The Unicyclopedia/Freestyle

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The Unicyclopedia
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Basic skills[edit]

One foot riding[edit]

When riding one footed, the vast majority of people prefer to place the non-pedaling foot on the crown. However, on larger frames (over 26" or so, especially if the crown is rounded rather than square) it may be easier to bend the knee of the free leg at a 90 degree angle, and ride with the foot pointing backward, pressing the side of your calf against the frame. It is also possible to ride with the leg out in front (as seen in George Peck's Rough Terrain Unicycling film), however this is generally considered the most difficult.

A 20" wheel is usually preferred for learning, as with most freestyle skills, easier with longer cranks, like 150 mm. However, the momentum of a larger wheel will make one-foot riding up hills much easier. The more grip your pedals have, the better for one foot riding, as this will enable you to extend the usable range of motion. With pinned pedals, you can not only push the wheel pedal down, but also pull it backwards at the bottom of the cycle and forwards at the top. The pedals will frequently scrape your legs while learning so, if you use pinned pedals, appropriate protective clothing should be worn.

A smooth hard floor, such as a gym or hallway, will help, but a sidewalk (pavement) will work perfectly fine. At first it will be easier to push down harder than normal on the front pedal to get more momentum to keep the wheel moving, but you will find it easier in the long run if you maintain a smooth, even tempo, just as if pedaling with both feet. Use your body to control your balance. When you first take one foot off, your wheel will be in front of you and you will be bent over at the waist to keep your balance centered over the uni. Whether this is just what naturally happens, or that purposefully doing this will actually help your learning, I do not know.

At first just ride with taking the weight off one pedal for longer periods of time until you can do it for at least one revolution. When you get the hang of it, it is normal to run out of momentum after 3 or 4 revolutions. Just keep practicing and you will slowly start to go further, but a slight downhill may be helpful.

You may notice a significant wobble from side to side at first, but with a little practice, you should be able to travel in a line as straight as when you are using both feet, especially if one foot is on the crown.

There are three ways of learning to ride one-footed. Most people recommend method 2, or a combination of 1 and 2.

  1. As you ride along, put one foot on the crown of your unicycle and try to keep riding. Keep practising until you are able to do it. Some say that the transistion is the hardest part, and by the time you get that down smoothly, one foot riding will be pretty easy.
  2. Put less and less pressure on the pedal with that foot you plan to remove, until you are eventually not pushing the pedal at all. At this point you should be able to move that foot to the crown. The disadvantage of this method is that you will not have your leg on the frame to help you control your movement.
  3. Hold onto a wall, fence, or similar object. Place one foot on its pedal, and the other foot on the crown. Do a few exaggerated idles while in this position, slowly getting the pedal with the foot on it about to the 10 O'Clock position. At this point push the pedal down and around. When it gets to the bottom, stop pushing so it can come back up. You are now in a position where you can push the pedal around as many times as you like. Remember to keep your weight forward at all times, or your unicycle can shoot out from underneath you and leave you falling to the ground backside-first.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne showing 1 foot riding
A video of Leo Vandewoestijne showing 1 foot riding with the other foot extended

Idling[edit]

Some people find it easier to learn to ride backwards before learning to idle, some prefer to learn idling first, but either way they are complementary skills; learning one will improve your skill at the other.

Start going forward on flat ground, then slow down by resisting the pedals so that you almost come to a stop when your pedals are horizontal and your stronger foot is behind. The unicycle should be slightly in front of you (if it is not, lean back a little). Push moderately hard down on this pedal.

Now, with your stronger foot in front, push down again. Work on making it all one fluid motion, rather than hesitating when the pedals are horizontal. Also, work on minimizing the travel needed to idle: 45 degrees is a good starting goal, rather than 180 (horizontal-to-horizontal).

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne showing idling

One foot idling[edit]

As you idle, when your pedals are horizontal, put your back foot on the crown, and continue to idle. It helps if you have practiced to keep all the pressure on one foot, first. If you know how to idle, the one foot idle is not far away.

To go directly from one foot idling to one foot riding, you will need to build up some momentum by idling in increasing arcs, often over 180 degrees (pedals going above horizontal). To learn to freemount to one-foot idling, place the uni in front of you, and place one foot on the pedal. Push down and, at the same time, quickly take the other foot from the ground amd put it on the crown.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne showing 1 footed idling

Backward riding[edit]

Backward riding is similar to forward riding, except in the opposite direction.

There are two ways most people learn backward riding.

  • Learn to idle first

If you can idle, you can learn to go backward in steps. Do an idle and then let the wheel go one whole rotation backward into another idle. Once you have got that, practice doing two rotations back, then three, and so on. After a while you will be going backward.

  • Just go for it

Grab something to start from, let go, ride backwards, repeat. It might help to do this beside a rail, a wall, or a helper.

In both methods, there are a few important things to know.

  • It is easier to ride backward without looking behind you. When you are learning, look behind and check that it is clear before you ride. Once you have learnt to ride backward, you can practice looking behind while riding backward.


  • If you are scared of riding backward into the unknown, stand off the unicycle and practice running backward through your practice area to help give you confidence. Also, if the area is limited in size, have visual clues on the ground so you can see the end of the wall before you get there.
  • Playing hockey is a great way to learn riding backwards- I pretty much learned it by mistake by playing hockey regularly.
  • Try starting against a wall, car, post, etc. I find that easier.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne showing backward riding

Rolling Hops[edit]

Rolling hops- as in riding along, and then hopping. Ride at moderate speed, wait for feet to be in right position (pedals horizontal), hold the seat, and hop! Pull the seat upwards as you do. It takes time to develop timing, but with some practice you can get nearly as high as a SIF hop. Many people find that it helps to bend forward before pulling up, then again in the air to add even more height.

Seat out skills[edit]

Riding stomach on seat[edit]

This is pretty self-explanatory. It is riding with your stomach or chest on the seat. This is very similar to riding seat in front. It has four parts; it helps to practice number 2 and 3 first.

1) Quickly take the seat out from under you, it may be easier to ride on the very back of the seat for a second or two before you do this....(see Riding Seat in Front).

