Half the wheels, double the determination

Jeremy+Martin%2C+a+senior+Native+American+studies+major%2C+mounts+his+first+unicycle%2C+reflecting+on+the+hobby+that+has+inspired+and+challenged+him.%0APhoto+by%3A+Isabelle+Tavares

Jeremy Martin, a senior Native American studies major, mounts his first unicycle, reflecting on the hobby that has inspired and challenged him. Photo by: Isabelle Tavares

Isabelle Tavares

After being diagnosed with two diffeent knee diseases during high school, Jeremy Martin had to give up his all-state running career to pursue something else. While on an ill-advised run, Martin passed a bike shop and saw a silver unicycle in the store window, glinting in the sunlight. He didn’t know how to ride a bike, so he thought he’d learn on one wheel less. He immediately ran home for his wallet, ran back and traded $130 for a beginner Sun brand unicycle and a life-changing hobby.

Martin, an NMU senior Native American studies major, underestimated how hard it would be to ride a unicycle, but after a few broken bones and flesh wounds, he found unicycling to be the perfect alternative to running.

“I’m a pretty boring person now, but before unicycling I was really boring,” he said, laughing.

The rickety trails of Marquette are not the only places Martin’s tire has traversed. In 2014, Martin competed in 3 and 5-mile cross-country races in the North American Unicycling Convention and Championship in Bloomington, Minnesota. A variety of skills are displayed for events, including track racing and track coasting.

He said the biggest challenge has been learning how to coast, which is a skill that takes up to 10 years to master. This is when unicyclists pedal with their feet on the frame- which allows for the wheels to spin as fast as possible. Martin has been unicycling for over four years, and said he’s able to unicycle backward better than he can walk backward.

Unicycling has led him down interesting avenues of life and even got him voted NMU homecoming king in fall 2015, he said.

“It was something different. No one else was doing it at the time,” Martin said.

Martin has traversed up and down Sugarloaf Mountain, Mount Marquette, halfway up Hogback, and across the frozen Dead River Basin.

He said that any place he can unicycle is his favorite place.

“As long as I’m unicycling, I’m fine with life,” he said.

All six of his unicycles are currently broken, but he enjoys fixing his own instead of taking them to a shop. He is thinking about custom- making his own unicycle because it would be inexpensive and fit his individual build, he said.

“My favorite unicycle had to be my first one. It was the crappiest, but we had a lot of frustrating times together,” Martin said.

One of his unicycles broke from an experience he had last year while 4 miles deep into the Marquette portion of the North Country Trail. He was riding along when a deer blindsided him, bent his tire and popped his wheel.

“I still have a scar on the back of my leg from that deer. It just completely ran me over,” Martin said, pointing to a half-inch long deep tissue scar. “The deer didn’t even look back to see if I was OK.”

His biggest advice to a beginner unicyclist would be to not give up, no matter how much it hurts. Martin said that a positive, can-do mindset is essential to unicycling because of frequent falls, or “unplanned dismounts,” as the unicycling community phrases them.

“I’ve never met a pessimistic unicyclist,” Martin said. “I used to be really pessimistic before I started unicycling, and gradually noticed a shift in my personality. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without unicycling.”