Riding the Impossible Wheel

Here is a description and some pictures of what an impossible wheel is, and how to ride one.

The impossible wheel (or BC wheel as some call it) is basically a single wheel with pegs connected to the axel. To ride one you must balance on the pegs as it is rolling along the ground. I first ran across one when I joined the Illini Juggling and Unicycle Club back in the fall of '85. One of the members, Dave Winston, was currently riding one and another member, Dave Goldman, also knew how ride one. They had purchased pegs from Sem Abrahams, who to the best of my knowledge, invented it. I learned how to ride one in the Spring of '86.

First, the type of impossible wheel I have is one where the pegs are mounted on the axel of a 20" wheel, and they drop down about an inch or more. So they are not even with the axel. I have never tried riding one where the pegs are even with the axel, so I don't know if it would be any harder.
Now to ride it I hold the wheel in one hand by a peg, and with the other hand I grab the spokes and give the wheel a good amount of spin (picture on right).
I then grab the other peg, lean over and give the wheel a little push (or forward momentum) as I set the wheel on the ground. You want to make sure that there is no wobble in the wheel and it doesn't bounce when you start it rolling.
Once the wheel is rolling I jog after it, running behind it and determining the speed it is rolling. Then I jump in the air and land on the pegs at the same time to "mount" it. When you jump and land on the wheel you want your body to be travelling the same speed as the wheel is rolling. If you jump and you're going too fast you will fall forward, if too slow then you'll fall off backwards. The worst kind of accident is to be going too slow and for the wheel to shoot out from under your feet and land straight on your back (it has happened to me, a couple of times). When you are mounting and riding the impossible wheel you always want to keep your arms extended from your body for balance. Quick movements are critical for staying balanced.
Once you are riding it you try to stay on it as long as it keeps rolling. So the faster you can get it rolling when you start, then the longer you can ride it. You also have the choice of riding it down a hill (but make sure it's not too steep!).
There are two ways that I have tried to keep it rolling once it starts slowing down. The first one is bending over and trying to use your hands to give the wheel more spin (I have seen unicyclists ride with their feet on the frame and using their hands to "walk" the wheel). The other way is one that I have come up with and have never seen anybody else do...
I use ski poles to give me more momentum, just like a cross country skiier.
I have been lucky enough to have a very large area to learn and practice the impossible wheel. Our juggling club has been meeting at the University's Armory where they hold the indoor track meets. Very large with a rubber type of surface. So any bad spills I initially took was at least on a better surface than cement.

Hopefully this will help anybody who has the desire (or possibly stupidity :-) to learn how to ride one. If you cannot find pegs, and you are looking at purchasing some, then be sure to get in contact with Sem Abrahams at Semcycle.

Please email jamesjbarlow@gmail.com with any comments or suggestions.