How to ride a Unicycle
Welcome to the fun-filled world of unicycling! To kids young and old, you're about to embark on an adventure that will last a lifetime. The average time needed to learn unicycle is 5 to 10 hours. Many people have learnt in less than a week, some in a matter of hours, others take 2 weeks or more.
Safety Gear: Unicycling is generally not dangerous, but as with any physical activity, such as riding a bike, expect to fall every now and again, especially while learning. We strongly recommend wearing a helmet and wrist guards, sneakers or running shoes and trousers. Having said this the vast majority of unicycle falls result in the rider landing standing uninjured on their feet.
Where to learn: The ultimate space would be a smooth corridor with a hand rail along each side. Not easy to find! Look for a space clear of objects that might obstruct you. It should be smooth and level as any pebble or dip can knock you off when you are learning. Tennis courts and school yards are generally good. If you are lucky to have a juggling or unicycling club in your area they generally have appropriate space in a hall or gym and can also help you learn to ride.
Does this thing have a front and back? Yes. The front of the saddle is narrower than the rear and may have a handle too. The seat post clamp and quick-release handle are on the back - check this is on the correct way round, the slot in the frame under the clamp should be at the rear! The pedal and crank marked "L" should be on your left, "R" on your right.
How high should the seat be? 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. It is important to set the seat to the correct height. If not your riding posture will make learning to ride more difficult. If the seat does not go high enough you'll need an extra long replacement seat post.
Getting On and Away
- Stand with both feet flat on the ground, legs apart. Put the seat between your legs.
- Walk forward so that one pedal is in the 4:00 position. Step onto this pedal. This is different from a bicycle, where you step on the forward pedal.
- Hold on to the handrail or fence.
- Step onto the forward pedal. 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 (this gets you out of the "dead spot" when your cranks are vertical). You are now ready to go forwards.
- Reach forward and grab hold further along the rail. Lean forward slightly while pedaling slowly. Pause when your feet are horizontal again.
- 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. Make sure you are sitting up straight.
- Build up from one step at a time to two steps, then three steps. Try to hold the rail less and less until it is only needed for occasional balance correction.
- Soon you'll only need the rail to mount your unicycle and shortly after you'll be riding without using it at all.
Tips: Here are our top ten tips - follow these and you will be well on your way.
- Sit on the seat (most of your weight goes on the seat, not the pedals)
- When the unicycle starts to fall, let it fall and don't catch it.
- Look straight ahead rather than down at the wheel.
- Point your shoulders in the direction you want to go.
- Sit on the seat!
- Faster - like a bike it is much harder to ride very slow.
- Sit up straight but relaxed.
- Don't worry, you will learn to turn right later, just turn left for the moment (or vice versa).
- Sit on the seat!
How to get on a Unicycle ("Free Mount")
The next stage of learning is to be able to get on the unicycle without holding on to anything or anyone else. This is called a free mount. There are two basic techniques for free mounting.
You stay still, the wheel moves.
- Place your first foot on the nearest pedal at about 4.00 o'clock (this varies slightly with size of wheel, bigger the wheel the lower the pedal) with the seat in position.
- Apply weight to the pedal, the unicycle will then move underneath you until the pedal is at the bottom (6.00 o'clock) and the frame is vertical.
- Place the second foot on the other pedal which will be at the top and apply a backwards motion. This makes the wheel move backwards about 1/4 turn. All of this should be done in a smooth action with the shoulders staying almost still.
- Fall / topple / lean slightly forward and start to pedal forwards to bring the unicycle back underneath you again.
You move and the wheel stays still.
- Place your foot on the nearest pedal at about 3 o'clock with your seat in position.
- Step up with your other foot as if stepping up on to a step... but placing as little weight on the rear pedal as possible.
- As you move forward it often helps to push the saddle forward slightly to keep the cranks horizontal where you want them. This can be done relatively slowly and does not need to executed rapidly. The pedals should stay horizontal during the whole of this exercise.
- When you are on top of the unicycle and the pedals are horizontal you will be ready to ride off. Lean forward to get some forwards momentum. This tends to be better for the rider who is a "go for it" learner.
- Tip: place the rear of the wheel against a curb so that it can not rotate backwards. This alleviates one part of the process as the curb will keep the wheel still.
This is the better mount to learn because it allows you to get on in a variety of situations that may not allow for the slight backwards motion of the first type of mount (for example, on rough ground).
For more hints on learning to ride, download and print out our Learn to Ride Guide
Unicycle Skill Development
Just get out there and ride. Try to find others to ride with. Start a club in your area. Commute to work or school. The International Unicycling Federation Ten Skill Levels of Unicycling has plenty of ideas for new tricks to try.
Unicycle Hockey: One of the best way to improve your unicycling and have fun while you do it is to play unicycle hockey.
Where we unicycle: There is a directory of Places to Ride around NZ. Look at the Calendar for clubs and events near you. There are riders all over New Zealand. If you can't find someone, Contact Us and we'll try to locate riders near you.
Teaching Others? Try our School Unicycle Packs and our book Teach Unicycling, which was written for the NZ teacher.
Need a Unicycle?
Buy one from us! The right hand column of this page has a few good choices. Or look in our catalogue for Childrens Unicycles or Adult Unicycles. If you are not sure what to buy, give us a call on 0800 UNICYCLE (864 292) for some free friendly advice.