British mountain unicycling fanatic Edd Hawkes spills the beans on the quirky young sport
My brother bought a unicycle and we learnt to ride it together. Because I’d always been into BMX, it was a natural progression to start learning to jump on it and do tricks. As we started learning more and more, we discovered extreme unicycling was actually a thing. I really like it because it’s a bit different and it always challenges me. I’ve met loads of great people and travelled all over because of unicycling.
The main thing that has kept me motivated to ride all these years is the community. Every time I go to an event, it feels like I’m going to see my family. Unicycling seems to attract a certain type of person, which means we all get along really well. Unlike many other sports or hobbies I have been involved with, there is absolutely no politics or drama in the unicycle scene. Everyone is so friendly and caring towards each other, I’ve never met another group of people like that.
Unicycling is global. Perhaps more so than some other sports because it attracts so few participants. We have quite a lot of riders in the UK, but if you want to attend competitive events, you have to travel outside the country.
Most disciplines of unicycling other than the classic circus style are relatively young still. As with any young sport, we’re still working things out like competition rules and such. As a result, competitions and events are very informal and have a really friendly atmosphere.
I’ve travelled all over the world to attend events and meet-ups, to some places I never thought I’d go. There are various regional championships in Europe and a world championships which is held bi-annually, called UNICON. It will be held in South Korea next year and I’m excited to see what it’s like!
The key to learning is to find something you can hold onto while sitting upright on the unicycle. Keep your back straight and look straight ahead at the point you would like to ride to. You need to lean slightly forwards as you pedal so you can maintain forward momentum.
You absolutely don’t need good balance to try this. You learn the balance. Unlike on a bike, you have to balance forwards and backwards as well as side to side, but you do that when walking, too, and everybody learns to do that when they are a baby. I think it mostly depends on how determined you are to do it! I’ve seen people jump on and ride straight away, with no prior experience, but it took me about three weeks. I got aches in places I never knew I had muscles when I first learned!
Mountain unicycles are specialised machines. The only parts we share in common with bikes are the pedals and tyres. I get all my gear from the guys at unicycle.com. They are the authority on everything unicycling, whether you’re looking for a learner unicycle or a top of the range machine.
The best way to get into it is to either find a local unicycle or juggling club. Juggling clubs are much more common and there will usually be someone willing and able to teach you! Failing that, you could come along to one of our British Mountain Unicycling weekends!