Frequently Asked Questions
Learning to ride
1. Pull the seat into place.
2. Spin the wheel so that the pedal is in the 4:00 position.
3. Put both hands on the handrail or 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. Hold onto the handrail tightly and lean forward slightly while pedaling slowly. Next is the most important tip we can offer you. When the unicycle starts to fall, let it. Stay on your feet and let it fall. The seat can be replaced; your seat can't. Continue to hold onto the handrail until you've practiced steps 1-4 at least three hours.
Congratulations! You're about 10 hours away from riding without assistance! During the next several days you'll ease your grip on the handrail and then hold on with one hand. You'll travel a few feet without assistance, then a few yards, then you'll soon discover the secret to unicycling: Lean in the direction you want to travel and the wheel will try to catch up with you. Always use caution when riding a unicycle. You are responsible for your own safety!
Safety: Although safety gear is not mandatory, we strongly recommend wearing a helmet, gloves, wrist guards and knee pads. It is always better to be safe than sorry!
Location: The best location to learn how to unicycle is somewhere that has a flat, smooth surface preferably with a wall or handrail to hold onto. A back deck, gym, tennis court or baseball field with a chain-link fence all work great! If you don’t have anything to hold onto, you can always have a parent or friend help you out and they can be your “moving wall”. Actually this is the best method as you’ll learn below.
Seat Height: Having the seat the correct height is crucial for learning. If it is too low or high it will be very hard to learn. For most people, the seat should be about where your belly button is when you are standing with the unicycle in front of you. As everyone is different this is a rough estimate and you may need to adjust it accordingly. When seated and the pedal is in the farthest down position, your leg should almost be straight with just a slight bend in your knee.
Figure out if you are left or right footed. Stand with both feet together and step forward. Usually whatever foot you step with first is your dominate foot. As most people are right footed we will use this as the example. If you are left footed, just replace all the rights with lefts from here on out.
Place the unicycle in front of you with the right pedal in the 4 o’clock position. This means that the right pedal should be towards the down position and slightly towards you.
Grab a wall, handrail or another person and place your right foot on the right pedal. When you step on the pedal the unicycle will naturally rotate ¼ of a turn backwards and come under you which is what you want. Note that this is different than a bicycle where you step on the forward pedal.
Place your left foot on the left pedal and you should now be sitting on the unicycle.
Position your cranks so they are horizontal or parallel to the ground. This is the “stop” position and is a good position for the unicycle. When the cranks are vertical or perpendicular to the ground (one pedal is up and one is in the down position) they are in the “dead” position. You will always want to stop when the cranks are in the “stop” position and never in the “dead” position. This is due to the fact that it is much easier to control when in the “stop” positions and very difficult to control in the “dead” position.
Now that the cranks are in the “stop” position, sit there for awhile and get comfortable. You want to be sitting on the seat instead of standing on the pedals. This means that most of your weight should be on the seat with little weight on the pedals.
After you get comfortable, lean forward and pedal ½ a revolution to the next “stop” position. You will want to learn in ½ revolution increments. Regain your balance in the “stop” position and then try and go another ½ a revolution. You will want to keep on doing this until you get good at it.
The next step is to do a full revolution every time instead of a ½ a revolution. Again, every time you stop you will want to make sure that the cranks are in the “stop” position (parallel to the ground).
Continue the practiced steps 1-8 for at least three hours. Then it is time to keep on riding without stopping. Congratulations as you much closer from learning to ride without holding on to anything!
Over the next several times you practice you’ll want to slowly start easing your grip on the wall, handrail or person you are holding onto. Eventually you will only be slightly holding on and then you can go for gold and let go and see how far you can go! At first it will only be a foot, then a couple feet and eventually you will be able to ride as far as you want!!
Very helpful tricks and tips to speed up the learning process:
The single most important tip we can offer is to NEVER GIVE UP and keep trying it over and over until you get it. Yes, you will get frustrated at times and want to give up, but keep with it and you will not regret it. Practice makes perfect!
