The Shop – OddWheel Unicycles

What a journey the past decade has been!

This small niche business you all know as OddWheel Unicycles was started 16-years ago by Alan Read. It was a hobbyist endeavor and never needed to be a successful business. It existed.

I worked along side Alan from 2009 until I took full ownership in February 2014. OddWheel Unicycles then needed to become a business and so it did – in the most Donna like manner. There was a lot to correct and introduce and so I chipped away at it with the perseverance that Unicyclists all have.

What is success and how do we define it? Google says:

  1. the accomplishment of an aim or purpose
  2. the good or bad outcome of an undertaking.

Let’s look at the first point – my purpose for OddWheel was to see the growth of the community and to remove myself from my first adulthood career within the film industry. My aim was to indefinitely run my business and keep creating Unicyclists. My accomplishments are small and bite sized held in the space of being South Africa’s only specialist unicycle outlet. I carved a niche title for myself.

Now the second point and the primary reason for this post – is the outcome of my undertaking good or bad? The word outcome suggests an end or finish. Is it good or bad? I would say yes to both. Let me shed some light… the business of Unicycling is challenging. It mirrors the activity. I have been navigating this world for over a decade and am now in need of a change. To make mental and physical space for my personal development I have decided to stop ocean freight orders from manufacturers. The Shop of OddWheel Unicycles will not be replenishing it’s stock. There is a small collection of remaining unicycles and components, it will sell and move on, eventually.

The potential and perhaps eventual closure of the shop sucks for the existing community. I can’t just pull the rug from under the local Unicycling community. I would like to honour my position in our community and continue to offer you the best service and advice in true OddWheel style. Starting 2023 the plan is to facilitate two air freight shared group orders per year with suppliers who offer OddWheel variety and wholesale pricing. Due to the Covid pandemic and the formation of Brexit the purchase and import of unicycles and components has become more complicated. OddWheel has established relationships with selected suppliers.

These shared group orders support Unicyclists in the following ways:

  • reduce air freight cost
  • reduce local shipping companies fee’s
  • replace components on your existing unicycles
  • upgrade your Unicycles and components
  • continue with your Unicycle journey
  • with the expert advice and technical knowledge of OddWheel Unicycles

I suggest these 2 periods based on the group majority:

  • March/ April/ May
  • August/ September/ October

Let’s bounce back to point one – my aim was to indefinitely run my business and keep creating Unicyclists. How does this creation happen? Through making the activity accessible without initial investment, a space for someone to experience the complexity of the Unicycle, safely and with real-time corrections. Through the need to create Unicyclists I started gifting lessons in 2015 at a community gathering called Park Play Sessions. Through the years I have developed a one-on-one base skills lesson which I have taught countless times. More recently I have been teaching bigger groups. I’m a great teacher. I would like to shift my focus back to riding Unicycles vs selling Unicycles.

There are always going to be pre-loved wheels that you can start your Unicycling journey on – an OddWheel rental, hand-me-down’s, a loaner, a used buy, a cheapie found at a cycling shop, a unicycle someone made. There are wheels. Once the proverbial Unicycle bug has bitten then you can invest in the new. I have always been quite insistent about doing a lesson before buying anything. Unfortunately not a great business model… and now OddWheel shift’s.

I look back at my 10+ years with OddWheel. I’ve gained insight for the sports future in South Africa albeit late. For our sport to grow it needs an abundance of teaching done countrywide at child level. Peer-to-peer interaction which leads to growth. I work with children and witness their fascination with the Unicycle and desire to try it. South Africa needs more Unicycle spaces in areas that have a high flow of children. Anyhoo… if you keen to teach let me know.
As I spread my wings,
into the unknown,
I thank you for being my extended family,
for keeping it wheel,
and sharing in my love of Unicycling.

Moving into 2023 with the perseverance, dedication, balance and heart of a true Unicyclist.

Uni101: Learner Compilation

What learning to ride a unicycle is teaching me about life after death

By Don Shay, Hermanus

My soulmate of 34-years, Suellen, died 13 April 2021 after 4+ years of living with stage 4 lung cancer.  Two and a half weeks later, on 30 April, I had my first unicycle lesson with Donna Kisogloo of OddWheel Unicycles.

