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Learning Journal

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  • Learning Journal

    Following the idea of 'dudewithasock' from 5 years ago, I am going to keep a journal of my experience learning to ride. Thanks for the great idea! Also, thanks to 'steakfarm' who is also new to this community for the recent post that got me thinking, and to 'scott ttocs' who added the link to the journal from 'dudewithasock'.

    First, a little history and some key learnings so far;
    I am 46, but this is not my first time to try to learn. I have actually tried several times here and there over the years, the first time when I was 12, then again at 20, then at 36 (this is when I actually bought a uni, not just tried to ride someone else's), then again earlier this year.

    The first uni I bought was a 24" Avenir. Little did I know that it would be hard to learn on this size. I am 6'3" and the seat post was too short, and the saddle was terrible. But I had no one to learn from and I did not search the web much 10 years ago. So, I gave up and the uni sat in the garage for almost 10 years before I met some young kids riding uni's one day earlier this year and decided to give it a try again.

    I made a little progress, but was still on the 24" with terrible saddle and too-short seat post. So I went to the web to see what I could learn and discovered this community and a few other resources. I found a 20" Torker CX in the local classifieds for a good price so I picked it up. Then I found a good deal on a long-enough seat post on, and much nicer saddle (Velo) on the same site.

    Key Learning #1: A 20" wheel is quite a bit easier to learn on
    Key Learning #2: If the seat post is not long enough you may never learn to ride.
    Key Learning #3: The saddle makes a huge difference. If you can't afford a Kris Holm the Velo is a good deal, at least it seems great for learning so far.

    So I spent some time on it last night, and will again tonight for at least a few minutes, just getting a feel. Though I have tried a few times in the past I am counting this as my real beginning because I finally have a unicycle size, height, and saddle that will actually work for learning!

    We have hard wood tile in our entry and main hallway, and they are a great place to spend time getting used to things. If your wife/mother/roommate/etc. will allow it I recommend some time inside as great way to get the feel of the uni. I also spent a little time in the garage and driveway last night - I used the FamVan as my support in the garage until I got to the end and then tried to ride out onto the driveway.

    Key Learning #4 - This works pretty well, but having another car in the driveway is not so good - it is surprising how it gets in the way1

    I downloaded the Klaas Bill and Andrew Carter guide and it had some great ideas that I am going to use. I also purchased the online-download book 'Ride the Unicycle'. It recommends not using any support from walls, rails, fences, etc. But I think I like the other ideas better for now until I am ready to free mount.

    So, this is a long initial post, but hopefully it will be helpful to someone else as they learn. I will keep posting until I feel like I can ride well enough. Until then it will be nice to have the journal to keep me going. Thanks in advance for the support, encouragement, and tips. I know I am not the oldest ever to learn, so that is cool too! I will use the emoticons to signal how well each learning session went.
    If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got.

  • #2
    good plan, and welcome to! make sure you dont make the same mistakes over and over again, and i think you will learn quickly.
    "I'm probably not advanced enough to have thoroughly tested it while riding, but I'm unadvanced enough to have very thoroughly tested it while falling." -uniShark

    I ride for Christ-opher Walken


    • #3
      Never give up! Never give up! Never give up! I found it's the key to success. Everything else will fall into place if you keep at it.


      • #4
        Originally posted by lbfin88 View Post
        Never give up! Never give up! Never give up! I found it's the key to success. Everything else will fall into place if you keep at it.
        never give up, is the most important experience of learning a unicycle!


        • #5
          Day 2:

          I actually wrote this up two days ago, but it took me so long to write it that when I went to submit I had been logged out so I lost it all! Lesson learned, make a copy before submitting

          Thanks for the words of encouragement everyone! I believe them!

          I did a quick review of Andrew Carter, Klaas Bil book and decided to start out in the entryway/hall for a few minutes to get the feel of things. Then I transitioned out to the garage. Our Astro van is parked, as I face out toward the street, on the right side, leaving the left side open and the driveway empty. For about 30 minutes I started out at the front of the van using the mirror as my initial handle, then worked my way down the side of the van until I got to the end where I would launch out into the driveway. I had a couple good runs where I was able to make it a little way before falling.

          I rolled the tire across the floor for one revolution and measured the distance = exactly 5 feet. So one pedal stroke = 2.5 feet. I find it easy to count pedal strokes and calculate distance that way. I had a few rides of 4 or 5 pedals.