2) .....and place it on your stomach:

Lean over the seat and place it securely under your stomach or chest. I find it much easier to place it just lower than my stomach.(By stomach or chest I mean around the lower, to middle region of your torso). It helps to have a bit of body fat for this as it keeps the seat stuck to you rather than wiggle around. You probably will need to hold the seat still with one of your hands. Keep as much weight as possible on the seat.

3) Riding with stomach on seat.

Once the seat is under you and secure, ride forward like you normally would with your arms or arm out for balance. Be careful so you do not fall forward, onto your face.

4) Returning to normal riding

Simply hold the seat, push yourself off it, and place it back between your legs, quickly moving the seat past the point where it is hard to balance if you can't yet ride with the seat out in front.

While this trick may seem a little daunting at first, it is really easy. I got it on my second try.

Safety: wear a helmet and wristguards while practicing because it can be likely that you will fall forward on your hands or face...

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne showing stomach on seat

Riding seat in front[edit]

This is riding with your feet on the pedals as normal, but with the seat held out in front of you.

There are three parts to this skill. It's probably best to practice 2 first and then learn 1 and 3.

1) Taking the seat out from under you.

Stop briefly, stand up tall on the pedals and pull the seat out. It's a bit easier if you stand with your toes on the pedals, rather than the arch of your foot. Some people find it easiest to pull the seat out with one hand, then grab the side of the seat to hold on to with the other hand. Obviously, this is easier with the seat a bit lower. Very curved seats, such as Kris Holm and Velo seats are designed more so they don't come out from under you when riding technical muni and trials, and therefore tend to be a bit more difficult to pull out than less curved seats, but it is certainly possible with any seat.

2) Riding along with seat in front.

Hold the side of the seat with your hand and ride along. To start with hold the seat so it is in front of you, but still touching your body. When you get better, you can hold it further away. You need to make sure you're not putting more pressure on one pedal and try to pedal very smoothly. I suggest holding the seat firmly with both hands at the start and gradually working on letting go more and more, so that you can then hold on with one hand...3 fingers and a thumb....and finally 1 finger and your thumb. Next, see seat drags!

3) Putting the seat back under you:

Stand up tall on the pedals, quickly push the seat back under you and ride off before you fall over.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne showing seat in front

Riding seat out back[edit]

See above and replace in front with in back as appropriate. I also find it easier to hold the seat handle with your arm going between your legs. This makes it slightly more stable while you're learning. When you are comfortable you can do it the same as seat in front.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne that shows riding with seat in back and illustrates how raising on your toes make the transitions easier.

Seat on side[edit]

This skill is easier on a 20" wheel. It is still possible to learn it on a 24" wheel.

To start with, practice riding in circles with seat out in back. When you are comfortable with this, lean a little while turning, and slip the seat to your side. The hard part is avoiding scraping you leg with the tire, while still getting you leg properly between the seat and the wheel. It helps to go slow, squat down a fair amount, and lean back. This may not be necessary on a 20" unicycle. But in any case it will help when bend (your knees, not your back). You can also do spins in this position, or go backward, if you practice enough.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne showing seat on side (seat touching)
A video of Leo Vandewoestijne showing seat on side (seat not touching)

Chin on seat[edit]

Chin on seat is exactly what it sounds like; you crouch down really low while riding seat in front, plant you chin on the seat, and let go of it with your hands. Obviously, the first step is to practice crouching down while riding seat in front. This is rather awkward, and puts a lot of strain on your knees. Pretty soon, you will be able to touch the seat with your chin, for short periods of time. Now try to press harder and harder with your chin, until you feel fairly stable. Then let go of the seat with your hand. This skill is similar to seat drag in several ways; you must ride fast, and shift your weight from side to side to keep the wheel from wobbling. It's easier than seat drag, but not as much fun. It might be a good preparatory exercise for seat drag. Once you can do both, try transitioning from chin on seat to seat drag, simply by standing up from chin on seat and letting the seat drop. This skill is undeniably ridiculous, but it's still a good one to learn, if only for the sake of thoroughness.

Here is a clip where Jonathan S. Miersma shows chin on seat (1 hand on seat)
Here is a clip of Leo Vandewoestijne showing chin on seat backward (1 hand on seat)

Seat in front one-footed[edit]

This is the skill where the seat is in front. You put your hand on the seat and when the pedal is turning upwards lift your body with your hands and let it come up. Once it is up push down.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne that shows 1 footed riding with the seat in front

Seat drags front and back[edit]

For seat drag, you first have to learn to ride with the seat in front or in back well extended. When you are comfortable with this, ride along quickly, and as smoothly as possible, so that the seat is not wobbling in your hand. I don't think it really matters what position the pedals are in when you drop the seat. Once you have dropped the seat, try to continue riding for as long as possible, although at first you will probably fall off immediately. When working on seat drag, as with the ultimate wheel, don't wear shorts unless you have some leg armour, because otherwise your shins will quickly get scratched up. While riding dragseat, try to go fast, as this will give you more stability. You have to shift your weight from side to side as you turn the pedals somewhat, to avoid inducing excessive wobbling. I do not find that there is much difference between seat drag in front and back, except that seat drag in front is easier, since you can see how the saddle is wobbling, and make the appropriate adjustments. When you fall off in front, try to jump forward a ways, (your momentum will generally carry you forward in any case) so that you don't step on the seat and damage it. When you fall off in back, be ready to make a quick adjustment in balance, for you may have to bend extremely far backwards to avoid being injured. This applies to coasting and gliding also.

Once you are comfortable with seat drag in front, you can learn to pick the seat up again. I find the pick up to be easier if I am riding more slowly than normal. This makes it easier to lean over. At first just try to lean over and touch the seat post briefly. When you can do this comfortably, simply reach down quickly and confidently and pick it up again.

