Butler Wobble to host unicycle event

| Saturday, July 13, 2013, 9:23 p.m.

Riding a unicycle is not just for circus acts or clowns.

The sport of unicycling seems to be growing both in Western Pennsylvania and nationally, said Dave Krack of Butler.

Krack, 41, and his wife, Lisa, 40, formed the unicycle group, Butler Wobble, in 2009 to bring together unicyclists in the area and to teach willing learners how to ride. The term “Wobble” refers to a group of unicyclists.

Visibility for the sport will only grow as the Butler Wobble hosts the North American Unicycling Convention and Championships in Butler July 21-27, which will bring in more than 200 unicyclists.

“We're seeing more people who are in their 20s, 30s, 40s looking to get exercise, and with a few of us just riding around, it seems to be building steam,” Dave Krack said.

He said anybody can learn to ride a unicycle, but it takes commitment and time.

“It's an investment. The average time to learn to ride is 10 hours or so,” he said. “Most of us forget that when we learned how to ride a bike, it took us a long time.”

Anne Austin, 26, of Zelienople began riding in October after watching her fiancé, Kevin Burr, 27, also of Zelienople, practice with the Wobble at the YMCA in Butler. She said Burr took up unicycle-riding a year and a half ago after he met the Kracks on a Friday night group ride in Butler.

“It's a lot of fun, just the atmosphere and the people,” Austin said. “Without the people, it wouldn't be as much fun.”

Adam Hall, 16, of Butler, said he learned to ride when he was 10 after watching Dave Krack. He's been riding with the group since its inception.

His favorite thing about riding a unicycle is the response he gets from people on the street. It's a mix of surprise, curiosity and interest.

“I like to see whenever I'm riding out in public what people say,” he said. “They're kind of shocked — it's not something they see every day.”

The Kracks picked up the sport about eight years ago because it looked like fun.

“We're like, you know, this is really fun, we should try it,” he said. “And we found that it was, so we told other people, ‘Hey, this is fun, you should try it.'”

The Butler Wobble has taught 90 people to ride; only one or two people haven't stuck with it, he said.

“You have to practice, just like anything,” he said.

Learning is all about patience and determination, Lisa Krack said. Riding a unicycle uses completely different muscle groups and requires a different type of balance than riding a bicycle. It also builds core strength and improves balance.

“It's a lot of patience because it's a learned skill,” she said.

The group practices at the Butler YMCA throughout the fall and winter. In the summer, it offers mountain unicycling Mondays at The Wheel House, an indoor mountain bike park in Pittsburgh. For more information, visit butlerwobble.com

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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