          Next I went down to the end of our street where there is about 40 feet of concrete block wall running right next to the sidewalk. I worked up and down it for about 30 minutes, while mixing up which foot I started the mount with. I noticed that the right pedal was coming loose so I headed back to the garage. Besides, an hour is about the max for me right now time-wise.

          After tightening the pedal I decided to try one or two more launches from the van. Surprisingly I had a good ride of 7 pedals, so I kept going for another 10 minutes where I had one more 7 pedal ride and my best yet, 8 pedal strokes! The best part was that 2 of these three were pretty straight and under control, and the 8 pedal ride felt really natural. Woohoo!

          Key Lessons;
          1. Don't try to catch the unicycle, just let it fall
          2. More arm flailing is more better
          3. If your foot is not straight forward the crank arm will come up from behind and you will experience a very nice unplanned dismount (UPD for those newbies like me that were wondering what this meant) - every time guarnteed!!

          Tip for other newbies;
          Being physically fit is very important. Leg strength, core strength, and reasonable flexibility are key to a good experience, and maybe even to eventual success. But maybe this is a moot point, as anyone crazy enough to do this already gets it.

          So far I am having fun. My previous attempt earlier this year, and the attempt 10 years ago were not very fun and I got frustrated a lot. Perhaps I have grown up a little? But somehow this time I am really enjoying the journey. I think this site, and this journal are also key to the level of enjoyment. It is fun to come to a place where everyone understands perfectly.
          If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got.


          • #6
            Day 3:

            Started out in the hall again for 5 minutes, then out to the garage. It is getting dark but the lighting is sufficient. Practiced for about 30 minutes and had a couple good rides of 4-5 pedals. I had one wild ride of 13 pedals, which is my longest yet (just over 30 feet!), but I was not stable at all - veering both directions but primarily to the left. So while it was not pretty, it was pretty cool. Just before calling it an evening I had one very smooth ride of 6 pedals. Though it was not as long it was very straight and I felt under control and natural.

            Key Learnings:
            1. Take satisfaction from every success, no matter how small
            2. Expectations are not high/low, but realistic or not. Don't expect too much, just try hard everytime. And smile
            If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got.


            • #7
              smooth: weight on seat
              veering left/right:not enough weight on seat
              "I'm probably not advanced enough to have thoroughly tested it while riding, but I'm unadvanced enough to have very thoroughly tested it while falling." -uniShark

              I ride for Christ-opher Walken


              • #8
                Days 3 & 4:

                Thanks for the explanation Unireed - this is exactly what I hoped for with this blog! You rock.

                Nothing too significant. Both days were pretty short, about 20 - 30 minutes each, which is probably about what I can realistically fit into my life. But I want to make sure to practice 4-5 days a week and no less than 3. I tossed in a few free mount attempts on ride 4. One or two actually felt pretty good. Longest rides were 6 and 7 pedal strokes respectively.

                Key learning:
                When mounting, even when holding onto something, it seems to help a lot to quickly make a little push with the top pedal to the rear followed immediately by a push on the opposite pedal to the middle position. It helped me stabilize very quickly. I also found that once I was on (unless I was intentionally trying to stay in one place) to start moving forward right away instead of trying to stabilize too long.

                *Edit: Title should say Days 4 & 5!
                Last edited by NotSoYoungOne; 2010-09-27, 12:40 AM. Reason: mistake
                If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got.


                • #9
                  great journal & nice explanations:and loved the "Key Learning" sections; keep sharing please
                  I am a new learner and I have that veering/turning wheel problem.
                  have a nice week and great unirides
                  Beginner Newbie Unicyclist:
                  36 inch Nimbus Nightfox, 137 and 150mm crank
                  26 inch Nimbus Muni, 125/150 mm KH crank
                  20 inch Nimbus Trail, 137 mm crank



                  • #10
                    Great Journal! Keep us posted on your progress.

                    Unicycling can feel like flying, which is a rush. Initially it is exhausting because you are using way too much energy to balance. As you get better at it the effort per foot goes down dramatically. When I was just starting I would ride 100 feet and have to stop because my legs were too tired. Today I went on a 22 mile ride, so it must get easier.

                    I was surprised to hear that your pedal was coming loose. You tightened it, but you should be sure the pedals are on the correct side. Once tightened, it should not work loose again.



