Unicycling in times of COVID-19
Yesterday it was officially announced: UNICON 20 is postponed (again) to the summer of 2022! It came as a shock to me. I had still hoped that it would somehow be possible to hold the World Championships next year. While I am very disappointed, I can totally understand the decision of the organising team in Grenoble. Postponing UNICON to 2022 keeps riders and volunteers safe and hopefully gives everyone the same chance to prepare for the event.
The latest announcement is just the top of the iceberg, considering all the effects that COVID-19 has had on the unicycling scene this year. When I went to EUC Winter in Cologne in February this year, I thought it would be the start into a great unicycling year. I had a full calendar, filled with STFU group rides, British MUNI weekends, UK Trials Championships, several Freestyle Conventions in Germany and UNICON 20 as the highlight. What can I say: it certainly did not turn out that way. One by one, all these events that I had been looking forward to were cancelled due to COVID-19 regulations.
I bet many of you have felt the same disappointment when the emails of postponed or cancelled events started entering your inbox. But I am not writing this post to dwell upon the disappointments of this year. I am writing this post to point out the many, many amazing things that have happened in the unicycling scene this year despite COVID-19.
What comes into your mind when you think about the positive things that happened with respect to unicycling this year? Maybe you have practiced a lot more because there was not much else to do? Maybe you have received some sweet messages from your unicycling friends who just wanted to check that you are doing okay? Maybe you have convinced a friend to start unicycling because you could not meet up with your usual riding buddies? Maybe you have become more involved in the online unicycling community? Maybe you have picked up a different unicycling discipline because sports halls were closed? Or maybe you have watched this really awesome video that one of your favourite riders has published?
In the UK, we had one of the toughest lockdown restrictions this year. Basically, we have not been able to meet up in groups of more than 6 people since March. However, we have had two amazing developments in the UK unicycling community, which I would like to share with you. First, UDC (the main unicycle store in the UK) basically ran out of stock because so many people wanted to buy new unicycles. Living in a country with a very small unicycling scene, it is so exciting to know that there must be so many new unicyclists out there! Second, The Union of UK Unicyclists (https://unicycle.org.uk/) was revived. For a long time period, there had not been a functioning governing body for unicycling, with the effect that unicyclists in the UK are scattered and often do not know about each other. With the UUU in place, it became possible to reach new riders and create a greater sense of community.
I am very happy that I can say that I took part in the organisation of a UUU event which has brought the UK unicycling scene closer together despite COVID-19: The UUU King of the Lockdown. 13 virtual unicycle teams, spread out across the country, had 30 days to complete 200 fun tasks. Ever tried to land a 360 seat whip or carried your washing machine on your unicycle? Organised a unicycle fundraiser or created a yoga session with your unicycle? One thing is for sure, I never thought an online unicycling event could be that much fun. If you are interested to see what our teams got up to, take a look at our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-L30zIOfNa1V6Pqakemj3g).
I would also like to highlight some amazing unicycle-related efforts in other countries. For example, the UNICON 20 team organised virtual flatland and stillstand competitions, which could be watched on YouTube livestreams. Emile Mathieu entertained the urban unicycling scene with (incredibly difficult, but super fun) insider unicycle quizzes. Several unicycle clubs in Germany organised virtual racing competitions. Kristina Ratzka set up an online unicycle freestyle school (available with English subtitles) (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXqUdFy8FeAKuMkDskVQlaA).
Meet the Entertainers podcast interviewed Russell Wells about the first ever British Unicycle Convention and UNICON in Guildford (https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/bigbenshow/episodes/2020-08-20T00_07_34-07_00).
And Mimo Seedler published absolutely insane urban unicycle content.
Do you feel like you would get more involved in the unicycling scene during COVID-19? Get yourself out there! Here are some (COVID-safe) ideas:
1) Message your unicycling friends and just ask how they are doing.
2) Set up an "OUT" - The Game. (Find a few unicycling friends who are at a similar riding level. Every week one of you films a trick which the other riders in your group need to replicate. If they fail to provide evidence of a successful attempt, they get a letter: "O", then "U", then "T". OUT. If you have received three letters, you lost and (officially) leave the game. The winner is the last person left in the game).
3) Film a unicycling video and share it with the community.
4) Answer questions posted by beginners on Facebook in Unicycle Chat and Beginners Unicycle Chat. https://www.facebook.com/groups/2890245571210616
5) Create an online unicycle pub quiz and invite your friends. (I never thought, I would do this. But you can watch and play my version for inspiration at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZCb9e-HLoc&t=434s).
6) Set up a fundraiser and achieve a unicycling goal. Or help support the GKB Unicycle Academy Appeal. https://de.gofundme.com/f/gkb-unicycle-academy-appeal
7) Organise a unicycling video competition (and please share the info with me).
8) Create a Strava Unicycling Club and compete virtually against your unicycle friends. Or join us for the UUU Virtual Distance League if you live in the UK: https://unicycle.org.uk/vdl.html.
9) Organise an online unicycle freestyle competition.
10) Create an online photo album of your unicycle memories and share it with your friends in the community.
I am sure you will have some more great ideas. Please feel free to comment and share them with the community.