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  • Children ‘Conquering’ The Unicycle, But Achieving Much More



    Children ‘Conquering’ The Unicycle, But Achieving Much More

    08/16/2016 09:27 am ET | Updated Aug 16, 2016

    Dorian de Wind Retired U.S. Air Force officer and writer

    Ode on a Unicycle

    Unicycle, unicycle,
    radiant and round.
    Spying you, you spoke to me
    without a single sound.

    Unicycle, unicycle,
    beautiful and kind,
    like the petals on a flower
    wheeling through my mind.

    Unicycle, unicycle,
    you’re my one desire.
    Losing you would break my heart.
    Of you I’ll never tire.

    Unicycle, unicycle
    always by my side.
    That’s, of course, because you are
    impossible to ride.

    Copyright © 2006 Kenn Nesbitt. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by permission of the author.

    Uni-Saders hanging out in the staging are before a parade in Dripping Springs, Texas. Most of us remember well the sense of joy and accomplishment we experienced when we first mastered the “art” of riding a bicycle. Many of us will also remember the sense of pride we felt when our 6-year-old was able to ride his or her bicycle for the first time, without those training wheels. But how many of us have tried to ride a unicycle? You know, one of those contraptions with only one wheel, “so impossible to ride.” I do not remember how the subject of unicycles came up during one of our regular coffee klatches with a friend a while ago. Something about a bunch of kids riding around, perched on unicycles.
    Recently, it came up again and, pursuing the subject a little more, I discovered how a colleague of my friend has truly made unicycles, as Ken Nesbitt’s poem says, “beautiful and kind, like the petals on a flower.” The unicycles my friend, Dwight Bawcom, was talking about are not necessarily beautiful in appearance — many of them are well used, some have scratches and dents. But they are beautiful, “like the petals on a flower,” because of how these “contraptions” are helping young children overcome, achieve and excel. You see, my friend’s colleague, Jimmy Agnew, uses unicycles to inspire children “to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.” It all started eight years ago when Agnew, a teacher at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, and his second graders began gathering unicycles from Craigslist and neighborhood garage sales and started meeting in the school’s small gym every Friday after school. There, according to Agnew, the children “would laugh, and play, and celebrate their failures as they consistently fell over and over again” trying to ride those unicycles. Agnew continues, “Only with perseverance, determination, and constant encouragement from their peers, did they eventually, one by one, learn to ride.” It soon became obvious to Agnew — a former college basketball player — that what the second graders were doing was much more than just learning to ride a unicycle. They were overcoming self-doubt and replacing it with self-confidence. They were gaining self-esteem, inspiring themselves and each other, learning and displaying patience, trust, courage and especially perseverance: “It’s about getting them used to failing but then working through it,” Agnew says in an interview.

    Dr. W. Eric Grossman, an associate professor of education at Emory & Henry College, Virginia, puts Agnew’s “failing but then working through it” in a slightly different way. He refers to attempting to ride a unicycle as “an unnatural, difficult, and complex skill” where one has to — taking from Samuel Beckett — “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Grossman adds: Riding a unicycle is physically striking. When kids finally reach the point of wheeling out of the schoolyard on their unicycle, they will have also achieved at least two additional goals: they will have a captivating means to stay active and fit and they will know what is required to learn something difficult.

    Eight years after Agnew founded his modest yet trailblazing program — today called “One Wheel Many Children”— more than 700 children have “wheeled out of the school yard on their unicycle.” Agnew’s original after-school program has now been replicated at other schools in Austin and San Antonio, Texas, and is currently being launched at Austin’s Comunidad School, one of our nation’s 200 KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) public charter schools, as part of a formal, play-based literacy curriculum. Agnew’s vision: Through child-driven literacy, we aim to create a forum for children to share their voice and launch additional school unicycle clubs. Essentially empowering through play to develop a growth mindset. The unicycle is an ideal childhood development tool and our goal is to use that tool to empower communities and develop such mindsets.

