The bond a family forms spending time with one another can be incredibly nurturing and gratifying. For the Tracey family that bond is strengthened when they hit the streets of Elmira on their unicycles. One could say ‘the family that unicycle together stays together.’
Performing tricks and stunts in their driveway, on sidewalks and empty parking lots, the Traceys have come a long way since they first tried out the single-track vehicle just a few months ago …
Actually, let’s start this story sometime earlier.
It was on Mother’s Day last May when Jeremy Tracey entered a bike store looking for a bike for his wife, Elaine, when his life changed forever.
There hanging on the wall of the store was a unicycle.
“It was something I always wanted to do when I was little and kind of forgot about it until I walked into that store and my eyes lit up like a little kid on Christmas morning,” said Tracey.
The following month, on his birthday, Tracey received the unicycle from his family and began the arduous task of learning to ride it.
Taking to the Internet, he searched videos and websites for tips on how to mount and ride a unicycle.
“I watched a video on line that said to go along the side of a fence and hold on to it,” said Tracey.
So he did.
Using the chain linked fence that runs down the side of his property Tracey would balance himself and slowly make his way down the driveway. After a few falls and a severe cut to his finger, he tried another approach.
“I decided to put my MacGyver hat on and I grabbed two hockey sticks and holding them one on each side as support poles I began to learn to ride the unicycle. Over the course of about two weeks I just slowly weaned myself off the sticks.”
Once Tracey knew how to ride, he decided to get a unicycle for each of his sons, 12-year-old Reid, 11year-old Garret and Nolan, 8.
Within weeks the three boys were up and running and taking greater chances at performing stunts than their father.
“Reid is better than I am, no question. They are at the age where they have no fear and can take to something right away,” said Tracey.
Through some contacts Tracey found Drew Ripley, a unicyclist and performer in Kitchener, and asked him for some advice on how to keep the boys safe and learn some tricks.
Ripley had planned to start a unicycle club in Kitchener and was eager to help out the Traceys.
“One of the most entertaining things I have seen was when we were riding with (Ripley) one night and he got all excited and ran down to his house and came back a few minutes later with pool noodles so we could do some unicycle jousting,” said Tracey. “Reid and (Ripley) squared off and went at it for 20 minutes trying to poke each other off with the pool noodles, it was hilarious.”
When it comes to safety, Tracey makes sure his sons wear helmets. He suggests new riders invest in a pair of ankle or shin guards, especially if riders are keen on off-road trails.
“One of the biggest concerns I hear is that people think they will crack their head open, but with a unicycle there really is no chance of falling on your head; you have a better chance hurting yourself on a two-wheel bike because there is more bike to get caught up on. With a unicycle, if you fall it’s gone and your feet hit the ground,” said Tracey. “I can actually count on one hand how many times I have actually hit the ground.”
Tracey admits he does get the odd look or comment as he rides pass people walking down the streets of town.
“I’ve heard it all, ‘where’s your other wheel, can you pull a pop-a-wheelie, did you forget something, and couldn’t you afford a whole bike.’ You just let it roll off you,” jokes Tracey.
He rides a 24-inch wheel, as does his son Reid, whereas Garret rides a 20-inch and Nolan uses a 16-inch unicycle.
“The smaller the wheel you don’t have to be quite as strong to ride it, if you jump on a 24- or 36-inch you can really feel the difference on how much strength it takes to start it going and stop,” said Tracey. “I am addicted to it, I will get home at nine o’clock at night and I will be out in the street until 11. I’m just trying to keep up with (Reid) and trying to do what he can do.”
When Tracey and his sons are not practicing new tricks they are watching stunt videos of unicyclists, which has inspired Reid to save for a trick unicycle that has a 20-inch wheel but the tire is extra wide to handle bounces and give the rider more spring.
Having already mastered the bunny hop and turns, Reid has put his focus on learning a new trick in which he will pull the seat out from underneath him while still in motion.
“Only my son would try riding seat-less on a unicycle,” jokes Tracey.