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Spinning on a single wheel

Post Independent/Kelley Cox
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CARBONDALE – No longer is unicycling a hobby for juggling clowns or circus performers with top hats. At Colorado Rocky Mountain School, unicycling is a sport. But it’s not just any unicycling, it is mountain unicycling.The program, which was started last month by CRMS science department head Kayo Ogilby, consists of eight students, ranging from beginner to very advanced. It was thought up by Ogilby, who discovered unicycling while living in New York two years ago. “I bought my unicycle because we had two dogs and my wife runs and I hate to run, so I just thought I needed to do it,” Ogilby said.

So he started riding, only to discover that the New York Unicycling club met two blocks from his apartment. When he returned to Carbondale, he met Jake Sacson. Sacson, who is now a sophomore at CRMS, is an expert unicyclist who first learned about the sport while attending the Waldorf School, also in Carbondale. He’s been doing it for four years and makes it look easy while riding through a skate park-like course, cruising down rails and balancing on a six-inch wide plank, teeter-tottering over a barrel. Ogilby decided he wanted more people to learn how to ride like Sacson. “I proposed to the school that we start a mountain unicycle sport and they were up for it,” he said. “It was just kind of organic – like, give it a shot.”As soon as school started, the program started spinning. Eight kids joined and Ogilby, knowing that only Sacson and one other girl – Katie Walker – had ever mounted a unicycle before, started teaching them the basics of just how to ride a unicycle. It’s hard at first, but with patience and perseverance, the kids started to get the hang of it.”You just keep trying it until you know how to do it,” said Sacson, who admitted to getting banged up a little at the beginning – and has the scars on the backs of his legs to prove it. “People start working with a fence as support and they use someone’s shoulder as they ride. Then after a while, you just start riding.”After getting comfortable using the fence and shoulders, kids work on free mounting, or getting on the unicycle without assistance. When that is mastered, kids begin to hit mountain bike trails or try and learn how to do stunts in CRMS’ mini, on-campus terrain park. As practices progressed, Ogilby was blown away with what he saw.”It’s been so fun,” he said. “I am impressed with how many people showed up and how fast they are picking it up.”For Leslie Doyle, a senior at CRMS, unicycling’s uniqueness drew her to the sport. “It’s something interesting,” she said. “You don’t get to unicycle very often.”

The club practices every Monday and Wednesday for two hours. The more time the kids spend on the unicycle, the better they get. When going straight and first figuring out how to ride, the kids hold their arms out to the side to help them balance. When they figure out how to hop and go on rails, they can use one arm to hold onto a handle on the front of the seat. But it all starts with on thing, and it happens to be the hardest.”Getting your balance right,” Doyle noted as the toughest challenge. “You get used to riding a bike and you get used to walking and your equilibrium is a little different on a unicycle.”When one aspect of riding the unicycle is conquered, even if it is the smallest thing, it is quite a triumph,”It’s a really fulfilling sport because you are really proud of yourself when you do the little things like going straight – that’s a big accomplishment,” Doyle said with a smile. “And if you can make it down a gravel way for 100 feet, you are jumping for joy. It is pretty exciting.”And as one kid gets the hang of one thing, they can teach everyone else.”I think they learn so much from each other, so having someone like Jake is huge,” Ogilby said.Unicycling is nothing knew for Walker, who was introduced to the sport in an odd way when she was 10 years old.



“Getting your balance right,” Doyle noted as the toughest challenge. “You get used to riding a bike and you get used to walking and your equilibrium is a little different on a unicycle.”When one aspect of riding the unicycle is conquered, even if it is the smallest thing, it is quite a triumph,”It’s a really fulfilling sport because you are really proud of yourself when you do the little things like going straight – that’s a big accomplishment,” Doyle said with a smile. “And if you can make it down a gravel way for 100 feet, you are jumping for joy. It is pretty exciting.”And as one kid gets the hang of one thing, they can teach everyone else.”I think they learn so much from each other, so having someone like Jake is huge,” Ogilby said.Unicycling is nothing knew for Walker, who was introduced to the sport in an odd way when she was 10 years old.

“I went to meet my mom at the airport and she had a unicycle,” Walker said. “I don’t know where she got it. She came off the airplane with a unicycle and our goal was to unicycle.”Walker started practicing with her road unicycle, which has smaller tires with less traction, but has now made the transition to her mountain unicycle. Walker recently learned to free mount and said it is easier on the mountain unicycle because it has bigger tires. As someone already familiar with the sport, Walker is thrilled to have a club at school.”I was really excited because I know it is a really big thing here and a lot of kids do it and have done it,” she said.There are no other known mountain unicycling clubs in Colorado and CRMS’ might be the first high-school-sanctioned group in the country, according to CRMS Director of Communication Jeremy Simon. The group even has to go to a Web Site (www.unicycle.com) to buy unicycles, which range from $75 to over $1,000 for custom designs, because they aren’t sold locally.There aren’t many competitions either, outside of one weekend mountain unicycling contest in California. CRMS is hoping to grow and be able to host their own event next year.”There’s not a lot out there, but by the same means it is exciting to see what is out there and that there are people and exciting things happening,” Ogilby said. “It’s fun to create some of that and also partake in some of the energy that is happening.”


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