Believe it or not, there are a number of sports that have one main thing in common. Competitors actually ride unicycles as they play.
- Unicycle Basketball
- Unicycle Hockey
- Mountain Unicycling
- Unicycle Football
The one item that all of these sports have in common is a transportation vehicle that has only one wheel. However, there are different variations to it including a frame, saddle, pedal-drive, and direct drive.
Commonly used by circus clowns and street performers as well as festival entertainers and hobbyists, the unicycle for some reason or another has become one of the most favorite accessories to create a sport around.
Frederick Myers received the first patent for a single-wheeled “velocipedes” in 1869 and Battista Scuri received the second in 1881.
Since its appearance, the vehicle has gone through a number of variations including having no seat (called the “ultimate wheel”), seeing how tall it can be (“giraffe”) and more. During the late 1980s with the advent of extreme sports, it became an instrument for off-road, mountain, trail and street cycling.
Since the rider is depending on only one wheel, the vehicle is very unstable. That’s probably the reason why it evolved into bicycles, tricycles and quardacycles. However, if you stay with it, you could become a pretty proficient rider.
The main part of the contraption is a large wheel that requires a tire, tube, rim, spokes, hub and axle. Also included are cranks, pedals, fork-style frame, seat post and a saddle.
There are many variations including freestyle, trials, mountain, giraffe, and long distance.
Freestyle unicycles are generally used for riding on flatland. They typically have a high seat post, a narrow saddle, and a squared fork. They have a wheel size of about 20-inches (510 mm), but there are smaller models that accommodate smaller riders that feature wheels in the 16-inch to 12-inch (410 or 300 mm) range.
Trial unicycles are stronger than the standard model to withstand the stress of jumping, dropping, and supporting weight. They also feature wide 19-inch or 20-inch (510mm) knobby tires to absorb impact.
Mountain (or Munis) unicycles are specifically designed to ride on mountain bike trails. They include a thicker, wider tire to absorb shock and some have long cranks to help increase power when riding up hills and over rough terrain. Some also have a disk brake to handle descents.
Touring unicycles are specifically designed for long distance travel. The wheel features a diameter in the range of 26-inches to 36-inches so the cycle can cover more distance with less pedaling.
There are also multi-wheel variations of the unicycle including:
- Giraffe, which is chain-driven so that it can be taller than the standard model. However, the chain limits the seat height and thus influences the rider’s ability to reach the pedals due to the length of his legs. The heights of giraffes have ranged from 3-feet to more than 10-feet.
- Geared, also known as GUni, has wheels that rotate faster than the pedal cadence and are used for distance riding and racing.
- Multi-Wheeled, also known as stacks, have more than one wheel that are stacked on top of each other so that only one wheel actually touches the ground.
- Kangaroo, which includes two cranks facing in the same direction, gets their name due to the hopping motion of the rider’s legs that is said to resemble a jumping kangaroo.
- Eccentric is a unicycle with an off center hub in the wheel, which surprisingly results in an easier ride for the rider.
- Ultimate Wheel, which has no frame or seat, only a wheel and pedals.
- Impossible Wheel or BC wheel includes wheels with pegs or metal plated connected to the axle to allow the rider to stand up. The wheels of this model are made for coasting and jumping and do not have cranks.
- Monocycle, also called a monowheel, has a large wheel in which the rider sits. They include a motor or pedals. The design of this unicycle employs gyroscopic assets and a lower center of mass so it is easier to balance than a common unicycle. However, it is less maneuverable.
- Self-Balancing unicycles are computer-controlled, self-balanced and motor driven.
- Freewheeling unicycles feature a freewheel mechanism on the hub that permits the rider to coast or move forward without pedaling and cannot go backwards. These models commonly have brakes because they can’t stop like traditional unicycles. The brake lever is located in the bottom of the saddle.
In 1980, representatives from countries where unicycling and unicycling sports were popular began to meet and discuss the establishment of the International Unicycling Federation (IUF). In 1982, it was incorporated. The group has also organized UNICON, which is the Unicycle World Championships that has taken place biannually since 1984. The event hosts competitions recognized by the IUF as major disciplines of unicycling.
