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Unicycles are not particularly expensive, seem to be light and portable, also fun. This gets me wondering if spending a couple of months to learn riding such a thing would boost a mountain biker's coordination, balance, timing, reaction, fall handling, etc. Or would just riding the intended type of trails be more educational?

EDIT:
To clarify, I am sure that doing something is the best way to get good at it. However, I am also aware of the law of diminishing returns. That is, if one's idea is to be good at mtb, maybe after a lot of riding, they should consider other activities, hat are only somewhat beneficial in the same direction.

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My opinion (being neither a uni nor MB rider) is that it can't hurt. It's too easy to become "overtrained" in a particular specialty, and the result is that the body loses strengths and skills it would otherwise have. "Stretching" yourself is goodness, within reason. (And who knows, it may be a good way to meet girls.) –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 10 at 18:29

3 Answers 3

I would think that riding the intended type of trails on a mountain bike would make you better at mountain biking. The following is a subjective argument based on my personal opinion. I'm sure some people will disagree with me.

Here is my argument:

Riding a unicycle will improve your coordinate and balance, sure, and are great for those two things.

However, there are a myriad of of mountain bike skills that you're going to miss out on, such as:

  1. Navigation of terrain including off-camber turns roots, dips, climbing, accelerating, etc.
  2. Important things like log-over technique, can only be learned on a mountain bike
  3. Cornering, counter-steering
  4. Maintenance of speed/conservation of energy.
  5. When to brake, how much to brake, when to stop breaking
  6. Limitation of grip, learning how to ride a slide, etc.

So while unicycle will improve your balance, actually mountain biking will improve your mountain biking.

If it were my money, I'd buy a unicycle and learn how to ride that too. Who knows, maybe you're on to something!

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Unicycling is such a niche thing that I doubt you're going to get much in the way of scientific results saying any improvement in riding skills, but I'll give it a shot.

Since there are such things as mountain unicycles, you can certainly improve your skills! Balance, cornering, and trail sense (knowing what to do on what terrain) are common skills no matter how you ride. Things will be a little different in regards to bike handling, managing the front wheel, and jumps.

If you're looking to do it expressly to improve on your mountain bike skills, I would recommend sticking to the two-wheel variety. Now, if you've got an arm injury or something like that, then it would be a good alternative to at least do something.

*Personal note: most folks think unicycling/cyclists look ridiculous and you will get laughed at more often than not (if not always to your face). So if you can handle that too, then go for it!

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spending a couple of months to learn riding such a thing ...

The average person can learn to ride it in just 4-16 hours.

It's a super fun and possibly mind expanding activity but it didn't improve me as a bicycle rider (bmx or mtb).

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