Saturday, June 09, 2012


Now I've got to the stage of actually being able to ride (more or less), I thought it would be a good idea to write a few notes from the perspective of a recent learner rather than long-term enthusiast.

Most importantly, contrary to all the cheerful web pages assuring us that it's really easy to learn...

Oh no it isn't! It's really hard!

I spent several weeks doing nothing more than getting on (beside a support), then letting go of the support and trying to fit in a pedal stroke (or two) while falling off. Repeat ad nauseam. After a couple of months I got to the stage of riding in a roughly straight line for several pedal revolutions.
A couple of factors possibly made it a little harder for me.
  • I bought a 24" size wheel, but recently jules got a 20" size which seems significantly easier. Although the wheel radius is only 2" different which doesn't seem a lot, that puts the lower pedal much closer to the ground
  • I didn't have a wall or rail to lean on while riding alongside, but just launched off (repeatedly) from a support. It takes a long time to build up "riding hours" this way!
This page has results from a survey of time taken across a wide range of ages. But it's worth bearing in mind, there's a massive "survivorship bias" (not literally, I hope) in all this. The surveyed were posters on a usenet group for unicycling enthusiasts. People who tried for ages and either never managed to learn at all, or who didn't really get good enough to enjoy it, much less likely to have contributed, compared to those who find they have an unusual knack for it, who may become evangelists and go on to write web pages about how easy it is.

Having said that, my total learning time probably isn't too far out of line with those results, and is certainly less than the slowest of them. I've only had the unicycle for 5 months, and practice has mostly consisted of half-hour sessions most weekends. So that might amount to around 20-30 hours. On top of that, we took them on our UK trip and practiced quite a lot, and I'm now steering reasonably well and even freemounting, though not with sufficient reliability to actually pass the Level 1 test where only a single failure is allowed. I am about Level 3 on this list though :-) I can now mount and ride round the block, which is a narrow road with tight corners and a moderate hill. The hypothetical ride to work is still a little way off...

On the plus side, I didn't actually break anything while learning, though my wrists and knee still hurt from a fall a couple of months ago.

So, while it might be technically true to say that just about anyone can learn with enough perseverance, be prepared for it to take a while and involve a lot of falling off!

I should mention that jules was slightly more adept than me at first, before I banned her for demoralising me (it's my desperate mid-life crisis hobby, not hers). However, for the last few weeks since she got the 20" model and started again I've managed to keep a little bit ahead.


EliRabett said...

Cheaper than a Porsche.

James Annan said...

Assuming good healthcare cover :-)

Not that I have actually broken anything, yet.