Unicycles may look like something straight out of the circus, but this one-wheeled bike is not just for clowns under the big top.
Seth Granberry, an 18-year resident of the Auburn community, has been riding unicycles for the last 30 years. When he moved to Auburn in the ‘90s, he founded the Auburn Unicyclists, an organization currently comprised of nearly 200 members ranging in age from elementary students to grown adults.
The Auburn Unicyclists have drawn a fan base throughout the state of Alabama. Members of the group can be seen at community events, such as city parades, church functions and festivals. They also perform a half-time entertainment routine at AU home basketball games.
“I think most people enjoy watching our group perform routines at basketball games. We have a choreographed routine to music that includes tricks and stunts,” says Granberry. “Many often joke we’re missing a wheel.”
Most members are students from Ogletree Elementary School or Richland Elementary School, including Granberry’s grandson. Both schools implemented an after-school unicycling program within the last two to four years.
“Helping kids learn a unique skill they can continue throughout their lifetime is the most rewarding part about teaching unicycling, says Granberry.” He adds that he can often see a significant improvement in children's self-esteem and school grades after becoming involved in the activity.
Unicycling takes as much a mental activity as it does physical activity. The first step is learning how to balance and correct your balance. “Many people think it is impossible at first because the balance is not natural,” says Granberry.
Unicyclists start out by learning to balance with a stationary object and then try to add peddles until they can ride continually. In unicycling, one pedal is half of a circular peddle motion.
For people who think unicycling is too dangerous, Granberry says it is actually safer than riding a bicycle. On a unicycle you cannot go any faster than you can run, which makes falling less severe on impact. “Most of the time you just fall on your feet or seat,” he says.
In 1978, Granberry decided to learn how to ride unicycle after he placed a deal with his son, Glen. If his son learned how to ride a unicycle by Christmas, then he would buy them a unicycle so he could learn as well. They learned how to ride that year and later the entire Granberry family would learn to ride unicycles, including Granberry’s other son, Dale, and his wife, Sally. For the next 13 years, the family would drive hours to the Midwest on weekends so Glen and Dale could compete in national competitions.
After Seth and Dale became adults and graduated from Auburn in engineering, Granberry and his wife moved to Auburn from Mobile and started the Auburn Unicyclists Club.
The Auburn Unicyclists practice on Sunday afternoons from 1:30- 3:30 p.m. at the Dean Road Recreations Center.