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How much time can you take off before your unicycling skills start to deteriorate?

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  • #16
    Originally posted by saskatchewanian View Post
    When I rode on the unitour in Nepal it was after basically a year's hiatus. I did not get any practice rides in before arriving and was a bit rusty at first but felt I had my technique back after two days. Good general fitness definitely helps.

    Taking some time off won't hurt. At worst you might lose a bit of polish but the basic skills will remain.
    Wow that's incredible doing a unitour in Nepal after a year's hiatus. So totally impressed with that! How long had you been unicycling before this hiatus, and why did you take a year off, was it due to an injury? I hope that tour went very well for you.

    A very general and I suppose obvious rule concerning this seems to be that the longer a person has been unicycling, the less their skill level will be affected by time off. I think the age they first learned how to unicycle may also be important.

    This also makes me wonder at what point does unicycling ability become so deeply imprinted in our muscle memory that no matter what, we'll never forget it. 2 years of riding? 10,000 hours? 5 years, for about 2 hours a day on average? After a certain point there are diminishing returns of course, when it comes to basic skills anyway.

    Appreciate all the great replies everyone!

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Acrorebel View Post
      I could idle later just like before, maybe even slightly improved after several minutes. I often have problems with sharp turns these days, but that's because I changed the tire recently(about 5 days ago) to a tire with heavier treads to ride trails; this is unrelated to the day off. I can't get over how much the treads on my old tire wore off in my right footed idling spot. A few more days and the tube would have been exposed.
      Note that on an ungeared unicycle, you need to occasionally rotate the tire to ensure even wear. That's not an issue on a bike.

      The tires which ship with unicycles tend to be cheap and crappy; for road riding on a 24" you probably want to get one of the Schwalbe tires.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Acrorebel View Post
        ...How long had you been unicycling before this hiatus, and why did you take a year off, was it due to an injury? I hope that tour went very well for you.
        Fixing my canoe, fishing, and work pretty much took up my summer. I went to New Zealand for the winter where I was planning on working for the first few months then taking the last couple to tour around the south island and unicycle a bunch of trails before heading to Nepal. I was doing alpine weed control work and while I was there the foreman got fired and I kind of helped filled the gap. Higher pay, helicopter rides into scenic remote mountain regions and a job that took up all the daylight hours plus some replaced my plans of touring with my van and unicycle.

        I hadn't even assembled my unicycle in the 5.5 months I was in New Zealand and found out in Nepal I had the wrong disk adaptor for my brake

        I have been riding since 2006, riding quite a bit in the first few years and a lot less for the last few. I find that you can lose some strength over time but the technique is still pretty well ingrained in my subconsciousness.
        My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

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        • #19
          I agree, its very much the conditioning of the body that deteriorates rather the skill. With that being said, I always have a warm up period in order to ride optimal, ranging from 20mins all the way to 1.5hrs of crappy or not near optimal. I now realize that so on somedays I start off bad and have to ride beyond that warm up crappy not-in-the- mood period.

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          • #20
            Originally posted by stubshaft View Post
            I learned to unicycle when I was seven and rode for a year or two. Now at 59 I can honestly say that I've forgotten everything that I learned. I am living proof that it is NOT like riding a bike. That being said, I'm working at getting my skills back.

            Hi Stubshaft, welcome to the forum.
            Now for my loud opinion.
            I really, highly doubt your statement that you have forgotten it all.
            First of all, any old 59 newb would have surely a high rate of sustaining an injury newly starting at that age. Secondly, Im sure you have a faster rate of relearning the freemount then somebody that has absolutely no experience. Im sure youll be back riding in no time, assuming you're in decent physical condition.

            Just a personal example.
            Just recently, I have been taking up ping pong again, from a 30 yr. hiatus. Been playing with my 9.5 yr son. At first I found myself extremely rusty at it. Then it all came back to me. And fortutunely soon enough too...my young son has obviously much age advantage over me. Such a quick learner he is, as he is also practicing hard at his afterschool program! Though, I m so glad for my young years of experience, because so far, he's still looking up to me, as Im am still kicking his butt at it! Oh yeah, papa still got it!

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            • #21
              From my experience, the core skills remain, but the "polish" may need shining up. Depending on how long you had been doing the "dulled" skills, it may take a little bit of time or a lot to put back the polish. Fitness, on the other hand, is only there if you've been doing other activities to take its place. For instance, If I've been doing all Road riding for a long time, and little to no Muni, long Muni rides usually beat me up pretty good. And that's with plenty of hills in the Road riding. Fitness, but not skill.

