Story by Abigail Hintz; Video by Ben Deeter
Unicyclists and bicyclists don’t get along.
That’s something I learned from the Unicycle Gang at Cedarville University.
But unicyclists are cooler. Just ask Jake Fuhrer and the rest of the gang.
When Fuhrer first met Matthew Peel, the leader and founder of the Unicycle Gang, Peel was riding a bicycle. Fuhrer mistook him for one of the many bicyclists who want to be “cool like we are.”
“When you say, ‘Like we are’ you’re assuming we’re cool to begin with,” says fellow gang member Paul Manring.
This whole thing started when Peel put an ad on Cedarville Classifieds just a few weeks ago. He was simply seeking to build a community of people who enjoy unicycling as much as he does. The unicyclists had a presence on campus already, but Peel wanted to see them come together. Peel, Manring and Fuhrer became the three core members of the gang that now has seven members.
It’s a dysfunctional group, but they make it work. They come from all different backgrounds, both in terms of unicycling and in general.
Peel, a senior at Cedarville, is from Wisconsin where he grew up in a family that has developed a love for unicycles. He has six siblings, all of whom have been gifted a unicycle or will be when they’re old enough. He’s taken the greatest liking to the hobby, though, and has been riding for nearly eight years.
Manring, a freshman, became interested in unicycling in elementary school when he read a book in which the character had one. His parents were not fans of the idea, but he has since convinced them and has been riding for about five years.
Fuhrer has them all beat. The sophomore has been riding for 10 years. His story is similar to Manring’s, because he became interested in the hobby because of “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
And then there’s Michael Winter, a senior, who was recruited just recently and hasn’t quite gotten his balance yet but makes up for it in enthusiasm.
The group is growing and the underclassmen say it’s not going anywhere after Peel and others graduate this spring.
“Who knows maybe we’ll find some parades around here,” Manring said.
None of the guys had any ugly stories of crashes. Apparently it’s not as dangerous as it seems.
“I mean, you start falling and you just kind of land on your feet,” said Peel.
You can wreck worse on a bicycle, a forbidden topic at unicycle gang meeting. Manring says they should rebrand as “The Anti Biker League.”
To make matters worse, there’s a Bike Gang at Cedarville. Their Instagram handle is @bikersofthelake, and they’ve been around a little longer.
The Unicycle Gang isn’t sure how far their rivalry will go, but they’re confident if a war were to break out.
“I don’t know, we’re going to win if we do,” Peel said.
“They have twice as many wheels to vandalize,” Manring said.
The Gang has accomplished a lot on unicycles between them. Manring has ridden 44 miles at one time. Peel recently did five. Fuhrer focuses less on distance and more on mastering different tricks.
Winter is working on getting about 10 feet.
The best part about unicycling? The reactions.
“I think the favorite thing I have about unicycling is riding by little kids,” said Manring. “I rode by a few the other day and they said, ‘Look at that, it’s a guy on a wheel!’ Some of them will probably end up unicycling sooner or later. Sometimes that kind of thing sticks with you.”
Fuhrer gets the same reactions from his tricks.
“It’s really cool to see little kids smile over something like you just getting on and riding it,” he said. “It makes your day better.”