No! Unicycles are not hard to ride. Sure, it takes practice and not many people (ie nobody) jumps on a unicycle for the first time and rides it flawlessly but anybody can learn to ride a unicycle.
In fact, I’d go as far as saying if you can walk, you can learn to ride a unicycle.
How Difficult Is Unicycling?
So, anyone who can walk can ride a unicycle? It’s a bold claim but I stand by it.
Think about it: you’re already using all the skills you need – moving your legs, balancing to stay upright, using your coordination to move different parts of your body in sequence.
Unicycling is a lot like walking, it’s just that you’re sat down while doing it!
Think back to all those years ago when you were just a baby trying to take your first steps. How many times did you fall? How many times did you forget what to do with your legs? How many times could you not even get off the floor?
Ok, you probably don’t actually remember the answer to any of those questions but I’m sure you’ve seen a baby trying to learn to walk since then and know that the answer to all of them is quite a lot.
Yet now walking feels like the most natural thing in the world and unicycling is just the same. You’ll be unsteady and wobbly at first. You’ll lose balance from time to time and fall off. You’ll probably find that your mind has gone completely blank and you’ve no idea what to do next on occasion too.
That’s all perfectly normal though and all a part of the learning (uni)cycle.
Is walking difficult? Is carrying a tray of drinks difficult? Is balancing on your tippy-toes to reach something on a high shelf difficult?
Unicycling is no more difficult than any of those things, it just takes a bit of time to learn the movement patterns. Once you’ve got those down though, it’s just like riding a (one-wheeled) bike!
How Long Does It Take To Ride A Unicycle?
With a bit of hard work and determination (not to mention a fair amount of patience), you can learn to ride a unicycle within a day.
Now, it would be a full day of trying, failing, and trying again but it’s not unusual for beginners to pick up the basics in 5-10 hours of practice.
Ideally, those first few hours would be spread over a few days or a long weekend though. That’s partly because doing anything for 10 hours in a single day can be exhausting, partly because it’s easy to become frustrated and give up on something when you hit a sticking point and can’t get past it, and partly because the best way to reinforce learning something new is to get some sleep in between sessions.
There’s no need to rush, people unicycle well into their later years so what difference will a couple of days make now? Taking breaks or coming back fresh the next day is a great way to stay motivated and give your brain a chance to get used to the new movement patterns you are developing. It’s also a surprisingly effective way to find answers to any problems you’ve been having that day.
And if you’re anything like me, forcing yourself to stop for the evening whether you want to or not is the absolute best way to make sure I’m desperate to come back for more next time!
Is Unicycling Harder Than Riding A Bike?
Yes. Riding a unicycle is harder than riding a bicycle.
A bicycle has two points of contact with the floor. More points of contact means it’s easier to balance and balancing is the main challenge when it comes to unicycling.
If you’ve ever tried to ‘track stand‘ on a bicycle (basically trying to balance on the bike while stationary), you’ll know how hard it can be to just stay where you are.
The other aspect that new riders often struggle with on a unicycle is the need to constantly move and adjust your feet on the pedals just to stay upright.
On a unicycle, the pedals are attached to the cranks which in turn are connected directly to the wheel hub. Because you can’t freewheel on a unicycle (not normally at least), if you stop pedaling the wheel will stop moving and you will fall over.
This is another area that bicycles have an advantage – even as a beginner you can gently roll forward and focus solely on keeping your balance.
When unicycling you need to balance and pedal.
At the same time.
All the time.
And not just left and right but forward and backward too. Unicycling is a full-body activity so your coordination needs to be on point the whole time.
As I said above, it does get easier and become second nature (and you can get a killer workout from all that core activation) but there’s a lot more to think about when getting started on one wheel vs two.
It might seem like I’m giving mixed messages here – on the one hand I’m saying anybody who can walk can learn to ride a unicycle but on the other hand I’m saying it’s quite a bit more difficult than riding a bike.
So which is it? Easy or hard?
Well, it’s neither really. Unicycling isn’t easy – it’s unnatural and awkward trying to balance your whole body over one tiny, rounded point of contact on the floor.
It’s also not exactly hard – you balance when you walk, you balance when you climb the stairs, you balance when you use your body for pretty much anything in life and unicycling is no different really.
The hardest part of learning to unicycle is sticking with it. Just like learning to stand, walk or ride a bike, perseverance is key. Unicycling is no harder than any of those things, it’s just that when you were learning to do them you didn’t care how many times you ‘failed’, you just wanted to keep trying until you got it.
So rekindle some of that child-like determination and get on that unicycle and see for yourself that ‘difficulty’ is just a measure of how many times you can get back on the saddle and try again.