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-   -   Learning to ride on gravel (http://www.unicyclist.com/forums/showthread.php?t=121566)

lowerstackmac 2018-08-23 03:51 PM

Learning to ride on gravel
Hi all. I just signed up a few minutes ago. A little background would be that, I have no previous uni experience and I am 65 yrs old. I live in the bush on a gravel road and the nearest town is 50 minutes away, so no pavement other than major roads and the Hwy. I bought a 26Ē Nimbus Muni 14 days ago and have tried to ride it everyday for an hour. I have been able to go to 60 feet at the most on my gravel driveway. I mount by putting the back of the wheel against a board and hold onto a tall sawhorse, then I lean forward and start pedaling. I have lowered the seat a bit so my knees are bent more than what I have read to be optimum for experienced riders. I have lowered the psi in the tire so it is softer than the recommended pressure. I believe my difficulty in learning to ride is as follows. The gravel driveway is uneven and rough, I donít have a wall or fence to hang onto and that I have chosen a 26Ē wheel to learn on. Does anyone have any helpful observations out there. Thank you. I will ride my muni

JimT 2018-08-23 04:59 PM

If you can ride 60 feet on gravel you are well on your way to mastering the uni. I ride most of the time on gravel and as long as it is not too loose it is not bad. A suggestion when you can is to ride faster with one hand on a seat handle. When the going gets hard, speed is your friend.

This kind of gravel is kind of a pain:


lowerstackmac 2018-08-23 05:12 PM

Learning to ride on gravel
That sounds like a good tip JimT, Iíll give it a try. There is a rough ball diamond a few miles away. The grass is not cut very short along the chain link fence line but Iíll give that a test ride also today. Thanks

Canoeheadted 2018-08-23 09:43 PM

Keep riding, raise your seat up a bit, and learn ambidextrous.
Oh yah... learn to freemount so you're not dependant.

Because we don't have pavement in our neighbourhoods, I too had to learn on gravel and grass. :D

Learning on the hard stuff will make you a better rider.

Awesome choice of activity!

Mikefule 2018-08-23 09:52 PM

Depends what you mean by "gravel". Strictly speaking, gravel is smooth rounded stones such as you might find in a river bed, bigger than coarse sand and smaller than pebbles. It is often used for driveways and can b a challenging surface to ride on.

However, the word is often used for any loose stones, rounded or otherwise. This is a challenging and tiring surface to ride on. Often the best way is to stand up and feel your way "step by step".

You describe yourself as mounting against a backboard while holding something. If you are not yet freemounting, then riding on any loose unmade surface is ambitious. Freemounting is the first step to slow speed skills, idling, and still standing, and all the various things you need to be able to do without thinking when the surface below your wheel is unreliable.

You clearly have what it takes. Your age is not a factor: there are plenty here who are about the same age and older. What it takes is determination, practice, and the ability to relax in the saddle. Keep the saddle comfortably high for now, and look a few yards/metres ahead rather than down at the ground.

Good luck, and welcome to the forum: the friendliest place on the internet.

pierrox 2018-08-24 03:43 AM

Agreed with Mike. Also, on that sort of surface, a pretty big tire would help as it would "float" above the gravel more than a skinny one. But bigger tire are not the easiest thing to handle during the learning process.

johnfoss 2018-08-24 04:26 AM

Lots of good advice above; you're doing great! Unicycling is hard, regardless of riding surface. In your case, a larger wheel probably helps more than it hurts.

What people aren't acknowledging is that the typical instructions for learning to ride assume a smoothly paved outdoor surface, or a hard indoor floor. Since you have no choice, you must adjust.

Tire pressure: Yes, you will want it lower than what the beginner advice says. Lower pressure gives you better "flotation" on your rough and flexible surface. You'll know it's too low if the tire only wants to go straight, or if you can feel the rim touching the ground, even a little.

Seat height: Maybe a bit lower than the standard recommendation, but don't go too low. It will just make you tired faster, and be hard on your knees.

Posture and position: Those rules don't change. Try to sit up straight, and remember to try to relax your weight into the seat. This will be harder because of your uneven surface, but the more you can relax, the longer you'll be able to practice before your legs wear out.

