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The following article appeared in the July 2003 issue of On One Wheel magazine, a former publication of the Unicycling Society of America.

A Typical Meeting of the New York Unicycle Club

by David Stone


  • NYUC = Not to be confused with the Three Stooges (“nyuck, nyuck”).
  • Unatic = A member of the NYUC. Rhymes with ‘lunatic’ There is no typical meeting of the New York Unicycle Club (NYUC), but there are some basic things that go on when the Unatics get together.

Twice a month, we meet at Grant’s Tomb (122nd St and Riverside Drive). There are about 20 members who almost always show up. Since we’re outdoors, the weather plays a role in our turnout. On a cold or wet day, we’ll get only a few hearty souls. One day it was so frigid that I had to put an extra pair of gloves on my numbed feet, but seven of us still showed up (and had the area to ourselves). On sunny days, there might be 25 or 30 of us. It’s a weird and happy fact that even though we meet outside, we’ve only had to cancel a get-together about once a year!

Whenever we get together, unicycles always outnumber people. Most folks bring just one, but many of us bring two or more. I arrive in my car (licence plate: UNICYCLE, of course) with between four and eight unis in the back. Other riders zoom along city streets encountering the gamut of reactions, from excited children to blasé black-clad business types who act as if the person in the next cubicle rides a unicycle to work.

Having so many unicycles (and so many different kinds) allows us to satiate the needs of those two-footers who have always wanted to give unicycling a try. And part of what makes our club so great is that there is always someone willing to help. We also love to hand over our unicycles to the many people who tell us how they used to ride ‘back when.’ It’s great to see their faces (and the reactions of their friends) when they get back on a unicycle. One woman was astonished to learn that her fiance was able to ride a unicycle; what other unusual abilities was he hiding from her? But there is one member who doesn’t usually lend out his unicycle despite his very generous nature; he’s so tall that we call his regular unicycle the ‘chainless giraffe,’ and basically no one else has long enough legs for his uni.

A notable quirk of our club is the predominance of Davids. At last count, there were five Davids who regularly turn out for meetings, and two of us are “David S,” which didn’t help matters. Occasionally the kids make fun of us by saying, “Hey, David!” and seeing how many heads turn. So we’ve taken to calling ourselves D1, D2, and so on. It can sound a bit like calling out Bingo or Battleship spaces, but it works for us.

The inaugural meeting of the club, January 20, 2001, was rather inauspicious. January in New York is known for bitter cold and pelting rain, and we had both. 7 of us who met beneath a construction overhang outside of a Starbucks for a few hours before retreating to warmer locales. But on a recent sunny day, 26 Unatics came out (including 6 of the original 7) for over 5 hours of unicycling. There were about 33 unicycles with us, including:

  • 3 Cokers (one with an extension),
  • 3 29” wheels (Pashley, Yuni),
  • 3 trials unis,
  • 2 ultimate wheels (including one onto which Dave Bagley, aka D4, sewed nylon strips onto the tires to reduce friction – it rides like a dream!),
  • 1 impossible wheel (by Tom Miller),
  • 1 double-wheeler (which I bought from a TCUC member named Don),
  • 1 muni worth about $2,000,
  • 0 giraffes (well, we usually have one or two),

…and a bunch of other wheel sizes from 16” to 28”.

Similarly, the composition of the members varies, but among the adults there are a few teachers, some students, a police seargent, a lawyer, a psychologist, some artists, and a whole lot of people who work in computers. Many members also dabble in juggling (some can juggle 5 balls), diabolo, stilts, and so on. One even eats fire. Another has been known to put out a hat, put on a show, and put away the bucks. He’s still in grade school. The youngest rider in the group is 6, and the oldest riders are in their fifties, though none of them is bragging about it. We have several families of riders, too.

I was happy when we began to attract a good number of female unicyclists (I almost never encountered any outside of the circus before Joe and I started the club). One girl mastered the basics when she was 6, and it’s great to see her riding with her older sister. And one of the most dedicated members is a woman named Anne who’s been out almost everytime and even called while riding her unicycle in Washington, DC so that she could attend a meeting via cell phone. Since joining us, she’s gotten her boyfriend to start riding, too.

The skill level of the membership varies quite a bit. There are many level 0-2 riders, but just a few in levels 3, 4, and 5. Only co-founder Joe Merrill and I are rated above that (both officially level 7), though there are some people in the club with quite advanced skills. One rider is accomplished at seat drag and hand-wheel-walk.

We also have a few members who have ridden long distances. My brother John rode all 1,100 miles of the European Unicycle Tour (EUT) two years ago spent a month riding up Norway on another tour last summer. He also rode an amazing 85 miles on a 29” uni last year during a Century Ride (I rode 102 miles on a Coker that day). Many Unatics also look forward to the annual Unithon, an 18-mile fund-raiser for (and in) Long Beach Island, New Jersey. We also have a solid sub-group of muni riders. Many of them ride with Scott Bridgeman over in New Jersey.

A few riders go for tours of the neighborhood and the local bike trails, but most of us hang out and work on skills or try different unicycles. Occasionally a game of uni sumo breaks out, and one day we may decide to work on group routines as well as a little basketball or even hockey.

Though we call it the NYUC, it’s really a TSUC (with TS standing for Tri-State). One enthusiast (D3, aka Stockton) travels many hours by bus from Connecticut to hang out with us. He only took up unicycling in late 2001 but already he’s closing in on level 5. He’s also our official mechanic, a veritable whiz on and off his wheel. He’s not our only member from Connectict, and there seems to be a small but growing number of enthusiasts in his state now. We also have quite a few riders from New Jersey. Many members check in from Queens or Brooklyn, and there are some members from the Bronx who occasionally make the long ride on their giraffes.

When in New York, do come visit us. You can always contact me at the address shown on our website.