Learn to ride a unicycle on Long Island

Ziggy Cohen, 5, practices riding his unicycle off

Ziggy Cohen, 5, practices riding his unicycle off a ramp inside his parents business, Just One Wheel in Plainview. (Dec. 24, 2011) (Credit: Daniel Brennan)

Hailey Fener bites her tongue in concentration, then takes a deep breath. She's perched on a unicycle, that funky vehicle most people think can only be maneuvered by circus or street performers.

The 10-year-old from Plainview is determined to ride.

"I know you can do it!" encourages Renie Cohen, holding out a purple swimming-pool noodle she wants Hailey to advance toward and grab.

Hailey lets go of the horizontal beam she's been holding onto for support. She pedals. One rotation, almost two. "Go! Go! Go!" Cohen yells. "Attagirl!" Then the unicycle slides out from under Hailey.

No matter -- in a second Hailey is climbing on to try again. Falling off a unicycle isn't really falling -- there's no frame like with a bicycle, so riders usually stay upright.

For only her third lesson at Just One Wheel, a new indoor teaching and riding facility in Plainview, Hailey's doing fantastic, says co-owner Cohen, who runs Just One Wheel with her husband, Adam. Hailey has already graduated from the training apparatus Adam Cohen created to help newbies and is balancing on her own.

LEARNING TO RIDE

The training contraption Adam Cohen created is key to his venture. Cohen, 45, has been riding unicycles since he was a child so entranced by a circus performance that he begged his parents to buy him one.

A few years ago, he asked himself why more people don't embrace the sport, which builds core muscles and is a great cardio workout. He realized there was no bridge akin to training wheels on a bicycle to reduce the intimidation factor and shorten the learning curve. He sat at his kitchen table with two barbecue skewers, a hanger and gumballs and worked on a prototype for a training device. He now has a patent pending.

"I'm trying to ruin it for everybody who can unicycle and wants to feel special," Adam Cohen says. Because anybody can do it if they keep at it, he promises. "Anything we learn in life is technique, whether it's brushing your teeth, tying your shoes or learning to ride a unicycle."

ALL AGES APPEAL

"The hardest part of it is figuring out how to turn," says Paul Staiano, 40, of Syosset, who heard about the venue from his son, Gabe, 9, and decided to give the training apparatus a try. "You kind of have to throw your shoulders around to the right or left."

David Rosen, 63 of Syosset, also rode with the training device. "Going straight is easy -- it's like an exercise bike," Rosen says. He and other riders played basketball on the unicycles, shooting at a basket hung from the ceiling.

BEYOND UNICYCLES

While unicycling is the main attraction, Just One Wheel offers other balance-related activities, including a flexible balance beam and pogo sticks.

The Cohens also run sessions for kids and adults with special needs. Beverly Roach, 56, of Plainview, has brought her twin 25-year-old daughters, both of whom have cerebral palsy. "You know what it does for them? It gives them a sense of confidence," Roach said. "It was something to see."

She's hopped on as well. "It's just such a great feeling. You're not holding onto anything. You're having fun, but it's also working on your body. It's very empowering."

Just One Wheel

WHEN | WHERE Open play 3-5 p.m. weekdays (weekend hours vary), 191 Newtown Rd., Plainview

INFO 516-586-8444, justonewheel.com

COST $20 for two hours of open play; $99 for six one-hour group lessons

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