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How I learned to ride on one wheel

By Tammy Marsh

    The first time I ever touched a unicycle was the summer after I graduated from high school. I had heard many stories about how my uncle could ride, and this summer, my sister and I asked him if we could borrow it.
    Learning to ride on this 20-some year old unicycle was fun because we knew several relatives had also learned to ride on this very one. The first time I got on it, I had two shoulders to hold onto, and one person also held the seat in place. I wondered how I was ever going to be able to stay upright on the thing!
    My sister and I took turns practicing. We found a great place to start learning: a tennis court. We would ride around the inside of the court, holding onto the fence with one hand and a shoulder with the other. We practiced for a couple hours, and by the end of the evening, we were able to ride by just touching the fence for balance every few inches or feet.
    After that, we tried riding by only hanging onto one person's shoulder. My sister and I took turns riding around the block while the other one walked for support.
    Eventually, we got brave enough to push off and go by ourselves for a short distance. It helped to ride with a shoulder to hang onto first, then letting go. We were very proud when, after seven days of practicing, we could ride for 15-30 feet alone.
    We just kept improving from there. We got to be quite good at riding; the only part we needed help on was mounting. We had to use either a person or a fence or a tree to actually get on the unicycle, then we could ride. It took a lot of practice to learn to free mount, but I desperately wanted to do it. Sometimes I practiced for half an hour at a time strictly on mounting. Once in a while, I would get up and get moving! One day I mounted 21 times during my hundreds of attempts. Gradually I perfected my skill until I could get on in the first three to five tries. Then it took one or two. Now I almost always mount the first time I try. It's extremely rewarding to be completely independent of any help to mount and ride.
    We also practiced turning. First wide turns in the street, then tighter and tighter turns until we could turn corners on sidewalks.
    During the summer, we came into contact with others who could ride. The two sons of our neighbors up the street wowed us with their amazing unicycling abilities. They gave us some good ideas for stunts to try, and let us ride their six-foot giraffe unicycle. By the end of the summer, we could juggle for about half a block, weave between obstacles, pick up pop bottles while riding, do u-turns and ride in complete circles, ride backwards for a short distance, execute small jumps mid-ride, go down six-inch curbs, and do spins. We even succeeded in riding the giraffe unicycle. My sister and I also managed to recruit three of our friends to try unicycling. Using our uncle's uni, two borrowed unis from our neighbors, and two that we bought for ourselves that summer, we taught others how to ride. We discovered a fun and helpful way to teach others: have the inexperienced unicyclist ride in the middle of two experienced people. That way, everyone is on a uni and going the same pace, and the middle person has support. Then when the middle rider wished to go alone, she would just let go. It worked well, and it was fun to ride around in a group of four five unicyclists. We attracted quite a lot of attention.
    I find unicycling to be a unique and fun hobby. There is always something new to try: new mounts, riding on your stomach, walking the wheel.... We are willing to try new things all the time. Unicycling is good exercise as well, and more fun than biking.

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