              30 years ago I was the World Freestyle Champion (Unicon II, III and IV), and performing on a regular basis. I could do my "show" Freestyle routine with the flu, or on really difficult surfaces. Those skills were solidly ingrained. But then, over the years I did Freestyle (and shows) less and less. In recent years I have had less and less opportunities to ride in gymnasiums so those skills have faded.
              Originally posted by Acrorebel View Post
              I was able to do figure 8s backwards with one foot while juggling three knives, which I couldn't do at all before.
              For example, at Unicon IV we had a Compulsory "tricks" event you had to do along with your Freestyle or Standard Skill competition event. The hardest of the four versions including doing 8s backward one-footed, with each foot. I practiced it enough that I could be reasonably ready to do it in one try, under competition pressure. The other day, I was in a big room with a smooth floor. One-foot figure 8s, no problem. Backwards one-foot, sloppy but doable. I did not try the other foot. I think I can do the backwards with my left foot, but getting the 8 back would definitely take some work.

              Beyond that though, most of the moves from my old "performance" Freestyle routine are till there. They're not pretty, but I can get through them. Polishing them up would definitely take a lot less time than learning them from scratch!
              John Foss
              www.unicycling.com

              "Who is going to argue with a mom who can ride a unicycle?" -- Forums member "HiMo"

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              • #22
                There were only two skills I didn't learn within 7 days from the moment I truly set my mind on them: coasting and side-ride, which took 10 days.

                But soon after learning coasting I got some injury. And, after that was over... I couldn't coast anymore, and whatever I tried I ended with error on error on error.
                I had to learn again and it took me about a month, maybe even longer, to learn something I was capable of not too long before...!

                So I think deterioration depends on amount of experience also.

                And for some skills you need some odd muscle power and self-confidence.
                Like ww 1ft bw. Not something that you have back in a single day.
                unicycle.show
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                • #23
                  I started to learn to ride backward when I bought a trial 19er back in August 2015, spent hours and hours and finally was able to ride between 10 to 20 meters backward few times, but most of the time I failed to do even one meter.

                  It's the period I also started to do hop, side hops, jumping on stairs, and off stairs, and stuffs like this, but wasn't able to do any rolling up.

                  Then, on something like september I started to ride on the street with other unicyclists on my 26er, then on my 29er and never got back to the backward stuff, but still few hops sometimes, not much.

                  So the backward skill was interrupted in the middle of the learning process and it has been a 4 months gap until I play with my 19er again (this afternoon) trying to do the same things I was doing 5 months ago: backward riding, hoping on stairs, and so on.

                  incredibly, not only I didn't loose anything but after few tries it was easier to keep the backward riding balance and state of mind, and about hoping, I was able to jump on things without pre-hop, which I was unable in the past.
                  Even the rolling hop is starting to come (even if it is barely noticeable that I jump).

                  My riding balance has greatly improved during those 5 months cause I rode often, but I didn't expect the backward skill and the few other stuffs to be kept in my brain and muscle memories.

                  So I don't think that a short interruption may be a big deal.
                  the hardest things when we learn something like unicycle related skills are the first tries, when the brain/body has no idea what we are asking him to handle !
                  - Geared kh36 + Nightrider Lite + Kh Tbar + HS33
                  - Qu-ax 36" + nightrider +Q-handle+ cable rim brake
                  - kh 29" + knard 29x3+ kh Tbar + HS33
                  - Qu-ax trial 19"
                  -24"&26" wheels and forks and spare stuffs.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by johnfoss View Post
                    From my experience, the core skills remain, but the "polish" may need shining up. Depending on how long you had been doing the "dulled" skills, it may take a little bit of time or a lot to put back the polish. Fitness, on the other hand, is only there if you've been doing other activities to take its place. For instance, If I've been doing all Road riding for a long time, and little to no Muni, long Muni rides usually beat me up pretty good. And that's with plenty of hills in the Road riding. Fitness, but not skill.

                    30 years ago I was the World Freestyle Champion (Unicon II, III and IV), and performing on a regular basis. I could do my "show" Freestyle routine with the flu, or on really difficult surfaces. Those skills were solidly ingrained. But then, over the years I did Freestyle (and shows) less and less. In recent years I have had less and less opportunities to ride in gymnasiums so those skills have faded.
                    For example, at Unicon IV we had a Compulsory "tricks" event you had to do along with your Freestyle or Standard Skill competition event. The hardest of the four versions including doing 8s backward one-footed, with each foot. I practiced it enough that I could be reasonably ready to do it in one try, under competition pressure. The other day, I was in a big room with a smooth floor. One-foot figure 8s, no problem. Backwards one-foot, sloppy but doable. I did not try the other foot. I think I can do the backwards with my left foot, but getting the 8 back would definitely take some work.

                    Beyond that though, most of the moves from my old "performance" Freestyle routine are till there. They're not pretty, but I can get through them. Polishing them up would definitely take a lot less time than learning them from scratch!
                    Thanks for the advice and for sharing your history John.