    The unicycle was invented more than 100 years ago. It was born out of the “Penny Farthing” bicycle, named after the English penny (the giant front wheel) and the farthing (the miniature rear wheel). It wasn’t long before some people realized they really didn’t need that back wheel of the penny farthing. First the back wheel was removed, then the handles too...and pretty soon the unicycle was born. A curiosity, a challenge, popular among circus clown and acrobatic performers, the unicycle started seeing widespread popularity in the 1980s, “when new unicycle variations created an entirely new generation of riders.” A little more than three decades later, another generation of riders are taming those contraptions: Agnew’s young Uni-Saders who are learning, among other things, “support, patience, trust and courage” thanks to dedicated and visionary people such as Agnew and generous volunteers such as my friend Dwight. The words “support, patience, trust” are written in each spoke of unicycle drawings by third graders, displayed at one school in Austin, Texas, reflecting what these young Uni-Saders believe they are learning from conquering those unicycles, “impossible to ride.” A young Uni-Sader expresses similar feelings in a “daily reflection sheet” at KIPP Austin Comunidad, below. Words only begin to describe the joy, challenges and frustration experienced by Uni-Saders as they learn to “unicycle,” and grow. Please watch the video below and also view the story of one youngster who conquered the unicycle and achieved much more here.

    Also, visit the One Wheel Many Children site to learn more about this unique project and to perhaps contribute to this commendable non-profit organization.
    UniMyra's YouTube channel


    • Inspiring article.


      • Very cool article, Unimyra! I really liked what the founder Jimmy Agnew said near the beginning of the video (link below) shown near the bottom of the article. "They're having fun. They don't even realize how hard they're working."

        That's exactly what my experience was 30 years ago. I just found a unicycle in my cousin's museum of childhood toys and decided to kill some time one summer while spending a week with my grandparents. I never even expected to be able to ride it. For some reason that I've yet to fully understand, I just kept at it until I was freemounting and riding in the street at the end of the week. There was no one to give me even the slightest clue of how to do it, but I was having fun and putting a lot of hard work and dedication into it without even realizing it.

        It was also really neat to see that many people riding unis right here in Texas. I've been told and have seen for myself that the local club I recently joined is winding down, so it's inspiring to see the sport continuing to thrive so close to home!

        Thanks for sharing!
        I'm not short, I'm just really far away.


        • Just came across this article, You never forget how to ride a bicycle, but a unicycle is another matter: Balance & Proprioception.
          Contributed by Scott Benbow, 2016 Ambassador for The San Francisco Marathon.

          Recently, in San Francisco’s inimitable Dolores Park, I met a unicyclist who was practicing his moves on a stretch of flat, smooth pavement. Explaining to him that I had learned to ride a unicycle when I was in high school many years ago, I asked if I could take a spin. Although I hadn’t ridden a unicycle in decades, I was confident about my sense of balance. When I attempted to pedal, I fell hard on the pavement. My confidence was shaken and, at least for me, the adage “you never forget how to ride a bicycle” does not apply to a unicycle.

          My humbling experience in Dolores Park got me thinking about balance. In the vernacular, a runner’s balance is what helps her not fall down while running. Another sense, called proprioception, requires a more precise definition. Proprioception is one’s awareness of the position of her body and limbs in space. Proprioception can be diminished by injury, age, and many other factors. With impaired proprioception, a person may lose her balance.

          Together, balance and proprioception are vital to a runner’s forward movement.
          As a middle-aged runner who has sustained some annoying injuries in the past few years, I embarked in 2016 on a quest for better balance and proprioception, not for unicycling but for running, walking, and general health & wellbeing. When you injure a foot, ankle, or leg, you impair your proprioception. By enhancing your proprioception, you can make such injuries a lot less likely. As a runner frustrated with three years of injuries, I was ready for anything that would get me back on my feet.

          I have incorporated a 3-part strategy for increasing my proprioception and balance.

          At the gym, I lift weights while standing on a Bosu Ball, an unstable surface that requires more core strength and stability than lifting weights on a stable floor. I lift less weight overall, but I am convinced the unstable surface is benefiting my strength, proprioception, balance, and coordination. Over the course of several months, I have noticed tremendous strides in my ability to stand on a Bosu Ball in the face of adversity.

          I use a standing desk at work and am convinced this style of working is beneficial for balance, proprioception, and strength. By adding an additional element, constant movement while standing at my desk, I am enhancing my balance and proprioception. Similar to a Bosu Ball at a fitness club, the FluidStance is a balance board I stand on while I work at my desk. Keeping my balance requires perpetual, minute, adjustments of my feet, ankles, legs, hips, and, to a lesser extent, my upper body. While I’m writing, reading, talking on the telephone, or meeting with a co-worker, I am in in constant yet hardly discernible motion.

          I usually walk about 1.5 miles to and from work. Occasionally, especially in stormy weather, I take San Francisco MUNI light rail to my office. I never sit down on MUNI. Instead, I put one foot in front of the other and “surf” from my home to my office. In so doing, I am forcing constant subtle adjustments that enhance balance and proprioception.