Getting out of seat drag in back is somewhat more complicated. A lot of riders simply lean very far down and grab the seatpost, but it is also possible to kick it up with you foot or lift it up with your heel. I am most familiar with the latter. Before you switch to seat in back, make sure that you have the toe (not the ball or arch) of the foot you plan to use on the pedal. Turn the heel of this foot as far in as you can, without hitting the crank. Now drop the seat in back and let it drag for a while. Try to ride with as little wobble as possible. To lift the seat again, induce some wobble in the wheel as your foot is coming around in back. This causes the frame to swing around over your heel, so that you get leverage on it. When done properly, this should cause the frame to rise. Catch it with your hand as soon as possible, because otherwise you can end up in seat on side, which can be awkward.

Here is a video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating seat drag in front with pickup.

Side ride[edit]

Side ride is riding one-footed with the foot on the non-corresponding pedal, and the entire body from the waist down on the same side of the unicycle as the pedal being used. For sake of convenience, I'll assume you're learning it on the left side with the right foot. If you're learning it on the right, simply reverse the directions.

To start out, stand on the left side of the unicycle, and turn the left pedal so that it's up, in front, nearer vertical than horizontal. Now grasp the seat with both hands, your right hand near the middle of the seat and the left at the front. Rest the saddle tightly against your body. Now set your right foot on the left pedal, and step down on it. It may take a lot of practice to get the first cycle of the wheel. You should rest almost all your weight on the saddle and press your thigh right against it. Press down fairly hard on the first stroke, then as soon as the pedal is down, release all the pressure so that the pedal can come up again. With a lot of practice, you should be able to get the pedal to come up and over again.

Once you can do this consistently focus on actually riding. Side ride goes naturally in a circle to the right. (Assuming you're doing it on the left.) Once you get good at circling to the right you can go straight, or even in a figure eight, but at first you should do a circle to the right. Lean very hard to the right, and do everything you can to get your weight over the wheel, rather than to one side of it. The placement of your free leg is also important; raise it forward, and as much to the right as possible. It might even help to try placing it directly above the wheel. Keep your foot pressure on the pedal light and put all your weight on the seat.

Video of Sem Abrahams demonstrating seat in front to side-ride seat not touching the body
Video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating another variant of side-ride seat not touching
Video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating side-ride 2 footed, 1 handed

Wheel walking skills[edit]

Wheel walking[edit]

Some people say the best way to start wheel walking is to begin near a wall, carry out the movements while holding onto the wall and then eventually try it away from the wall. A good way to use this technique is to learn the general foot motions by the wall, then carry on in the open. Possibly, the best way is to start away from the wall, as people usually learn quicker this way. You can either start from idling or start as a mount. Neither way is easier than the other, unless you can't idle. With your first foot roll forward with your toes and then stop with you heel. It is important to get as much distance as possible in one push, then as your other foot holds the wheel still, do the same thing with the remaining foot toe heel, toe heel, toe heel etc. Most people tell you to lean back, which isn't quite true. The best advice i can give is to sit up straight AND NOT LEAN FORWARD(some people think it helps to stick out your rear). Look forward, not down.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the basic wheel-walk

One foot wheel walking[edit]

People generally find one foot wheel walking more difficult than wheel walking with both feet. One method of learning to one foot wheel walk is to start using a wall (or some other support) with one foot planted firmly on the crown of the frame and the other resting on the top of the tyre. You should always have an upright posture when one foot wheel walking, as it is generally done pretty slow and you'll have more control this way. This skill requires reasonably fast foot-work which will only come with practise.

While holding your support, push the tyre forwards, then lightly and quickly drag your foot along the tyre back to it's original position. Eventually you'll want to be able to drag your foot back lightly enough that the wheel still rolls forward the whole time. This will result in a much more controlled and impressive technique and can also lead to gliding. One foot wheel walking requires not only fast 'paces', but also for these paces to come in reasonably quick succession. Keep your arms under control, place them along your body wide, or do your hands on your hips.

Once you feel comfortable one foot wheel walking beside a support, try leaving the support after a few metres, then riding into a one foot wheel walk unassisted. To do this, you should reasonably slowly, then lean back a little and pause on the spot while stepping up. Generally it's easiest to pause with one foot down and back and the pedals somewhere between horizontal and about 45 degrees. Then you must quickly step up directly to the tyre with your other foot, and follow with your dominant foot (which goes to the crown). Then you're ready to kick the tyre forwards again and start one foot wheel walking. Once you've got the hang of this you can also try going into the one foot wheel walk without the pause by doing a little glide.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the basic 1 footed wheelwalk

Standup wheel walking[edit]

Stand-up wheel walk is riding, standing on the frame with one foot, and propelling the wheel with the other. Before learning it, you should be fairly steady with one-footed wheel walk, and preferably also be able to glide a little. You need a unicycle with a good sized square fork that you can stand on comfortably, and also a good-sized seat you can grab well with your knees/calves.

The first step in learning this skill is to figure out how to get into it. While holding onto the seat with one hand, and some sort of support with the other, transfer your favorite one-foot wheel walking foot so that it is on the fork and the wheel. Put the other foot on the fork. Position this foot carefully, as it will support most of your weight. Some find it works best to put the instep on the fork, not the heel or the ball of the foot. Now lean back a little, and stand up carefully. When you feel steady, move your driving foot down so that it touches only the tire. Turn it in a good ways, so that you are somewhat pigeon-toed. You should be able to move your foot freely. Practice moving along a wall, or while being guided by a spotter until you have some idea how to make the wheel move. Now try to move away from the wall. Make sure you stand up straight; don't hold the seat, don't look at your feet. The motion for stand-up wheel walk is a bit different from one-footed wheel walk. You don't just use your leg to move the wheel; you should try to move the wheel with a kicking motion using your whole body. Different riders do this skill different ways; some push more with the foot, while others use mostly a full body motion and changing of pressure. The first is more stable, while the latter is faster and easier to balance sideways. In either case, you do short stand-up glides between steps. This can be scary, but it's necessary for learning. This is a very satisfying skill to learn, if only because of the extra height it gives you.

