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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What comes up, must come down…rather fast and hopefully landing onto a string. Playing with the Diabolo dates back over 1,000 years, during that time it has passed through the hands of nobility and peasantry and rolled across seas and channels leaving its mark across the globe.
This child’s toy of wood and bamboo origin has become a precision engineered, perfectly balanced piece of kit that’s revered by many and mastered by some (It takes some practice!). Since its reinvention in the early 1900s as a metal construction with rubber rims, put together with scrap metal and bits of old tyres (True story), companies globally have sought to create the ultimate Diabolo. One that can handle grinds as well as falls, handle extreme speed without wobbling at slow speeds, a diabolo that’s as easy for beginners as it is challenging for experienced users and of course still look great doing it all.
Getting to grips with a Diabolo (or Diabolos if you’re feeling adventurous) is easy to begin with, mastering the motion of rolling it back and forth to gather speed, understanding how to stop it from tipping, these all come with minimal practice. It’s only when you start trying to learn catches and tricks that the learning curve becomes slightly harder but fear not there’s a wealth of tutorials online and in this very article that’ll help you.
Choosing a Diabolo-
Fixed axle Diabolos.
Most beginners start with a model like the Juggle Dream Jester or Mr. Babache Harlequin, its fixed axle handles low speeds without becoming unstable and can offer inexperienced users a better understanding of the mechanics of a Diabolo. Fixed axle Diabolos are also required for tricks that require tension on the string making these Diabolos more than just for beginners.
- Great intro diabolo made from tough multicoloured rubber
- rubber cups, smooth lightweight plastic hubs and a metal axle
- Available in 9 great designs
- The Vision has been a staple of the Henry’s diabolo range for many years .
- The Vision cups are made front a frosted, opaque urethane, the same material used in skateboard wheels.
- The most popular Mr Babache diabolo of the range.
- Perfectly balanced & its thicker than usual axle makes it accelerate a little faster too!
- Great for those who like close body moves i.e leg & hand passes
- Perfect for finger tricks and stick-grinding due to its larger axle
- Though being a new company, they’ve already gained amazing reviews from diaboloists
One-way axle Diabolos.
As you progress, you’ll want a Diabolo that’s better suited to retaining a high speed and capable of rapid acceleration, key factors in some tricks! For this purpose, you’ll require a one-way axle Diabolo (Also referred to as a Bearing Diabolo or clutch axle Diabolo). These allow users to build momentum more quickly as bearing axles lack the friction fixed axles create which makes them excellent for rapid tricks and tossing, however, they’re less stable at low speeds than a fixed axle.
- A great medium-sized diabolo perfect for beginners
- The Jester bearing offers unbeatable performance at this price
- Beautiful triple bearing clutch one way diabolo with firm see-through cups!
- Superior stability which will spin for up to twenty times longer than the standard diabolo
- Officially the world’s longest spinning diabolo
- Featuring an extremely fast triple bearing axle system
- The extra wide axle makes tricks like finger grinds much easier and the Jumbo sized (129mm) cups make it very stable at all speeds.
- Constructed from tough, scratch-resistant TPE, the Big Top will handle drops from even the highest throws
Modern Diabolos are never understated. As a key part in circus performance and juggling displays, Diabolos have colours and striking looks weaved into their D.N.A. But enough is never enough and now some modern Diabolos are available with eye-catching LEDs, as glow in the dark versions and even more impressive, with Fire!!
But where would a Diabolo be without Diabolo handsticks? The same place a rocket would be without fuel, on the floor that’s where. As a necessary accompaniment to your Diabolo selecting the right handsticks is an important choice! Traditionally handsticks were wooden with a medium weight rope thread between them. Many varieties still exist of this basic design, in fact, it’s the ideal set for Diabolo beginners. Wooden Diabolo handsticks are light, capable of handling all sorts of light knocks and bumps (expect there to be a few when you’re first starting off), affordable and light.
Fibreglass Diabolo handsticks are the next step up in quality from wood. They’re equally hard wearing and lightweight but the addition of their slightly flexible shaft lends them well to handling grinds and throwing tricks. Another advantage of fibreglass sticks is their foam silicone handles that ensure comfort for long periods of play. They’re also available in a wide range of striking colours you can match to your diabolo for an eye-grabbing set.
If you’re looking for something that’ll take a bit more of a beating than Fibre sticks, we recommend aluminium Diabolo handsticks. These sleek sticks are the all-around performer that excels across all your requirements. Some varieties are heavier than others so its definitely worth doing your research as the heavier the stick the harder some sticks tricks will be, like ‘Suicides’.
Carbon fibre Diabolo handsticks offer maximum strength in an extraordinary light package. The lower friction on the surface of the carbon sticks offer super long grinds and their slick appearance give them a very premium look. With any type of handsticks, the rope will need replacing eventually. Fixed axle Diabolos tend to cause more friction and therefore degrade the rope quicker than the same amount of use with a one-way axle. But fear not, ropes are easily available and affordable and just like changing the strings on an instrument will bring a fresh feel so will a new rope to your Diabolo.
So with your chosen Diabolo and sticks in hand, we can start looking at mastering the basics. This video covers getting your Diabolo spinning and off the ground. It’s a basic motion of rolling side to side and using your dominant hand to keep spinning the axle.
What you may notice during spinning the Diabolo is at certain speeds it might start to tip or lose balance and require a bit of correction. This skill is a necessity as being able to recover your Diabolo will allow you to have endless fun without having to restart from the ground.
