by Airman 1st Class Omari Bernard
JBER Public Affairs
7/12/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- I first heard of it when I met Ben, I'd never even heard of the sport. We started dating back in 2000 and he was into it, he was into unicycling," said Diann Richardson, a Family Advocacy Outreach Manager on JBER.
"I would try on and off for 20 minutes every two weeks or so. I just didn't get it. I'd give up for six months - this all took place over an eight-year period. "
"Three years ago around Christmastime, she said that my Christmas present would be for her to finally learn to ride a unicycle," said Ben Richardson, Diann's husband.
Diann didn't really dedicate a lot of time to trying until she was able to go five feet.
"I started dedicating time and trying and then I started going ten feet," Diann said. "Then Mother's Day of 2010 came around, and he bought me an orange unicycle."
"That was the thing that really pushed her," he said.
It finally clicked.
"This is why Ben has been so excited about it," she said. "It was so fun. You just get better and better."
Next thing, she was going down hills and on trails.
Diann explained she does not unicycle on the road and prefers to ride on trails, just like her running.
"I didn't like really riding on the road, so I would ride on the trails," she said. "I'd go over a root, and then next thing I know, I'm going through a bunch of roots, going uphill and downhill."
A mountain unicycle uses a special tire.
It has less tire pressure to absorb more shock than a typical unicycle.
Her body adapted and she gained confidence and got better, she said.
"Once you hit that learning curve it gets easier and easier," she said.
"There are five or six companies that now build mountain unicycles and are fairly easy to find," Ben said. "When I started in 1996 there was nothing like that. We had to build our own gear. We kind of cycled through unicycles as we broke them."
"A year and half ago I rode 100 miles in one day on a unicycle," Ben said. "I'm an insulin-dependent type 1 diabetic and so it was definitely a challenge for me. I wasn't sure if I could get through with diabetes. I rode from Annistan, Alabama, to Atlanta, Georgia. The first time that I tried, I only made it 89 miles. I had gotten off and couldn't get back on. I laid in a ditch and called for Diann to come get me."
Not to be deterred, he attempted again the next year and was successful.
Ben teaches mountain unicycling classes on JBER. The classes are taught on Wednesdays with the instructional youth program here on JBER.
"Anytime you learn something new, there is a period where it might seem impossible," Ben said. "It really isn't true if you put enough time-in and if you really are interested you'll figure it out."