View Full Version : Philosophy and the art of unicycling

August 22nd 03, 05:48 PM
Yesterday on my ride I experienced one of those existential moments -
when I rode to a junction which gave me a choice of a long hard route or
a shorter easier route, and didn't know which way I'd choose until I
actually turned. And being of a philosophical disposition (read
"pretentious") I got to thinking about philosophy and the art of

Definitely, it's an existentialist sport, because it constantly puts the
rider in the position of making decisions, and living withthe
consequences of those decisions. Will you go the long way or the short
way, the hard way or the easy way, the new way or the well known way?
Have you bitten off more than you can chew? Will your legs hold out?
You're committed to the descent... but was it a mistake? Will I attempt
this drop? This is existential angst at the cutting edge.

Sartre said that you are your own project in the world; you are the sum
of your decisions and actions, and we could say the same of the
unicyclist during one particular ride, or in terms of a career which
might develop into one of the various disciplines. My decision to take
up unicycling 'seriously' was totally unexpected; I was looking on the
internet for folding bicycles, when I followed a link. 'Fate' presented
me with the stimulus, but the decision was mine - and I've surprised

But there's more to philosophy than all that French stuff.

Plato argued that everything has a 'form' - that a single perfect
example of every item exists in 'heaven', or in the mind of God, and
that all the things we see on earth are imperfect copies. That is why
we have many different items we call 'tables' or 'chairs'. They are
different from each other, but they share something of the 'form' of the
ideal table or chair in heaven.

Well, what are freestyle, MUNi, or trials if not attempts to get as near
as possible to that perfect idea of what riding a unicycle should be?
The perfect ride involves a smooth and controlled mount, a swift and
balanced journey without hesitation or wobble, and no UPDs. The perfect
jump takes off 'just so' and lands perfectly balanced. We never
achieve that perfection, but it is the idea of a perfect freemount, a
ride, a jump, a stunt, that we strive to emulate. Without the idea of a
perfect side mount, I could never have set out to learn the sidemount.
My sidemount isn't perfect, but it is as close to that ideal as I can

And the Stoics? Surely unicyclists are Stoics? Seneca argued that the
wise man enjoys what he has, but his happiness does not depend on it.
The wise man can lose things that other men might value, yet remain
contented, and self contained, and balanced in himself. Which must be
why the unwise are so eager to point out that we've lost our back
wheels, or handlebars, or crossbars, but we smile serenely, and
continue, self contained, content with the remaining wheel and seat, and
balanced in ourselves.

Their rivals were the Epicureans, who believed that the pleasure is the
ultimate good. However 'eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die'
is an unfair simplification, because they believed in the pursuit of
pleasure through more worthy means. And remember the old man and lady
who asked me why I rode, was it 'just for fun'? Well, unicycling is
something we do 'just for fun' - there is no doubt of that, but it can
only be fun if we put the effort in,make the sacrifice of time, and
mental and physical energy, to develop the skills and stamina we need.
Unicycling is the pursuit of pleasure through self improvement:
improvement of skill, strength, fitness, and the pleasure of sharing
those skills and teaching others. We are Epicureans.

Finally, my signature line, which is a genuine quotation, shows that
even Master Kong (Confucius is a Latinization of his name) was a
unicyclist in his spare time.

Mikefule - Roland Hope School of Unicycling

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we
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August 22nd 03, 10:22 PM

cornsyrup - e i n r a d
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August 22nd 03, 10:25 PM
Mikefule wrote:
> *
> Which must be why the unwise are so eager to point out that we've
> lost our back wheels, or handlebars, or crossbars, but we smile
> serenely, and continue, self contained, content with the remaining
> wheel and seat, and balanced in ourselves.
> *

Brilliant! I would never have thought of putting it like that.

I still find it annoying to hear those comments cos, even if they're
meant as just jokes, they do imply that there is a lack, almost as if
I'm really wanting to ride a bicycle but can't afford one and am making
do with one wheel.

And I guess the reason I still find it difficult not to inwardly cringe
whenever I hear someone start to say it is that I'm sad that the
instintive reaction of the 'man in the street' is one fueled by notions
of loss/negativity than what I hope they are really feeling, which is
that they've seen someone having a great time doing something that is
good in itself.

Mike- have you ever read 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance'?

If not I think you'd appreciate it, it's not about zen at all but has a
lot of stuff derived from Western philosophy and Greek philosophy
applied to a life of wheeled roaming.

I did a degree in philosophy many years ago and one of the things I
picked up from 'Zen and the ....' was the way the word 'just' is slipped
into an argument to cleverly put down a point.

The example from the book was in relation to 'quality/morality' being
what we choose, and someone then says- "but then morality is just what
we like".

Ever since I always watch out for the word 'just' in a debate and often
find that by removing it from what has been said you can see that there
is no real content in the statement.

I mention this cos of the couple you mention who asked if your reason
for unicycling was 'just for fun'- as if it being fun is not enough

onewheeldave - Semi Skilled Unicyclist

"He's also been known to indulge in a spot of flame juggling - but it's
the Muni that really fires him up."

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August 23rd 03, 08:08 AM
I am currently reading Zen and the art of motocycle mantinance lol

I am reading about plato and how much of an ass he was lol

Who cares if the crazy guy likes him? I sure at hell don't!

(Just thought i would add my 2 cents)

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Memphis Mud
August 23rd 03, 01:04 PM
At work, some of the time I deal with mopey bad attitudes, fast paced
impossible deadlines, stress, high blood pressure, some jerks and stupid

When I'm about to hop up a curb with my unicycle, non of that is in my

At that moment, I "just" want to clear that curb without busting my

Memphis Mud - Student of GrandMaster 2T

Mantra: Avoid Hitting Tailbone...Avoid Hitting Tailbone...
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