The sanctioned disciplines include:
- Unicycling Freestyle, an artistic sport similar to freestyle ice-skating.
- Flatland, a sport in which unicycle riders perform tricks.
- Street Riding involving competitors who perform spinning and flipping tricks down stairs and drops.
- Trials, a sport in which competitors negotiate difficult obstacle courses performing technical moves.
- Mountain Unicycling, also known as Muni, a sport that involves unicycle riders racing down mountains or maneuvering through rocky terrain.
- Distance Riding, which involves unicycle competition distance racing.
- Unicycle Hockey.
- Unicycle Basketball.
The game follows the same rules as basketball, which requires players to dribble a basketball, but they must dribble as they ride a unicycle. It is played on a regulation basketball court and also includes regulations specifically tailored to the unicycle including keeping at least one foot on a pedal when in-bounding the ball. The unicycle used in the sport is 24-inches or smaller and feature plastic pedals so that the floor of the court and the shins of the rider will not suffer injury.
Other tweaks to the rules include:
- Standard unicycles with a maximum wheel size of 25.2-inches (640mm) can be used.
- The three-second zone for standard basketball is a four-second zone in unicycle basketball.
- A player who strikes or stops the ball with any part of his unicycle or his or her legs intentionally has committed a foul.
- Traveling occurs when a player holds the ball as he or she rotates the wheels in excess of the prescribed limits –- 1 wheel rotation equals 2 steps.
- Idling, twisting and hopping are allowed. Idling is equivalent to the pivot foot; twisting, where the pedals stay at the same height while the unicycle is moving left and right is also considered a pivot foot and is allowed. The player must stay within a one-meter radius from the point where the idling or twisting started. A player may not hop (jump up and down repeatedly with the unicycle) while holding the ball. Hopping while dribbling is permitted.
- A player can play the ball while mounted on the unicycle. A player has established position on the unicycle when he or she is sitting on the seat, with both feet on the pedals and is not touching anything else for support. Once a player is mounted, he or she is considered mounted until some part of his body touches the ground. A player throwing the ball in-bounds must be mounted.
- If contact is made between the ball and an unmounted player or unicycle, the ball shall be awarded to the other team. Referees can allow incidental contact between the ball and the unicycle.
- An unmounted player must move himself and his unicycle out of the way as soon as possible without disrupting the flow of play. If that is not possible, then the player must leave the unicycle where it lands until it can be retrieved without being disruptive. A violation will result in an obstruction foul.
- An unmounted player’s unicycle is considered to be part of the player. For the purpose of a foul, a stationary riderless unicycle is considered to have established position; a riderless unicycle that is moving is considered to be out of control. Thus, if another player is hit by the moving abandoned unicycle, a foul will be called.
- A player may pick up a rolling or stationery ball on the ground and may stop a rolling ball with his hand or push a stopped ball to a teammate to pick it up.
In 2000, students at the University of California in Berkeley formed a unicycle basketball team and a campus club was created in 2009 to increase awareness and encourage growth of the sport. The team has competed in the World Championships in New Zealand in 2010 and finished in second place. It also competed in the North American Championship in July 2010 as well as the World Championship in Italy in 2012, where it finished third and was awarded a bronze medal.
A team was also created at the University of California at Santa Cruz after a student heard about the Unicon XV, the 15th Unicycle World Championships and Convention in New Zealand, from an ex-girlfriend whose uncle played in the tournament for Cal Berkeley in 2010.
Unicycle Hockey is a team sport that is similar to roller or inline hockey, except players ride unicycles as they play. Each team consists of five players and is allowed to substitute. The purpose of the game is to hit the ball with a stick into the opposing team’s goal.
The first documentation of the game occurred in 1925 with the release of Varieté, a silent movie that includes a segment in which two people are playing the game.
An article titled “The Bicycle Journal” published in August 1960 documents the existence of the Albuquerque Unicycle Club in New Mexico that played hockey including Unicycle Hockey and a pamphlet published by Columbia Unicycles, a manufacturer of the product, describes what activities can be performed on a unicycle and included drawings of people playing Unicycle Hockey.
Newspaper articles published in Japan confirm that the sport was played in that country as far back as 1971.
From 1976 through the mid-1980s a Unicycle Hockey Club known as the “Wheel People” played the game in California.
