Try to hold the rail less and less until it is only needed for occasional balance correction.

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Launch

Launching into Space
Now you have taken your first steps, gradually lean less and less on the support. Try just running your hand along the rail for extra balance.

1.  Remember: relax, keep your weight on the seat.

2.  Riding speed is a fast walk, so practice going along the rail at this speed.

3.  To steer, point your knees / swivel your hips the way you want to go

4.  Steer gradually away from the wall for one or two revolutions, then come back to regain balance.

5.  Try to let go of support for one or two turns of the wheel

6.  When you reach the end of the rail, just keep doing the things you have been doing beside the rail and ride on out.
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