Unicycling in San Francisco
December 22, 2004 11:18 PM   Subscribe

UniFilter: Someone brought in a unicycle at work (something he bought ages ago, never learned how to use, never touched again, the usual) and I made a stupid bet that I could learn how to ride it in a week. Yeah, I've been practicing, but I have a feeling I'm screwed. Anyone in the Bay Area able to help me prevail over long odds?

Alternatively, anyone have any good suggestions for how to learn? I have seen the unicycle faq bit about how to learn, but I have a feeling learning on my own is going to be really hard. After a full days workout (damn riding one of these things is tiring) I'm lucky if I can even make the wheel go around once before I fall off. And getting on without holding onto a wall/post/whatever? HA!

All I have to do is be able to travel in a straight line for about 50 feet. I really don't want to lose this bet. (It's not the money, it's the pride. Oh so much pride.) Anyone I've got all of Sunday and Monday to work at it, and was wondering if anyone could give me any pointers. Especially if you are in the Bay Area. Double especially if in the East Bay. Triple especially if in Berkeley.
posted by aspo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i don't ride, but i know those who do. have people stand on either side of you and hold you up for awhile, then graduate to one hand outstretched on a wall with a person on the other side.

good luck! I learned to ride a bike in 2 1-hour sessions, and a unicycle has 1/2 as many wheels, so it should take you twice as long, right? :)
posted by muddgirl at 11:53 PM on December 22, 2004

I haven't lived in the Bay Area for four years, but the Pickle Family Circus was the going concern for amateur circus-like activities. I can't find them online now, but Jon Carroll, the SF Chron columnist, was on their board for eons. You might contact him for a clown who could use a teaching gig.
posted by goofyfoot at 12:01 AM on December 23, 2004

Bike alongside a wall, so that you have something steady to balance against. Then, once you can do that for a little while, let go of the wall and try on your own. Long corridors or the outside of a building are good starting places. (I don't ride a unicycle myself, but I've watched other people learn.)
posted by lorimt at 12:50 AM on December 23, 2004

Well, the only tip I can give you is when you are ready to get on the unicycle without assistance from a wall you'll want to have the seat lean towards you with your lead foot on top of that foot's pedal. Make sure the pedal is high enough so that all you have to do is push yourself up with that one pedal. Then BALANCE!

You don't have to keep pedaling right away, you want to do the unicycle balance dance. A little forward, a little backward, etc.

good luck. I suck at it but i had a professional juggler friend who used a unicycle in some of his acts. My theory is this, if you can finally get up...the going part is the easy part.
posted by freudianslipper at 6:15 AM on December 23, 2004

I think it took me two weeks when I was sixteen. If you have a long hallway in your house/apartment/yurt practice inside leaning against the wall. This will help you get the pedaling down without dealing so much with balance. Gradually hold onto the wall less and less.

I've also heard that practicing with ski poles works.

I think you can do it in a week if you really practice a lot. Learning to go forward is the easy part, dealing with turns is a whole 'nother week.

If the cycle is new you may want to tape some padding to the front and back of the seat so you don't ruin it during the 1000 times it'll slam on the ground.

Good luck.
posted by bondcliff at 6:43 AM on December 23, 2004

I've seen people use crutches or ski poles as training aids. Just lean on them when you need them and as you improve, gently lift them up and they can help with the balancing. Just be sure to let go when you start to fall so you don't impale yourself.

On preview: What bondcliff said.
posted by evoo at 6:47 AM on December 23, 2004

Best answer: I learned to ride about 50 feet starting from a mailbox post in a weekend. It took a few more weeks in order to start cold and ride.

The hardest part to learn is to keep pedaling. You often want to slow or stop to get your balance back, but it's not gonna happen. Pedaling is the easiest way to maintain balance. The first time you fight your way and pedal through losing balance it'll begin to click.
posted by pedantic at 8:27 AM on December 23, 2004

Response by poster: I just won the bet and am flush with victory! After 3-4 hours of pick up unicycle, spend too long getting on unicycle, fall off unicycle, I was discouraged and ready to throw in the towel. But once I started being able to go 20 or so feet at a time things did start to make sense. Now I just need to learn how to turn this crazy thing.

Followups are fun.
posted by aspo at 5:13 PM on December 29, 2004

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