Germans get on their unicycles

Parks and pavements in Germany are full of cyclists this summer, but not bicyclists. Almost everywhere, children, teenagers and adults are riding about on unicycles as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

Unicycles, long associated with circuses, are making a comeback. According to many experts, this is a good thing for children.

There are no official sales figures.
“But one can say they are obviously a growing sales segment,” says Siegfried Neuberger, head of the Bicycle Industry Association in Schwalbach in Germany’s Taunus region.

Youngsters are providing the biggest sales surge for a variety of reasons. Some need them for school projects; others like the physical benefits.

“Among other things, it trains the sense of balance,” says Ulrike Pedersen, manager of Bicycle Outfitters in Itzehoe, in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Motor skills also get a boost.

“Cycling on a unicycle helps strengthen the back’s musculature,” says Karsten Klama, spokesperson for the Bremen-based General German Bicycle Club. Apart from that, the ride is usually exciting. Nevertheless, beginners should expect more than a few test rides before becoming proficient.

“It’s like learning to juggle, says Klama, adding: “It takes a while to smooth the rough edges.” Adac, a travel and safety consulting company, recommends wearing helmets plus elbow and knee pads while practising.

Practice simply cannot be avoided. There are many differences between a bicycle and a unicycle—far more than just the number of wheels. Gears are not shifted and the chain is attached to one wheel. There are no handlebars and no brake handles. Pedals are used to brake. And, when pedalling, the cyclist pedals in the opposite direction.

Unicycles are not suitable for everyday traffic. “The unicycle is not meant as a mode of transportation,” explains Klama. In other words, streets and bicycle paths are best avoided. “But it is OK to take it on to pavements.”—Sapa-dpa

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