Starting

The $5 Unicycle 2021-01-16 18:29:28

"You're up!" I said, as I got up off my hands and knees from a well-practiced fall.

"That was awesome" - my friend said as he quickly grabbed the unicycle off the ground and marked the new distance with the toe of his sneaker.

In a few days, it might have been weeks, but felt like minutes. We started from zero and taught each other how to ride a unicycle. We didn't discuss games or television or people. We had a simple objective: get past the furthest line from the start.

And so it went. We took turns mounting the unicycle by holding onto the divider between a two-car garage.  We leaned into the pedal and inevitable wobble, shake and bail before we jumped off into a jog to accumulate the forward momentum.

The seat of the unicycle quickly got damaged a little with every drop. No problem, we wrapped it with a towel and duct tape. We probably used electrical tape. We didn't know what we were doing and our dads weren't around to guide us. Heck, it could have been masking tape, but I remember we did it more than once so we must have learnt what worked.

No class, no instructor,  no reason, we just wanted to get past the farthest line; to doe better. It was pure competition with nothing to win but the anticipation of having to do more and stay in the game.

Once we got to the end of the driveway, the real game was on. Instead of looking down, our chins lifted and eyes started looking ahead. Pretty soon, we rode with heads up and made it to the corner. Then, around the block. 

The first trip around the block was a milestone. I'd have to buy a second unicycle so we could ride together. Then a funny thing happened.

The new unicycle was different. The seat tube was straight not bent. The pedals were connected to real crank arms rather than bent, heavy-gauge metal rod. It was easier to balance and control. We had to laugh. This whole time, we were building our skills on piece-of-crap toy unicycle purchased for $5 at a garage sale. We didn't know there was an option. We just started where we were and used what we had.

To this day, when I think of what I'd like a learning experience to be, the $5 Unicycle comes to mind. We didn't bother complaining about equipment or optimizing for comfort. We started. If the goal was to be able to ride under control, every inch of experience we got moved us toward the goal. The friendly competition kept us engaged and laughing at our mistakes — we held an expectation that we'd try and go farther. In hindsight, it was only effort and incremental improvement toward competence — inch by inch, as the saying goes. Most of all, it was fun.

Brian Ball

Back on the Bike Salesperson Caught on Video

More from Starting

Even though I haven't driven a car with a stick shift in many years, I am glad that's how I learned to drive. For some reason, this story made me think of that. 
2021-01-17 20:26:56
Damn really was curious about how much time you put into this but it looks like you are hazy on the time details. Probably because you were having so much fun. 
2021-01-19 16:40:26
Exactly Abe - I'm sure it was a couple of weeks at least. We were on it every day for hours.
2021-01-20 05:49:35