                    Due to the recent blizzard, I had to take off for 2 days. I tried, and failed to unicycle the day after the blizzard but it didn't work out. Upon returning to unicycling, I felt a little rusty, but after 20 minutes of riding in this area cleared of snow, I felt like I was right back to where I was before. Same with the idling, a little rusty, but like before after practicing for 15 minutes, and in fact I'm making great progress with left footed idling. Much better with my right foot.

                    That's an amazing number of skills you have. What you're saying seems to be true for me and many others when it comes to rustiness. Same thing happens with juggling and joggling I've noticed. A day off from juggling or joggling makes no difference. A week may make a little difference though I never take a week off.

                    No big snow storms in the forecast luckily. I hope it stays that way.

                    Thank you everyone for your helpful responses.

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                    • #25
                      Turns out I was able to see how much of my idling ability would deteriorate after a little more than month of not practicing due to an ankle injury.

                      In early March while joggling I sprained my right ankle, and couldn't run or ride my unicycle for almost 3 weeks. At around the 3 week mark, I started riding my 24" unicycle again, slowly and I avoided hills. Because of ankle issues I would do this only a few times a week until recently.

                      Before the injury, I was capable of idling almost indefinitely on my right foot(I would lose count well into several hundreds of cycles), and up to I think 200 cycles on left foot. I only started learning how to idle a few months ago(frequently interrupted by bad weather), and only learned how to ride a unicycle last November.

                      It was just yesterday when I finally resumed idling on my 24" since my ankle feels nearly 100% healed. It took almost a dozen attempts to even make the transition into right foot idling from riding, and I could do just 3 cycles. But after a few more attempts, I managed 40 cycles, then a little later, 108 cycles on my right foot. The idling caused no pain at all, and I swear my right foot/ankle felt better after idling than before.

                      Then I decided to idle with my left foot. It was interesting how on my first attempt to transition to idling with my left foot, I was successful and did about 10 cycles though this isn't my preferred idling foot. A few more attempts later and I could do 35 cycles. Unlike where I left off, I use my arms a lot more and move all over the place. Very sloppy!

                      I hope after a few more months of consistent practice I'll be able to make my idling a lot smoother, stay in the same spot, and also juggle balls while idling.
                      Last edited by Acrorebel; 2016-04-08, 06:36 PM.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Acrorebel View Post
                        Turns out I was able to see how much of my idling ability would deteriorate after a little more than month of not practicing due to an ankle injury.

                        In early March while joggling I sprained my right ankle, and couldn't run or ride my unicycle for almost 3 weeks. At around the 3 week mark, I started riding my 24" unicycle again, slowly and I avoided hills. Because of ankle issues I would do this only a few times a week until recently.

                        Before the injury, I was capable of idling almost indefinitely on my right foot(I would lose count well into several hundreds of cycles), and up to I think 200 cycles on left foot. I only started learning how to idle a few months ago(frequently interrupted by bad weather), and only learned how to ride a unicycle last November.

                        It was just yesterday when I finally resumed idling on my 24" since my ankle feels nearly 100% healed. It took almost a dozen attempts to even make the transition into right foot idling from riding, and I could do just 3 cycles. But after a few more attempts, I managed 40 cycles, then a little later, 108 cycles on my right foot. The idling caused no pain at all, and I swear my right foot/ankle felt better after idling than before.

                        Then I decided to idle with my left foot. It was interesting how on my first attempt to transition to idling with my left foot, I was successful and did about 10 cycles though this isn't my preferred idling foot. A few more attempts later and I could do 35 cycles. Unlike where I left off, I use my arms a lot more and move all over the place. Very sloppy!

                        I hope after a few more months of consistent practice I'll be able to make my idling a lot smoother, stay in the same spot, and also juggle balls while idling.
                        Sorry to hear about the ankle injury, but I'm glad to hear you're better.

                        One of the things I think is really interesting about riding the unicycle is how easy it is to tell when something is effecting you. When I do other sports, I don't notice quite so much if I loose a little bit of skill, but with unicycling, I certainly do.

                        Looks like you've gotten a lot of advice about taking time off from riding. Here's what I'll throw in as well for you to consider:

                        When we learn something like unicycling, we develop muscle memory, which is both good and bad. We need muscle memory to ride a unicycle at all (which after 30 years of riding still seems like a small miracle to me), but sometimes we learn wrong, and that becomes part of our muscle memory. By taking a break and losing some of that "bad" muscle memory, we have an opportunity to rebuild it the right way when we have more experience and understanding of what we're doing.

