THUNDERREADING

Check out the following rad Thunderwheels readings!

- How to Become a Thunderwheel
- Unicycling Limerick
- How to Unicycle Like the Monkees
- Chuck Moulton's Version of How it all Began
(This is an off-site link and will open a new browser window)





Webmaster's note:  We have received several e-mails that this is slanted towards guys.  If you are not a guy, then please substitute "guy(s)" or "stud(s)" in the appropriate places


The Thunderwheels's Official Guide to Starting a Unicycle Gang and Taking Over the World 
Lesson 1: How to Become a Master Unicyclist in 21 Days give or take a few decades. 

      So, you say you're intersted in unicycling! Well most likely, you're not. You don't actually care about learning how to unicycle; you just want to join a cool unicycle gang so you can get chicks (or guys, whichever you prefer). In fact, you could have both guys and chicks if you wanted, if you were in a cool unicycle gang like us. THUNDERWHEELS HO!!!! But anyway, first you must learn to ride. 

     In order to learn how to ride a unicycle, you will need a unicycling apparatus. (See Figure 1.1a) Some bike stores have one or two in stock, and if they don't they will usually order one for you. If the bike store people refuse to help you obtain a unicycle, saw all their bikes in half so that all they have is unicycles. This won't help you learn how to ride a unicycle, but it will give you a reputation for being a bad, surly dude, which will help you get into a gang, and eventually, get chicks. The bike store who does sell you a unicycle should get "protection" in the future.* 


       * - The topic of "Protection" is beyond the scope of this section, but will be discussed in Lesson 3: "Turf Management."

Now that you have a unicycle, find a wall to use as support to help you gently apply your butt to the seat. (See Figure 1.1b) Proper positioning is essential for comfort. Now start pedaling. 

      At this point you are probably not pedaling anymore. You probably aren't even on the unicycle anymore. You probably went three inches in a direction you didn't expect and then feel right on your butt. This is a normal part of the learning process. People driving by will laugh at you. You will kill them later. Those who refrain from mocking you will be shown mercy when you claim their neighborhood as part of your turf. 

       The key to unicycling is to keep moving.* 


       * - This is based upon the basic physical law of rotational inertia
, or, more relevantly, . But this is far too basic for this lesson, and we shall assume that you are already thoroughly familiar with the physical law of rotational inertia and its implications as applied to practical shapes. 
One hint for keeping things moving is illustrated on the left. (See Figure 1.2 Unless you are a seriously bad dude who likes pain and likes to lean things the hard way, toe straps are a bad idea. 
      If you've been unicycling for extended periods of time, your legs may become sore and your crotch may feel chaffed. These are both good sign. they indicate that you are making progress. (See Figure 1.3) Plus, chicks will dig you if you can take this kind of pain, because it proves that you're a real man.* 
* - Guys will dig you too. 
     While you're still in your early stages of becoming a bad unicycling dude, it would be a good idea to start your List now. Your List tracks the names of people who've crossed you, and who you will eventually extort for money and favors, under the threat of death. This way, if you start early, you will know who your real friends are. Plus, chicks dig guys with Lists. But they will dig you anyway since you'll be in a cool unicycle gang like ours. THUNDERWHEELS HO!!!



      Next lesson- Getting Involved in your Community: Finding the Unicycle Gang That's Right for You.


For questions or comments, you can ask the author or any of the other Thunderwheels members
 








There once was a boy named Michael
Who tried out his new unicycle.
  He had a bad whirl,
  Wished he were a girl,
And went back to his old bi-cycle.
 







AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story sucks. As you are reading it, you may begin to wonder, Does it get any better?
No. It does not. The fact of the matter is that this story is third-rate. Please don't read it.

How to Ride a Unicycle Like the Monkees1
by Sean McBride

         Riding a unicycle is harder than it looks. Unless of course you already think it looks hard - darn hard in fact - in which case you'd be absolutely right. I can contend this without hesitation, for I have taken a brief, yet clear glimpse into the magic of the unicycle. Liam's Uncle Eaton's unicycle, that is, and boy was it a doozie2. Confessedly, I was a stranger to the bitter controversy that unicycles entail until that fateful Tuesday when the roots of this twisted episode took shape. 

