Unicyling: One wheel never looked so good

This is an ode to the people daring to do things differently. Why use two wheels, when you can use one? Join us as we explore freestyle unicycles, giraffe unicycles and for the adrenaline seekers among you, mountain unicycles.  For those teetering on the edge of curiosity we’re shedding light on the ideal beginner unicycles and breaking down what to look for when starting. Unpacking the wild history of the unicycle, its links to the infamous Penny Farthing and exploring the unicycles reputation today.

WHAT YOU NEED IN A UNICYCLE

Unicycles fall into various categories depending on their intended use. Its important to understand your needs and requirements and what you want to use a unicycle for before buying. Check out our great guide below on the perks of different models and find the right one for you.

Trainer Unicycles

Does exactly what they say on the tin (Or box). Trainer unicycles are ideal models for first time riders and those learning. They are affordable and robust enough to deal with the bumps that inevitably happen during the learning process. Once you’ve nailed the skills on this you may want to branch out to one of the other following unicycles.

Kids Trainer Unicycles

Indy 16″ Trainer Unicycle- For children ages 8 and up as well as smaller adults, made from robust strong steel that can handle even the roughest of practice sessions, very popular model.

Qu-Ax Luxus 12″ Trainer- Ergonomic seat, Chrome silver finish, plastic pedal with safe surface to limit danger, changeable bumpers for personalisation.

Qu-Ax 12″ Balance Trainer Gen 2- Balanced with stabilisers, 12” wheel and chain propulsion system, teaches riders to change direction using their weight

Adult Trainer Unicycles

Qu-Ax Luxus 20″ Trainer Unicycles- Premium, excellent quality, Includes a second seat post for growing riders, seven finishes with contrasting colour details

Club Freestyle Trainer Unicycles- This entry level uni has been designed with the young unicyclist in mind, works great as a trainer and as a freestyle unicycle.

Indy Standard Trainer Unicycle- Most popular model, great basic unicycle at an affordable price, solid construction, slick finishes.

Freestyle unicycles

If skills, stunts and tricks are what you’re hoping to get out of your unicycle then the freestyle is ideal for you. Most models are optimised for indoor use featuring very few metal parts on the exterior that could damage the ground (or laminate, or carpet, maybe find somewhere else to practice). Generally they have a smaller wheel which is perfect for trick usage. These are meant for more agile moves than trial unicycle.

Indy Freestyle 20” Unicycle- Higher specification freestyle model ideal for urban unicycling, double walled alloy rims make it super strong, flat top forks for one legged tricks,

Qu-AX 24″ Professional Freestyle Unicycle- Developed by Qu-Ax in conjunction with a French unicycle basketball team (yup, real sport), Ideal for other unicycle based sports and aggressive stunts and tricks.

Giraffe unicycles

For the entertainers who don’t suffer from vertigo! If there’s one thing you’ll notice about these its there height. On a normal unicycle the pedals are mounted to the wheel shaft but with the giraffe being so tall a chain drives the pedals to the wheels. As these range in height from 3 ft- over 10ft you’d need some seriously long legs were it not for that chain.

Indy 1.5m 20″ tyre Giraffe Unicycle- 1.5m single chain unicycle, Deluxe and comfortable seat, non slip pedals to ensure no accidents.

Qu-Ax 1.5m Giraffe Unicycle 20″ Wheel- Strong and robust performance unicycle, exceptional build quality, anodised aluminium rims.

Trial unicycles

These are designed specifically for unicycle trials, where riders navigate obstacle filled tracks without any part of their body touching the ground. These are stronger than typical unis in order to withstand the various jumps and drops that occur during trials. They’re also fitted with smaller wheels that allow for better manoeuvrability and bigger tyres, ideal for shock absorption.

Indy Trials Unicycle- 19″ Unicycle- Rugged trials unicycle designed for aggressive and experimental use, packed with features reserved for models with a much bigger price tag.

Qu-Ax Muni 20″ Starter Unicycle- This unicycle I deal for riders keen to explore urban unicycling and is equally at home with some very basic off-roading.

Mountain unicycles

Riding a unicycle can be challenging enough but going off road is a whole new challenge. Thankfully there are some fantastic unis that have been developed to handle just that. Mountain unis come with thicker, wider tyres that improve shock absorption and make light work of unsteady terrain. Most models also feature brakes because after going downhill on a mountain you will want to slow down.

QX Series Muni 24″ Black – Disc Brake Unicycle- Features everything you could want in a mountain unicycle, Disc brakes offer more precise and consistent braking across different conditions.

Qu-Ax QX Muni 24″ Disc Brake Unicycle- Q-AXLE system- Disc Brake Unicycle- The latest generation in technical downhill unicycle models, Durable, light and super rigid, precision German engineering.

Touring/Commuter unicycles

Built for serious unicyclists that wish to ride for longer periods commuter unicycles are all about preserving comfort and lessening the toll they can take on your legs. Their large wheels and gear systems allow riders to cover greater distances in less pedal rotation. Definitely a lot less hassle than taking the tube around London!

Qu-Ax QX 36″ ‘Q-Axle’ Profi Disc Unicycle This super light unicycle is fitted with Shimano disc brakes and Qu-Ax’s innovative Q-axle system.

Qu-Ax Luxus 36″ Marathon Unicycle- Built around a huge 36” wheel to get you far in no time, a single turn of the pedals will take you 2.85m forward.

The more unusual side of unicycling

Ultimate/Impossible wheel

This is the most basic form of unicycle, consisting of two pedals attached to a single wheel, no seat, no frame. As the wheel is much smaller faster, tighter pedalling is required which can be quite difficult to master which is why we recommend getting to grips with the motion on a Pedal Go, at four wheels instead of one it’s a lot less daunting but will help you nail the movement in no time.