I had been thinking about trying to ride a unicycle for a few years, as a potentially good form of exercise with a little edginess to it, but how does one learn?!  In discussions with a good friend, Marian, the week after Suellen died, I casually mentioned my interest in learning to ride a unicycle – and in a synchronous moment she told me about a friend who took a unicycle lesson in Cape Town, and then promptly sent me an email with Donna’s contact details.  Was I serious about wanting to try to ride a unicycle or not?  Was I ready to step out of my grief and try something new?  After intense care-giving for the past few months I intuitively knew I needed to do something new and refreshing – and challenging.

I also realized immediately that riding a unicycle was symbolically the healing path I needed – learning to find my balance and center in a radically new way, taking very small practical steps of learning new skills (and ways of being), to lean forward gently and trust my ability to right myself by leaning on my pedals (trusting my support base), concentrating and paying attention to small details, the need to practice every day if I wanted to make progress, finding a mentor/ coach to teach and help me, knowing I would fall down a lot and knowing that was okay – it was part of the process – and that I would continue to get up again and again, moving beyond faltering steps to ‘flow,’ building confidence slowly and steadily, reminding me daily of my desire to grow and learn new things.

Six weeks after the first lesson I attended a skills session organized by Donna on the beautiful Muizenberg Pavilion.  I was keen to attend, but also a little cautious as I still could not ride without support from leaning on a wall.  Mostly I was doing independent revolutions (360° pedal rotation) of 3, 4, 5 and an occasional 9 or 10 – and still far too dependent on catching myself by leaning against a wall.  My ‘personal best’ at the time was 16 independent revolutions.  I was on that important and exciting threshold of independent, confident riding.  Everyone else in attendance could do figure eights, bounce up and down and do other cool skills.  Miró was learning to ride backwards.  They all inspired and encouraged me.  Vincent gave me some very practical tips about leaning forward and pedaling quickly with power, looking out at a further horizon and sitting up straight.  He also noticed that my seat was slightly too high – so we lowered it.  Dean told me that one of the keys was really sitting fully in the seat, putting all my weight on the seat.  They were paying attention to me in important and subtle ways and giving me some very specific feedback.  This is what a community does for each other.  I reached a new PB by the end of the day – 20 independent revolutions.  I also realized that on the pavilion I had no wall to lean on – so I really had to trust myself and go for it on my own, without being so dependent on a crutch (a wall).

Donna Kisogloo is a community builder.  She invites people into her world, helps them build competence and confidence, and then helps them connect around shared interests.  Donna leads by example; generous, patient, hopeful, encouraging, going the extra mile to make connections, direct and honest – and making time to organize and plan.  Real, deep changes (and healing) happen in supportive communities.  We need many more community builders in our fractured world.  Thanks, Donna, for inviting us into your world and believing in us.

I’m still practicing every day.  I fall off the unicycle a lot, mostly landing on my feet and catching myself, with the occasional fall to horizontal on the ground.  If ‘coming off the unicycle’ (falling down) was considered failure, then who could learn to ride a unicycle, or even to walk as a child?  It takes repeated, sustained effort and practice.  One’s mindset can’t be ‘if I can’t get this right today, then I’m not going to do it.’  It requires the long view, the patient view, the seeing the ‘end in mind’ and knowing it takes lots of ‘falling down’ to get there.  All unicycle riders followed this path.  Acquiring new intuitive body balance skills and muscle memory needs time to develop in order to kick in automatically; the willingness to ‘stretch’ oneself consistently for a while is necessary.  A similar process might be learning to play a new instrument and how squawky and choppy it can be until one reaches basic competency, and then some flow starts to happen.

I reached a personal best (PB) today with a 50 independent revolution ride, two days past my seven week start of 30 April.  I practice for at least 20-30 minutes every day, taking small steps, being aware and present, observing myself so I can try minor changes.  In the exhilarating flow of 50 I became aware of all the subtle, necessary micro-adjustments made all the time – arms wide and re-balancing in micro-seconds, trunk twisting, body leaning slightly forward but pulling back some times – these are all the adjustments and Plan B’s required to make progress and experience the ‘flow’ forward.

What an exciting threshold to be at.  I was filled with great joy, with excitement, with hope and confidence for what future rides would be like. I was filled with new life and good energy, which is what I was after.  I tasted life after death, the fruit and flow of steady and persistent daily practice with a new passion.  I know Suellen is smiling.