The Balancing Act
At UCO, student Peder Angell is a big wheel on campus. In fact, he is a big wheel all over Edmond. Peder is a unicyclist; one of those rare high rollers who chooses to travel through life perched upon a seat with only one wheel beneath him, holding onto nothing except an extraordinary sense of balance. If you have ever seen Peder, you may very well have asked yourself two questions: "How does he do it?" and "Why?"
"Every time I went into the bike shop, I'd see this unicycle," said Peder. "Then, about a year ago, I asked myself, 'What are you waiting for?' and bought it. "It became more than a hobby and more like a passion."
Peder is quick to point out that mastering the unicycle did not come easy. He started in his living room, leaning against a wall. After practicing a little each day, he was frustrated and getting nowhere–literally. Peder then decided that a two-sided approach would be more beneficial, some place like a bridge or a walkway with a railing.
"My roommate had a program on his computer where he could focus in on satellite photos of places all over the world," said Peder. "For some reason, Edmond came in very clearly, and we found the perfect spot…kind of a drainage ditch with railings on each side. It was less than a half of a mile from my house."
It was finals weeks at UCO and Peder needed a break from studying. So, for about an hour a day, Monday through Friday, he practiced going back and forth, first just a few feet past the railings, then a few feet more. When the week was over, he "wasn't great," but he could go down the block and back. Peder was hooked on his free-wheeling new interest.
Peder now has five more wheels, but he still rides them one at a time. In addition to his first "starter unicycle," he has a more rugged version for mountain riding. He also has a 36" wheel for long distances, another unicycle for tricks and special maneuvers like hopping and jumping, and an Ultimate Unicycle that has no frame or seat – just a wheel and pedals – the most difficult of all. Then, there's one with 4 l/2" tires, just because it looks "cool." Peder reached for new heights when he also mastered the Giraffe Unicycle, the kind ridden by long-legged clowns at the circus.
"I use the long-distance cycle to get to school and back," said Peder. "It's real fast – I can go about 10 mph. I also ride it to go shopping sometimes, since I always have two free hands to carry things. Have I ever had a bad crash? Well…let's just say that too many beers and unicycling don't mix."
Peder enjoys introducing others to the world of unicycling. Primarily through word-of-mouth, he has been asked to perform in front of fascinated audiences numbering more than 300. Peder also tries, in other ways, to recruit more unicyclists to his free-wheelin' way of thinking.
"I taught my brother and my roommate how to do it," said Peder. "Unicycling really is something anyone can learn to do. It isn't a talent as much as it's a result of practice and determination. In fact the research I've read suggests that children who usually don't learn things quickly, end up being the best at unicycling. The reason probably is that they've had to learn to be more patient than some of the fast learners and patience is the most important element in being a good unicyclist."
Unicycling is great exercise, according to Peder. Since coasting is not an option, the rider
needs to keep constant pressure on the pedals. He explained that it also requires the use of the abdominal muscles, making it an effective core exercise.
Would you believe that unicycling is actually a world-wide sport? There are even Unicycle Olympics called Unicon! Some competitive unicyclists participate in Unicycle Sumo, a game where opponents attempt to knock each other off (their unicycle, that is). Peder invented his own version of Unijousting; like medieval knights, two unicyclists equipped with safety measures charge each other with a tennis ball tipped 8' wooden pole.
"The Unijousting Club really didn't go anywhere. I couldn't understand why everyone wouldn't want to unijoust, but it never really took off. I had hoped that through the club I would be able to find some more people like myself, but a lot of them just thought I was a lunatic for suggesting it."
Before agreeing that this unicyclist may be a little "off balance," you may want to know more about the down-to-earth Peder Angell. In September, he will graduate from UCO with a degree in general studies. Currently, a member of both the ROTC and the National Guard, Peter will be entering the U.S. Army as a 2nd Lieutenant. After training in Fort Sill and Maryland, he will be stationed in Italy. Yes, he will be taking all six unicycles with him.
So, if you see Peder whirling and twirling, hopping and speeding on one wheel on UCO's campus, in a store parking lot or doing laps around Lake Hefner, you may want to stop him and take a couple of lessons. But, be careful…in addition to no handlebars, there are also no brakes. Like Peder, once you start unicycling, you may not be able to stop.