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Learning To Ride A Unicycle

2013 Unifest Sat 20 Unicycling is a growing sport and a fun recreational activity that just about anyone can participate in. We do encourage everyone to learn how to ride a unicycle. At club meetings there is always someone on hand to give tips on improving your unicycle skills. It does take some time for the average person to learn how to ride a considerable distance without an unplanned dismount. Usually quite a few hours of practice are needed for the average adult to learn.  Your frame of mind, athletic experience  as well as your talent in other sports and physical balance activities will influence the amount of time necessary for you to learn how to ride.  We have seen both adults and children learn to ride in less than an hour.  However, this is not common. We have riders both male and female, who have attended our club meetings and learned to ride a unicycle. Novice unicyclist of all ages have come to learn at our club meetings. Children as young as age 4 and, adults in their early 60's have learned to ride.

Before you start: As with many sports for a comfortable and successful outcome you will need to be properly equipped. From clothing to the unicycle itself you want have at least the basics. It is strongly recommended that you purchase and wear a pair of cycling shorts to provide comfort while unicycle riding.  Performance Bike and Bike Nashbar websites have affordable choices of cycling shorts available. You can get the standard shorts that can be worn under your pants or shorts. Or you can buy fashion shorts with cycling shorts built in. A decent pair of  athletic shoes with a flat sole will supply a good grip for your feet on the pedals. Shoes designed for skateboard riding and BMX bicycling tend to be good choices. The Eastbay.com website has a multitude of possible shoe choices of this type. When you arrive at the site perform a search on "BMX shoes" and or "Skateboard shoes". You may also perform a similar search on the Amazon.com website for additional choices. These type of shoes are particularly important for riding with pedals that have non slip pins installed. A helmet and other safety equipment such as wrist guards, shin or knee pads will protect you from possible injury from an unplanned dismount. Though it is not impossible to learn to ride on a unicycle with a larger wheel or knobby tires, for adults our recommendation would be to choose a  unicycle  with a 20 or 24 inch wheel with a  relatively smooth tread tire. For young children, a unicycle appropriate for their size is recommended. For more information about choosing a unicycle type for you. I suggest that you visit the Unicycling Society of America's website and check out Types of Unicycle and Which Type For You? sections. A properly adjusted unicycle when held upright  will have the center portion of the seat just below the navel. Within and inch or so. Tires should be properly inflated.  Inflate the tire to at least the maximum pressure (PSI) stamped on the sidewall of the tire. An under inflated tire is much harder to maintain your balance upon. Find a smooth level surface area to practice. One with a wall or railing would be best.  A narrow corridor would also do nicely. Mounting: Be certain that you are mounting the unicycle in the proper orientation. The peadals, and sometimes the cranks as well, are marked left and right. The unicycle saddle is wider at the rear of the seat.  Some saddles have a handle mounted in front. Spin the wheel around in order to put the pedal for your favorite or dominant foot toward you in the 4 o'clock position for the left pedal or, 8 o'clock for the right pedal.  Tilt the unicycle toward you placing  the seat between your legs and your favorite foot on the pedal.  You will apply pressure with your dominant foot wedging the unicycle to the ground. Using two hands to steady yourself, apply slight additional pressure on that pedal to use leverage to pull yourself upright on to the unicycle allowing you to place your other foot onto the pedal. Both feet should have the balls of your feet, just behind your toes, centered on the pedals. Adjust the pedal position to the 3 and 9 o'clock position and allow your body to adjust to a comfortable position. Concentrate on keeping the pedal in the same position as you mount. Beginners tend to pedal backward while using leverage to get to mounted position. Proper posture on the unicycle will have you sitting squarely in the seat with your back straight. Starting to ride: As a beginner you want to first experience the balance needed to stay upright. With practice you will deliberately make progress toward that end. However, once you are attempting to move forward, be aware that riding really slowly is a difficult skill. Attempt to pedal at smooth and even pace without jerky movements.  This will assist youp you in keeping the unicycle upright. Continually adjust your gaze to concentrate on looking ahead to where you going. Try not to look down at the unicycle or on the ground immediately in front of the wheel. Extend both of your arms out to assist you in feeling for your balance. In doing so try to keep your hands below shoulder height. Pedal smoothly and continually. You want to pedal with both feet all the way around the pedal stroke. Beginners tend to push the pedals when they get to most forward position. This causes a wobbly ride that can eventually get out of control. Though many unicyclist learn to ride along walls and railings, many find it extremely helpful to have someone to lend a hand.  The person assisting you should walk along side but just a little ahead of you providing only one hand for the rider to hold. When assisting during mounting offer your forearm while supporting the fist of that arm with your other hand. Dismounting: To dismount gracefully, Grab hold to the front of the seat, bring the pedals to the 3 and 9 o'clock position, then step down backward using the foot from the forward most pedal . You can perform a graceful forward dismount in the same manner by grabbing a hold of the saddle behind you and stepping down forward using the foot from the rear pedal. In dismounting you will bring your non dominant foot to the ground first. Making a turn: After you have learned to ride forward the next hurdle to clear is learning to turn. Turning is a matter of  pointing your torso towards the direction that you want to ride in and then letting your hips pivot in order to follow your torso to that direction returning your entire body to a forward position.  Practice making wide turns in each direction pedaling with both feet smoothly into the turn. First skill: The first skill learned by most beginner unicyclists  is mounting the unicycle unassisted or, "Free-mounting". The instructions for this are the same as in assisted  mounting described above.  I like to describe it as climbing a latter since you secure your position on the first pedal before climbing to the next. As a beginner you will have a tendency to pedal backwards while mounting. You will fight against this tendency somewhat by shifting the pressure of your weight from your favorite foot to the seat creating neutral pressure that will allow you to place the second foot on the pedal.  You want to push that pedal forward as soon as you have established it on the pedal. This video produced by Terry Peterson could be helpful to you successfully learning to mount unassisted. How to Free Mount a Unicycle Next Skill: Usually beginners are eager to learn to how to idle. Idling is the act of staying upright on the unicycle within a small area by rocking forward and back.  My recommendation is to learn to ride backward.  Learning to ride backward comes with the bonus of learning to idle.  Riding backward uses the same balance as riding forward. The unicycle will dip backward slightly when transitioning from forward riding.  As you continue to pedal backward the unicycle will return to the upright position. Like riding forward it is necessary to pedal smoothly at a comfortable pace. What's next: Once you have gotten this far you may want to consult the 10- Unicycling Society of America (USA) Achievement Skill Levels for improving your skills.  We currently have two NYUC  members who are authorized to test individuals up to level seven. Additional information: Please check out some of our Community links and our FAQs page for more information on learning to ride a unicycle. The following websites would be of particular interest for novice unicyclists wanting additional instruction and tips. Unicycling  as a sport is constantly evolving  in terms of skills as well as available equipment.  Advanced riding skills are becoming increasingly diverse. There are many advanced skills that are performed by unicyclist today not listed within the skill levels. For links to websites with additional information amd equipment related to the sport of unicycling  make sure you stop by our Resources page. You will find links to technical information as well as purchasing links for unicycles and accessories.

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