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Meet the unicyclists of Fort Garry
While most people keep bicycles in their garage, Fort Garry resident Keith Holm and son Aidan keep unicycles.
Keith learned to unicycle about 20 years ago while doing his teacher practicum at Ralph Maybank School, which had six kid-sized unicycles. No one had used them or knew how to use them, so when he asked whether he could borrow one for the three months that he was doing his practicum, they said, "sure."
Keith taught himself to ride in a basement hallway, where he could prop himself up against the walls.
Keith was delighted when he finally learned how to ride well enough to go down to 7-Eleven to get a Slurpee. At the end of his practicum, he gave the unicycle back to the school and didn’t ride again for about 10 years.
After his son was born, his wife asked him what he wanted for his first Father’s Day and on a whim, Keith said, "Why don’t you get me a unicycle?"
So he got his first unicycle, a 20-incher. Like bicycles, unicycles are sized by wheel-size. The bigger the wheel, the further they travel. Keith soon upgraded to a 24-inch, on which he could get around reasonably quickly. The next step up was a 29-inch, which was perfect to ride year-round. When the streets dry up he has a 36-inch unicycle with a speedometer, and he says he’s gone 17 mph on it. He also has a giraffe unicycle that is five-feet tall. He says unicycles he says are kind of like shoes; you can have a different one for different occasions.
Keith unicycles to Daniel McIntyre Collegiate, where he teaches, and his students became interested in learning. So he brought in a few unicycles and started a unicycle club. In the winter the kids learn in the gym and in the summer they learn outside.
Keith says, "There is a pizza joint a block and half away. If they learn how to ride that far, I’ll buy them lunch."
If you see Keith riding the streets, you’ll probably see him with one of his colourful helmet covers — a jester’s hat; a puffer fish; an elf’s hat in December; Marvin the Martian.
Although his afro wig was initially part of a Halloween costume, he soon realized that it fit perfectly over his helmet. He says his penchant for covering his helmet started out of practicality —wind going through the helmet is too cold in winter and to keep warm, you need a helmet cover.
Keith is a year-round unicyclist except when it gets too cold and his glasses get too fogged.
Keith’s son, 11-year-old Aidan, is already very adept at unicycling.
"Unicycling takes a lot of practise but once you can do it, it feels great while you are riding. You can do all sorts of things once you know the basics. Now I can ride over curbs," Aidan says.
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