It's been a while since I was introduced to unicycling; my middle school, Chandler has unicycling as part of its PE program, so I've been learning ever since 6th grade or so. Only recently have I actually gotten good at it, though--I finally bought a good unicycle for myself around Christmas 2005.
There's something special about riding on a unicycle that riding on a normal bike just can't compare to. Maybe it's the sheer insanity of the issue, or the silliness that it envokes (everybody thinks of clowns, don't they?). Either way, it's really neat when you're able to ride around on trails and around a city on a unicycle--you bring smiles to peoples' faces as they stare in disbelief, which I think is pretty cool.
The first unicycle I ever bought was a Torker 20" CX--in yellow, which seems to not be available any more.
It's a pretty good unicycle for indoor and campus (school) riding; I can control my speed from about jogging to walking pace. Probably the only issue I have with it is that the saddle needs to be a little more padded; it gets sore after less than a mile. It wasn't a bad buy, though, for $99--I picked it up over at the local dealer, Incycle. (On a side note, Incycle seems like a pretty cool place--if you're in the Pasadena area, I'd recommend them. They have pretty good service, and were nice enough to send a thank you card in the mail after my purchase. Now that's something you don't see every day.)
Most of my riding is outdoors and on the trail, though. I live about a half-mile away from a nice nature trail (the Santa Fe River Basin trail, IIRC). With the 20" wheel, it's a pain to really get anywhere. It makes tricks a lot easier, but definitely not distance riding.
That being said, at Poly, there are a lot of cool people--some with their own unicycles. I was fortunate enough to borrow a Schwinn 24" unicycle and try it out on the road, and it's definitely a lot faster.
I've also been able to borrow a giraffe unicycle from Chandler. That riding experience was considerably different than a normal unicycle (of course), entailing lots of falling and quite a bit more confidence required. I'm really good at looking like an idiot while riding it. (Originally, the giraffe was borrowed with the intent of using it in the Poly '06 musical--Once Upon a Mattress--but that never materialized. It would've been cool to ride out of the 6' tall mattress, coming out taller than the mattress itself, as the giraffe was a 5 footer.)
(Sorry about the focus. I was swerving all over the place, so the cameraman had to manage to run for his life and take pictures at the same time. Thanks, Chris! As a side note, the back of that t-shirt actually says: "Your moves are lame." :)
There's a couple of funny things that I've picked up while riding around school campus:
- If in a crowded situation, it's probably best to stop--no amount of idling will prevent you from hitting people.
- Going around blind pedestrian turns or down narrow corridors probably isn't a good idea, unless you know nobody's coming.
- Giraffe unicycles are lots of fun--until a gaggle of little kids follow you and you're scared to death about falling and hitting them.
The best way to learn how to ride, in my experience, is to fall, and fall a lot. While it's not as sophisticated as some of the other methods (e.g., double chair supports), it'll teach you more. You will be falling out in the real world, too, so might as well start coping with it now.
Saddle soreness isn't just soreness sometimes. If it hurts really bad, you might've torn some skin. Some of the responses I've gotten to riding include "you're going to be sterile" or "bye-bye package." If you're not careful and watch out, it might just go that way. Air saddles or saddles with lots of padding are probably the best way to alleviate this. (Or you could just ride seat-in-front all the time and turn it into a semi-Ultimate-Wheel.)
'Tis best to put the arch of your foot on the pedals for most regular riding, I've found. You can use the balls of your feet, but it doesn't make it easier like on a regular bike. You'll just get tired quicker.
I'll try to put any notable achievements here...
New Mountain Unicycle
I got a new shiney Torker Unistar DX 24" this Wednesday. I ended up cutting a bit off the seatpost, since I'm not nearly as tall as it requires.
It goes a lot faster than the older 20", and it's also a lot more touchy with control. It took a good two days for me to get used to it, but now on the third/fourth day it's feeling quite comfortable. A couple of cm adjustment in the height of the seatpost can really make a difference; too low and you feel tired faster (since your legs are always squashed), too high and you're out of control.