It may see like a bit of a leap but now you can spin your Diabolo, effectively gather speed and bring your diabolo back on course you’re ready to start throwing and (hopefully) catching.
Now practice, practice, practice and stay tuned for our future article covering beginner Diabolo tricks, covering everything from stick grinds to tension tricks!
Follow us online for even more great Diabolo content.
HISTORY: The craze that went crazy.
The modern hoops we use today were invented back in 1958 but spinning hoops around parts of the body has been going on for much longer, all around the world.
Although its exact origins can’t be pinpointed, the movements of Hula hooping and using a hoop in dance were present in cultures around the world including the Native Americans and 18th century Hawaii. In fact, the name Hula comes from the Hawaiian dance.
FACT: In 14th century England Hula hooping was utilised by Doctors to treat patients suffering from various pains, dislocated backs and even heart complaints.
The Hula hoop has had its fair share of dislikes throughout its journey. It was vilified in Indonesia by toy companies who disliked its power to ‘awaken sensuality’. In Japan it was outlawed in the street after it was believed to lead to traffic accidents. However despite its opposers the Hula hoop remained strong.
The Hula hoop has now become a gold standard in displaying acrobatic prowess the world over. These days it’s not unusual to see someone using multiple hoops all across their body or combining this with forms of juggling or balancing activities. Health and fitness groups use hooping as an accessible exercise that’s fun and physically rewarding.
It’s gone through many resurgences in popularity since its worldwide spread in the 1950’s but the Hula hoop is very firmly here to stay.
HEALTH: Mind and Body benefits
Did you know 30 minutes of hooping can burn 210 calories!
The health benefits of regular Hula hooping include losing weight, toning and sculpting your abdominal muscles, improving your coordination, increasing your fitness level and improving the flexibility of your spine.
And the benefits of hooping don’t just stop at your body. There are numerous mental advantages that come with hooping. In today’s world we’re bombarded with distractions so putting your phone down and focusing intensely on hooping to the exclusion of everything else is a meditative activity that’s been shown to elevate mood levels and reduce stress.
As a low impact form of cardio exercise, hula hooping can be practiced by almost anyone and due to its minimal equipment requirements, it can be practiced almost anywhere!
GETTING STARTED: Finding your hoop
Spinning a hoop around your body, sounds easy, looks easy and after a few tries, it is, but following our guide might get you there just a little bit quicker.
First things first, the hula hoop. We cover all the options available below but for now let’s cover the basic model and the most important thing- finding the right size. Stand up straight and measure the distance from the floor to your belly button- this measurement is the diameter of the hoop you require.
PRO TIP: Most adults begin with a hula hoop between 39 and 44 inches. Hoops that are larger and heavier are easier for beginners due to the momentum keeping them up.
GETTING STARTED: Time to get moving
You’ve got your hoop, it fits, its round, you’re ready to go.
Once you’re stood in your hoop. Put one foot in front of the other to give yourself more stability. Hold the hoop just above your hips and relax it against one side of your torso. Spin the hoop- if you’re right handed firmly spin the hoop anti clockwise and if you’re left handed spin it in a clockwise direction.
Naturally you’ll want to react to the hoop by moving your waist in a circular motion but you should just move your torso back and forward. Push your stomach forward as the hoop moves across your stomach and push the hoop back when it moves across your back.
Now you’ve mastered the movement keep spinning and allow your body to learn how to react to the hoops changing tempo and pressure.
Don’t let a few drops and slips break your confidence, this is bound to happen when you’re starting off. As you get more used to the feeling of it slowing down, you’ll learn how to counter it and bring it back up to your hips.
Check out the video below for a more detailed breakdown on how to start Hooping.
TYPES OF HOOPS
Available in a huge range of colour combinations these are the classic Hula Hoop. The different diameter and tube thickness options make them accessible for all body types and ages. Typically, the smaller diameter and thinner hoops are for kids however adults looking for a lighter hoop may choose a thinner Hoop in a large diameter. Due to demand a majority of these are now manufactured in a travel version that fold up to half the diameter ensuring easier transport but retaining the strength of a fixed hoop.
These hoops are available in multiple Hula hoop weights to increase the challenge on your abs and strengthen your core. More weight builds up more momentum but it takes more strength to get them spinning. If you’re looking to get fit through Hula hoop then this is the type you’re after however we would recommend getting to grips with a lighter model first to learn the technique.
The 21st Century evolution adds light displays to the affair. Available in a range of multiple modes and effects, rechargeable and battery operated, remote controlled and button operated. These hoops add another dimension to any performance.
These smaller hoops are for creating mesmerising displays of manipulation outside the body. Similar to contact ball manipulations they can be moved in ways to look as if they’re hovering in the air. They can be found in multiple colours or in a very polished metal perfect for stage performances.
These add an element of danger and intrigue to your spins. Fire hoops can be used for conventional spins and manipulations. Although the fire wicks are on the outside of the Hula hoop there is still a very real element of danger so these should only be used by people well trained in the use of fire props.
Now we don’t expect you to have this mastered in one afternoon as learning to Hula hoop takes time but have a look at this mind-blowing example of what’s possible!
The Guinness world record for the largest hoop spun is held by Yuya Yamada known to his friends as ‘Hoopman’. The hoop measured a whopping 16 foot 10 inches in diameter!