Learning to ride a unicycle certainly comes with its challenges, and like any other athletic pursuit, it’s something you’re never really “done.” Just like any other skill, even the pros are learning every day.
And, while it is evident enough that learning to ride is hard, what’s the hardest about it might come as a surprise to some of you, especially your first time ever in the saddle.
So, let’s take a look at some of the biggest challenges for those learning - the ones you wouldn’t expect.
First Things First, Get Familiar with Your Center of Balance in Order (Everyone’s Is Slightly Different)
Everyone’s center of balance is just a little bit different. You know, we all have our own dimensions, weight, and strength, and no two people will experience sitting in the same exact saddle in exactly the same way.
You need to learn to put your weight on the saddle, and not lean off of it, or stand on the pedals - and you need to learn where your center of balance is.
Your center of balance will probably differ from another rider’s, and that’s not something you can necessarily anticipate. You simply need to learn what it is and how unicycles will tend to respond.
For instance, you may notice the unicycle diving to the left or right as you learn to move forward. That’s something you’ll have to learn to anticipate, which brings us to another consideration.
Side to Side Balance Is a Lifelong Skill
A lot of beginners - most, even - think that it’s the front-to-back stability that’s going to throw them for a loop. This is almost never the case. In fact, it is the side-to-side stability (or lack thereof) that takes most riders by surprise.
Learning to keep yourself on the proverbial “straight and narrow” while moving forward and backward is relatively easy. You’ll experience a few unplanned dismounts when you’re learning (everyone does), but after one or two unplanned rearward dismounts, you start to learn how to keep it stable.
The lateral stability is another story. While it’s easy to maintain a front-to-back course by leaning forward or backward or adjusting wheel speed, you’re more likely to tip off to one side or the other.
By the way, this is not really affected by model. All unicycles and riders will experience this, whether riding a Schwinn retro unicycle, a 36” commuter, or even a tiny unicycle with a 16” wheel.
This is one aspect of unicycle riding that requires some of the greatest skill to overcome. This sport hones your hand-eye coordination and strengthens your core, and it’s easy to see why. Constant corrections in the saddle to compensate for right-and-left lists will do that. As you become proficient, it will start to become second nature.
But that doesn’t keep it from being one of the biggest surprises for those learning!
Speed Does Not Equal Stability
If you’re familiar with riding a bike (and let’s be honest, most of us are) you know that lateral stability increases with linear speed. This is in part due to the fact that a bicycle has two wheels that form a line, creating lateral stability with perpendicular linear progress.
This element is entirely eliminated with a unicycle, which has only one “point” in contact with the ground. You can go faster in a unicycle, but that will not stop you from falling off to one side or the other.
This is also a surprise to some learners, and it’s a throwback to the last section which deals with side-to-side stability. Whether you’re sitting, balanced in the saddle, moving in a straight line on a flat, level surface, or climbing a grade, your machine may find an innate tendency to tip over to the left or right, regardless of speed.
And that’s something not all learners expect. It’s also something you just learn to anticipate.
Free-Mounting Can Be Surprisingly Difficult
Once you become familiar with how you balance naturally in the saddle, and that the unicycle will want to tip one way or the other, even under forward progress, the next skill to master will be free-mounting.
In past blogs, we’ve advocated for learning to mount on a wall with a handrail, or if you don’t have one to practice your balance between two chairs with high backs that you can use for support.
But at a certain point, you’re going to find yourself in a situation where you have no mount-assist device, and you’re still going to need to “get back in the saddle.”
And that’s a skill that’s harder for most learning.
Get Your First Ride Here (and Don’t Hesitate to Use Our Experience as a Set of Training Wheels!)
There’s a certain personal aspect of learning to ride a unicycle that needs to be experienced firsthand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from others with more experience.
If you pick up a new Muni or Schwinn retro unicycle from our website and want to lean on our experience, just get in touch with us.
We’d be happy to help, and you can reach us for pointers at 678-494-4962. Let us know what’s been challenging for you and we’ll help you get past it.