One-wheelers learn a new way to motor
On a rainy Thursday evening in Roberts, 5-year-old Matthew O'Brien zoomed around the elementary school gym.
On a unicycle.
Pedaling with only one foot.
Along with Matthew's cry of "Mom, look what I just learned to do!" came yells of "aww" and "oops" from less experienced riders.
Matthew's family -- mom Tanya, dad Chris and fourth grade sister Makayla -- are members of the Twin Cities Unicycle Club. They've been leading a beginning unicycle class through St. Croix Central Community Education this month.
For a fee of $25 per family or $10 per person, participants had six nights to learn the skill of unicycling.
Unicycles were available for class members to use. Tanya said her family purchased nine unicycles in memory of her grandparents Stella and Arthur Fulton and her father Jim Schilling.
"They always loved watching me ride unicycle as a child," she explained.
St. Croix Central Elementary physical education provided its three unicycles for the class, and others were provided by TCUC.
This was the first-ever TCUC held class in Wisconsin, Tanya said. To prepare to teach it, she talked to other club members and researched on the Internet.
Although there isn't a magic formula for learning to unicycle, there are a few tips beginners should try to remember, said Tanya, who's been riding since she was 11.
The big thing is to keep your weight on the seat, rather than on the pedals like when riding a bicycle, she said.
"Otherwise you're just fighting yourself," advised Makayla, who learned to ride at age 7.
Next, keep your arms out and back straight for balance, Tanya said. Use the balls of your feet and smile to relax, she said.
Then it's a matter of practice and will power, said mother and daughter.
"After that, it's up to you to learn. You have to want to learn," Tanya said.
The first day of class started with an overview of the unicycles and safety. Then, class members took their first tries at riding the contraptions.
They weren't completely on their own, however. TCUC club members battled rush hour traffic to lend a helping hand -- literally. Members walked or rode alongside class participants to help them balance.
As class members felt inclined, they could try riding on their own or with a friend. The walls surrounding the gym also provided some needed support for others.
Even the most veteran unicycle riders fall sometimes, Makayla said.
"Sometimes you make a weird mistake and fall," she advised. "Sometimes it just happens."
TCUC offers classes throughout the year in the Twin Cities area. By teaching the classes, they perform community service, gain new members and get gym time.
Gym time is key to learning tricks, like Matthew's one-foot pedaling and advancing in Unicycling of America skill levels.
Tanya, Makayla and Matthew are all at level two of 10, but working on level three. One trick, riding over a 10-by-10 centimeter obstacle course, is holding them back, Tanya said. Thirteen TCUC members have attained level 10.
Those with "ride a unicycle" on their bucket list will have another chance to try without travelling far this winter.
The eight-week session will cost is $10 per person or $25 for a family, including the use of unicycles, Tanya said. No other details are yet available.
The class will be limited to 12 people to assure everyone one-on-one time.
This session's unicycle class filled up fast, said Community Ed Director Paulette Anderson. Check Community Ed's Web site at www.sccce.com for upcoming classes.