|This is a work in progress, and as people ask questions I will expand and enhance my descriptions so as to answer them. I will add images later, but first I need to find my unicycle saddle - it's gone missing!|
First thing to know is that it isn't, in some sense, all that difficult. There are a few things you need to know, a few things you need to learn, and then it's deliberate practice that does it for you.
You need to learn a single, new reflex, and here's how.
Some people ask about what unicycle is easiest
to ride. That's actually a different question than asking
which is easiest to learn on.
I think it's easiest to learn on a 20" standard. You have power to correct the fore/aft balance, it's easy to step on and off, and it's not far off the ground.
However, it is easier to ride a giraffe. Getting on is more difficult, getting off is easy - anyone can manage that (although avoiding injury requires some practice) - and riding is actually slower.
But you really can't ride a giraffe until you can ride a standard, so that's what you learn on.
Equally, though, don't over practise it. You need to be able to do it reasonably comfortably, but allow that you'll have a wobble one in five times or so. Not a problem, it just needs to be under control.
OK, so you are comfortable getting on and off reliably with the wall or a pole to help. Make really sure you can do that 80% of the time without problems.
Now we need to get the pedals horizontal. Currently you have a lot of weight on the right foot, and the right pedal is at the bottom of its travel. The left, of course, is at the top.
We need to get them to the same level. Here's how we do that.
|A quick word here about unicycle saddle height. When learning, with your foot at the bottom you want your knee to be slightly bent - you don't want a straight leg. Many people, especially cyclists, tend to have the saddle too high when learning. You can adjust the height more later, but with the leg bent you can apply rearwards force more easily. That's important.|
This is an element of control that you will need
to master, but you won't get complete control just like
Nevertheless, it is an important step in the learning process.
Rock back and forth, just a little. Do it fluently, back, forward, back, forward, ticking like a clock.
So now you need to get back to the right-foot-down position. Under control, move the unicycle forward, getting your right foot to the bottom of its travel. Now you are back as per Step 1, and you can dismount.
As you rotate the wheel that quarter turn, it moves forward, and it can leave you behind. This is important to notice, to detect, and to control. If you let the wheel go forward without keeping up with it, you will step off backwards without control.
Remember that as we go to Step 3.
Now, before you get excited, this is a half turn of the wheel, not a half turn around a vertical axis. You're not riding yet, so that has some time to wait.
So what happens next. You are sitting under control, gently rocking the wheel back and forth about 4 or 5 inches (10 or 15 cm) in each direction. Now is the time to actually move forward by a substantial amount.
The problem is that if you simply pedal forward, the wheel goes forward, you stay where you are, and then you fall off. backwards. That's not really want you want. And yet you have to pedal forwards.
How do you stay on?
Here is the secret of learning to unicycle. It's a change of attitude, and change of perception, and change of the way you think about it. The secret is that you don't try to stay on the unicycle.
unicycle underneath you.
|The "stopping pedalling to catch up" only works if you're already travelling forward. If not, you have other problems, and other ways to solve it. Stay with me for now.|
So here's what we're aiming for. You want to pedal forward one smooth half turn. Currently your feet are level, right foot forward. We want to get to feet level, left foot forward.
But you can't just pedal, you'll fall off backwards. So you need to let yourself start to fall forward first.
Technical stuffA 20" wheel unicycle has a radius of 10", and a half-turn distance of about 30" to 32". You fall forward by 6", and while you pedal forward smoothly the wheel travels about 30", and you travel about 20". The wheel is now in front of you by about 6", so stop pedalling and you'll catch up with it, with zero residual speed.
Fell off forwardsIn this case either:
Fell off backwardsIn this case either:
Now here is actually the most important part of learning:
This is the "deliberate practice" part of the exercise. If you analyse each failure and work out why it happened, you'll be in a position to correct the problem, and not just flail away, trying the same incorrect thing over and over again.
Try it - see what happens.
So now you can:
As before, you need to let yourself fall forwards so that when you pedal, the wheel comes under you, then overtakes you, and then you catch up with it "on the other side".
The deliberation over the practice is so, so important.
By thinking about what goes right, and what went wrong,
you can start to nail how it should feel every time.
Without that you just practise the same errors over and
This is where a teacher would normally be helpful, to see what single thing to think about next time, and stop you from getting into a rut. Without someone watching, you need to do that for yourself.
And now is the time to review your progress.
You're nearly there.
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