          As The San Francisco Marathon approaches, I am experiencing more confidence and control on my long-distance runs. I attribute this to the work I have been doing to enhance my proprioception and increase my balance. Look for me at the starting line; I’ll probably be balancing on one foot or the other before the race begins.
          Wonder why he didn't take up unicycling again?


          • Vertigo,
            Interesting article. Yeah, it's kind of a downer that he didn't re-learn to ride. I'm terribly biased, of course, but I think that a lot of what he was after would have been accomplished with unicycling. I myself found out early last fall (almost a year ago now), that I had forgotten, and it really put me on a mission to re-learn, and getting back into it has literally changed my life. I think the author really missed a great opportunity, and given that he's located in San Francisco, there's probably a massive and diverse unicycle community there. Oh, well! I guess it's not for everyone...
            I'm not short, I'm just really far away.


            • MUNI isn't MUni ( or Muni/muni, for that matter)

              While he doesn't do unicycling (anymore), it's funny he talks about the SF MUNI, on which he never sits down. As if he means SIF MUNI.

              P.S. I know what the SF MUNI is.


              • OK, not exactly a "unicycle" article but a news about the Dirtysixers company making some 32" bikes (after offering 36"):

                The fun part about it is the reference to a partner having now 42mm wide rims available and a general purpose 2.25" tire.

                I am crazy or it it UDC UK without naming it ?
                => CrMo 29: KH XC rim, Nimbus CrMo hub, Spirit 110/137 & Schwalbe Big One
                => Flansberrium 26: Nextie rim, JumboJim 4.0, Spirit 127/150mm, M4O ISIS


                • Originally posted by Siddhartha Valmont View Post
                  I am crazy or it it UDC UK without naming it ?
                  It's definitely UDC wheels and tires. Nice that the 32" market is expanding, even if only by a small amount.
                  "I'm a unicyclist. I make my own reality."


                  • DirtySixer have been using UDC/Nimbus rims and tyres for their 36er builds for a while (As have a couple of other 36er bike makers) so it makes sense
                    “It is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you're attempting can't be done. A person ignorant of the possibility of failure can be a half-brick in the path of the bicycle of history.”


                    • New York Times article

                      This article appeared today, featuring an interview with Scott Wilton. Great exposure!


                      (Copied text appears below, so future generations can read it.)

                      How to Ride a Unicycle
                      By JAIME LOWE OCT. 28, 2016

                      “You’re going to fall a lot,” says Scott Wilton, vice president of the International Unicycling Federation. “It takes a long time to learn, and it takes the willingness to fall down and get back up.” Make sure the unicycle is the right size for you. Next, get on: “Stand behind the unicycle, not to the side of it like you would a bicycle,” Wilton says. Put the saddle between your legs and, with the pedal for your dominant foot at the 9 o’clock position, step up onto the unicycle as if you were climbing stairs; as the unicycle moves underneath you, put the other foot on its pedal. Hold onto a wall or a fence for support. (Dismounting is easy, Wilton says: “Step off backward — do the exact same thing you did to get on the unicycle, but in reverse.”)

                      When both feet are on the pedals, try to get a feel for the unicycle by rocking back and forth; stand up and sit down. “It’s gonna feel weird at first, but the longer you spend on it, the easier it will be,” Wilton says. “Once you get on, you have to go for it. Lean forward and start pedaling. Some people get freaked out, and their brain shuts down, and they stop pedaling.” Don’t do that. To make turns, take your cross-body arm and point it in the direction you want to go. “Once you know how to turn, you won’t need to use your arms anymore.” Going backward is tricky. Build up to it: When moving forward, slow down and pedal one revolution in reverse, then go forward again. “Just keep going back and forth,” Wilton says. “It’s a really good thing to learn with the help of a hand from a friend just to get the feel.”

                      When Wilton, who is 23, got a unicycle from his mother 12 years ago, he didn’t have any instructional resources beyond the advice of a friend’s uncle. “On average, it takes about 20 hours to get a sense of it,” Wilton says, “but it’s really hard to do it for more than an hour at first.” After mastering basic skills, a rider can move into more difficult terrain. Any mountain-bike trail will do, for example. “Start on the green trails,” Wilton says, “and just ride.”
                      "I'm a unicyclist. I make my own reality."


                      • Spotted on FB. Seems like the NY Times has something for unicycles!
                        Which is good for our sport, for once we're not the clowns!



                        • East Oregonian = 2017 Echo Red2Red

                          East Oregonian
                          Published on April 1, 2017 6:50PM

                          Eric Singer - East Oregonian
                          Published on April 1, 2017 6:50PM

                          ECHO — Jamey Yanik’s drive from his home in Boise, Idaho to Echo on Saturday was nearly all for nothing.

