A journalist for the Mount Royal College Journal
June 8, 2003
The following following article may be of interest to many of you reading this. Aaron asked a number of us for some answers to his questions for his article posted below from the Mount Royal College Journal. I have also posted one set of the original questions below the article and answers Aaron had since they are common questions and may be useful in addition to our FAQ, with Aaron's permission.
1)How did you first get into the sport?
I got into the sport when I was 11 years old (I'm 25 now) for some unknown reason, I was a kid and saw one in the hardware store and I thought it would be pretty fun to learn, so I saved up some money and bought my first unicycle. It took me quite a while to learn on my own, and I didn't know anyone else who could ride one, but with lots of practice, I learned to ride well and eventually I either found people to ride with or I taught them myself.
2)What kind of events are there for competitors?
The are lots of events, if one is willing to travel, but it's fairly unlikely that there will be anything local unless there are local clubs. The big competition each year (UNICON) is in a different part of the world every time, but it includes a competition for pretty much everything you could possibly imagine you could do on a unicycle. There is also the odd competition in the states, or in the UK where there are simply many more unicyclists around to make it possible.
3)What made you start the unipsychoes?
I started the Calgary Mountain Unipsychos because I knew there were other unicyclists in Calgary but I didn't know how to find them. I only knew three or four other riders but we all thought it would be fun if there are more people to get together with and learn new skills. I also thought that a web site might be the best place for people to find the club (at least those who have the Internet) and I was already familiar with web design from running my own company, Ethereal 3D.
4)Do you expect the sport to become hugely popular in the near future?
I don't think that unicycling, mountain, freestyle or trials, will ever become hugely popular. Any sport that has a really steep learning curve never seems to become hugely popular, and unicycling is definitely one of those sports. I don't get me wrong, anyone can learn but you need dedication and have some hard work to get really good. Personally, I like the fact that unicycling is a very rare sport and it is exhilarating to be able to ride places on a unicycle that people never even thought was possible. My favorite times when I'm unicycling are when I'm riding down a rocky slope in the mountains and you meet people hiking or biking and they are amazed to see a mountain unicyclist, let alone riding on the same brutal trails without gears or brakes!
Mountain unicycling, and trials unicycling have grown substantially in the past few years, which have been a big help in making a higher demand to get better equipment more selection, and more people designing quality components. Since five or six years ago, there are probably 10 times the number of products and unicycle's to buy that were never available before. This has made the sport a lot more enjoyable because of better equipment and at the same time, a lot more accessible for new people getting into it.
5)What would you like to see happen to the sport? More competitions?
Personally, I'm extremely happy with the sport right now, there is great equipment available, great inspiration from the huge unicycling community on the Internet, and there are already competitions held for people who are interested. I am personally not very interested in competitions, I've always learned every skill on my own and the sport is very much about self-motivation and dedication to push yourself further than ever before. As long as your approving your own skill set in trying new things, I don't think competition can make that any more enjoyable. Mountain unicycling, freestyle, or trials are all very different so it's also difficult to judge or compare riding abilities.
I really enjoy being able to ride with other people, helping people and learning from other people about the new skills with mountain unicycling so those are the things I hope keep improving for the sport. The Internet is a great resource for finding help and there are more and more people getting into the sport to ride with it. I've produced my own mountain unicycling video called, "Unipsycho Extreme" which includes narrated training clips to help people improve their skills. It's great to be able to learn skills from other riders and that is what I think the sport needs the most.
6)What does someone have to do to become a member of the unipsychoes?
In order to join the Calgary Mountain Unipsychos, all you need to do is learned to ride a unicycle, and come riding with us sometime. Our club is quite informal, but it's a great way to learn new skills from other unicyclists and it's a great way to enjoy the outdoors.
7)Where is the best place to ride?
There are too many places to name one as the best place to ride, but I personally most enjoy long steep rooted singletrack in the Rockies. There's a huge variety of riding in and around Calgary, and the nearby mountains make for some of the best scenic trails. I've riden Vancouver's Northshore and it is definitely one extremely challenging ride and I wish I had more opportunities to ride their, but I sure can't complain about the local scene.
8)Are there training camps for beginners?
I'm not sure if there are any specific training camps just for unicycling, I know unicycling is being used more regularly for sports training in the off-season for other sports that require excellent balance skills, and a number of those people end up becoming mountain unicycling as well. As far as I know, there aren't any local such camps, but clubs are probably the best places to learn from anyway because unicycling is a way easier to learn with the help of another person. Holding onto someone's shoulder while they walk is the fastest method if you ask me, and I've taught a lot of people to ride.
9) Where's the best place to buy a unicycle?
There are two options, either buy a fairly inexpensive Norco unicycle which is available locally at a number of bike shops, or order a higher quality unicycle through the mail. The biggest shop anywhere is probably unicycle.com in the states or you can order from Bedford unicycle's in Ontario. It all depends on how much money you want to spend and how strong of a unicycle you need. He definitely get what you pay for with a unicycle, and they do need to take a lot of abuse if you plan on riding hard. You can spend anywhere from $200 to $2000, just like bikes, there's a big range.
Most people by a really cheap unicycle when they first learn and end up having to upgrade to something stronger once they've destroyed the first one. I usually don't recommend this, because the cheaper unicycle's are more difficult to learn, not as comfortable and very frustrating if parts are constantly breaking.
10)Do you think unicylces will ever be a popular as bicycles?
I know they won't be. They are harder to learn, not as fast, and require a lot more effort than a bike.
11)What are some of the tricks that you can do that a bike can't?
Maneuverability of a unicycle is a way better than any bike, which gives some definite advantages, especially on narrow beams, ledges and logs. You can turn on a dime, ride backwards, easily hop sideways, and you can do all this with both arms free. There a lot of freestyle skills similar to BMX freestyle skills and their are tons of trials skills on unicycles that are exactly the same as trials biking. Mountain unicyclists are doing 360° air spins, huge gaps and well over 6' drops, leaping over 2 foot logs while descending a brutal single track and skidding down skree slopes without brakes. It is all approached a bit differently and at different speeds and a unicyclist has to always be pedalling, so there is no easy coasting down a slope. As far as trails go, unicyclists are doing 6' gaps, riding up and down stairs, gliding without the pedals, doing 4' pedal and crack climbs over and onto huge obstacles and landing pinpoint drops and gaps on beams, ramps, and teeter totters. Many of the skills can be done in both sports, they're just done to different extremes.
Thanks for your time,
Aaron Dane Lutz
Sure thing Aaron, I hope I answered all of your questions...
Mike the Unipsycho