As for the transitions, there are several ways to do it. You can ride, idle or hop, then jump onto the frame, with or without holding the seat, and possibly doing a 180 or 360 unispin on the way up, or you can plant your feet on the fork and stand up from riding, idling, one-footed wheel walk, or gliding. To get into it from riding, ride along slowly while holding the seat, then when your driving foot is near the top of a cycle, plant it on the wheel and fork and brake, leaning back a fair amount. Now in one swift motion, transfer the other foot to the frame, stand up, move your driving foot down, and start taking quick steps. You need to go really fast for the first couple steps. The main thing to remember is to lean back and do it fast. Getting into it from gliding works basically the same way, except you take a long time to brake the wheel before standing up.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating idle to stand-up wheel-walk freehanded

Backward wheel walk[edit]

Backward wheel walk is even slower than forward wheel walk. Try to move your feet in small circles, closely following each other, and push the wheel mostly with your heels. Use your whole foot if you can, but you might find that if you try to use more than the heel, your feet will get tangled up.

If you are having trouble getting into backward wheel walk from idling, concentrate on making the idling smooth and as straight as possible. On the last stroke before moving your feet to the wheel, idle out faster and farther than normal. When the wheel rolls back, it will have some backward momentum which is very useful when getting started. You can also get into this skill from forward wheel walk by coming to a stop, leaning back slightly and holding still for a minute, then reversing direction. Getting out of this skill is pretty straightforward.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the basic wheel-walk backward

Backward wheel walk one-footed[edit]

You can also learn to do the backward wheel-walk one-footed. The posture for this skill is pretty much the same as for regular backward wheel walk, except you should lean the seatpost back even farther, and and your upper body forward even farther, to get the necessary room for the strokes. You also use mostly your heel. Unlike in one-foot wheel walk forward, it is very difficult to let the wheel glide along your foot between strokes. Instead, you have to coast briefly between each step. Since it is only for a split second it shouldn't be too hard. One thing to concentrate on is letting the wheel roll between strokes so that you can build up speed and momentum, rather than stopping it at the end of each stroke. The latter way feels awkward and won't look very good.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the backward wheel-walk 1 footed

Backward spoke walk[edit]

Despite the name of the skill, it does not necessarily involve sticking your feet in the spokes. The essence of this skill is wheel walking backwards with the feet behind the frame, contacting the sides of the tire, the rim and possibly the spokes.

This is a fairly simple skill to learn. First experiment, while holding some support, with putting your feet behind the frame on the sides of the wheel and propelling it. You have to press very hard against the sides of the wheel in order to get enough grip. Also, the tire and shoes you are using can make a big difference. After a little practice, you should be able to get into this skill from idling, and go several meters. It is fairly normal for the wheel to wobble from side to side, because of how hard you must press against the tire/rim. What makes this trick easier than regular backward wheel walk is that you are pushing the wheel, not pulling it, so it's quite a bit like standard wheel walk. To get out of this skill, simply put your feet on the pedals and ride out backward. When you are comfortable with this and regular backward wheel walk, it can be fun to switch repeatedly between the two.

A video in which Jonathan S. Miersma demonstrates a backward spoke walk

Forward spoke walk[edit]

Spoke walk is one of very few tricks that is easier to do backward than forward. It can be done forward, however. While holding onto something, take your feet off the pedals and put them on the sides of the tire, behind the frame. Now lean forward a little, and try to pull the wheel forward. In order to get any kind of traction, you must press very hard against the sides of the wheel. Also, try to arrange your feet so as to maximize the area of the foot contacting the tire. It may help to turn your heels in so that they are on top of the tire while keeping your toes near the rim. At first, you can only take very small steps, but try to make your steps as big as possible. Lean forward just a little bit and concentrate on exactly how you are moving your feet. The motion is nearly straight upward. Try getting into this skill from idling, riding, and other ways of wheel walking. To get out, just return your feet to the pedals.

A video of of forward spoke walk by Jonathan Miersma.

Koosh-koosh[edit]

The unusual name of this skill is said to come from the sound you hear when you do it. It is also supposed to be one of the easiest ways to wheel walk backward.

For koosh-koosh, you put one foot on the unicycle so that the heel is on the fork and the toe is on touching the tire. The other foot can be placed two ways; either somewhat upright with the toe on the wheel or upside down with the shoelaces on the wheel. You use the foot behind the frame to push the wheel backward and the foot in front of the frame to hold the wheel in position while moving the other foot back forward.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the koosh-koosh

One-footed backward lace walk[edit]

This skill is quite similar to koosh-koosh, except the foot on the frame does not contact the wheel at all, and the driving foot behind the frame has to be placed upside down with the shoelaces on the wheel (thus the name.) One-footed backward lace walk is faster and smoother and so is probably more visually attractive than koosh-koosh, so you should consider learning it. Another good reason to learn it is that it can lead up to backward gliding. Before learning this skill, you should probably learn either spoke walk or koosh-koosh, although neither is really necessary.

It feels a lot like normal one-footed wheel walk in that you push, relax pressure, glide while moving your foot back into position, and push again. If you go fairly quickly balance may be slightly easier.

The transitions for this skill can be hard. Try it from idling or from koosh-koosh if you have already learned that. An alternative method is to take one step of regular backward wheel walk with your non-driving foot, then position your driving foot, set the other foot on the frame and push off. You can also get into it from spoke walk and other backward wheel walk variations. The simplest way to get out is to come to a stop and wheel walk out of it forward, beginning with the foot on the frame.

A video demonstrating lace-walk by Jonathan S. Miersma

One-footed forward lace walk[edit]

One-footed lace walk can be done forward as well as backward, although the forward variation is a bit harder. Before learning this skill you should be comfortable with a forward spoke walk and a one-footed backward lace walk, and a little work with coasting wouldn't hurt.

Lean forward and position your foot as low on the wheel as possible, with as much of the top of your foot touching the wheel as possible, so that you can get enough grip to move the wheel. You have to pull very hard and take very big steps at first, removing your foot from the wheel and repositioning it between each step. While repositioning your foot you will have to coast briefly. If you have a square frame you should be careful to avoid scraping your shin on its corner.

You can transition to this skill directly from riding or idling, but I think the easiest method is to take one wheel walk step forward with your non-driving foot and hold the wheel in place while you position your driving foot. To get out of it, switch to regular wheel walking.

Sideways wheel walk[edit]

This skill consists of riding the unicycle sideways in the "hopping standing on the wheel" position, that is, holding the seat tight with both hands, and one foot on each side of the frame.