         Most bystanders were baffled, a few of them were fascinated, and some of them couldn't help but demonstrate their keen grasp on the obvious by taking me aside and telling me that I had a unicycle in the same tone of voice they would have used to tell me that I had forgotten to put on a pair of pants that morning. You can bet my face was red when I looked down and--whoa! I did have a unicycle! But mixed feelings over the "spectacle" I had created reached even deeper than casual comments from hallway denizens. The Administration held a meeting to decide whether or not they should require parking passes for unicycles, a "Unicycle Club" was quickly formed and disintegrated after we realized that twenty people couldn't share a single unicycle, and my own sister, appalled by my weirdness, pretended not to know me. Such is the stir that is can be caused with only half a bike. 

         How did I get my hands on such a coy toy? Simple. I weaseled Liam into letting me borrow it . . . for a small favor in return. "You wanna just borrow my unicycle until I give yours back?" I asked him, trying to reach some sort of favorable agreement. 

         "But you don't have a unicycle," stated a confused Liam. 

         "Exactly," I replied. "And that's my final offer." 

         "Hmm," he calculated3 in that head of his. "How about your unicycle plus your first-born son?" 

         "How about No?" I replied. The half-witted haggling ended eventually, with my borrowing the unicycle in exchange for my treating him to a Whopper Deluxe the next time we found ourselves at Burger King. All in all, I'd say it was a fair trade, especially since I don't plan on giving it back. 

         'But that's stealing,' you say? No, no, no, my friend. Let's not be too hasty with our accusations. I'd prefer to look at it as "borrowing indefinitely." Besides, Liam and his uncle never use it, and neither of them can ride it anyway. In fact, Liam even told me that it had been doing nothing but hanging on the wall in his garage for the past three years, looking pretty4. I was doing them a service by taking it off their hands. 


Ask yourself: Why are you still reading this?
 


         I couldn't wait to get home and try out the newfangled contraption. As soon as I got in the door, I headed straight to the kitchen where I already had a plan worked out. I would hold on to the counters to steady myself and practice going back and forth, trying as hard as I could not to crack open my skull. The counters made the skull part a relatively simple task, but staying upright was a different story altogether. One of the things about unicycles is that the rider doesn't just have to worry about not falling off to the left or the right as bikers do, but there are also the annoyingly open opportunities to fall forward on his fat face or backward on the back of his fragile skull--my case in point. My mom pointed out another pitfall to avoid when she told me, "Be careful. I do want grandchildren, you know." I was already fully aware and actively trying to prevent any such accident from occurring, but it was still reassuring of my sister to point out to our mother that she still has two daughters, just in case. So I peddled forward and backward, forward and backward, flailing and falling off the counters like a goon. It didn't take me long to realize that I wasn't going to be Mister Uni-racer Champion of the World overnight, so to restore my spirits and sense of accomplishment, I quit for the night and ate a piece of cake. 

         "Nice wheel," mentioned my dad, upon first glance of the ineffable cyclic wonder. His comment indirectly made me scrutinize its condition for the first time. I noticed the state of disrepair the seat was in; a third of the cushion appeared to have been mauled by a inordinately-large, rabid animal (probably a crazed gorilla or something), exposing part of the cold, unfriendly metal. It was no wonder my toosh hurt. The entire frame was beginning to rust so badly that I was certain that the Pennsylvania Transportation Safety Police would have forbidden me to ride it if it hadn't been for that Tetanus booster shot I had last year. Also on the frame was a red sticker tape that said, "EATON KELLY," to tell the finder whose it was in case it accidentally got lent out by his crazy nephew or something. As for the wheel, the tube was sticking out of the well-worn tire, ready and waiting to pop at a moment's notice. It goes without further description that this unicycle had seen better Tuesdays, but what I don't understand is how in the world it got so worn out when neither Liam nor his uncle could even ride it! Don't expect me to believe that it's all part of the normal wear and tear of hanging in someone's garage for a few years; I've heard that one before. Its inexplicably poor condition added to its mystery, though, and it's the mystery and the magic of unicycles that makes me revere them so. I've been told countless times never to force a magician to reveal his secrets, for without preserving his illusions, the magician becomes an ordinary man, and life loses its wonder. I believe that the same holds true for my mechanical friends, the unicycles, and so I try not to question them. 


No, no, ask yourself this: Why the HELL are you still reading this?