                    • #11
                      Day 6

                      Practiced for about 30 minutes this evening. For quite a while I made no progress, but I was thinking a lot about seat height and its relationship to how straight or wobbly I was. So I raised it again but found it to be too high so I lowered it a touch. Then, after several more attempts lowered it again. But these adjustments down were very small. Finally I got it to where it was just right. The indication that it was still too high was that my foot kept slipping off the front of the pedal. It feels pretty good at the current height, which is just a little higher than before.

                      Thanks for the tip on the pedal coming loose. At closer examination I noticed that the pedals are on the correct crank arms, but the left crank arm is on the right side of the unicycle. I imagine the the guy that owned it before me changed the tire or something and put it on backwards. So for now I just spun the seat post around 180 and rode it backwards. I will remedy it later, but for now it doesn't matter and I want to put my focus on learning. I will probably be the only person who knows anyway! (Except for you of course )

                      For about 20 minutes I made no improvement over previous sessions and was beginning to resign myself to a day without progress. But I was tending left most of the time and I got after myself and talked out loud saying "don't go left!". It worked, and the next few rides went much better. Then I had one that went just over 20 feet - a very good ride. Then a few attempts later I managed one that went for almost 35 feet! By far my best ever. So that was very satisfying. I kept working for another 5 minutes or so but without any significant rides.

                      Key Learnings:
                      1. Talking outloud to yourself can actually make a difference and help you stop making the same mistake.
                      2. There are rewards for being patient with yourself and for keeping it up even when you don't think you are making any progress. Even if my next session does not yield a ride as good as the 35 footer today that will be OK and I will just count whatever success then. But getting frustrated or discouraged will almost surely get in the way of progress!

                      Thanks again for the encouragement and tips. They have been very valuable, and have helped me learn and focus on things I otherwise would have overlooked.

                      I have yet to string two 'good' rides together. Good being where I go a reasonable distance and feel under control. So that is my next goal.
                      If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got.


                      • #12
                        Reply to Scott

                        I used to fly in the military, and you are right - there are some real similarities. I have explained it to two friends in terms of roll-pitch-yaw. In a car you are only concerned with yaw. On a bicycle you are concerned with roll & yaw. But the Unicycle requires focus on all three. Thus the difficulty and need for lot's of training (practice).

                        As a road cyclist (also distance runner) I have spent a lot of time in the saddle doing long miles. My long-term goal is to work up to a 29 inch uni and do some long distances. 22 miles is quite an accomplishment!! I can't yet imagine how it compares to bicycle miles, but to think that it could be a 4-5 times ratio would not surprise me. I would be interested to hear comparison opinions from others who ride both uni and roadie.

                        Thanks again for the tip on the pedal. When it came loose it should have registered in my mind that something was wrong. As it turns out I was riding in reverse

                        Before it gets cold here in Utah I hope to get to the point where I can ride around the block without a UPD. I also want to be able to consistently free mount. Lofty goals. But that is what keeps me pushing myself!

                        If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got.


                        • #13
                          i did a 10 mile coker ride recently and it seemed to feel like a 20 mile bike ride in which you have to focus the entire way. that is what is the most tiring to me--keeping balance at a high speed
                          "I'm probably not advanced enough to have thoroughly tested it while riding, but I'm unadvanced enough to have very thoroughly tested it while falling." -uniShark

                          I ride for Christ-opher Walken


                          • #14
                            I learned how to ride my unicycle from just pushing off of a wall for 2 weeks, 2 hours each day, kept falling and falling, then one day i woke up and started riding.


                            • #15
                              Hello there NotSoYoungOne

                              Like you I'm 46, already a b*cyclist, very recently started learning to ride a unicycle and my long-term goal is also to ride a 29er. I already do rola bola and have been quite surprised that learning to ride a unicycle is quite a lot harder than learning rola bola. As you rightly say it's all about getting to grips with the pitch, roll and yaw forces.

                              I don't know about you but I'm finding I'm not as 'brave' as I once was when I was young and 'immortal' - when my body still bounced when it hit the deck rather than break into small irregular pieces like it does now . I feel this lack of bravery is what is holding me back from finally 'flying' around the block instead the 15-20 pedal revolutions I'm achieving. I've enjoyed reading your learning journal and had thought about writing one myself but I shall leave that to you and continue to enjoy your posts.

                              Even so, I've caught the uni bug and won't be giving up any time soon. I already have a second uni planned *fingers crossed*

                              I wish you continued fun and games with your uni.
                              Last edited by Doc Doo; 2010-09-29, 03:45 PM.