A Japanese unicyclist named Takafumi Ogasawara introduced the sport to Germany in 1985 after settling in Monheim, Germany. He was instrumental in starting the first unicycle hockey team in the country called LAHIMO when he encouraged German citizens to learn how to ride unicycles. Two months later, they participated in a demonstration game at a local event. LAHIMO was the only Unicycle Hockey team in Germany prior to 1990 until a German citizen named Jens Stemminger observed a Unicycle Hockey game at the European Juggling Convention in Oldenburg, Germany in 1990. As a result, he created a team named the Uniwheelers in Bremen, Germany. In 1991, two players with LAHIMO, Jojo Mulmeyer and Rolf Sander moved to Frankfurt where they met Robert Mager, Martin Simeth and other unicyclists fans and founded another Unicycle Hockey team called RADLOS. Soon after, a now popular Unicycle Hockey league was formed.
A British citizen who played Unicycle Hockey in Germany during his stay there from 1987 to 1988 introduced the sport into Great Britain.
The sport is now played in England, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, France, Denmark, Sweden, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Canada, Japan, The Netherlands, Puerto Rico and the United States. Leagues exist in Australia, Germany, and Switzerland.
The British Unicycle-Hockey Association (BUHA) organizes tournaments in Great Britain; the German Unicycle-Hockey League (Erste Deutsche Einradhockey-Liga) EDEL was created in 1995 and consists of 13 teams.
The first European Unicycle Hockey Championships was held at the European Juggling Convention at Leeds, Great Britain in 1993 and were moved to Eurocycle, an annual European unicycle convention, held in different cities around the world each year.
Items necessary to play the sport include:
- A unicycle
- Ice Hockey Stick
- A Tennis Ball
- Two Goals
Rules Of The Game
The game of Unicycle Hockey is played on a court that is between 35-meters and 45-meters long and 20-meters to 25 meters wide. Walls featuring beveled or rounded corners enclose the court on all sides. Each goal is located at each end of the court and are 2.50-meters from the ends of the playing field so that players can maneuver behind them. The inside dimensions of the goal are 1.20-meters high and 1.80-meters wide.
The International Unicycle Federation (IUF) published the official rules of the game, which appear at: http://www.unicycling.org/hockey/rules.html.
The game is played following the basic rules of ice hockey with some tweaks to take the unicycle into account.
The basic rules:
- Only players who are riding a unicycle can compete.
- If a player falls off his unicycle, then he must mount it at the place where he fell or, if necessary, move out of the way of play.
- A player may touch the ball once with a flat hand, but can’t do so to directly score a goal.
- If a player raises his stick above the height of his hips, it is considered exaggerated roughness.
- Intentional delays are not permitted.
- Rule violations that do not affect the course of the game should not be penalized.
- No player may endanger another player by forcing them to give way (for example, a player cannot push another player toward the wall)
- A player who is idling or resting on his stick must be evaded.
- If two players are riding adjacent to each other it is the leading player who chooses the direction of any turns. If both players are evenly side-by-side, then the player who controls the ball chooses the direction of the turn.
- If two players are approaching each other directly or at an obtuse angle, then the one with the ball has the right of way.
- A player who holds his stick in such a way that another player can ride over or against it is committing a foul.
- If a stick gets caught within the spokes of an opponent’s unicycle, the holder of the stick is committing a foul.
- A goal is disallowed if scored with an arm or hand. The defending team gets a free shot.
- A goal is disallowed if the last contact with the ball is made when the ball was in a player’s own half of the court. The defending team gets a free shot.
- If the ball is lodged in the outside of the goal net, or if it enters the goal through the net from the back through a hole in it, a free shot is given to the opposing team of the player who last played the ball.
- Players cannot intentionally drop or throw his stick.
- The upper end of the stick must always be covered with one hand to avoid injury to other players. A brief removal of the upper hand from the stick to play the ball with that hand is acceptable provided that this is done in a safe manner.
- If two or more players fall and it is unclear whether a foul has occurred, then the referees can stop the game and then continue it with a face-off.
- The referees have the authority to suspend the game if an injury occurs. After the interruption, a free shot is given to the team that was in possession of the ball at the time of the interruption. If it is unclear who was in possession of the ball, then the game is continued with a faceoff.
