If you live in our neighborhood, chances are you might have seen Dr. Robert Kirby wheel by on his unicycle once or twice since he moved here a little more than a year ago.
He says his neighbors are used to it by now, but that’s not always the case with those unfamiliar with the sight of him wheeling about.
“It’s really unique. It’s a lot of fun to ride and watch people’s reactions,” he says. “Every time I ride, people will say: ‘Hey! Where’s your other wheel!’”
Kirby, an oncologist by day, first got into the sport about four years ago when he bought a unicycle for his son, Brian, who was in high school at the time.
“It was just for fun. He taught himself how to ride,” Kirby says.
But after awhile, Kirby noticed his son’s interest in the unicycle fading.
“I asked him why, and he said he had no one to ride with,” Kirby recalls.
So, Kirby did what any good dad would do – he bought another unicycle, started practicing, and eventually learned how to ride one himself.
Little did he know it would soon become his favorite pastime.
Although Brian’s fascination with the unicycle dropped off after he received his driver’s license and later headed to college, his dad kept it up.
Nowadays, Kirby rides one of his five – yes, five – unicycles whenever he has free time.
“It’s a great stress relief when I’m not at work to let loose and do something unrelated. Oncology is serious – this is frivolous, it’s fun,” Kirby says,
In addition to riding around the neighborhood, he also heads out to the White Rock and Katy trails several times a week. (He rides a regular bike sometimes, too.)
Most Friday nights, he meets up with a group of area unicyclists, called the “Unipsychos,” in Forth Worth for a ride around Sundance Square. Eighteen of them rode in Fort Worth’s Parade of Lights the day after Thanksgiving.
Kirby, a big fan of parades, also made an appearance in the Kramer 4th of July parade.
His friends and neighbors tease him a little about his hobby – they associate unicycling with clowns or the circus as most people do, Kirby says.
But, he says, it’s a growing sport.
Take Kirby’s unicycles, for example – each one is made for something different. He has one with a larger wheel that’s designed for riding long distances, and he has one with a small wheel that can be used for hopping on and off things, something Kirby says he’s learning. And he even has a mountain unicycle, which he takes on mountain bike trails in Grapevine and Moss Park in Dallas. (These days, there is even such a thing as “extreme” unicycling – a Google search turns up more than 800 hits.
Unicycles cost anywhere from $150 to more than $1,000 – similar to regular bikes. And while you can find a standard unicycle at a basic bike store, Kirby says most aficionados order them online. His website of choice is unicycle.com. There you can get them custom made.
Although he says he rarely sees another unicyclist out on the Dallas trails, Kirby points to the sense of camaraderie the sport affords him, particularly when he gets to ride with other people, but also when he’s just out on the street solo.
“It’s easy to strike up a conversation. People always ask me about it. They’ll stop their cars, get out and take a picture,” he says.
Kirby says he plans to keep on unicycling as long as he can – not only for the exercise, but also for the sense of accomplishment.
“You basically have to teach yourself everything. When you learn something different, it’s a step up. It’s a little thing; it’s not earth-shattering. But it’s fun to see your skill improve and learn new things,” he says.
“Hopefully more people will discover it.”
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