         Sometimes I catch myself calling the unicycle "her," as if it were my lover or something ridiculous like that. I've always thought car-lovers and boat-lovers to be moronic when they referred to their vehicles in a feminine sense, but now that I've found myself falling into the same loop, I must out of conscience forgive them for their insolence. It's pure craziness, I know! But I can't help feeling affectionate about her. Oh, there I go again. The next thing I'll know, I'll be taking her out to dinner and getting jealous when she looks at other bikes. Sometimes I think I go too far.5 
 
 

         So for the next week, I cycled everyday after school like a madman--until my legs got tired, that is, which would usually be after about twenty minutes. Hey, after working so hard to let my quadriceps atrophy all year, pedaling becomes a chore! One night halfway through the week after having taken at least a hundred spills and having made half as many dents and scratches in the woodwork, my dad decided that I really needed to go practice down in the basement before I got hurt much worse--if I knew what he meant--and I did. Downstairs, in between making daring leaps in the stretches from pole to pole, I noticed that the right pedal was acting peculiar. "Eh, my foot must be imagining things," I rationed to myself6. I still have mixed feelings as to whether or not I wish my foot had been telling me fairy tales, because soon thereafter, the bloody pedal fell off. "Okay, so the pedal came loose," I said to myself. "No problem at all." I stuck the little bugger back on. After a couple more trips around my basement, it came off again. And again, and again, and again; for every time I tried to stick it back on, it invariable popped right back off in three seconds flat and clattered to the ground, snickering at my frustration. How on earth was I supposed to become the Grand Uni-racer Champion (if there even is such a thing) when my retarded pedal won't even stay on? Having only one wheel was difficult enough to begin with, but one pedal? Utter absurdity. Upon close inspection, I realized the problem was that the threads inside the arm had been stripped. That couldn't have been done in those few short days that I had it; it was obviously on its last legs (or should I say wheel?) anyway. So I packed up my efforts and my dreams for a few listless days. 


Duh Duh Duh

         The next day in gym while walking around the track, I told Liam about the defective unicycle he had lent to me. "I think you owe me a Whopper Deluxe," I demanded, not that I even like Whopper Deluxes, mind you; I always have to take everything off and eat it plain. But I was hurt nonetheless. 

         "Whoa there, Sean," he replied, holding his hands up in a defensive gesture. "What do you mean it's broken?" 

         "The pedal fell off, and it won't stay when I put it back in. The threads are stripped. That garage of yours must have really put some heavy mileage on it," I explained. "My garage put some mileage on it," he laughed to himself. Then his tone changed. "You broke it!" he screamed. 

         "I didn't break it, it was dying when I got it!" I yelled back. "You unicycle murderer!" continued Liam. "AaAAAggghhhHhhHH!!!" He dashed around the circle track, screaming like a maniac. When he got all the way around back to me, he slowed down to a walk and tried to catch his breath. "So will your uncle be mad?" I asked him sincerely, not that I was going to take responsibility, but I did wonder whether or not I should fear for my life in the case that his uncle did choose to blame me. 

         "Nah, he won't care," explained Liam. "He doesn't even use it." 

         "What does your uncle do, anyway?" I inquired. 

         "Nothing. He's a deadbeat. He lives with his mother." 

         "How old is he?" 

         "He's about thirty-five." 

         "Say, I have an uncle who's a deadbeat," I shared. "He sits around and drinks all day. His wife makes all the money for them. When we visit them, he tries to get us kids to pick up all the junk in his backyard. Sometimes we do, and we throw it all in his pool. No one ever goes in it, anyway. It's too disgusting from all the junk that's in there." 

         "Yeah," Liam agreed, not that he had even seen the pool or even met my uncle, but that he knew how a deadbeat uncle could be from having one himself. Well at least Liam wasn't that mad. Incidentally, he never bought me a Whopper Deluxe, despite everything I did later. I guess those extra things I'm referring to were simply done out of my own convictions, so I can't demand any recompense from him and call myself fair. Nope, it was my own choice to get the unicycle fixed, starting with the hardware store. 


Admit it. You're reading this only for the the smart remarks between these lines

         I wanted a nut to screw onto the other end of the pedal and then see how well that would fasten it. Right off the bat I had two dilemmas though; I kept thinking a nut was called a bolt, and the "bolt" needed to be threaded backwards, which, even if there was such a thing, would never work with my unicycle. No one at the hardware shop had heard of a backward bolt. I decided to look for myself in the section that had all sorts of neat little parts like screws, washers and nails, unable to find anything to suit my needs. A wild-eyed Irish employee with curly black hair approached me and asked if he could be of any assistance. My mouth dropped open when I saw his name tag; it said Smith's Hardware, and printed below it in red sticker tape was the name, 
EATON KELLY
 

         "Uh, I need a quarter-inch nut that's threaded backward. For a pedal," I told him, debating whether or not I should tell him that I know his nephew Liam and how he lent me his unicycle and how it broke the third day I had it, even though it wasn't my fault. 

         "A backward nut?" he grinned at me. "I don't think we have such a thing." 

