Winter Athlete Profile: Extreme Unicycling Takes Over

Posted By: The Ski Channel on November 2, 2011 7:54 am

Written by Nina Pantic

Why ride a bicycle with two wheels when you can ride on one? Unicycling is taking the world by storm with  its delicate combination of balance and physical ability. The sport is consequently growing in popularity. No need to have a fancy mountain bike when you can just tear down a trail by jumping, hopping and grinding it out on a single wheel. There are plenty of different ways to unicycle, including standard, cross-country, free ride, slope style, all mountain, trails, flatland, freestyle, street, and commuting. There’s even unicycle basketball, hockey, and handball. The options are endless with this one-of-a-kind extreme riding sport!

Magic is not required to learn how to unicycle, even though it may seem like you need the power of Harry Potter’s in order to keep your body upright and wheel moving forward. The especially tricky aspect of unicycling is balancing not just side to side, but forwards and backwards to maintain a relationship with gravity. Practice and patience are essential. The most important  thing to remember is to wear a helmet and as many pads as you can possibly strap on… no further explanation needed here.

It’s easiest to start by finding a handrail at an appropriate height to assist as you learn to master your balance, then pedal regularly, and get used to letting go. Remember when you were a little kid and started to ride a bicycle by using training wheels? A bike is basically just a unicycle with training wheels, so don’t expect any sort of toddler-friendly safety aides the first time you set your backside down on a unicycle seat. The obvious risk is worth the one-wheeled thrills, so get over it.

The sport of unicycling has become more commonplace thanks to one of its greatest and most historic pioneers, Kris Holm. While unicycles may have started off as a circus attraction, Holm has turned the art of riding a single wheel into an extreme sport. He started riding in 1986 and has since founded the sport of competitive unicycle trails (or unicycle obstacle riding). Holm held the unicycle sidehop world record from 1998-2006 and was the 1999 North American, 2002 World, 2005 European, and unicycle trails champion. He was most recently on the podium in 2010 after a 7-day BC Bike Race.

When Holm is not competing, he’s helping to draw attention to the sport of unicycling. On top of founding his own unicycle brand, Kris Holm Unicycles, Holm has rides off-road on the summit of Central America’s highest mountains, trade-routes across the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, and even along the Great Wall of China. Film, television, and magazines have helped Holm turn the sport into a more mainstream attraction, especially since he has appeared in over 200 media features since 1998. His own film, “Into the Thunder Dragon,” was named “One of the Top 20 DVD’s of All Time” by Men’s Journal. You catch him freeriding in this video:


Speaking of films, Holm and his unicycle are featured in The Ski Channel‘s upcoming full-length feature, “Winter,” soon to hit the big screen. Holm risks it all as he cruises on his unicycle within inches of a cliff’s edge for an incredibly long distance… you definitely don’t want to miss this movie!