Mountain Unicycling (also known as Muni) is an adventure sport that involves riding a unicycle through rough terrain or on a mountain. The terrain that is traversed is the same land that conventional mountain bikes ride. The unicycle is specially designed to include strong hubs; large, knobby tires, high-grip pedals, and a rugged frame. Some also include rim or disc brakes, which is used to compensate for the downhill slope force as well as decelerate or stop.
Items needed to mountain unicycle include:
- Knee pads
- A 26-inch, thick-gauged 36-spokes triple crossed unicycle wheel
- Metal bear claw or DX style pedals
- 2-inch diameter tires that fit a 26-inch wheel
- Boots with good heels
- A durable seat with good bumpers
- Long cracks for a 26-inch wheel
- Water bottle
Rules Of The Game
The International Unicycle Federation (IUC) has drafted rules for mountain unicycling off-road competitions. According to the rules, an event can include a single heat race with all riders starting together, to a time trial with riders racing individually, at intervals. Mountains are not required. Terrain can be anything from dirt to paved, hills, ditches, curbs, rocks, sand, mud, or grass. Unless noted, there are no restrictions on wheel size, crank arm length, brakes or gear.
Mountain unicycling competitions include Uphill, Downhill, and Cross Country. However, there are other types of events that can be run including North Shore (a technical competition) and Slope Style (or trick-style competition).
Courses must be clearly marked, so that riders can easily see where they are going. Sharp stones and large branches should be removed from the course. Unless noted, non-lane passing rules apply. Courses should focus on a balance of speed, excitement, and safety.
Every rider must be given the chance to participate in at least one test run to get familiar with the track before the actual race.
- Starting Mode. Fastest riders always start first, but the order is determined by seeding runs. There are three different types of starting modes. They include mass starts in which all riders start at the same time and is used when the duration of the race is shorter than 30 minutes; heat starts in which groups of riders start at intervals that vary from 30 seconds to a few minutes; individual starts in which individual riders start at intervals that can vary from 30 seconds to a few minutes.
- Age Groups. Age group categories include youth (15 years old and younger), juniors (15-16 years old), rookies (17-18), elite (30 to 49), masters (50 years old and older), and veterans.
- Dismounts and Dismounted Riders. Riders are permitted to dismount their unicycles in all muni races unless noted. In mass start events, dismounted riders must yield to mounted riders until remounted and cannot impede a mounted rider when attempting to mount. If necessary they must move to another location so that mounted riders can pass.
- Uphill Race. An uphill muni race is meant to challenge a rider’s ability to climb. Courses may be short and steep or longer and endurance-related. Generally, it is a timed event. If the uphill race is a time trial, then the riders must ride the entire distance. If a rider dismounts from his unicycle, then he must remount the unicycle at a point where the dismount occurred, where the unicycle and/or rider comes to a stop after a dismount. Running, walking, and/or stumbling after a dismount may be cause for a penalty at the discretion of the referee.
- Downhill Race. Downhill muni races are a test of speed and ability to handle the terrain. Course design must be primarily downhill, but may include flat or uphill sections. Course length is generally 2.5-meters or 1-kilometer minimum depending on the terrain, trail, and time of the race. The overall difficulty of the course must be rated using the Unicycle Downhill Scale with a minimum score of 20 points recommended. Course length for “beginner downhill) participants should be no less than 2-kilometers and two separate runs should be held. Riders should race one at a time, released at regular time intervals. If there is time available, riders should participate in heats. Dismounted riders must not impede the progress of or pass mounted riders and they or their unicycle cannot block passing riders Running and fast walking are not allowed, except momentarily after an unplanned dismount. After a dismount, the rider must come to a complete stop before remounting the unicycle. Riders are charged with an immediate time penalty of five seconds when they intentionally run or walk fast and do not recover from a fall. Riders are disqualified immediately if they do not stop and wait five seconds after the judge indicates a penalty.
- Cross Country. A cross-country racecourse is at least 10-kilometers long, depending on the available terrain, trail and time of race. The course must be rated before hand using the Unicycle XC Scale. Only courses with a minimum score of 20 points can be used. Courses for “Beginner XC” riders can score below 15 points. Riders are required to complete two or more laps of the course.
