Bridget’s Adventures: Hard balancing act on 1 wheel, no handlebar

Journalist Bridget Tan takes on the ultimate test of balance - riding a unicycle.

SINGAPORE - When I was about nine years old, my mother tried to teach me to ride a bicycle. I failed miserably and was exasperated by my inability to get anywhere on two wheels.

The experience of riding a unicycle brought those sensations back, with one difference. Fear.

Unlike nine-year-old Bridget who was eager for mother to let go and not help her keep her balance on the bicycle, 28-year-old Bridget held on to the instructor’s hand for dear life.

And when the instructor's hand was not available, she hugged the nearest pillar. 

Unlike riding a bicycle, there is no handlebar to hold onto when you're on a unicycle.  And you can't just put your feet down to regain your composure.

But at the same time, these challenging circumstances made the one second of balance going from one pillar to the next, without assistance, all the more satisfying. 

The average unicyclist takes about 20 hours to learn to ride, and the learning curve is extremely steep, according to my instructor Chua Kai Lun, 34. 

The technical services engineer bought his first unicycle online after being inspired by street performers in 2002. After riding for more than a decade, he now navigates sandy beaches and rocky breakwaters without flinching. 

Mr Chua and his fellow unicyclists offer free lessons at Kallang or Bedok Community Club to anyone interested in learning how to ride.

There are about 80 unicyclists in Singapore.

Mr Chua belongs to a group of enthusiasts who call themselves the Singapore Unicyclists. The youngest rider is only 10 years old, while the oldest is a grand 70 years of age. 

Every Thursday at Bedok, 30 more advanced riders take each other on in a game of hockey on unicycles, balancing on the precarious contraptions while enthusiastically chasing a ball. I merely sat at the side, slack-jawed as I watched. 

Although I can barely move a metre on the unicycle at present, I'm confident that with time and with as much practice as Mr Chua has had, I will be among those zipping around nonchalantly on one wheel.