Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Learning to ride a freewheel Unicycle: Session #2

It's been over a week since my last (first) session with my freewheel unicycle, "White Widow".  I was very concerned with so much time between practice that this second session wouldn't go too well. However, I was pleasantly surprised with my progress overall.  Here is what I changed with my unicycle setup:

1. Swapped the 152mm cranks for 125mm cranks.

2. Lowered the tire pressure significantly from near max psi to something more like 30 psi.

Ryan C and I met once again behind the HCES but this time I brought my own Jeep and parked right on the edge of the small asphalt track.  To mount I wedged the unicycle wheel right into the running board, placed the cranks in the 12-6 position (dead position) and carefully stepped onto the pedals while grabbing the roof of my jeep to pull myself up and into the saddle.  Then I'd carefully keep front pressure on the cranks, lean slightly forward and rotation 90° to face parallel to the jeep and track.  Then I'd simply begin to ride off slowly and see how far I could get before a UPD (Unplanned Dismount). While session #1 my best efforts were measured in feet, this time my best efforts were measured in yards, many yards!  I even was reasonably successful at purposefully pedaling-coasting-pedaling. 

With a freewheel unicycle I've learned what NOT to do that is counter-intuitive for anybody who knows how to unicycle.

NEVER lean back.  This is probably the most dangerous thing you can do on a freewheel unicycle.  If you lean back there is no way to counter that rotational force as pushing back on the pedal merely spins the crank around and the end result is you fall on your back, hit your head and the unicycle goes flying out in front of you.  Trust me, I speak from experience! Ouch!

So my basic riding approach, from watching several videos of successful freewheel unicyclists is to:

1. Lean much further forward than I normally would on a conventional unicycle.

2. Arms are extended in front of me rather than to the side.

3. Start out pedaling very slowly but also slowly accelerating. As long as you're accelerating, riding a freewheel unicycle is just like riding a conventional unicycle.

4. To slow down, attempt to coast with cranks vertical.  Here I've only had partial success and not consistent at all.

And into the future I think working on #4 will lead to big breakthroughs hopefully soon with more practice.  It's just a matter of fully understanding and "feeling" how the freewheel unicycle responds as I shift from pedaling to coasting and back.  Over time I'll get more comfortable with how this unicycle behaves and then I'll be able to keep riding.  Once I can ride then I can learn to free-mount using one of many techniques I've read about; all quite a bit more complicated that a standard static mount as you can't apply any back pressure to the pedals as they'll spin around; also you must use the disc brake effectively to keep the wheel from turning under you while you mount.

That's about it for now.  Total session time was about 1h 15m (goofed around on my 5' giraffe during an extended break).