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Unicycle the planet

June 5, 2011
By JOHANNA BOYLE - Journal Ishpeming Bureau ( , The Mining Journal

I'm a big fan of bike rides. Car rides are fun if you have a longer distance to travel. Walking is a good way to get to where you want to go.

When the weather is nice, however, I find myself turning to an alternate mode of transportation - the unicycle.

Go ahead and finish laughing before you continue reading.

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I started unicycling during my freshman year of college, and like many of my random hobbies, I just decided I wanted to learn how to do it. So I bought one online and proceeded to learn.

Or, rather, fall off repeatedly until I could manage a little bit of forward motion.

First of all, even though both involve pedals and a wheel, riding a unicycle is nothing like riding a bike, even riding a bike with no hands, which I can't do, by the way. You'd think with a unicycle the trick would be balancing from side to side. Really the unicycle is more likely to slip out from underneath you forwards or backwards, which isn't something you need to worry about with a bike.

After a lot of falling and clinging to fences or lamp posts and taking lots of unplanned dismounts, usually in places where there are lots of other people watching, I found my sense of balance and can ride for miles at a time. Really impressive unicyclists can jump over obstacles, ride down stairs, backwards even, or take to mountain bike trails for some mountain unicycling, or muni.

But you can see all that on YouTube.

If you see me unicycling, I'll just be concentrating on getting from one point to another.

One thing I hadn't anticipated when I started learning to unicycle was the reaction from other people. I used to practice earlier in the morning before my classes started, so there weren't too many people around. When I finally moved out to the paved bike paths in the area, I was surprised at the number of comments I got, and still get, in addition to some strange looks.

"Hey, good job."

"Looks like fun."

And my favorite - "You lost half your bike."

To that, I usually laugh and tell them it fell off a few miles back. If only I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I'd be well on my way to retirement.

Although I know people are excited to see someone on a unicycle, I do tend to feel slightly self conscious when I'm out riding, so it helps to have someone jogging or skating along beside you.

Once in a while, though, I'll get really lucky and one of my friends will tell me they want to learn to unicycle, too. Like a lot of things in life, if you're doing something out of the ordinary, you'll feel a lot more comfortable if someone else is doing it with you. If one unicycle going down the street is fun to watch, two is even better and people just get that much more excited.

My latest victim - um, I mean friend - to express interest just got her first lesson on one wheel, and I have high hopes that after a few more we can leave the basketball court where we were practicing and actually go somewhere. No broken bones so far.

Since I learned on my own, I don't know what it's like to be taught to unicycle, and I'm convinced the only thing harder than unicycling is trying to explain the process to someone else.

Because you can't explain what it feels like when you're perfectly balanced or exactly how far you need to lean forward to be able to move without falling over. It's all about how your own muscles react.

But it is a lot more fun to have someone to learn with.

Editor's note:?Mining Journal Ishpeming Bureau reporter Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is



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