The first step for learning this skill is to learn to step up one foot at a time into hopping on the wheel, rather than jumping into that position. Once you are comfortable with this, step up, and try to move the wheel sideways. One foot will be pushing the wheel and the other will be pulling it. Concentrate on the pushing foot (the left foot if you go to the left, and the right foot if you go to the right), as it provides most of the power and makes all the balance corrections. After a few months working on this skill, I found that only the pushing foot was necessary, so now I generally do sideways wheel walk one-footed. The advantage of doing it one-footed is that your feet don't have to work together nearly so much, and you can use the free leg for balance adjustments, the same way you use your arms for most tricks. The basic method of practicing this skill is to climb into the position and start moving. Because you need both arms to hold the seat, you can't work from the wall or ceiling, although it might help to have someone as a spotter. Some things to think about when learning are:

1. Very important! Put all your weight on the seat through your arms. Try to be fairly high up and over the seat so that you will be steady in this position. Don't try to squat, and don't put any weight on your feet. You just use them to kick the wheel lightly along. If you get sore wrists or break the seat because of this, you are doing something right.

2. Almost all balance adjustments are made with the pusher foot. Forward and back adjustments, (from the unicycles point of view) are made by speeding up or slowing down as necessary. Side to side adjustments are made by steering the unicycle a tiny amount to the right or left.

3.Your speed should probably be slightly faster than regular wheel walking, probably about riding speed. This will increase the wheel's momentum and give you more stability.

The transitions are fairly simple. To get into sideways wheel walk, do a normal transition to hopping on the wheel. Then lean slightly in the direction you wish to move and go for it. To get out of this skill, do a short sideways glide while leaning back a little in order to come to a stop. Then hop on the wheel and transition back to pedals by your preferred method.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating sideways wheel-walk

Hand wheel walk[edit]

There are several ways to wheel walk with your hands

  • being sitting on the seat with the feet on the frame
  • stomach on the seat with legs extended

Some other variations are sitting on the seat with the feet out, sideways hand wheel walk with the stomach on the seat, one-handed hand wheel walk, backward hand wheel walk, and even wheel walking using only the thumbs.

Hand wheel walk with the stomach on the seat is probably the easiest variation. If you can wheel walk regularly and ride stomach on the seat, you can start learning this skill. First, set the unicycle upright and facing forward and rest your stomach on the seat. Experiment with different positions until you find one that is relatively comfortable. Then hold the wheel with one hand and rest the other near the frame, gradually transferring your weight from your feet and to the seat. When you are resting mostly on the seat and feel stable, take your feet off the ground and splay them out to the side a little bit. Your legs can move around quite a bit to help you balance. Now start pushing the wheel with your hands. Avoid catching your fingers in the spokes.

To get into it, ride stomach on seat at the hand wheel walking pace, then put your hands on the wheel and start pushing it. To get out of it, you can put your feet back on the pedals at almost any position, than stand up into seat in front riding. You can also do a cool mount by running at a nice rate, sticking the seat under your stomach, and slamming the wheel into the ground. You can make your whole body from the waist down fly well up into the air as you brake the wheel to a normal pace.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating hand wheel-walk stomach on seat

You also can learn it sitting on the seat. You see this variation a lot more often in freestyle performances and competitions. Learning this skill can be rather problematic, since you can't mount into it, getting into it from idling is somewhat tricky at first, and you can't use a wall, since you have no way to hold onto it. The best methods are to have a spotter steer you along until you can practice it from idling, or to do it from a pole or the end of a wall. I used a book cabinet in my basement. You also have to have the right kind of saddle. Something like the Torker CX or the Savage saddle is too small and will be very painful. How you sit on the seat can make a big difference. Try to sit back on the end of the seat, so that when you lean over your weight will rest mostly on your abdomen, not certain sensitive areas. This is even more the case if you want to learn hand wheel walk with the legs extended. When you try it the first time, get into a steady position and hold onto something with your one hand. Then transfer your feet and other hand to wheel one at time, and lean down and forward. The farther forward you lean, the easier it will be to balance. Put as much weight on the fork through your legs as possible to decrease the discomfort. Now push the wheel a couple times with the hand on the wheel until you are clear of your support, then bring the other hand down and get started. You should make the pushes a ways down the wheel, not right near the fork. You make the balance corrections by changing the speed and direction of your pushes, and by leaning your upper body from one side to another. Side to side balance is the tricky part. If you are falling off to one side slowly, and turning slightly, try to swing your whole upper body to the other side. If you realize that you are falling off soon enough, you can right yourself this way.

As soon as you can get ten or fifteen steps fairly often, you should try learning to go into hand wheel walk from idling or riding. Mount sitting a lot farther back than normal and idle smoothly, then come to a stop at the end of a large forward stroke and begin transferring your limbs. First move the high idling foot, then put one hand on the wheel. Then transfer the other foot, give the wheel a push with your first hand and get the other hand in place behind it. If you don't get both feet placed securely on the fork, (you need a solid square fork for this skill) get off immediately. The best term to describe what happens when one or both of your feet slip off the wrong way is "wedgie."

Getting out of this skill can be a little tricky. I have done it two ways. One way is to quickly raise your body and put your feet on the wheel, do a short wheel walk, then drop to the pedals. The other is to wait until a pedal is coming down, then quickly move your foot from the fork to the pedal. Raise your body quickly and go into one-footed idling, then get your other foot down.

A video of hand wheel walk sitting on the seat by Jonathan S. Miersma

Miscellaneous skills[edit]

Backward one-footed riding[edit]

The most common method seems to be to transition from one-footed idling, but experiment with getting into it from backward riding and riding forward one-footed as well, so that you find what works best for you. Concentrate on pulling the pedal through the upstroke as this is usually the hardest part. Lean back a ways too, but always be careful to avoid a high speed backward dismount which could be dangerous.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating backward 1 footed

Gliding[edit]

Gliding is when you have one foot on the crown of the frame and one foot placed on the tire to control speed and aid balance. It is easiest to see gliding as a progression from one foot wheel walking. Try to wheel walk one footed down a hill and you'll end up gliding. Also practice going from one foot riding directly into gliding, especially on flat ground, and eventually from riding directly into gliding. It may take several weeks to learn this skill well. Try to apply as little pressure as possible on the tire, and lean back.