Unicycle Football is a team sport that is played like American Football, except players ride a unicycle as they play.
Marcus Garland, a resident of San Marcos, Texas, created the game as an assignment for a technical writing course. Later, he participated in a juggling class and approached others who attended with the idea of starting a league. Two teams were created for the first season in 2008 –- the Hot Dogs and Unicychos. Gradually, more teams were added and currently there is a league consisting of eight teams including:
- Creedmoor dumps
- Hot Dogs
- Los Bierdos
- Rolling Blackouts
- Harvey Street Herons
Three other teams that existed have since retired. This group includes:
- Ill Eagles
- Hell on Wheels
The season comprises of 56 games that are played on Sundays. The local Fox channel in San Antonio covers the sport.
Items necessary to play the game include:
- A Unicycle
- A Football
- A Bike Helmet
- A Flag
Rules Of The Game
The rules are basically the same as the rules for flag football, except players ride unicycles.
The playing field varies in size and all fields are considered to be 100 units. The field, penalties, touchbacks, gains, and losses are set in units based on percentages. The first-down chains are modified in length to “10 UFL (Unicycle Football League) units to match the field of play.
Each of the two teams can have from four to 11 players. However, five or more are preferred. The size of the field may limit the number of players from each team.
Instead of a coin flip in the middle of the field to determine which team kicks off and which receives, a joust is performed between one player from each team. Each player is equipped with a “multipurpose-use UFL stick” to joust. If a player participating in the joust uses the stick to strike the other player in the face, then the offending player loses the joust and his team is charged with a 15-unit penalty after the kickoff. The winner of the joust decides which team will kickoff or receive the ball. The team that is assigned to kickoff chooses which end zone they will defend.
Regular flag football rules have been tweaked to take the unicycles into account. For example:
- A player carrying the football is considered “tackled” when his flag is grabbed by a player of the opposing team or through a tackling technique known as “The least amount of force required to cause the ball handler to dismount his unicycle.” That means that a sliding scale of force can be used to dismount the player from his unicycle.
- Any push, shove, or hit deemed excessive by the referee results in a minimum penalty of 15-units or a maximum penalty of removal from the league.
- It is illegal for players to jump vertically out of their unicycle and physically contact a player with the ball or his unicycle while in the air instead of pulling his flag.
- A player receiving the kickoff can catch the ball off of his unicycle. If he is merely touched by a player from the opposing team, then the play is dead and the ball is placed at the greatest point of disadvantage.
- If the ball lands in the end zone after a kickoff, the kick-returning team player can “kneel” on the ball by laying his unicycle wheel over the ball.
- To kick a field goal, the team kicking must hike the ball to the “kicker,” who must punt the ball off the unicycle.
- A player carrying the ball must be balanced on his unicycle to remain in play. If he touches a toe or foot on the ground or he falls off the unicycle, he is considered down and the ball is spotted where the player touched the ground.
- If a player who falls off of his unicycle and does not have possession of the ball, then he can remount the unicycle and resume play by rolling forward or backward one full revolution.
- If a player remounts his unicycle, but fails to move one full revolution and makes a “tackle” or flag pull, his team is penalized 10-units.
- The center cannot be mounted on his unicycle until the quarterback calls the “trigger hut”. However, he must hike the ball simultaneously to mounting his unicycle.
- The quarterback may be mounted on his unicycle when he takes the hike.
- A receiver makes a successful catch if he has control of the ball before dismounting his unicycle.
- A defensive player is in play only if he is mounted on his unicycle.
- An illegal procedure penalty of 5 units can be called if the center is not mounting his unicycle simultaneous to hiking the ball.
- To avoid an improper quick start penalty, the nose guard can take two steps and must be behind the line of scrimmage when he mounts his unicycle.
- A quarterback may mount his unicycle, but cannot start pedaling until he receives the hike.
- A defensive player who commits an “indecent touch” (putting a foot on the ground or making an illegal tackle or block) accidently is charged with a 10-unit penalty and an automatic first down.
- An offensive player who commits an “indecent touch” is penalized 15-units and loss of down.