         "You know, I didn't think you did. Oh well," I sighed. He continued to grin strangely at me. Did he already know who I was? Should I say something, I wondered. Oh what the heck, just ask if he's really Liam's uncle. "Hey, are you related to Liam Kelly?" I asked him, fully expecting him to say yes. 

         "Yeah," his eyes lit up. "He's my nephew. He's cool; he comes over my place sometimes. Are you his friend?" Ah, I thought, so he calls his mother's house his 'place.' All right. 

         "Yes, I am," I replied. "He lent me his unicycle, and said it was yours." He also said he was a deadbeat, but I didn't have to mention that. "Actually, that's what I need the nut for; the pedal fell off and I'm trying to fix it." 

         "He lent you my unicycle?" Eaton questioned, his grin changing to an expression of concern. Uh oh, Liam. You said he wouldn't care. 

         "Uh, yeah, he said you wouldn't mind since you don't use it. Well, that's what he said." Way to go Sean. Had to go and talk to him and make an idiot of yourself. Just had to. 

         "Well he's lending people my stuff! Sheesh! But that's okay; he's cool. Say, you and Liam should come over my place sometime and we can party. I got N64."7 He grinned some more, expectantly. At least he was docile again, but for some reason I wasn't inclined to accept this stranger's invitation. 

         "Well, I don't really like N64 all that much," I tried to decline. 

         "But I've got Mortal Kombat 3 and Super Mario World. You should come, and some of Liam's other friends too. And bring the unicycle, it'll be cool." Ah-hah, so he was really after the unicycle--or was he? 

         "Actually, I don't believe in video games," I told him. 

         "That's okay, I have tons of other fun stuff to do," he countered, ever-more expectant and grinning ever-more strangely. 

         "I don't believe in fun," I said flatly, and turned and headed for the door, walking more briskly than normal. 

         "Where do you live?" he yelled. "Can I stop by? Do you have any pancake mix?" 

         "No! No pancake mix!" I shouted back, and ran to my car and zoomed away. The same as I told Liam the next day, that was one crazy guy. I thought he was going to molest me or something. And what was the deal about his wanting me to bring over the unicycle, but not actually asking for her back? Perhaps he didn't fully comprehend its magic. I think he was just a little "off." At any rate, the quest to fix the telltale pedal continued. 



Save yourself! Stop right now! Before it's too late, and you've wasted ten minutes of your life that you can never get back!

         Having been unsuccessful in trying to find a quick-fix to the problem, I defaulted to Plan B: a real bike shop. To my dismay, there weren't any in the phone book; not a single one. I knew that somewhere in this godawful county of Montgomery there had to be at least one bike shop, and I was determined to find it even if it meant giving up lunch for a day. I was really serious about getting her fixed. Luckily, one of my Ambler-resident friends knew of a small, inconspicuous bike shop on a side-road that ordinary people would pass without a second glance8. Ironically, it was called McFarland's, because it was farther than I was hoping to have to go. Upon entering the dusty yet friendly shop, I heard an old radio softly playing the type of sweet old-fashioned melodies to which my grandparents listen. A stout old man with completely white hair appeared from out of the repair room in the back. He looked at the unicycle and then at me. I spoke first. 

         "McFarland, I presume." 

         "That would be me. You need help with that unicycle there?" he asked. 

         "Yes. The pedal's fallen off, and I'm not sure what to do about it." I handed him the unicycle and he inspected the arm and the detached pedal. 

         "Well," he said, studying it, "you can do two things. You can either weld it in, or you can rethread the arm here. I'd suggest trying to rethread it first." 

         "How do I rethread it?" I asked, utterly clueless as to how I'd go about performing the task. I should have known what he meant. 

         "Well we can do it right here," he gestured around the store. "I'd probably have to end up welding it, though; it doesn't look pretty." 

         "No sir, it's not pretty at all," I agreed with the man we call Old Man McFarland. So we struck a deal. He said he would fix the pedal, and I expected it to cost about twelve dollars. When he said, "Six dollars," my socks were as good as knocked off. What a bargain! McFarland was an honest man, genuinely trying to help out his customers, including the snotty-nosed kids like me. If he wasn't in tune to the magic of the unicycle, he was obviously in tune to something just as splendid. I left that bike shop a happy guy, unable to wait till next Tuesday to pick it up. 