Gliding as a flatland skill is fun when done in a circle. Ride fast in a big circle, leaning heavily to one side. Now switch to gliding with as little pressure as possible, still leaning heavily to one side. You tend to go in a spiral rather than a proper circle, and end by straightening up and doing a very small piroutte.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating gliding

Coasting[edit]

Coasting is one of the most enjoyable things you can do on a unicycle in my opinion. For those who don't know the distinction, gliding is riding the unicycle with one foot on the wheel as a brake and the other on the fork (or extended) while coasting is riding the unicycle without contacting the wheel, pedals, or anything except the frame and saddle. Coasting is much harder.

To learn to coast, first get really good at one-footed riding, so that you can ride along smoothly, at a steady speed, and without accelerating or braking the wheel in any way. Actually you don't need to be quite that good at one-footed riding to start learning to coast, but after a little while working on this skill, you will have one-footed riding down this well. Although it would probably be advisable to learn to glide before working seriously on coasting, this isn't necessary, since the balancing mechanisms are quite different for the two skills.

Now you can move on to the actual coasting. From smooth one-footed riding at a not too fast or too slow rate, take the pedalling foot off and let it hang next to the spinning pedal. In all likelihood, you will fall off immediately. It is of utmost importance that at this point you do not kick the pedal or affect it in anyway. You need to coast off at the same speed, balanced in the same way which you were before starting the coast. Practice this step for a while until you are comfortable with taking your foot off the pedal and falling off. You will find that you sometimes coast short distances without trying very hard. It is a great feeling when it does happen.

When you are comfortable with this, you can start working on balancing in this position and experimenting with various postures. There are two basic ways to coast; either with one leg extended and the other on the fork, or with both feet resting solidly on the fork. I recommend that you experiment with both to find which way works for you, keeping in mind however that most unicyclists seem to find coasting with both feet on the fork easier. Although it is harder to get into and easier to fall from improperly, it offers more stability. The basic balancing mechanism for coasting is a rocking motion that is rather difficult to explain. I suggest watching some videos or actually watching other unicyclists coast if possible so that you will know when you are balancing properly. If you are falling off forwards, you need to lean forward by bending at the waist. This will cause your waist region to move back and the wheel to move forward also, thus correcting your balance. If you are too far back, lean back. I find the forward adjustments a lot easier. One important tip to balance yourself properly is to keep your arms straight and raise them nearly vertical. Some riders keep their arms farther down when they coast, but almost all extend them in some way. Experiment with various arm positions and find what works for you. I suggest trying to switch to coasting with both feet on fork after you have worked on the leg extended variation for perhaps a a while. Try to plant both feet solidly on the fork. I find it even helps to squeeze the seat post tightly between my feet. This will probably work best if your frame has a nice solid square fork which offers a lot of support.

Coasting is an extremely difficult skill, and one which requires a lot of commitment to learn. It took me six months of hard practice. But if you keep with it, you will have a highly enjoyably skill that is very satisfying and also impressive. It is worth it.

Once you can coast smoothly for a ways, try getting out of it. The easiest method is to switch to gliding, then to wheel walking, then to the pedals. Getting out of coasting is a relatively easy skill, which probably does not require much advice.

As an interesting historical note, coasting was, as far as is known, first done by a Swede, Joakim Malm, around 1980. Before that, it was generally considered impossible. Joakim was one of a group of three Swedes who revolutionized freestyle riding, inventing skills such as seat drag, the 540 unispin, and several others. They were also influential in the movement toward using only 20" unicycles for freestyle.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating coasting feet in
A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating coasting 1 foot extended

Coasting standing on saddle[edit]

Well? Anyone? Ummmm this is really hard!
A video of coasting standing on saddle by Julien Monney

Handride[edit]

Learning to position yourself properly is one of the main difficulties for this skill. First, turn the unicycle around. Actually, you don't exactly sit on the unicycle; rather you hang upside-down, with most of your weight on your abdomen. Position the seat so that the back bumper is resting near your navel, and reach down and grasp the pedals with both hands. While holding the pedals, with the seat positioned as described above, set the wheel on the ground. Now jump up and forward while pulling up very hard on the "down" pedal and pushing down on the "up" pedal. Then start pedalling backward. This can take a lot of strength. The direction of motion should be backward, that is such that if you were to switch to sitting on the seat and pedalling with your feet without turning your body, you would be riding backward. It is also possible to handride forward, but this is more difficult and dangerous as will be explained later. When you mount, make sure to jump up a good ways; otherwise, you will fall off immediately. Eventually, you will get a feel for how to turn the wheel and will get a few cycles of the wheel.

When you are handriding, you can fall off in the direction of motion, or in the opposite direction from that in which you are moving. It is falling off in the direction opposite motion that is a problem, it could be dangerous so try hard ot avoid falling off in that direction. This is the reason forward handride is more dangerous; you are more likely to fall off in such a way that you can't land on your feet. Although it can be a little unnerving, you have to lean farther in the direction opposite motion than feels comfortable. Otherwise you just fall off the other way immediately. So when handriding, try to adjust your speed so that you stay well over the wheel, but not so far forward that you fall off in the direction opposite motion. You can also use your legs to adjust the balance, but only a little bit. For the most part, they swing around in a somewhat ridiculous manner.

It is possible to transition from riding with your feet into and out of handride. Getting out is not very hard. Simply take one hand off the pedal and quickly insert a foot in its place. The other foot falls into place pretty much automatically, as you quickly sit up straight. If you want to go to sitting on the seat properly, you have to do a unispin. To get from riding into handride, you also have to do a unispin to get the seat turned around. Now try to put your abdomen on the seat as you do for handride. Lean down as far as you can while idling. At the end of one idle, pull a foot off the pedal and grab it with your hand. Now start pulling the pedal around and took the other foot off the other pedal. As this pedal comes forward, grab it with your hand and try to get going. Grabbing the pedals properly can be very tricky. Try to idle straight before attempting the transition. Also, make sure you are leaning forward sufficiently. This transition to handride has also been done from hand wheel walk with the legs extended, but I don't have anymore information on this trick. If you learn forward handride, you can also transition into it from regular riding without any idling or hand wheel walking. No more information on this skill either.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating backward handride
A video of Thomas from Switzerland showing handride forward


Threads: 1

Stationary skills[edit]

Hop[edit]

Hopping can be done with 2, 1 and no hands on the seat. The last option allows for skipping ropes to be used.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating a burning skipping rope while hopping on a unicycle.

