It’s a lot easier than it looks
Photo by Tina Wallace
RIDING THE WHEEL is probably something thought to be impossible when it was first invented. Apparently not much has changed since then, besides the fact that we actually do ride it.
“Riding a unicycle just seems impossible,” said Jérémie Gaudreau, fourth-year mechanical engineering student at the University of Ottawa. “I still think it’s impossible.”
Gaudreau explains that when he rides the unicycle, he often hears a lot of the same comments from other people. They call out to him, saying, “Where’s your other wheel?” or “Did you get your bike half off?”
The jokes began with those awfully disproportional bikes they used to call penny-farthing—a name literally coined based on the shape of coins. But while penny-farthing bikes are a rare sight, unicycles have stuck around.
“What’s worthwhile about it?” asks fourth-year music student Michael Carrol. “It’s cool and unique. That’s about it.”
Carrol refers to the bizarre nature of unicycles and the mental association between unicycling and circus shows as the “cool and unique” qualities of the unicycle. Gaudreau says the sport stipulates a certain disregard for the attention garnered by its oddness.
The distinction exists in various communities between unicycling as a sport—including unicycling trials, freestyle, and mountain unicycling—and unicycling for entertainment’s sake like with tightrope crossing.
The variety of the sport is even physically evident in the wheel sizes available to the average user. The standard size is 20 inches in radius, while the large wheels for long-distance riding can be up to 36 inches.
The bigger the wheel is, the faster you can go. The smaller the wheel is, the easier it is to do tricks and hop around on the unicycle.
“I just learned it takes a week to learn,” says Carrol. He says it’s something he could see himself doing because it’s a fun activity, but still doesn’t understand why a person would want to ride on a single wheel as opposed to two.
Gaudreau’s answer to this question: “It’s accomplishing that which appears impossible at first glance.”