The second most important tip we can offer is to let the unicycle fall to the ground when you fall and try to stay on your feet. Do not worry about catching it at first. Unicycles are built to be dropped unlike bicycles. They have protective bumpers on the seat that will last a very long time. They will get scratches on them but that is normal and they can be replaced if needed for a very minimal cost. Sit up with your back straight and look forward. Do not slouch or look down! DON'T look down at the ground. Look straight ahead at the horizon. As soon as you look down you lose the horizon and your balance.
Place almost all of your weight on the seat. Do not stand up on the pedals!
The balls of your foot should be on the pedals, not your toes or heels. When you get on, if your feet are not correct, twist them back and forth until they are correct.
The quickest way to learn is to have two parents, adults or friends help you out. Have a person on each side of you and have them walk around with you while you ride it. At first you can lock arms and eventually go to holding hands. Then once you get comfortable you can let go of one person and practice with one helper. With one person you will want to hold hands until eventually you are only holding fingers and then nothing!
Make sure the seat is the correct height (the top of the saddle should roughly be an inch higher or lower than your naval/belly button ).
Use your hands outstretched for balanced. Yes, it might look like you are swimming at first but with time you’ll get better and look like a professional!
Lean in the direction you want to turn and the wheel will follow.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LEARNING IS TO DON'T FORGET TO SMILE! Have fun and you will learn in no time.
Please be careful as you are responsible for your own safety! Do not learn around busy streets, parked cars or other things that could be dangerous. Feel free to contact us anytime if you need any help repairing the unicycle or want more tips on learning how to ride.
The ideal space is often not available, in fact I dont think I have only ever seen one. So you are then picking the best space that is available.
Here are some of the things to look out for:
- Doors - I have seen people hit by doors or fall through them when they put weight on them. In the worst case I have seen someone who was using the door itself for support and fell backwards closing the door and then trapped their fingers as they went down.
- 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 add drag to the wheel and makes it hard to ride on.
- Astroturf / Composite Rubber - These can be found on tennis courts and track courses, there seams to be no set answer here. Some say they are great places to learn other times they are nightmare with catching the tire and causing drag like carpets.
- Flagstones - Check them for 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!
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 tires pumped up. You then need to be sure that the seatpost is the right hieght 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 - I 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. I often tailor the talk to warn people of the dangers of the environment they are in like Avoiding doors, pillars, holes etc. I also ask people if they are prone to falling or breaking bones, if they are then I recommend wearing safety equipment. We always recommend this anyways for precaution.
Clothing Check - No baggy pants, no scarves, or loose articles of clothing. I also make everyone tuck shoe laces into their shoes. I always show my shoes, since I always tuck my laces in it is a good example.
Safety Gear - When you are doing basic level teaching of unicycling I feel that most safety gear is welcomed but it is a must to have a helmet and wristguards if you want to totally reduce the risk of injury or are prone to injuries. I will add there that a beginner should be taught to fall properly, without this then yes they do need protective gear. There are exceptions where I would not recommend wearing safety gear, this is where the environment or the person can't for a performance or similar riding.
Getting on the unicycle
1. You need to find a wall next to some flat ground with a rail to grab ideally at chest height.
2. Get the beginner to stand side on to the wall holding the hand rail with one hand and holding the front of the seat with the other.
3. Ascertain which pedal is going to be their leading foot you can normally just ask them or look at which foot they want to put on pedal first.
4. Ask them to then sit on the seat. Then show the beginner the correct position for the lead pedal, it should be in the 4 o'clock position.
5. Get the beginner 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.
You should leave the beginner for about 5 to 10 minutes just sitting on the unicycle. This is time just to allow them to familiarize themselves with the experience of sitting on the saddle and finding their balance.
You need to emphasize:
1. Keep all 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 on the wall while the other is straight out.
5. Look ahead at a fixed object.
Dismounting - You need to show 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 them to move slowly along the handrail at walking pace. Emphasize that they need to rotate the pedals smoothly, put all of their weight on the saddle and look forward. Its ok if you have to remind them to put all their weight on the seat several times. They should have only one hand on the handrail and the other should be held out away for balance. If you have a large group you should set up a one way system along the handrail. This stage varies in time between individuals from 5 minutes to an hour or so.