                        I know from a decade and half of martial arts that this concept is absolutely true for me. The best I got was when I took a year or so off and then started up again. I also started unicycling again regularly a few months ago after not riding regularly for many years. Overall, I'm riding better than I ever have since I started in 1986.

                        Keep it up and enjoy! You're doing great!
                        I'm not short, I'm just really far away.

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                        • #27
                          Around 6 years ago i quit Freestyle unicycling to Focus more on riding muni and stuff like stairs ans drops.
                          It took for me always a Long time to getting better with drops and other obstacles. But when i cant ride that for a few weeks it scares me to ride the same stuff and it tooks me months to ride it again.
                          So i am back to Freestyle. After a few weeks most of the tricks i can do again.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Bradford View Post
                            Sorry to hear about the ankle injury, but I'm glad to hear you're better.

                            One of the things I think is really interesting about riding the unicycle is how easy it is to tell when something is effecting you. When I do other sports, I don't notice quite so much if I loose a little bit of skill, but with unicycling, I certainly do.

                            Looks like you've gotten a lot of advice about taking time off from riding. Here's what I'll throw in as well for you to consider:

                            When we learn something like unicycling, we develop muscle memory, which is both good and bad. We need muscle memory to ride a unicycle at all (which after 30 years of riding still seems like a small miracle to me), but sometimes we learn wrong, and that becomes part of our muscle memory. By taking a break and losing some of that "bad" muscle memory, we have an opportunity to rebuild it the right way when we have more experience and understanding of what we're doing.

                            I know from a decade and half of martial arts that this concept is absolutely true for me. The best I got was when I took a year or so off and then started up again. I also started unicycling again regularly a few months ago after not riding regularly for many years. Overall, I'm riding better than I ever have since I started in 1986.

                            Keep it up and enjoy! You're doing great!
                            Excellent observations. I had a similar idea when I resumed idling practice, thinking maybe I had forgotten some beginner's bad habits and would soon be idling like a pro. This hasn't happened yet, but something similar could happen after a few more weeks or months of practice.

                            I think I remember this happening when I was studying martial arts, and I had to take time off due to illness.

                            "One of the things I think is really interesting about riding the unicycle is how easy it is to tell when something is effecting you. When I do other sports, I don't notice quite so much if I loose a little bit of skill, but with unicycling, I certainly do."
                            I think part of the reason for this is that riding a unicycle is just so "unnatural", for lack of a better word. In no way do I mean "unnatural" to imply "bad". What I mean is humans evolved to walk, and run, and we learn to do these things at an early age without giving it a second thought. On the other hand, it can take a little while to learn to ride a unicycle. In can take up to a year or more for some unicyclists to learn to ride with "grace", which may just be another way of saying that it finally feels "natural" to them. Just think, in terms of human evolution, bicycles and unicycles are extremely recent inventions.

                            Of course, there are many people who just can't ride a unicycle for whatever reason. I keep running into people like this who claim they tried to learn but couldn't. Others learn to do it but prefer bicycles for the speed.

                            It's so cool that you ride better now than ever before, in spite of very long breaks. In a way "muscle memory" is just like other memory in that some people are just better at remembering things. Now if there was a way to erase bad muscle memory without having to take long breaks, that would be a godsend.

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Acrorebel View Post
                              I think I remember this happening when I was studying martial arts, and I had to take time off due to illness.
                              Martial arts is actually how I came about my theory on this. I was pretty avid with martial arts for over 10 years, but due to work and other crap, I would be gone and not practice for increasing periods of time. Despite my guilt and disappointment with myself, I had become increasingly suspicious that the lapses were helping a lot more than they were hurting. Finally, after a 1-2 year lapse, I went back and got the most positive feedback I'd ever gotten from my teacher, and he was not one to hand out compliments. I'm convinced it was because I lost the muscle memory of doing things wrong and then re-trained my muscles with 10 years of understanding.

                              I'm not sure I would intentionally NOT practice something I was really in to or cared about, but if circumstances cause it, or if I just lose interest in something for a while, I don't sweat it. It could be a natural and positive process.
                              I'm not short, I'm just really far away.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by johnfoss View Post
                                From my experience, the core skills remain, but the "polish" may need shining up. Depending on how long you had been doing the "dulled" skills, it may take a little bit of time or a lot to put back the polish. Fitness, on the other hand, is only there if you've been doing other activities to take its place.
                                All I do is unicycle, and my resting heart rate is 40/min, so that's fitness!

                                I can get on the uni and ride after 2 weeks off. Juggle on it too. But for new skills or more difficult ones, rust happens fast. Everyday I cannot get to one foot without going around the block with decreasingly lighter pressure on the pedal. Then it finally happens. Then I can do every other rotation. But if I stop for ten minutes to do something else, I'm already feeling a bit rusty and it takes a few efforts to get my foot up and off.

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