For 15 hours of the 30 hour learning curve I could not pedal farther than 3 feet. Some days I’d barely go 10 inches. But after doing it for at least half an hour for two weeks I made some progress. Four days of that two weeks I wasn’t riding. I’d broken our cheap second hand uni and was waiting for a new one to arrive from Unicycle.com. In hour 16 I suddenly started putting a lot of things together.
You can watch all the youtube tutorials you want, and you can fill your mind with do’s and dont’s, but at a certain point you have to turn off all the noise and just pedal. It’s called launching in uni world. It means to leave the fence you’ve been leaning on and head out into the open, pedaling this impossible contraption called a unicycle.
Due to a disease I got in my ear in 1999, I only have one working ear…which of course contains the balance organ. Normal people have two, I’ve only got one. I thought that might impact my riding…but it hasn’t. From 3 feet at hour 15, I progressed over 4 days to 120 feet. I look like I’m really riding. In reality, I’m barely hanging on and have zero steerage. But I’ve learned to not fear the launch. There is safety and grace out there pedaling into the wind. I can stay up just fine. Not every time…but maybe 70 percent of my launches go at least 40 feet now.
Looking back, I’m amazed I stuck with it. I was so bad and so hopeless for so long! It’s really true that you just have to keep trying. I’ve heard people say that your body needs time to get used to the process. You have to strengthen critical muscles. Learning to fall safely and reliably is extremely important. No one wants to break bones. I’ve almost mastered the simple “step off” maneuver…from every possible angle. Forward, backward, to the side, at speed. I’ve done them all soooo many times, it’s automatic. I’ll be pedaling along, feel a crash coming and simply step onto the ground, easy peasy.
I did a big run today across three tennis courts in a row…about 120 feet. Never, ever thought I’d get there. I’m too old to remember how excited I was to learn to ride a bicycle….but it must be comparable. Maybe even better since the uni is much harder. I mean, a bike pretty much rides itself once it’s going. It’s totally stable. A uni must be ridden every inch. I was dripping sweat today after a couple hours of riding.
And just yesterday I nailed my first free start. This means I wasn’t holding onto a wall for balance as I started pedaling. My friends are laughing at me for entering this bizarre sport. I seem to have a knack for picking activities that are completely out there on the fringes of normality. Ping pong, climbing, painting, blues harmonica, inventing, metal working, and now Uni. One wonders what will be next?