Have you ever seen someone riding a unicycle? If you have, you probably remember it. Although it’s a skill that can take a while to master, anyone can learn to ride a unicycle.

No one knows for sure who invented the unicycle or when. Experts generally agree that the unicycle came about as a result of an early type of bicycle known as a “penny-farthing” (so-called because of its resemblance to the relative size difference between the British penny and farthing coins).

These early bicycles contained a rather large front wheel connected to a much smaller rear wheel. Legend has it that people riding penny-farthings eventually learned that they could lean forward and ride only on the front wheel.

It was only a matter of time until someone removed the rear wheel, and the unicycle was born.

Modern unicycles are like basic, less-complex bicycles. With only one wheel, unicycles have a seat, called a “saddle,” which is connected via the seat post to the frame.

The frame sits atop the axle bearings, and the pedals directly control the movement of the wheel. This is different than regular bicycles that use a chain to transfer the energy of the pedals’ motion to the wheels.

Unicycles are more difficult to ride than bicycles. Riders must maintain their balance from front to back, as well as side to side.

To get moving, riders must learn to “fall” in the direction they wish to go before correcting the fall by pedaling the unicycle to bring the single wheel back under their center of gravity.

As they move, riders must learn to control their center of gravity. If they “fall” forward, they can accelerate, while falling backward will enable them to decelerate as they correct their fall by once again bringing the wheel back directly under their center of gravity.

While this sounds simple enough, perfecting these techniques on a unicycle is another matter altogether! With only one wheel below you and no handlebars, learning the delicate balance required to ride a unicycle is a challenge for most people.

Although unicycles remain relatively rare, there are more unicycle riders today than ever before. Unicycles have even moved beyond the basic unicycle model most people have seen.

If you’re into unicycle racing or unicycle basketball, you’ll probably be interested in a sport unicycle. Of course, if you’re a fan of rough, off-road terrain, then the mountain unicycle may be for you.

If you’re a clown or a circus performer, a comical unicycle with an exceptionally small wheel may be just the ticket. Or, you could always go for the comic effect of the giraffe unicycle!


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    • Good morning, Abby/M.C! It would take some extra time to learn how to ride a bike with only one wheel, but we know you could do it if you tried! We have faith in our Wonder Friends! :-)

    • Thanks, Jusin! We’re glad you liked today’s Wonder! Be sure to check back tomorrow to see what other WONDERful things you’ll discover! :-)

  1. hi :) :)i think it didnt realy say who invented the unicicle but that girl was realy good AT IT well got to go bye seeya tomorrow wonderopolis!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:):):):):)

  2. hi wonderopolis i’m new!!! i loved the video it is awesome :) you’re very nice oh yeah, and i’m a boy i’m nat19’s bro and my bro has a track meet again

    • Hello, mar254! We’re so glad you and your “bro” are Wonder Friends! We like hearing how much you both enjoy the Wonders of the Day! :-)

  3. I love the video!! I’ve never seen anyone so good at riding the unicycle. It’s very interesting that nobody knows who invented the unicycle. I didn’t know that may was official bike month. I guess it fits perfectly because I’ve already done lots of bike rides. My mom even got a new bike for mother’s day!

    I think that tomorrows wonder….. hmmmm…. might be actually about bones… or maybe jokes.

    • That’s a cool coincidence that your mom got a bike for Mother’s Day, Meredith/MC! Riding bikes as a family is a great way to spend time together AND get exercise at the same time! :-)

  4. I’d be scared to go on a unicycle. It looks like if you fell off it would hurt. And it looks impossible to ride one?

    • It IS possible, Clayton!, and we know you could do it if you tried! It just takes a lot of practice…and please make sure you wear a helmet and knee/elbow pads! Safety is super important! :-)

  5. hi Wonderopolis,about the video what kind of unicycle is that? any way i love your videos always! I also love Wonderopolis! everyday in school we read a Wonder or we read one that fits are topic :) you are a inspiration to me!!! :D

    • Your comment makes us SO HAPPY, Emily! You are an inspiration to us, also! We love that you and our other Wonder Friends visit Wonderopolis every day and let us know how much you learn from each Wonder! :-)

  6. Emily is in my class and EVERY day we have to read the wonderopolis of today…which i love!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! yeah, you guys are an inspiration to us! Your articles are awesome….how do you find so much information???? You are awesome!!!!!!! I am not going to read today’s Wonder right now..because i want to read it at school!

    • We’re SO GLAD that you love Wonderopolis so much, Sunshine! We’re also excited to hear from you and our all of other Wonder Friends every day! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you like the Wonders of the Day, Emily! We hope you had a FUN day today! :-)

    • We’re so glad to hear that you liked our unicycle Wonder, Avion! We Wonder if you have tried riding a unicycle… it would be a balancing act! :)

  7. My friend can ride one, I tried once it’s pretty hard, I can barely stay on it for a few seconds!

    • WOW, that’s pretty impressive, Xander! Thanks for sharing your connection to our Wonder about unicycles– we bet your friend has had lots of practice to be a great unicyclist! :)

  8. It’s impressive for a beginner, but I ride trials and I also started learning how to ride a giraffe. Now, those are impressive. Follow are library on twitter :-)

    • That is impressive, Jack! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! Do you know the library’s Twitter handle? Keep WONDERing! :-)

      • Yeah, I think its aae library, but I’m not sure. I’m going to be meeting with New York Unicycle Club and we are doing a cool activity. If you watch their videos its hardcore.

        • Awesome, Jack! If you have any short video clips or pictures, you should upload them to the Wonder Gallery! Have fun, today! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Who invented the unicycle?
  • How do you ride a unicycle?
  • How many types of unicycles are there?

Wonder Gallery

young girl on monocycle_shutterstock_3345999Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Whether you ride a unicycle, bicycle or even a tricycle, it’s important to ride safely! Keep these important safety considerations in mind at all times:

  • Always wear a helmet!
  • Ride single file in the same direction as traffic, keeping plenty of space between riders.
  • Ride on sidewalks when roads are busy, but move to roads when there are a lot of people walking on the sidewalk.
  • Obey traffic laws by stopping at all stop signs, signaling turns and yielding the right of way to others when turning left.

When you ride in areas with other traffic, it’s important to know the proper way to signal upcoming turns and stops, so that those around you know what you plan to do.


Still Wondering

Learn more about the concept of balance when you use Science NetLinks’ Balancing Points activity to make a well-balanced mobile!


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