A couple of Penn athletes are looking to reinvent the wheel when it comes to transportation around campus.
Sophomore wrestlers Freddie Dunau and Joe Oliva have established a unicyling club that’s quickly gaining traction.
The club is in its first year, and, according to Dunau, the club’s president, it has between eight and 12 committed members. Per Student Activities Council rules, the club can only receive funding a full year after its inception, but it is making surefire progress nonetheless. The club is offering beginner lessons, along with advanced distance rides for the more experienced.
Dunau became a fan of the unicycle at an early age and has refined his skills ever since.
“One day when I was at my grandparents’ house, I remember seeing his old unicycle in the garage, and basically my first question was ‘When can I learn to ride it?’” Dunau said. “So it took me about two weeks of solid practice before I could come anywhere close to riding it, but from there I just continued with it as a hobby.”
Despite holding the title of vice president of the club, Oliva had never actually ridden a unicycle before college.
“I began my unicycling journey the first day we moved in during N[ew Student Orientation],” Oliva said. “We were teammates on wrestling so we were all hanging out, and I was like, ‘I want to learn how to unicycle, can I try it out?’ So right then and there, in Penn Park, just a bunch of freshmen, I began practicing. I wasn’t too good at first; I fell a lot, and I cut up my shins a lot from the pedals being spiked.
“There was temporary pain, but the glory lasts forever. Since then, I’ve been dedicated to honing my unicycling skills.”
Dunau clarified that they were using an improper training cycle — a mountain unicycle — which has metal spiked pedals for additional traction, but now have a nice fleet of great beginner unicycles.
Despite the club only existing in infancy, many members of Penn wrestling are opting for this unique means of transport, especially with its health benefits.
“It actually becomes a fun cross-training thing to do on an off day. Unicycling does requires some balance, coordination and core strength, so it’s a fun way to give yourself a new challenge,” Dunau said. “I think as a team it’s something we can be proud of having achieved since it’s a skill that takes a lot of practice and it’s really enjoyable once you finally learn how to do it.”
Oliva admits that not everyone has greeted the new challenge with open arms, but change may be coming soon.
“At this point, I know some of them are probably getting sick of me always trying to get them to learn all the time,” Oliva said. “If it were up to me, the entire Penn campus would eventually transfer over to only unicycling instead of bikes.”
Some football players have been spotted around sporting the new hover board Segways around campus, but the club stands behind its unicycles nonetheless.
“I think the hover boards really aren’t something that takes that much skill. And it actually kind of looks weird in my opinion, not to say that unicycling down Spruce Street doesn’t look weird,” Dunau said. “And they are a lot more expensive than unicycles.”
“We like to go old school,” Oliva added.
Explaining the appeal of unicycling, the club’s founders pointed out what makes the endeavor so rewarding.
“One of the big things that attracts me to the unicycling club and learning this new skill is the joy of putting yourself out there in a new situation,” Oliva said.
“How many times after college are you going to have the opportunity to unicycle for free? It’s a no brainer,” Dunau added.
So, the next time you see someone cruising down Locust Walk on a one-wheeler, it may just be time to hop on the bandwagon.
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