Disciplines mainly concerned with riding a unicycle.
This involves riding a unicycle mostly on cycle paths and roads (obeying the road rules!), and aiming for distance and endurance.
Types of Unicycle
Road and distance riders typically use unicycles with larger wheels, as a larger wheel will cover more distance in one revolution. The larger wheel allows riders to achieve a higher speed. Road and distance riders usually use 36″, or 29″ wheels. They can also include a geared hub (for 1:1 or 1:1.5 gearing), and often include a brake to aid in descending steep hills.
Once you are comfortable with riding a unicycle, this is similar to riding a bicycle. Due to the larger wheel, there is a risk involved in mounting the unicycle, as most riders have to use a rolling mount, which involves walking forward with the unicycle in front of you, and jumping up on to the pedals while moving the seat underneath you. This can be quite amusing to watch!
Most UPDs (UnPlanned Dismounts — ie. falling off) when mounting occur as a result of dropping off the back or the front of the unicycle, which usually result in the rider landing on their feet.
A large number of UPDs while riding, often involve the riding ‘running out’ on their feet, if you aren’t pedalling as quickly as you can — I’ve ran out of a UPD while riding at about 24 km/h on a 36″ unicycle.
If you are climbing or descending a hill, you tend to be going quite slowly, and will tend to just drop off either the front (going uphill) or back (going downhill) of the unicycle.
The worst injury I’ve sustained while doing this has been skin grazing as a result of sliding along an athletics track after coming off the front of my 36″ unicycle. Injuries no worse than injuries that I sustained while trying to learn to ride a bike. The worst case (barring collision with any other objects!) would be comparable to tripping up whilst running/sprinting.
There are no handlebars to get in your way!
Standard bike helmet, knee pads, and gloves would be a good idea, as most non-feet landings tend to be on hands and knees. Elbow pads can also be handy in case the rider twists whilst falling and hence slides on their arm. Leg armour (which can also cover the knees) can also be worn, although the shins will generally be ok. If riding a unicycle with metal pedals, which often contains metal pins to help stop your feet from slipping on the pedals, then it is a good idea to wear leg armour that also covers the back of the legs!
Typical 36″ road unicycles seem to be around the AU$800 – AU$900 range. It is also possible to get a brake and also a geared hub, both being optional (and usually expensive) extras.
Mountain unicycling is the unicycling equivalent of mountain biking. It involves riding a (suitable) unicycle on dirt tracks/roads (more cross-country), and over more difficult terrain which can involve rocks, ruts, hills, and other technical challenges.
Types of Unicycle
Mountain unicycles tend to be built to be stronger than road/learner unicycles, to help withstand the rider dropping off obstacles and hopping. Mountain unicycles will typically have a 3″ wide tyre with a chunky tread (similar to that found on some 4WD tyres), for extra grip. They should have a handle at the front of the seat which can be used to help control the unicycle, and to also help the rider apply more force to the pedals to either help control the speed when riding downhill, or to help climb hills. A brake and geared hub can also be added as (expensive) optional extras.
MUni cross country
The risk level is higher than normal road riding, mainly due to the type of terrain you are likely to be riding over. Having said that, most of the time I have found that I still land on my feet. It may even be less risky (once you have learnt to ride a unicycle normally!) than mountain biking, as unicyclists will typically ride down hills slower (due to the lack of a brake and inability to free-wheel!) and hence tend not to get airbourne so much (although that is possible, with practice). Unicycles, despite lacking a steering wheel, brake, and free-wheel ability, are considerably controllable. It is possible to pull-up a unicycle pretty quickly, hop on the spot, hop to jump up onto, or over, an obstacle, and also twist on the spot. All these skills, once mastered, can help the rider avoid hitting an obstacle. Anyway, worse comes to worst, it is a lot easier to jump free of a unicycle than to jump free of a mountain bike.
The worst injury I’ve seen, so far, from mountain unicycling is a sprained ankle, and that was incurred on a double black mountain bike downhill track.
Wearing a bike helmet would be a good idea. Knee and elbow pads would also be a good idea, mainly because of the more difficult terrain. If you ride in to a rock, or other obstacle, and aren’t correctly balanced for it, then the unicycle is likely to just stop dead which will increase the chance of the rider landing on their hands and knees as opposed to on their feet. The IUF rules require shoes, kneepads, gloves/wristguards and helmets to be worn for muni competition events.
Leg armour which covers the back of the legs is a good idea, especially since mountain unicycles tend to have metal pedals with metal pins in them to help stop your feet from slipping on the pedals. These pins will usually draw blood if they strike your legs, which can occur as the result of a bad bail-out or your foot/feet slipping.
Mountain unicycles typically retail for around AU$400 – $500.