Ah, the humble unicycle. Trusted transport of jugglers, quirky eccentrics, and clowns.
Maybe not the most esteemed mode of transport, but certainly one of the most interesting!
There are about 1 million people in the US who can ride a unicycle.
Even a whole host of celebrities can ride one – including Coldplay’s Chris Martin, actor Rupert Grint, Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton, and basketball player Miles Plumlee!
But what do you know much about the unicycle?
Have you ever heard of UNICON, the international biennial unicycling convention?
Or do you know what the one-wheeled bicycle was originally called? And I bet you can’t tell me how tall the tallest unicycle ever was!
Well, prepare to get on that unicycle and learn all about it with these 5 interesting facts about the unicycle.
The unicycle wasn’t originally called the unicycle.
Yup, the most obvious name for the unicycle wasn’t its original name.
The original patent, filed in 1869 by inventor Frederick Myers, listed the single-wheeled contraption as a “velocipede” – something later backed up by another patent from inventor Battista Scuri in his 1881 patent for a “velocipede.”
Now, “velocipede” was just a term for any sort of human-powered cycling machine, but it wasn’t until people started calling two-wheelers bicycles that people started referring to the one-wheeler as a unicycle.
Also, is it just me or does “velocipede” sound like a weird velociraptor/centipede hybrid?
There are a lot of different types of unicycles.
Despite the fact that they’re basically all just a wheel, pedals, and (sometimes) a seat, there are loads of variations on the unicycle out there!
And, as you might expect, some of them have great names.
There are seat-less unicycles, known as “ultimate wheel‘s”, tall unicycles very fittingly called “giraffes“, “munis”, which are the mountain bike equivalent of a unicycle, and “multi-wheeled unicycles”.
Oh, and “kangaroos” where the rider has to move both of their feet in unison, making them look like a kangaroo hopping along!
There are unicycle conventions, sports, and races.
People get big into unicycling! So much so that there are multiple conventions – UNICON and Eurocycle being the two biggest.
At these conventions, choreographed team routines, skill show competitions and races are a common thing you would see.
But the races at these conventions aren’t the only unicycle races you’ll see though – the Unicross All-Terrain World Championship is the best of the best as far as unicycle races go.
Here, unicyclists race across an all-terrain obstacle course at the international Cyclocross Championship.
That all said, the true pièces de résistance of competitive unicycling have to be unicycle basketball and unicycle hockey.
The rules of both games are the same as their bipedal counterparts, meaning that contestants in unicycle basketball have to dribble the ball whilst unicycling.
Unicycle basketball is the most popular of the two, with the Puerto Rico All Star Unicycling Basketball Team being renowned as the world’s best team.
However, both of them are international sports with leagues in Germany, France, Switzerland, Puerto Rico, and the UK!
The world’s tallest unicycle was over 100 feet tall!
It was a huge 114.8 feet tall! Sem Abrahams rode the ginormous unicycle into the record book when he rode it a distance of 28 feet in January 2004.
Due to the sheer height of the unicycle, Sem had to make sure he wore a safety line that was attached to a crane so he could ride safely without seriously endangering himself if he fell off.
There are some incredible unicycle world records.
Unsurprisingly, some people have done some cool and crazy stunts with unicycles that have landed them into the record books!
Some of the most impressive records are things that you might expect.
For example, the Longest Unicycle Chain had 251 unicyclists all peddling along together with their arms linked. There’s also the Longest Unicycle Rail Grind of 9 foot.
And then there are the absolutely bizarre and brilliant ones.
The Most Consecutive Unicycle Backflips On A Trampoline was a record deservedly won by one crazy Canadian named Cameron Fraser in May 2003.
Although the craziest unicycle world record, by a trampoline leap, has to be the record for Most Tea-Cups Caught On Head While On A Unicycle… just wow.
This incredible moment for mankind was achieved by one Rudy Horn, juggler extraordinaire, in 1951.
Now, it’s impressive enough that he caught the teacups and saucers on his head whilst riding… but it’s triply impressive when you find out he was kicking them up with his feet, then catching them on his head, whilst riding the unicycle!
Unable to see the catches, or look down at his feet for the throws for the hazard of toppling the tea set from his head, Rudy performed the stunt mostly by feel.
By the time he was done, Rudy had stacked six teacups and six saucers on his head!
Just to top it all off, he flicked up a teaspoon with a sugar cube in it, catching them both in the top teacup atop his head.
Sometimes you’ve got to wonder if anything you ever achieve will be as amazing as throwing teacups and saucers up onto your head, with your feet, whilst riding a freaking unicycle…