Twin Unicycle

Never unicycle alone again. A testament to the madcap unicycle riders who fancied another challenge. Each unicycle can turn independently of eachother allowing you to perform a variety of spins and smooth moves. Attracts a lot of smiles and quizzical looks.

If you thought that was very specialist you’ve haven’t seen anything yet.

Kangaroo unicycles

You didn’t think unicycles could get any more inventively eccentric? You thought wrong. How about mounting one of the pedals backward. Instead of the usual method of pedalling, left, right, left, right. These require your feet moving together in a hopping motion hence the name kangaroo. In order to aid this motion, the hub is placed off centre on the wheel causing riders to bob up and down. They have to be seen to be believed.

And for the O.G’s of unicycling. The Penny Farthing. A surreal bike for ladies and gentlemen. Qu- Ax have put together their modern take on the Penny Farthing, that’s as unusual as the original but built with the incredible efficiency and quality we’ve come to know from Qu- Ax.

SO WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?

The unicycles journey began with the invention of the bicycle. The journey towards the creation of the bicycle is a story of triumph in ingenuity, each new version building upon the last. The unicycle however was a journey into the obscure, a testament to the human daring appetite.

In the Late 18th century, the Celerifere, an early precursor of the modern bicycle was invented. Made from wood, it lacked pedals and the ability to steer requiring riders to run with it to propel themselves forward. 

In the early 1800s The Laufmaschine was a new take on the concept, however it added the ability to steer. The next big leap was the addition of pedals and a name change to velocipedes (Latin for fast foot). In 1968 the first company began manufacturing pedal driven velocipedes commercially. Over the next few years more developments were made with rubber tyres and metal wheel spokes.

1871 gave us the Penny Farthing and were it not for this British invention we may have never had unicycles. As the pedals were connected to its huge front wheel, riding the Penny Farthing would cause the back wheel to lift. Riders became accustomed to seeing how long they could ride with the rear wheel in the air. The unicycle was essentially invented by accident… by talented show offs. 

Since the unicycle required incredible skill and balance to ride, many users became entertainers. Today unicycles still have a connection to feats of incredible talent but its reach has grown. Just one sweep of YouTube will reveal how big this once esoteric bit of fun has now become. Whether its being used as ‘alternative transport’ or in the show off spirit of its original inception. It’s celebrated across the globe in various competitions where its daredevil users are lauded as athletes. Just one look at a unicycle would make you question the practical nature of it but one ride of it will make forget why you ever even asked.

NOW HOW DO I DO IT?

Learning to unicycle is just a case of putting mind over matter…and then pedalling your heart out. Looking at it, in all its one wheel glory its easy to question how you’ll ever be able to stay up on it. But confidence, faith and reminding yourself that it’s not impossible will get you very far.

In theory remaining on the unicycle and propelling yourself forward is just a juggling act between staying balanced, leaning and continually pedalling. You mastered it on two wheels when you learnt to cycle so mastering it on one wheel is entirely within reach.

Follow this video below for a great tutorial on how to mount, ride and dismount your unicycle.

The secret, according to vice president of the International Unicycling Federation Scott Wilson is to “Just ride”. Of course he also says that getting to that point requires a lot of falling off first. “It takes a long time to learn, and it takes the willingness to fall down and get back up.”

Finding the right fit.

Once you’re sat on the unicycle, your leg should be almost straight when its sitting on the pedal in its lowest position. If the leg is still bent a lot at this position then you should find a unicycle with a longer seat pole.

Taking precaution.

Although riding a unicycle isn’t considered dangerous as with any activity that could present risk it makes sense to prepare. Especially while you’re learning when the risk of falling is that much higher. Just like you would with a bicycle a helmet is a necessity. We strongly recommend knee and elbow pads and wrist pads while you’re getting used to the unicycle.

Where to learn.

In an ideal world there would exist a smooth uninterrupted hallway with handrails either side available just for would be unicyclists, unfortunately there’s not (If there is please let us know). However, a wall or ledge you can comfortably lean against in a clear and level area is a perfect substitute.

Mounting your uni

Stand behind your unicycle, not to the side like you would a bike. Put the saddle between your legs, put your dominant foot onto its corresponding pedal, ideally with the pedal at the 9 o’clock position. Now bring your other foot off the ground, as you do this allow your weight to go to the dominant foot, the pedal will move and you will roll forward, quickly put your other foot onto the pedal and keep cycling. You did it! Hold onto a wall or someones shoulder for support to make it easier.

Dismounting your uni

It’s the same process for getting on but in reverse. Stepping back like walking down the last rung of a ladder.

Just ride

Counteracting forward movement with backward movement on the pedals will cause you to rock back and forth, which is a great way for getting a feel for the unicycle. In the words of Scott Wilson “It’s gonna feel weird at first, but the longer you spend on it, the easier it will be”. Once you’ve mounted you have to get moving or risk unbalancing yourself. Lean forward and start pedalling. On your first few times don’t be surprised if you lock up or experience stage fright and are unable to pedal. Just keep trying and you’ll crack it in no time.

For more information follow this video below for a great tutorial on how to mount, ride and dismount your unicycle.

WRAP UP

Whether you’re a total beginner or an avid unicyclist, a unicycle window shopper or a fan eager to add another to your collection, here at Flames ‘N Games we have an amazing range of unicycles at a range of prices so there’s bound to be one that’s just right for you. As always follow us online for all the latest in circus equipment and juggling toys and look out for another article very soon.

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