By Ron Stein, SF Ambassador
Among the e-rideable products out on the market today, the electric unicycle (EUC) is the one that’s very unique and extremely fun. There are many different electric unicycles out there, all of which are a fun way and efficient way to get around for errands, first-mile and/or last-mile commutes, and recreation. They are often perceived to be daunting to ride. This blog will dispel that perception and give you an alternate perspective that reveals that you already have the basic skills needed to learn and ride an EUC!
When you ride an EUC people take notice and usually comment or ask the following:
1. Is that easy to ride?
2. How long does it take to learn?
3. You must have great balance to ride that thing.
I address the first question by truthfully telling people “once you’ve learned it is very easy to ride and with dedicated practice it is very easy to ride.” The answer to the second question, “how long does it take to learn”, depends on you; if you ski, snowboard, surf, skate, ride a bicycle, etc., then you will likely be able to ride an EUC very quickly. The typical amount of practice required ranges from within an hour to a couple of days to get to the point of rolling around with confidence. Using balance aids such as walls, fences, or rails and/or a skilled coach shortens the learning time.
Learning A New Skill
Here’s some advice that’s worked for me for many activities: when you are first learning, practice as often as possible to get your brain acclimated, develop muscle memory, and build confidence. How often? I recommend practicing for 20 to 40 minutes two or three times a day for at least several consecutive days.
People often say “you must have great balance to ride that thing.” So, I always respond by saying “you already possess the fundamental balance and skill to ride an EUC because you all you have to do is stand on the platforms and lean.” We [human bipeds] balance upright with precision every moment that we stand, walk, run, and participate in any of the activities previously mentioned. A bicycle has a seat between its front and rear wheels, so balancing forward and backward is done mechanically. Likewise, an EUC electronically balances front-to-back to keep you upright. So just like riding a bicycle, you never have to think about balancing forward and backward. You only have to develop confidence to balance side-to-side on the EUC, which, as a human and/or bicyclist, is a skill you are already very good at! I’ll go so far as to say that standing on an EUC and learning how to control it is more natural than learning how to sit on a bicycle and ride one.
Finding Your Stability
Mounting and standing on an EUC, in a balanced neutral position, is one of the first things to learn that can be done right away using a wall, fence, rails, or an assistant to help you maintain side-to-side balance (neutral position means that your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles are all vertically aligned such that you are standing straight up. When you stand straight up on the EUC’s platforms, including while rolling, it will automatically stay underneath you.
Just as it’s not possible to maintain side-to-side balance on a bicycle when not moving, the same applies to an EUC, so you’ll want to progress to rolling at least a few miles per hour as soon as you are comfortable standing upright. After getting comfortable standing up and feeling how the EUC responds to leaning forward to start/accelerate and leaning back to decelerate/stop, you are ready to begin rolling increasingly further distances … one foot, a few feet, then free-rolling. Turning is super simple - to initiate a turn just gently look in the direction that you want to turn and as if by magic your body and the EUC will go that direction. As you practice rolling, you will find that you use your balance aid(s) or assistant less and less until you don’t need to rely on them at all. When you reach that point, you are ready to roll (pun intended). When you start free-rolling I strongly recommend choosing a large flat area such as a school yard or parking lot that’s free of obstacles and traffic (cars, people, dogs). If you go to a shopping center parking lot try to use the shopping cart cages as your training rails or anywhere with stable and accessible railing.
Patience & Repetition
Having patience is also helpful. Learning to ride will happen for you, so if it takes you a bit longer or you just want to be cautious, enjoy the time spent refining the basic skills knowing that you are improving your balance, concentration, and core strength.
In addition to what’s been covered in this blog, there are numerous tutorials to help you learn to ride and EUC, one of the best and most popular is by our very own Experience Director, Jeffrey Scott Will. You can watch “Learning How To Ride: Electric Unicycle” on Youtube. His training methods really work! I know this firsthand because I recently attended learn-to-roll training events with Jeff. Using his quick-start method we helped people to stand upright on an EUC within a couple minutes, then after another couple minutes of instruction – Jeff assisted people to roll around for several minutes at a time!
If you think rolling around on an electric unicycle would be fun (and you know you do), I hope I’ve given you the perspective that it’s not as daunting as you might initially think. I also hope to have given you an awareness of the abilities you already have that can be leveraged to quickly become an avid electric unicyclist.
If you do get an electric unicycle and learn to ride, please leave a comment about your experience. Ride on :)