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Riding high on one wheel

Enter unicycling's esoteric world, where the active practitioners are few but passionate

When Mr Chua Kai Lun stepped into the world of unicycles out of curiosity more than a decade ago, little did he know that one-wheelers would become his passion in life.

In 2002, the technical services engineer saw street performers on unicycles and wondered how to ride one.

He did an online search and found a local shop that sold unicycles for $100 and he bought one.

The 34-year-old is considered one of the pioneers in local unicycle group Singapore Unicyclists, a registered interest group in Bedok Community Club.

Mr Chua said there are about 80 unicyclists in Singapore; but an active group of 30 meet regularly to ride together.

MORE THRILLING

Mountain unicycling is challenging and yet very satisfying when you can clear different obstacles, unlike flat, boring pavements.

EUGENE SIA, who at 15 is the youngest mountain unicyclist in the Singapore Unicyclists group.

These advanced riders, who have at least two years of experience on a unicycle, meet on Thursdays to play hockey - while on their unicycles.

They form two groups and go head-to-head in a multi-purpose court in Bedok.

For a more hardcore experience, they go to Pulau Ubin or Coney Island on the weekends.

The youngest mountain unicyclist in the group, Eugene Sia, 15, loves the thrill of navigating different landscapes.

He said: "Mountain unicycling is challenging and yet very satisfying when you can clear different obstacles, unlike flat, boring pavements."

He picked up unicycling at 13, when he borrowed a unicycle from his cousin.

He got the hang of riding it after five days, "riding pillar to pillar" at void decks.

Mr Chua said there is no age barrier to being a unicyclist. However, a rider must be least 1.4m tall and able to reach the pedals.

The Singapore Unicyclists' youngest rider is 10 and the oldest is almost 70, and members come from all walks of life.

Mr Chua said: "With the increase in the popularity of personal mobility devices such as the electric unicycle, we see an increase in people coming to try the sport.

"However, with the steep learning curve, it will probably remain as a low-profile sport in Singapore."

Currently, those who are interested in picking up unicycling can go to the Kallang or Bedok community club for free lessons.

Mr Chua said it takes about 20 hours of practice to be able to ride a unicycle.

He added: "Unicycling is a completely safe sport, and the learning phase is actually the safest phase."

The most common injury is a "pedal bite", when the pedal hits the rider's leg, so newbies are encouraged to use shin guards to prevent such accidents.

As cool as it looks, riding a unicycle is not about "the attention you get or being unique", said Mr Chua.

"It is the feeling of being in control of something that your instinct tells you is impossible to master. That feeling is very addictive."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2016, with the headline 'Riding high on one wheel'. Print Edition | Subscribe