Quickly spreading around campus is talk about the eye-catching girl who often amazes students with her skillful ability to cycle her way around campus, with nothing other than a unicycle.
Some know her simply as “The Unicycle Girl.” Others may wonder exactly who this girl is, and how does she ride around on only one wheel?
All the way from Juneau, Alaska, freshman Samantha Sharp, entered the warm rural atmosphere of New Hampshire to study at Keene State College.
“I was a bit timid at first, but really excited to meet both of my roommates,” Sharp said. “I wanted to experience the different seasons as well, since Alaska only has two, winter and spring. I wanted to know what it was like to be able to ride my unicycle around during the fall, while all the leaves began to fall.”
Sharp said she has even taught her roommate, Emily Jones, how to unicycle. Sharp said her roommate has picked it up fairly quickly and loves it so much that she went out and bought her own.
“Everybody here is so nice and accepting,” Jones said. “I was nervous that they might not be as accepting.”
“Everyone is especially nice when I am on my unicycle, they’re like ‘Oh hey, it’s a unicycle,’” Sharp said.
Sam said she started unicycling because of her father. She said her dad had learned a long time ago and one day showed her how to do it on his unicycle.
“My dad just pulled his unicycle out one day and then I kind of taught myself,” Sharp said. “Then once I learned, he bought me my own for my birthday.”
Sharp said it is no easy task to just jump on a unicycle and start riding.
“It’s really difficult to pick up,” Sharp said, “A lot of people think they can just get on it and start riding, but that’s not the case. You have to find your center of balance, and it takes a few days and a lot of dedication to learn.”
Jones commented on the technique of riding a unicycle and how it differs from its two-wheeled cousin.
“It’s just like running, because you know how on a bike you can just glide, well on a unicycle you can’t, you always have to pedal,” Jones said.
Sharp said she has been riding for about four years now, and is very committed to it.
“I got rid of my bicycle,” Sharp explained, “So this is my only means of transportation besides walking.”
Sam said she spends approximately three-and-a-half hours a day on her unicycle riding around, to and from classes. Considering most people couldn’t spend more than fifteen minutes on a bike at the gym without their legs and butts getting sore, spending that much time on only one wheel is a testament to her skill.
“I just ride to ride,” Sharp said, “A lot of people go on runs, and I just go on my unicycle. A bunch of people have asked me to teach them, but teaching them would take a lot of time and dedication.”
Jones mentioned how Sharp is trying to run for vice president of Holloway Hall, and explained how all of the posters contain nicknames given to Sam from around campus.
“It’s funny because people don’t know her as Sam, they call her ‘Unicycle Girl’ or ‘Alaska,’” Jones said.
Sam explained that she does not mind the names, although “Unicycle Girl” is a bit obvious.
“I can understand ‘Alaska’ because anyone from any state will go with that name, but some people will even call me ‘Juneau,’ and then I feel like that pregnant girl from the movie ‘Juno,’” Sharp said.
What some students may not know or realize is how much strength, coordination, and athletic ability it takes to ride the circus-like cycle.
“Honestly, I am not coordinated” Sharp said, “The only time I am coordinated and able to concentrate is when I am riding.”
Sam mentioned how riding a unicycle is a great core and cardio exercise.
“If you want ripped abs, start riding a unicycle,” she said. “You’re working everything. You have to use both your abs and hips to turn, and the first long ride you go on really makes you sore the next day. It works muscles that afterwards you’re like ‘Oh wow, I have those?’”
Sharp remarked that this type of cycling does require balance, but much more so, it requires confidence.
“Balance comes with confidence,” Sharp said.
Now because this seems like such a difficult skill to attain, it is easy to wonder, has she ever fallen off, and what that may have been like for Sharp?
Sam said she did fall one time on a bigger unicycle and got pretty banged up.
“I fell trying to ride uphill; I dislocated my shoulder and cut up my knee,” Sharp said. “I didn’t know I dislocated my shoulder, though, until I went to the chiropractor. I didn’t even feel it.”
Sharp mentioned how she wasn’t discouraged after her fall, and got right back on her unicycle.
“The thing about unicycling is that when you fall, you usually land on your feet, you run off or walk off,” Jones said.
Back home in Alaska, Sam said she often rides her unicycle with her dad, who still rides, and her identical twin sister Emily, who also unicycles, as a fun father-daughter bonding activity.
“The thing I miss most about cycling back home was I could unicycle in the woods, on trails, and up mountains,” Sharp explained. “If I could, I would love to get a club started here at Keene State and maybe even cycle up Mt. Monadnock.”
Sharp said her longest ride took approximately two hours, and was about 12.5 miles long.
“It started to hurt about 45 minutes in,” Sharp said, “But I just maintained my determination to keep going.”
It is quite interesting the way in which kids are so intrigued by the various unusual hobbies/activities of the students at KSC.
People just love to see something different and out of the ordinary, something no one else would think of, like riding a unicycle.
“It’s really cool how fascinated people are by my cycling,” Sharp explained. “They really love it, which really makes me happy because then I get to do what I love as well without all the strange looks.”
Lyndsay Krisel can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org