                          Making the trip to compete in the Red 2 Red mountain bike race, Yanik got all the way to Echo and realized he left a key part for his bike at home. It rendered his high-end racing bike useless for the day and left him scrambling for an alternative.

                          Lucky for him, Yanik was able to track down a fellow competitor with a spare bike to borrow, allowing him to still compete. And yet even on a spare bike that he had never ridden before, the 41-year-old Yanik still managed to win both the men’s elite class and the overall top men’s award, finishing the long course in just over 1 hour and 51 minutes on a partly-cloudy and breezy day.

                          “Funny how things work out,” Yanik said with a chuckle on Saturday. “It did take the fun out of it a little, not being on my bike though. It would’ve made this even more special if I had been on my bike because I’m real comfortable with it, but it still worked out.”

                          This year, the riders were riding on the course’s original setup on Saturday, after organizers had altered it the last few years to try and change things up.

                          “It was probably one of our easier courses this year,” race organizer Stephanie Myers said, “which is leading to some really fast times.”

                          Yanik was one of 318 registered competitors competing in the ninth annual race, and pulled in the fastest time of the day on the roughly 32-mile long course. He is now 2 for 2 at Red 2 Red, after Yanik won the men’s title in 2016 with a time just over two hours.

                          Going through the twists, turns and hills of the course running through the Echo West vineyard Yanik said that he did not really feel like he was going as fast as he was. He won the elite men’s class by nearly four minutes ahead of second place Evan Plews (1:55.27) of Wenatchee, Washington and six minutes ahead of third place Jacob Hull (1:57.04) of Portland.

                          “Honestly, I was kind of just riding in the pack for a while,” Yanik said. “And then after awhile at some of the changeovers I could glance back and see where guys were at and could tell my lead was growing, but yeah I didn’t think I was as fast as I was.”

                          On the women’s side, there was only one elite class rider and that was 31-year-old Fairlee Frey who took first place, as well as the top women’s prize, with a blazing time of 2:05. The 318 racers were split up into 26 different categories based on age and skill level that raced on three different lengths of course.

                          The elite and Category 1 riders rode for 32 miles, the Category 2 and 3 riders rode 24 miles, and the Category 3 juniors and open beginners approximately 12 miles.

                          Myers said that the overall turnout for the event was down slightly from previous years, though she believed a few factors caused the dip. The biggest reason was that the race was rescheduled from a previous date in early March because of lingering snow and ice on the trails.

                          Myers said that the reasons for the delay was unusual because of the normally-mild winters of Eastern Oregon allows Echo to be one of the few rideable trails in the Pacific Northwest early in the season. However an unseasonably snowy and icy winter this year put the organizers in a predicament.

                          And on top of that, spring break for most schools in the Pacific Northwest was this week, which took away a chunk of usual competitors as well.

                          Red 2 Red is looking forward to its 10th anniversary next year, where Myers said afterwards that organizers will hope to make it bigger and better, and even set a preliminary date for Saint Patrick’s Day, which happens to fall on a Saturday in 2018.

                          Yanik said he hopes he can make it back to defend his crowns.

                          “I’d like to for sure,” he said, “But we’ll have to see what life throws my way. It’s a super fun course here.”

                          TRIP TO THE HOSPITAL

                          While there were a few racers that did not finish, one racer in particular had a scary way to go out.

                          Adam Bergerson, a 42-year-old from Salem, wiped out on one of the corner turns on the trail and crashed, landing hard on his right shoulder. It required a trip to Good Shepard Health Care System in Hermiston, where he was diagnosed with a Grade 3 shoulder separation at his collarbone.

                          He did return to Echo after he was released from the hospital, and said he will have to have surgery some time in the next week.

                          ONE WHEEL MAN

                          For the fifth straight year, 60-year-old Joe Myers drew some eyes at the finish line on Saturday he again competed on his unicycle. Myers finished the full 29-mile long course in 6 hours, 36 minutes after he started out on the course at 5:54 a.m.

                          He gets such an early start to avoid being a roadblock for the other racers, and said he only owns a unicycle and not a bicycle for health reasons.


                          Contact Eric at or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.
                          You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself....



                          • Congratulations on another great race, Joe! You make us look good!
                            "I'm a unicyclist. I make my own reality."


                              Happy Birthday Terry! Every year you get cooler, younger and unicyclier!
                              Be our muniprohpet for many years more.
                              -Dani Buron