Unicycling is something I’ve always thought looked really cool. It’s the epitome of the quirky things people marvel at, but rarely attempt. That’s why it was just perfect for this resolution.
I had no idea where to begin and don’t know anyone who has any clue either. That led my son and I down to the local bike shop where we had seen unicycles for sale, and often contemplated purchasing one, but never pulled the trigger. We bought one suited for his size figuring we could share it. He’s about 5’4″ and I’m just a hair over 6′. We went for the 20″, which according to the kid behind the counter is the standard size for beginners.
My son spent a couple of hours following the suggestions of a single youtube tutorial for beginning unicyclists, cycling back and forth while holding on to the back of a bench. The next day I joined him, this time on our driveway using the garage door for balance. In his limited experience, he became convinced you can’t fall off a unicycle and get hurt so in our early attempts we went without helmets or pads. One trip to the floor convinced me otherwise and we quickly added helmets.
Over lunch we referred back to YouTube and watched several tutorials which offered far better advice than the original. Armed with this information we took to the local elementary school’s basketball court for a smoother, flatter surface. My son, Jackson’s skill level exploded. He was flying up the learning curve while I was singing his praises in soprano.
It quickly became apparent this unicycle was too small for me and I was torn between getting a more appropriate 24″ thereby improving my odds of success versus staying with the 20″ and maintaining my excuse. After much coaxing from Jackson, we made a second trip to the bike shop and acquired our second unicycle.
It made a big difference. Now instead of falling after just one rotation, I made it to four. Whoopee!
Day 2 we decided to change venues again. We spied the slick surface of the outdoor roller hockey rink at the local YMCA and inquired at the front desk whether we could utilize it for training. They were perplexed. No one had ever asked about unicycling there. The manager asked for some time to inquire with the higher ups, while the kid at the front desk asked, “Whats the difference between that and rollerblading?” We later got approval and an awesome venue for continuing our training.
Within minutes Jackson was learning to turn and riding at will, while I simply found a smoother surface on which to break my falls. For every effortless rotation he made while my progress sputtered my frustration level ticked a notch higher. I kept thinking, “maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Day 3, we returned to the elementary school playground (the rink was being used) where kids were playing soccer and soccer moms were looking on. For the first time we enjoyed the benefits of an audience. Every time the cycle would snap back into my crotch or a pedal would smash into my shin, there was at least one other person whose expression would empathetically mimic my own. It was equal parts humiliating and encouraging. Jackson was now offroading and doing circles, while my great leap forward was getting from the basketball hoop to half court. It may not sound like much, but I gotta say, Im finally feeling as though Im making some progress. My muscles are beginning to understand their individual roles and working together to make this happen. I truly believe I am on the verge of “getting this”. So far the only injury would be sore knees.
Day 4, some real progress. I pulled my groin muscle early on and for some reason, from that moment on I was really starting to ride. Could it be whatever I started doing to compensate actually brought things in line? In any event, today I experienced for the first time what it feels like to truly ride a unicycle. For brief moments I was as relaxed as I am when riding a bike. Those moments still don’t last more than a few seconds, but the progress is tangible. I’m actually starting to enjoy it. Oh, and not to be outdone, Jackson cycled the entire length of a basketball court while carrying a basketball, and then put it in via a layup!!!
For those of you anxious to learn, I highly recommend Step 1 should be to watch the brief video on howtodorandomstuffnow