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Old 04-18-01, 07:40 AM   #1
Steven Ragatz
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Post Chain Driven Unicycles

Eric posted a request for a 6’ unicycle on the “Wanted Items” thread. It reminded me of a caution that was passed on to me when I first started performing with unicycles in a street show.

It is common, a little too common in some ways, for street acts to use a volunteer to help the performer get up on the giraffe unicycle. Usually this results in crawling and sprawling about the victim in a seemingly out-of-control, chaotic way. Even though the performer is actually in control, the volunteer can still act in an unpredictable way.

I did a routine similar to this until a fellow performer pointed out to me the chain and the sprocket. He said that he knew someone who’s volunteer had gotten his finger caught in between the sprocket and the chain while he was holding the unicycle. As the performer stepped down on the crank, the volunteer’s finger got pulled through the sprocket.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but if you have ever owned one of these chain driven cycles, you could EASILY imagine this happening.

As soon as this was pointed out to me, I quit doing any bits that required anyone from the audience to touch any of my unicycles. I decided that even though it was a popular bit, the benefits couldn’t outweigh the possibilities of maiming someone.

It’s food for thought.

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Old 06-14-01, 01:41 AM   #2
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I've done tonnes of giraffe shows, and I've never had a problem,mind you my 9 footer has
no cogs as chain tensioners,just the driver cogs at the top and the hub.If a performer is sloppy,he or she can hurt audience members with lots of things.Knives,clubs,even balls.No need to single out the well-constructed and maintained giraffe as a special safety hazard.
I myself wonder how many people have been injured near chainsaw juggling.anyone have any
stories?
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Old 06-14-01, 09:20 AM   #3
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I don’t know how far up the unicycle the pedals are for a nine-foot unicycle, but I would guess that they are high enough that they probably wouldn’t be as much at risk as the shorter models. My tallest is only eight, but I know that my six foot has the pedals and the chain right at hand height if one were going to hold the unicycle for someone to mount.

Absolutely. Knives, torches and chainsaws, at least ones that have working parts, are obvious dangers. As such, I think most people are leery of them and understand their potential for injury. It’s the hidden dangers that are the ones that can get you when you’re not looking.

I’ve used chain driven unicycles for years without a hitch. Keeping this in perspective, I was told this information as a street-performer’s folk legend. But, after that story was related to me, I did take a look at my unicycles and imagine the volunteer’s hand slipping into the sprocket as he held the frame for me. Hell, I’ve had my own fingers slip in there when I was just moving it around from show to show and have gotten some nasty cuts from the sprockets let alone having ~200 lbs of pressure leveraged against them.

On a somewhat related note, when doing circle shows I used to set out a rope on the ground as an “instant-stage”. I always liked that device, because it clearly marked where the crowd was supposed to go and where I was allowed to go. The radius of the distance that I made the circle was never shorter than the length of the tallest unicycle that I was using in that show. That way, if I make sure that I do the free-mount in the center of the circle, I can fall off in any direction and not land on someone.

I realize that this might seem like a small and trivial thing to think about, but I remember doing a street show at an arts and crafts festival where the space was very tight and my circle got smaller and smaller as more an more people crowded to see me. When I bailed on my eight-foot giraffe, I landed in the third row, desperately trying not to cream someone in the process. It can be deceptive how far forward you travel when you dismount tall unicycles.

Equally, watch out for the back wheel. I had a situation once where I had roped of my stage in a semi-circle in front of a wall. I confidently placed the rope the correct distance, did the act, and when I was getting down from the tall unicycle, as I fell forward, the wheel rolled backward, stopping when it hit the wall, making my forward velocity double. It was a big surprise to be pushed forward like that into the arms of the public.

“It’s a good idea to have a close rapport with the audience - but not too close!”

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Old 11-19-01, 03:59 PM   #4
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Yah,for sure dismounting a giraffe uni is always a 1 on 1 physics lesson.I had a children's fest gig where of course all the kids were completely spun on the sugary treats being handed out,and the parents were on their last legs after a few hours of this.
It so happened that one kid felt inclined to grab a club from my case,and later tossed it back into the circle at his mum's behest,where murphy's law kicked in and made it land right behind and perpendicular to my giraffe uni's wheel.As I dismounted,my body in motion tended to stay in motion and described a curve instead of a straight vertical line,just as Stephen's did.Fortunately I was able to keep my torso vertical and didn't land on anyone.
Now I look down as well as behind just before dismounts.I have found this sort of thing, as well as mechanical failure to be the biggest threats to life & limb of the giraffe rider.
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Old 11-24-01, 02:54 AM   #5
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I use a 6' unicycle in my show(even though I hate it). I do actualy make an effort to let my volenteers aware of the finger chopper offer chain and sprocket thingie at their eye level and so far it seems to be effective. Oh yeah I also got me some performers insurance. Anyone wanna buy a 6' unicycle?

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Old 12-20-01, 06:58 PM   #6
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I too have heard the 'story of when the volunteers finger got stuck in the sprocket.' I've never had a volunteer's finger get stuck, but I've had my own!

I doesn't hurt, just bleeds a lot. Kind of a pain when you're in the middle of a routine.


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Old 12-21-01, 06:05 PM   #7
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i do a schtick in my fire show regarding 'faking the act' - where i prove to the audiance that i'm really lighting my body on fire (using kitchen matches, a turkey baster, ciggarette and an audiance volunteer) -- called it the 'human lighter' when i first put this schtick into my club show i was warned by another fire eater friend not to ever let the a.v. touch the matches or fuel... the end portion of it was that the a.v. would light his 'parting gift' (the ciggarette) out of my flaming mouth...

one club show in oklahoma city - my a.v. was a long haired rock n' roller - as he leaned forward to light his ciggarette, he caught his hair on fire. i of course - extinguished it quickly (burning hair being something i'm familiar with - burned my bangs all the time when i first started doing blows) and made some sort funny remark...

but, now i carry a hair band in my prop trunk for long haired boys who want to come up on stage w/me...

not a uni story - but, hey.

~firegirl

[This message has been edited by firegirl (edited 12-21-2001).]
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Old 01-05-02, 06:41 PM   #8
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As I was pushing the 9 off stage,everything came to a jarring halt.Thinking my front and only wheel had bumped on a twig or something,I pushed w/ vigor.This is how my favorite finger fell victim to physics forces beyond it's control.Luckily my friend is a nurse,and she fixed me up.3 weeks later it was healed.
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