Freemount: You have plenty of incentive to learn it, but I'd concentrate on getting consistent ride, and learning to turn before spending too much time on the freemount. You'll know it's time, when it's too long of a walk to get back to your starting spot. :)

Keep at it, and enjoy conquering the impossible! I remember one of my early riding goals was to make it from my house to the nearest paved street. This meant riding down my cement driveway, onto my unpaved road, passing the house next door, and turning left onto that street; a distance of probably 40 meters or so. It took me a bit before I got it consistently...

lowerstackmac 2018-08-24 05:15 PM

Thank you all for the input, I really appreciate the great advice. Lots of things I hadnít thought of. I did try the ball diamond fence yesterday but the whole field is worse than my grass field at home. For now Iíll stick to my gravel driveway, which is covered in what they call 3/4Ē crushed gravel. Rather than smooth round stones itís irregular sharp pieces. I have my tire at 20 psi and the seat about an inch below my belly button. Is this too much tire pressure still and does the seat height sound about right? I wear a helmet, leg armour, wrist guards and gloves. I did have one bad fall on the first day. I fell on my side and landed on the wrist guard. The plastic palm protector on the wrist guard chrushed up against my ribs. They are still pretty tender so I donít want to do that again. My wife is quite concerned Iíll hurt myself and that she will have to cut this winters firewood by herself. As johnfoss advised I will concentrate on just riding for now with emphasis on posture, seating, relaxing, focus and remembering to breath. No problem lol. Once I get some distance consistently Iíll try to learn how to freemount. I practice in one hour sessions each day, usually fifteen minutes stints unless it is going really well, then I keep at it until the hour is up. Iím quite pleased with my progress so far and I do realize that it will take a while to get steady results. I guess itís just practice and practice until the muscle memory kicks in. Nevertheless I am hoping for an aha moment to happen in the near future though. Great group of people here!

lowerstackmac 2018-08-26 03:19 AM

Learning to ride on gravel
Hello again, thank you everyone for the input to my post. Some great advice given. I appreciate you all taking the time to help. I set the tire pressure to 20 psi and my seat height is 1Ē below my naval. Do they sound about right? My yard is covered in what is called around here as 3/4Ē minus. Which is crushed rock supposedly less than 3/4 of an inch. There can be pretty sharp pieces. The ball diamond I checked out was overgrown with thick grass, so Iím gonna be using what Iíve got. As johnfoss Nd others advised, I have been working on distance focus, settling well into the seat, relaxing and posture. Iím going to wait until my riding becomes more consistent before I work on free mounting. Today was day 17 and I was able once to get to over 80í so Iím quite pleased with my progress. Thanks again:)

JimT 2018-08-26 03:37 PM


Originally Posted by lowerstackmac (Post 1698872)
Hello again, thank you everyone for the input to my post. Some great advice given. I appreciate you all taking the time to help. I set the tire pressure to 20 psi and my seat height is 1Ē below my naval. Do they sound about right? ......

Rather then noting where the saddle is in relation to your naval a better reference is to note how straight your leg is at the bottom of the pedal stroke. The highest the saddle can be placed will be when your leg is nearly straight with a little more control when the leg is bent more at the bottom of the stroke. If the seat is too low (legs bent too much at the bottom of the stroke) it will be harder on your knees.


elpuebloUNIdo 2018-08-26 04:59 PM


Originally Posted by lowerstackmac (Post 1698754)
I believe my difficulty in learning to ride is as follows. The gravel driveway is uneven and rough, I donít have a wall or fence to hang onto and that I have chosen a 26Ē wheel to learn on.

I'm guessing that the gravel driveway should speed up your learning, even though the results don't seem that way. And the 26" is probably a good size for the gravel driveway. If you've ridden 60 feet already, you're probably past the point of needing a fence or wall. Pretty soon you may get tired of dragging around your backstop, so perhaps now's the time to start practicing free mounts (something I really struggled with as a beginner). Sounds like you're off to a good start!

anton005 2018-08-26 05:02 PM

The best measurement I've found for determining seat height is when I ride out of the saddle, can I ride without crunching my nuts on the seat.

lowerstackmac 2018-08-29 06:42 AM

Learning to ride on gravel
Thanks for the hints. Fence? As you have stated, donít need no stinkin fence or wall lol. Iíve got my seat height set right I believe. Just a slight bend from full extension at the six oíclock position. I did have it a bit too high. After adjusting the seat, things improved quickly on my second half hour of daily practice. I made lots of 5, 6 and seven full revolution rides and even managed a couple out to 90 feet. At 90 feet the gravel is deeper and I lose it there. I think this is going to happen, I just need some more saddle time and then soon the adventure begins. Cheers to you all.

lowerstackmac 2018-08-31 10:57 PM

Learning to ride on gravel
I had three full days off due to dental surgery (non uni related). It was hard to leave the uni alone during this time. Today I got back at it and it turned out to be a milestone on the muni for me. After 21.5 hours of practice over a 20 day period, I finally made it to 102 feet. I know itís not really very far, but to me it is a major accomplishment. I am stoked to get out there for another session tomorrow. Thanks for the tips. I found making myself stay in the saddle and the weight off my legs really helped a lot, along with focusing at a far object instead of the ground. I hope to be on the road soon.:)

Mikefule 2018-09-03 07:27 AM


Originally Posted by lowerstackmac (Post 1699058)
I had three full days off due to dental surgery (non uni related).

Such a sport we share, that the clarification was needed!:D:D:D

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