Letting go - When they have succeeded in moving smoothly along the hand rail you need get them to let go from the handrail. There are 2 basic techniques here, you can get them to veer off from the moving position or launch out at 90 degrees from the handrail. I personally prefer the second as it gets them safely away from the handrail faster. Before you leave your beginner to practice letting go of the handrail you need to get them to practice dismounting. Do this several times and be confident that they are walking off the front of the unicycle upon dismount and not trying to catch the saddle.
At this point I will tell you about my brother. He does not ride a unicycle, but I tried to teach him at one time. He was at the letting go of the handrail stage, he did this and succeeded very well, getting halfway across the hall fist time (I claim it is in the genes although that is probably not true). I then encourage him to go further, thinking he may pedal the full length of the hall second time! Well he did, almost. He panicked and dismounted to the rear a foot or so from the wall, this propelled him backwards across the floor in a heap of pain. After his trip to the hospital he gave up learning to ride.
There are several additional aids and tip to help at each of these stages. I tend to demonstrate all the stages my self pointing out the key things at each stage. This helps the beginner see what they should be doing clearly. The moving stage can be helped by using 2 assistants to hold a broom handle out at the right height in front of the rider for them to hold or try a shopping cart.
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 2 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 hand or forearm. 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 I tend to split the group into pairs. This allows them to help each other, particularly in the moving stage where a steadying hand is helpful.
I think one of the best ways to help people to learn to ride is offer them encouragement. You can also encourage continuation of their learning by finding their local unicycle or juggling club.
Things not to do:
1. Don’t use walking poles, these are dangerous to the rider and other around them, they also encourage slouching.
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.
4. Do not stand in front of someone learning.
Teaching for me is often as rewarding as actually doing a new trick or playing a good game of unicycle hockey. As you will find people learn in different ways and different speeds, its so rewarding to see this.
This is a quick general guide:
12" unicycle - For children under 6 years old
16" unicycle - As soon as they can fit on them, but generally from 6 to 10 years old children.
20" unicycle - As soon as a person can fit on them and this is normally from 8 years old and upwards.
24" or 26" unicycle - People over 6 foot, road cyclists or mountain bikers
Trials/Muni - These unicycles make great learning machines for bigger/heavier riders. The lower tire pressure helps absorb bumps etc. They also hold up a lot better if your teaching a high volume of people, also work well for teaching outside.
For an exact fit use the guide:
Simply measure your inseam (the distance from the floor to crotch, with shoes on), and use this information for the guide below.
12" unicycle - For inseams 19" 1/2 to 21".
16" unicycle - For inseams 21" to 25".
20" unicycle - For inseams 25" and taller.
24" unicycle - For inseams 28" and taller.
26" unicycle - For inseams 30" and taller.
Places to Learn
- The gym or indoor area with a smooth wooden floor and a handrail about elbow height is ideal.
- A tennis court or outdoor concrete path that is swept free of small stones and has no bumps or cracks. A firm handrail or fence is helpful.
- A narrow hallway 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. Its cheating if you have your arms around their shoulders!
Few 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 and set the top of the saddle at that hight. This is generally the easiest way to set the hight of the saddle.
- 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, wrist guards, sneakers and pants or shorts with leg armor.
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 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.
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.
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 handrail. 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 handrail less and less until it is only needed for occasional balance correction.
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 to relax! Keep your weight on the seat.
2. Riding speed is a fast walk, so practice going along the handrail 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 handrail, just keep doing the things you have been doing beside the handrail and ride on out as far as you can.
Idling or rocking is a useful basic skill. Here are some tips for learning to idle:
1. Saddle at the right height (leg almost straight at the bottom of the stroke)
2. Lots of weight on the bottom pedal, it does most of the work.
3. Remember it is a pendulum action, NOT riding back and forwards.
4. Since your shoulders do not move forwards and backwards, you can use them to give balance guidance while learning.