Spins[edit]

A spin is a where you go round in circles really fast. You do this by having your upper body on one side of the point you are turning about while your lower body is on the opposite side.

To do a spin -

  1. Do a leaning turn, about a metre in radius or so.
  2. Do a really hard action-reaction turn in the same direction as your leaning turn.
  3. Pedal like mad.

If it just feels like you're turning in a tight circle, then you're not doing a spin. When you hit the spin, you'll feel like you're going round ten times as fast as normal and like you're not really steering, just being magically spun round and round. You'll totally know it.

If your pedals hit the ground, you're leaning too far, you don't have to lean incredibly hard to spin.

I learnt to do spins using a hockey stick. If you've got one, try using this. First learn to turn 360 degrees using the stick to turn you, then try and get into a spin using the stick to do the action reaction turn.

Once you get good at spins, you can do them straight away, out of stillstands or whatever without the leaning turn into them. I like to stillstand, then lean a little bit and go into a spin.

Nb: Action-reaction turn is a turn where you turn your upper body one way(the action) and the unicycle turns the other way(the reaction).

  • Exiting the spin

The trick is just to keep practicing until you can do the spin really smoothly and then you can slow down and pedal out of it. Alternatively, do a pirouette out of it and then pedal off once you've slowed down a little, before you fall over.

In both cases, as you straighten up and ride out, your tyre will catch and you'll be able to ride straight off, you don't have to wait until the spin has fully stopped to ride off.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the spin

Pirouettes[edit]

Pirouettes are similar to spins, except that you do not pedal while you spin around. Instead, you stand with the pedals horizontal, and let inertia spin you around. It helps to stand up on the pedals and hold your arms out and bring them in close to your body as you start to spin, like a ballerina does. A pirouette is considered valid only when doing 3 or more revolutions.

A video of the pirouette in slow motion done by Satoko Matsunaga.

Hopping standing on the wheel[edit]

For this skill, you set the unicycle sideways, stand with one foot on each side of the wheel, hold one end of the seat with each hand, and hop.

You should mount directly into it at first. There are two basic ways to do this; either jump up and plant both feet solidly against the frame, or climb up by leaning the unicycle a little to one side, putting one foot directly on top of the wheel, stepping up, and setting your other foot on the other side of the frame. (The latter is better if you plan to learn sideways wheel walk eventually, since the same technique is used to mount into that skill.) Now hop! It's really very simple, and should only take a little practice. You can do it with your feet solidly against the frame, or spread out a ways. The latter may be slightly harder, but again, it is better for learning sideways wheel walk.

The transitions can be fairly frustrating. To get into it, switch to seat in front hopping, then jump off the pedals. You can either spin the unicycle 90 degrees and land on the wheel, or jump around yourself and land, with the unicycle moving very little. This is actually fairly easy, but seems intimidating at first. Getting out tougher. There are several methods, including twisting around and switching to wheel walk, twisting and getting your feet directly on the pedals, jumping right down to seat in riding, and jumping down to seat in front hopping. The last is a good way to prepare for unispins. I usually use the twisting methods. The main thing to remember is to pause after each hop, but only attempt to twist around when you feel very well balanced. Twisting to the pedals is usually easiest when the pedal corresponding to the rear hopping foot is horizontal in front.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating hopping on wheel and both transitions.

Side hopping[edit]

Side hopping is a somewhat silly trick, but you might want to learn it any way. Stand to the side of the unicycle and put your right foot on the left pedal, or your left foot on the right pedal. Now lean (to the left if you are on the right and to the right if you are on the left) stand up on the pedal and hop. It may be slightly easier to do this if you put the free foot around in back on the other side of the tire, in order to hold the wheel still a little more. The main thing to remember is to lean a lot to one side, because otherwise you move sideways pretty quickly. I don't know how to get into it from riding, but to get out of it, you jump up, switch feet on the pedal, get the foot previously used for hopping to the other side, and idle seat-in-front.

Warning: side hopping may damage your unicycle's hub.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating side-hopping

Unispins[edit]

A unispin is when you hold the unicycle in front of you, jump off the pedals, twist the unicycle and land on it again. A standard unispin is 180, but 360 is also common and 540 and 720 are heard of. You can also do 90, 270, 450, and 630 degree unispins into and out of hopping standing on the wheel, or 180 and 360 unispins while hopping standing on the wheel.

To do a 180 unispin usually you stand in the seat out position; you can either do it with one hand or two hands. Two hands is much easier for beginners. When you're standing in the seat out position and your hands are in the unispin position, either both hands are on the same side of the saddle, or one is on each side in a crossways position. It's best to have the pedals flat. Jump up and spin it; you never need to let go of the uni. Then aim for the pedals or cranks, and land safely.

To do a 360 unispin you should stand in the same position as for the 180 unispin. You can either have your hands in a crossways position or both of your hands on the same side. It depends on whether you want to air the uni or just spin it on the ground. If you're doing the crossways position you don't have to let go of the uni and it will probably spin on the ground, which some people think is easier. Another method is to put both hands on the same side, then jump up, spin it, let go of the uni, then catch it again. What you prefer is a matter of taste. You may consider wearing leg protection!

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating 180 unispin to seat without any needless hop.

Seat drop[edit]

This skill consists of hopping seat in front, dropping the seat and frame onto your toe, and then kicking it back up.