         I kept Liam informed about the repair status of the unicycle. He didn't really care, as long as I wasn't going to make him pay for it. I wouldn't make him pay for it, anyway, since I'm really trying to make it mine and all. If I were a real weasel, it would be a fairly neat trick to con him into paying for its repairs and then letting me keep it for free, but I was never one to weasel over my friends. If there's one thing that nobody likes in our school, it's a weasel.9 

         Next Tuesday, right on the dot, I called up Old Man McFarland and asked if my unicycle was ready yet. "Oh, it's ready," he told me, but did I know that "the tire's about to bust? The tube's sticking through the tire, and I can't believe it hasn't popped already!" 

         "Yeah, I know, I know," I said, hoping to avert that problem before it made itself prominent. "How much would that cost to fix?" 

         "Oh, about six or seven dollars. Might need a special wheel, since it's a unicycle and all." See, he knew how special unicycles are. 

         "Okay, then, let's fix the wheel too. My friend had better appreciate this." 

         "Yep. It ought to be ready tomorrow; you can come back then." And so I waited, with visions of Uni-racers dancing in my head. 


Ththbtpthhtbtphtpththbththp.

         Saturday! The first chance I had to pick her up, I was so there. I charged right into that bike shop, and stated my purpose: "I'm here to pick up the unicycle." The unicycle. The undeniably most unique anything-cycle in that entire blessed repair shop. "Here it is," he said, pulling it out of the wall of bikes and bike parts where it had been resting invisibly when I came in. The pedal looked fantastic; in fact, it was an entirely different pedal. He had put on a new pedal and a new tire, which was also marvelous. It was deliciously fresh and fully treaded and plump with plenty of air. We walked over to the counter. "You're gonna want to kill me," he said gravely. 

         "Oh great," I moaned. "How much is it?" The previously-apparent bill of twelve or thirteen dollars skyrocketed in my head. 

         "Well, I had to get a new pedal, and the wheel was a special size for unicycles. I tried to keep it down as best I could, and it came out to be $19.03. But just $19 is fine. Is that okay with you? $19?" 

         "Yes," I was relieved. I had twenty dollars in my pocket, and anything less than that was fair by me. I actually wanted to be able to give him more if I could, since I felt a connection to him--what with us being commiserators with the unicycle and all--and since he couldn't possibly be making much more than just enough to cover the costs of running his shop in downtown Ambler. But then I realized, oh yeah, they all run numbers to stay in business. So my qualms vanished, and I kept my dollar in change. 

         "You know you need a new seat on that thing?" he pointed at the ragged cushion-mess. "But then that would be special too, for a unicycle." Had he been an auto mechanic I would have smelled something fishy, what with him offering to fix one thing after another, calling them all "special" deals. We both knew the real story, though, that my unicycle was just plain dead--or was dying, rather, before McFarland saved its sorry wheel. His offer was a sincere one, and I was tempted for a few fleeting seconds. But that day I needed my unicycle. The seat would simply have to wait. 


See, now you have almost finished it. You suck for reading this far. Your life has hit an absolute bottom.

         Of course as soon as I got home, the first thing I did was pull her out of the trunk and try her out. With the brand-new wheel and peddle, she was a completely different unicycle! I could ride her right away! The whole time, hanging on Liam's garage wall and sitting in my basement, there was a beautiful invention trapped inside that loosely held-together pile of nuts and bolts, and it took the skilled touch of Old Man McFarland to bring her beauty to the surface. "That man is amazing," I said to myself. Finally, a unicycle that works, and I can ride it! So I pedaled uncertainly down my driveway--farther than I had ever gone before--all the way to the bottom where I fell off into the street on my butt. But it was fun. 

         All day--that day and the next--I would run out every hour or so and take a quick spin on my newly-improved unicycle, usually starting at my mailbox just to mount it, and then wobbling on down the street until I'd fall the heck off. I can't exactly turn yet, I can't go backwards, I can't mount it without a wall or a mailbox to hold onto, and I can't idle on it either. But I can't stop thinking about the Monkees--how that group of silly guys who didn't play their own instruments rode around on their unicycles in one of their music videos. Perhaps they never learned to play their instruments because they were too busy riding around on those crazy one-wheeled vehicles--or maybe they were just too busy with singing. Whatever the reason, they could unicycle better than I can, because they learned about the magic before I did. It's the magic of unicycles; it's about cycles and the way they're balanced. It's about how absurd we can make ourselves look if we really try. And it's also about life and all of its mystery, spinning and swirling around that singular magical wheel. Our neighbors across the street have just started to ostracize us, and I think I may have something to do with it. That's okay by me, though, because I always thought they were weird anyway. I'm just going to keep on practicing, maybe learn how to fall off and actually land on my feet for a change. Eventually--who knows? Heck, I may one day become Grand Uni-racer Champion of the World.