I'll have a pic of me riding it down stairs in a bit, hopefully. :D
Palm Springs with a Unicycle!
Two weekends ago (the weekend of the 14th), I was able to head over to Palm Springs and lounge around. Well, sort of--I had work to be done, taking the form of systems administration from afar. But other than that, it was still pretty relaxing.
Taking the unicycle with me was a pretty tentative decision; I was there through the weekend and then went back on Monday. Only on the second time did I see how useful it'd be.
Needless to say, everyone's suprised when they see me coming around the corners, not walking, not in a golf cart, but on a one-wheeled contraption. :D
I have lots of pictures, but only this one really counts:
I got some bad gashes from trying to go down two steps with sandals. It's true, no matter what sandals they are, they don't give you enough grip...
Stairs conquered, a little bit of turning, and some hopping.
Hooray! Back Wednesday, I was able to go down about 5-6 steps with a 20-50% success rate, even with the rounded corners--they didn't seem to pose such a problem. I did, however, find a couple other things that need to be dealt with:
Shoes are critical. Right now my cheap hiking boots are falling apart with the stress I'm putting on them (the lace loops are getting unriveted from the leather), and the grip the provide is crucial to keeping those feet on the pedals.
Padding is pretty critical. I've got some bad, nasty looking bruises on the back of my calf due to when I lost traction on the pedals; they came up and smacked my calves. Totally need a helmet when doing this.
It's not a matter of being scared of falling. That needs to be ignored. You can only concentrate on sticking your feet to the pedals, and then moving them.
Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera. Someone did try to videotape me, but I fell. (:/) I'm really suprised at how long it took me to learn the skill--just lots of falling over a 40 minute period, and I was good. Admittedly I'd like to find some stairs here so that I could practice more and get that sucess rate much higher, but there aren't any to be found. The feat was accomplished with the 20" Torker, and I figure that I'm lucky enough to get by with that sort of equipment--I haven't managed to damage anything but the inner tube yet. The seat really, really hurts, though. Longer stairs don't look like they'd pose much of a problem except to the Torker's small, beginner-designed tire. (A 20"x1.75")
I've been practicing really sharp turns in the hope that I can finally do a 180 smoothly. No luck so far, just lots of two-90 degree turns close together, with an obvious gap inbetween. Oddly enough, the uni loves to skid and make marks on the cement that I'm practicing on; perhaps I need to get a new non-marking tire or something. The marks wash away with water, though, so no biggie.
Hopping--I finally figured out how to do it. It's really natural once you get the hang of it; basically stand on your pedals when they're horizontal and start jumping with your ankles (it'll come to you). Grab the seat; that helps a lot. I'm having a little trouble keeping the pedals in that position--or any position, for that matter--and that's probably something I should work on, too: fully stopping pedal movement. It troubles me, too, when I'm idling, because I tend to go forward even though my pedals are waving back and forth.
Next goal: hopping up stairs.
3 mile mark passed...
I managed to cycle to and fro along the entire Duarte Recreation Trail, which is about 1.5 miles long. Not a whole lot of smiles in the passerbys, though--more stoic looks or people whe didn't even notice me at all. That's fine, I guess.
I took pictures, including the obligatory "I'm on one wheel, here's a pic looking down":
Still feeling a lot of saddle soreness, even after that short ride. It stings.
I'm slowly, but surely getting better on downhill slopes--I can just apply enough pressure to let myself ride down smoothly, without the funky jerk thing going on. (I can't confirm this, but I swear it must look like me doing a bad chicken dance move when I go down really steep slopes. Stop, ride--stop, ride--all the while waving arms wildly and gesticulating that I'm going insane.)
I really want to be able to go down stairs by the end of next week; it doesn't seem like such a big problem with the 24". The stairs from the courtyard and in general all stairs in Fullerton-style at Poly are 2:1 depth-height tread ratio, I think. With rounded corners, which may or may not be a boon. This weekend it's time to practice going off lots of curbs.