For Aussie kids, it’s almost a rite of passage to get a bicycle under the Christmas tree. But a push from a major supermarket chain meant a few speed machines with one wheel were gifted this year too.
Once relegated to the circus, unicycling is starting to take a hold in Ballarat, with a local group boasting a tiny national champion.
Ben Lewis from the Ballarat Unicycle Club said young people were gravitating to the sport, with unicyclists travelling from Clunes and Melbourne to take part in the weekly meetups.
His daughter Summer won both the 100m sprint and also the downhill event in the female under 10s category in Geelong in September this year.
While the club is small – at only 13 members – the group has been “steadily growing” according to Mr Lewis since it launched in September.
Unicycling is a combination of mastering a skill, some fitness, and then sharing that with your friends.Ballarat Unicycle Club leader Ben Lewis
“Our youngest rider is eight years old, and our oldest member is about 50,” he said. “There’s not really any practical benefit to it, it’s not like it’s a great mode of transport. It’s just fun.
“And it’s a challenge. Every thing you do on it, you have to practice and really work at it to master the skill.”
More people than ever woke up with a unicycle under their Christmas tree this year, after they were sold at supermarket chain ALDI in early December.
Mr Lewis said becoming a one-wheeled whiz will become more attainable thanks to the cheaper bikes.
“It makes it so affordable too, it puts it into a range where people can give it a try, but not have to spend too much money,” he said.
“They’re great unicycles to learn on, it’s a great opportunity for people to try it for not much cost.”
The group will be connecting with the Castlemaine Circus Club – which has a number of unicyclists – to take part in the Fiona Elsey Charity Ride next year.
The club’s top tip for aspiring unicyclists is to keep practicing, with it taking around 10 hours for adults to get to put their pedal to the metal. Kids can usually pick up the skills quicker.
“Don’t expect to get one on Christmas Day and be riding around straight away the same day,” Mr Lewis said. “Anyone can learn to do it, it just takes a bit of time.”
The club meets Thursdays from 6pm at the Canadian Lead Primary School.