The thrill of one wheel

Ashley on his unicycle with baby sun in a backpack

The power of one: Ashley often takes baby Max on outings on his unicycle.

Some 18 months ago Ashley Gale was out on a stroll and sighted on a bike path a local riding a unicycle.  This prompted the childlike dream of running away to the circus but Ash toned this down and went home and looked on the internet to source out more on being a unicycle rider. A keen mountain biker and having a love for the bush Ashley was drawn to the possibilities of becoming a MUnis (mountain unicycle) participant.  From the information Ashley came across it was recommended that as an adult beginner he start with a 24 inch from the wheel size range of 24 inch, 26 inch, 29 inch, 36 inch.

For some riding on two wheels it is a big enough challenge let alone a single wheel. Researching the history in Wikipedia; One theory of the advent of the unicycle stems from the popularity of the penny farthing during the late 19th century. Since the pedal and cranks were connected directly to the front axle, the rear wheel would go up in the air as the rider moved slightly forward. Many penny-farthing owners discovered they could dispense with the frame and just ride the front wheel and handlebars. Evidence for this theory of development can reportedly be found in pictures from the late 19th century showing unicycles with large wheels.

There are many different types of unicycles including: freestyle unicycles, trials unicycles, MUnis (mountain unicycle), giraffes, long distance unicycles the larger the wheel the longer the cranks the faster the overall speed.

Within a week Ashley progressed from holding onto the fence getting his balance, to a few pedal turns, then from holding onto to a pole to start, then 10 metres then 50 metres. His next challenge was to learn how to ride free without the use of a pole, called a free mount. On mastering this it meant that he could now go out in to the bush for a ride. Ashley found You Tube a useful resource for tips, techniques and tricks. Like all sports requiring skills these develop over time and use, Ashley progressed to riding around the Bendigo Bushlands and Parks covering 10 -15 km in two hours depending on the terrain.

Commuting to work or going shopping has become a normal event carrying a loaded back pack. Ashley and his wife Monique were blessed around this time of starting out on the MUni with a baby boy Max. When old enough Ashley would take his son for a ride that would put him to sleep in his back carrying harness, Ashley commented that there will be a time soon where this will change as the weight is becoming a challenge and looks forward to when Max joins him as a unicyclist.

Recently in searching the internet Ashley came across the Australian Unicycle Society and learned about the unicycle nationals in Canberra on 1-4th October 2010. Ashley was interested in competing in the 8 km MUni event at Mt Stomlo. It was an advance MUni course with 2 km of climbing on fire trails to the top, then rocky single track with hairpin turns and berms and steep descents. Unfortunately on one steep decent Ashley ended up descending on his backside instead of the MUni, but it was a great course regardless.

Other events at Unicycle Nationals were unicycle hockey and basketball, skills testing on international unicycle skills levels, trials including hopping onto rocks and riding over pallets, track and fields events including juggling races, high jump and long jump, flat land riding in a skate park, and 5 km and 10 km races. There seemed no barrier to ability as competitors where from all ages from young kids to older adults.

There are three things to remember when trying to learn to ride:

  1. Keep your weight on the seat, not on the pedals.
  2. Sit up very very straight, as if the seat post is going up your bottom into your back
  3. When you start the pedals should be almost on a horizontal plane, and your  first leg “stroke” will be to push down. Then, when you start going, keep pedalling, forward momentum is critical. Lean very slightly forward, which is the direction you are travelling look ahead not down. Flail your arms outwards in circles to gain balance.

Some say it is half the bike for twice the person.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing

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