First, while idling, gradually move your front hopping foot, which should be the upper foot while you are idling, over, until it rubs against the frame. Now transition smoothly to seat in front hopping. Between hops, edge this foot over even more, until it is touching the tire or rim. Now drop the seat, and catch the frame with your foot. Once you can catch the frame properly, practice getting the seat back up, so that you can catch it again. You should throw the seat done firmly, and at the same time lean slightly forward. After the frame touches your foot, lean back a little so that the seat bounces up again. Now catch the seat and go back to hopping or riding.

It looks cool to do a series of seat drops without hopping in between. I haven't tried this yet, but presumably it's a lot harder than just a single. Also, you can try to pause for a while before kicking the seat back up. Another good looking move is to combine this trick with trials, so that you jump onto an obstacle, drop the seat, catch it, and jump off again.

Crank idle[edit]

Crank idle is idling with your entire body off one side of the unicycle, one foot on the pedal and one foot where the crank goes into the unicycle hub. Presumably you can achieve this transition by first going to seat on side idle and then swinging your foot over the tire.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the basic crank-idle with hand touching the seat.

Mounts[edit]

Mount[edit]

Stand behind the uni and place foot on closest pedal. Push yourself up or roll the wheel backwards till you are on top of the unicycle.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the basic mount

to idle[edit]

Mount the standard mount and go to idling without pedaling.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating mount to idle

to idle 1 footed[edit]

Mount the standard mount to one footed idle.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating mount to idle 1 footed

to idle 1 footed foot extended[edit]

Mount the standard mount to one foot idle foot extended.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating mount to idle 1 footed with the other extended

Rolling[edit]

Push the unicycle in front of you and step onto the pedals. This should all be done without stopping.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the rolling mount

Jump[edit]

For a jump mount, hold the unicycle in front of you, (preferably with one hand, although you can also use both, if you are nervous about it) with the pedals level, then jump up, land your feet on the pedals, pause, then sit down on the seat. Sometime after you take off, but before you land, you can move the seat into exactly the right position. Make sure you land with all your weight on the pedals. This is probably the easiest mount, after the standard one, although it is intimidating at first. In order to overcome your fear, try mounting to seat-out riding. Simply hold the seat in front of you, and jump on the pedals, still holding the seat in front of you. You can also try doing a seat-in jump mount. That is, put the seat between your legs, then jump up and try to land your feet on the pedals. Hopefully after trying this a couple times you'll be ready for the regular jump mount, which is actually easier.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the jump mount

Suicide[edit]

The suicide mount is simply a slightly harder and much more impressive extension of the jump mount. Position the unicycle in front of you, balance it, let go, pause, jump, land your feet on the pedals, and sit down on the seat. The longer you pause between letting go and jumping, the more impressive it is. To nerve yourself up for this undeniably scary trick, practice doing regular jump mounts while holding the seat very lightly. Try holding the seat with only a few fingers, and eventually only with your little finger. Now you should be ready to try it. Balance the unicycle very carefully, (with the pedals level) so that when you let go, the saddle falls toward you. If it falls to the side, you won't land it, and if it falls away from you land it seat in front by catching the saddle, but that's not a suicide mount, since the suicide mount must be done freehanded. Watch the saddle after you let go of it, and jump at the right moment, so that the saddle is in exactly the right place when you land. To a certain extent, you have to catch it with your legs as you come down. Obviously it will be easier with the seat lowered. Also don't wear baggy pants, or you'll have to jump stupidly high so you don't knock the seat out of the way.

A video of the suicide mount done by Tomas Aelterman.

Reverse[edit]

The reverse mount is simply a standard mount in reverse. Begin standing in front of the unicycle, sit on the seat and step onto the pedal that is slightly forward, bringing the unicycle up under you from behind. This feels somewhat like idling The reverse mount is also known as back-mount.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the back-mount

Side Mount[edit]

The side mount is a fun and fairly easy mount. Stand behind the unicycle, place your strong foot on the pedal at the bottom of the stroke and hold the seat out to the side with the opposite hand. I find it easiest to hold the back of the seat and lock my elbow. Then simply step onto your strong foot while you swing the other leg forward (between your strong leg and the unicycle) and around the front of the seat to the other side. Relax your grip on the seat to bring it up under you as you place your free foot on the pedal and begin to idle.

Variations on this mount include swinging the leg around the seat an extra revolution and also swinging the leg around the back of the seat, mounting like a bike ( http://likeabikes.com ), which is harder than you would think.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the side mountlike a bike

Side Jump to Wheel Walk[edit]

Once you are comfortable with some of the simpler wheel walk mounts, like putting the seat between you legs and jumping up forward, try the side jump mount to wheel walk. Hold the back of the seat with one hand, and stand next to the unicycle. Now jump up and sideways. Swing one leg around the saddle and swing the saddle back with your hand, then try to set your foot on the wheel, thus absorbing most of the impact. Now quickly bring the saddle back forward between your legs and land sitting on it. Since you don't have to jump up very far above the seat for this mount, (it's more about swinging the seat under you) you only fall down a very short distance, less than for the regular jump mount, so it's not very hard on your crotch. Now wheel walk out of it!

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the jump mount to wheel-walk

Pickup[edit]

With the unicycle lying on the ground with tire pointing up, hop onto the pedals and reach down to pick up the seat with your hand.

A video of the pick-up done by Jonathan S. Miersma.

Kickup[edit]

Place the unicycle on the ground, lying on its side, facing forward, with the pedals level. The pedal on top should be behind (closest to you) and the pedal on the ground in front. Stand with the uni just in front of you, with the seat pointing diagonally to your right. Stand on the pedal. Your foot will actually be at a 45 degree angle to the pedal, so the left edge of your left foot will touch the pedal, and the right edge will touch the crankarm. Put the toe of your right foot under the saddle (from the outside, with your toe facing the wheel). This is the setup for the kickup mount. If you now shift your weight onto the pedal and pull the seat underneath you with your foot, the unicycle will come upright so you can put your other foot onto its pedal and ride away. Seat height is important here: it is easier with a lower seat, but if it is too low, the seat will fly out from between your legs. If it is too high, you'll experience extreme discomfort as you kick the saddle into your own crotch. And the most important is to jump in to a motion from seat to pedal(!), and NOT from seat to the center of the hub.

A video of Leo Vandewoestijne demonstrating the kick-up mount