Updated: Nov 15, 2020
I believe that it's best to start this blog by returning to the roots of it all.
Let me take you on a journey back in time and tell you how I got onto a unicycle for the first time.
We are in the year 2001. In a small town in Germany, near Muenster. Unlike most other countries, unicycling is actually a thing in Germany. If you are a unicyclist from abroad, don't get too excited yet: it's not as popular as football, volleyball or handball. But you will find that it's a unicycling hub. Compared to other countries (with maybe the exception of Japan), Germany has a huge amount of riders and organised unicycling clubs. For example, my home town has about 10,000 inhabitants and two unicycling clubs. That's more than most unicyclists can ever dream of. While this is an extreme example, most bigger cities in the country will have at least one unicycling club and it's relatively easy to find unicyclists near you.
Over the years, unicycling friends from different parts of the world have told me that part of the reason they got into the sport was because they liked doing something different or unique. For me, it was the opposite. I wanted to blend in. Boring? I think it's actually a really cool story.
I grew up in a neighbourhood with lots of kids. Our mums decided that it was easier to look after a bunch of kids once per week, rather than just one kid every day. So from the time I was 3 years old, I joined the "Spielgruppe" (playgroup) and basically got built-in best friends. We did everything together. And just to stress this: our repertoire of games was legendary.
The day came that one of the older girls in the neighbourhood gang discovered unicycling for herself. You would think that this would be the time when I saw her practising, stopped and asked whether I could have a go? Well, I wish. But the truth is: I saw her practising, stopped and decided that it looked scary. And scary was not something I was up for (back then). Time passed and two other girls learnt how to ride unicycles in the neighbourhood. A fourth one received one for her birthday. And suddenly, they were all practising together on the street, creating little choreographies. That's when I realised that I wanted to be part of the fun and asked to have a go.
I have to admit two more things here about my start into unicycling. I was absolutely terrified and definitely not what you would call "a natural". But I had one thing: determination. I borrowed my neighbour's unicycle as much as I could and pestered my parents until I got my own unicycle for my 9th birthday. I used the neighbour's wire mesh fence for practising. (The fence had seen better times by the time I was done with it.) Looking at it now, I pretty much made every mistake that a beginner can possibly make. The worst one: Wanting to figure it out myself. I believe that I would have learnt much faster if I had asked the other girls for help.
It took me 3 weeks, but eventually, I made it. By far the biggest challenge that I faced was at the end of the 3 weeks. It was overcoming my fear of letting go of the fence. I could ride along the entire length of the fence (around 5-6 metres), barely touching it. But I had become completely dependent on the security that the fence offered. My mum and dad spent days persuading me to let go. When I finally did, I rode around 100m without dismounting, including down a slope and around a curve. Can you imagine this moment when after hours and hours of practising finally every movement feels just right? It's a moment of pure happiness. And it's that feeling that got me hooked.
To continue the story, the good news was that I could finally ride with the other girls in the neighbourhood. When I joined the unicycle gang, there were five of us. But our crew was on fire and a couple of months later my younger sister and another neighbour had learnt to ride unicycles as well. Looking back at it now, I basically became a member of my first freestyle team back then. Not that we would have called it that. But we would invent little choreographies and regularly invite our parents to watch our unicycle shows.
How did you guys get into unicycling? All comments welcome :)