Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

No handlebars: Student gains recognition as campus Unicycle Guy


“I remember there used to be a different guy, but he graduated, so I guess now I’m the new unicycle guy,” said Ryan Van Voorhis, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering.

He has become a local celebrity on campus since he began riding his unicycle to class this semester. Some know him as Ryan. Some know him as “the unicycle guy.” Thousands of students ride their bikes to class each day while thousands more trek across campus on foot, so the question on many peoples’ minds is why a unicycle?

“How practical is it?” he said. “I don’t know. But it’s definitely the most fun way to get around.”

He said unicycling is a recent hobby for him, having only taken up the one-wheeled skill in May of this year.

“Over the summer I just decided to learn,” he said. “I bought one of the most basic unicycles, and I just started riding it.”

Van Voorhis said learning to ride a unicycle can be difficult at first, but after a while it can become as easy as riding a bicycle.

“There’s really no training wheels on it, so I just grabbed a wall to see how many rotations I could get,” he said. “Then it was just like riding a bike.”

He said there are positives to unicycling other than the entertainment value.

“It’s faster than walking or running, but not as fast as a bike,” he said. “But I can throw it in my trunk and drive to campus, then ride it around campus, so it’s technically practical.”

Van Voorhis had wanted to learn to ride a unicycle for several years before actually taking the step and purchasing his own. As a child growing up in Washington D.C., his elementary school began teaching unicycle lessons in the third grade, but his family moved away from the city before he could learn.

“In gym class, they would have a whole unit where they taught you how to ride a unicycle,“ he said. “I was always really annoyed because we moved away when I was in second grade, so I never got to take a unicycle class.”

This summer, he took advantage of his spare time and rekindled his childhood dream of learning how to ride a unicycle.

“So this summer I was like, ‘I have money. I have free time. There’s nothing stopping me,’” he said. “So I learned how to ride a unicycle, and I’ve been unicycling pretty much everyday since I got it.”

When it comes to recruiting new unicyclists, Van Voorhis has some words of encouragement for anyone who is trying to learn or interested in unicycles.

“At the beginning, you’re going to fall a lot, but if you just practice for half an hour a day for a week or two, you’ll start to get it,” he said. “And if you start to really enjoy it, I definitely recommend getting one of the [unicycles with larger wheels].”

Katherine Bittman, a sophomore majoring in accounting, said she thinks it’s interesting that the “unicycle guy” has accumulated so much fame on campus while using a more eclectic, environmentally-friendly mode of transportation.

“I think it’s cool that he dares to be different,” she said. “I’m glad people on campus are using other forms of transportation to be green.”

She also pointed out that it takes a special person to have the patience to learn a unique skill like unicycling.

“Learning a new skill, especially having a busy life in college, will benefit him later in life,” she said.

While Van Voorhis doesn’t have many unicycle haters, he does still get the occasional confused look or intrigued pedestrian.

“I get a lot of ‘roll tides,’” he said. “Other than that I usually don’t get stopped unless I’m at a crosswalk or something.”

He is one of the few unicyclists on campus; thus, he acquired the nickname “the unicycle guy.” But he insists it’s not too late to join him!

“I’m always looking for more people to unicycle with,” Van Voorhis said. “I should start the unicycle club. It’d be epic!”

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