A woman’s one-wheeled journey

Kiera Manion-Fischer

LESLEY KATZENMEYER SUMMER STATER Heather Gram of Kent takes advantage of the warm weather and rides her unicycle across Rockwell Hall parking lot. She has been riding a unicycle for 30 years.

Credit: DKS Editors

Holding her arms out for balance, sometimes with a bag in one hand and a foam cup in the other, Heather Gram can be seen most mornings pedaling her unicycle around campus.

Gram, who got her master’s degree at Kent State in community counseling, said unicycling is more for fun than convenience.

She likes riding on hills – especially down the path behind Taylor Hall.

Gram has other favorite spots on campus including Tri-Towers, where she used to live, and front campus, “where the squirrels are,” she said.

Gram has lived in Kent since 1988.

As a child, Gram said she wasn’t allowed to do “trendy” things such as ride a skateboard or become a cheerleader.

“I asked for a unicycle, and at Christmas a unicycle showed up,” she said.

It took her a year to master the unicycle, she said. Now, she has been unicycling for thirty years.

She’s gotten it down to an art – carrying a bag with snacks such as cereal and pretzels as well as a drink.

“I made a rule,” she said. “No hot beverages.”

She burned herself once, and said she’d broken the rule in cold weather.

Gram sometimes talks on her cell phone while unicycling, which she admitted is dangerous. She still falls sometimes, but wears kneepads for protection.

“There are good falls and there are bad falls,” Gram said. “A good fall is one you don’t feel the next day; a bad fall is one you feel for several weeks.”

There’s no room for brakes on a unicycle, but Gram said it’s easy to stop – just don’t pedal.

Gram gets different reactions to her unicycle. Some stop to talk to her or compliment her on her skill. Others make jokes.

“Where’s your other wheel?” they ask, as if it’s the first time she’s heard it.

Although Gram may be the only unicyclist riding around Kent State, she has met “closet unicyclists,” people who don’t ride in public.

Gram began cycling at Kent State in the spring and is now a campus fixture.

She’s made some embellishments to her unicycle: Brightly colored reflectors decorate the wheel and the seat has been heavily re-enforced with foam padding to make them more comfortable.

She got the idea from her father, who re-enforced the family car with a piece of wood when the fender rusted out. People found it amusing, she said.

“I think he kind of enjoyed it when people made fun of him because he didn’t feel bad,” she said.

Contact principal reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at [email protected].