Ride the Lobster and other unicycling stuff

I run a Go Ride cycling session on Friday afternoons at my children’s primary school. This has been in hibernation over the winter. However, there’s a nice warm gym handy so I thought I’d make use of it.

I created a school unicycling club. With a bit of cash from the local authority’s sport budget I bought six unicycles from Unicycle.com and advertised lessons via a school newsletter. At this point I still couldn’t unicycle myself. I knew I’d have to learn quickly, though, because 20 percent of the kids wanted to attend my lessons!

I bought a how-to book and dusted down the unicycle I’ve owned for ages but never mastered. A few hours of hopelessness later I was hooked and just about able to wobble far enough to call myself a unicyclist.

It doesn’t half tax your leg muscles. It’s not the balance that topples me now, it’s the lactic acid burn.

With Coach Carlton now semi-proficient at one wheeling I was let loose on the kids (I’ve split them up into groups, there were too many to have in one session).

I was lucky. Two German girls were already long-in-the-tooth ‘einradders’. Instead of falling off in front of the kids – not a good look for a coach – I could point to Angela and Julia.

“Look. That’s how it’s done. Now, copy them.”

It’s pretty tough to teach unicycling. It’s very much a self-taught discipline. I put the kids up against a wall, show them how to keep steady by pushing their body weight all through one leg, teach them the difference between vertical and horizontal pedal planes and then leave them to work the rest out for themselves.

OK, it may be a little more advanced than this, but not much. After week three, I now have three kids who have cracked the technique and I can feel that the rest are getting close.

I love the fact that, in Japan, unicycling is compulsory in one school year. Unicycling teaches balance, coordination, and discipline. It’s not just for clowns any more.

These are two of the biggest unicycling vids on YouTube having been watched 750,000+ times each.

You think alley cat racing vids are rad? Watch it done on a large-wheel unicycle (and watch it until the end…):

The Manhattan unicycling vid is from Balance Productions of Canada. This micro video production crew, deft at Glidecam shots through traffic, produces DVDs on extreme unicycling.

Filmmaker Brian MacKenzie of Balance Productions says “unicycling is where skateboarding and mountain biking were.”

The crew is currently organising Ride The Lobster, an 800km unicycle stage race to be held 16-20th June 2008 in Nova Scotia, Canada.

“This race is the first of it’s kind, anywhere,” says MacKenzie.

Unicycling is certainly getting itself about. Mountain unicycling will be on display in Moab, Utah, next week. The 9th Annual Moab MUni Fest will be held March 28th to 30th. It will feature trials, demonstrations, and trail rides of some of Moab’s most famous terrain, including the Slickrock Bike Trail and Moab Rim Trail.