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Terry 'Unigeezer' Peterson: Unicycle Extraordinaire

Original Airdate June 4, 2014

Val Zavala: He’s a man with two identities. When he’s tuning pianos, call him Terry Peterson. But when he’s doing this, call him the Unigeezer.

Terry Peterson: Uni, for unicycle. Geezer, for geezer. Some people take issue with that. They say 55, 56, that’s not a geezer. But do you know what? I picked it out because I thought it was catchy. You remember it. Plus, it’s not a moniker, a nickname I can outgrow like Boy George or Kid Rock.

Val Zavala: Terry Peterson, the Unigeezer, is one of the best unicyclists in the world. He and a handful of extreme riders are changing the image of this one-wheeled sport.

Terry Peterson: So it used to be…or what happened to your other wheel. Now, it’s just the opposite. The typical remark is that’s awesome, that’s badass dude, or how do I get into that?

Val Zavala: He has six different unicycles. This one is for long-distance. He covered 100 miles once in 11 hours.

Val Zavala: He practices in his backyard in Torrance, California. The stairs are great training for this. And a landing like this prepares him for this.

Terry Peterson: What we’re going to do is hop over you. No problem, right? I’m not 56. I’m 18 with 38 years experience.

Val Zavala: Terry got a unicycle when he was 8 but he didn’t really get serious about the sport until he turned 50.

Terry Peterson: What basically motivated me was being a piano tuner, you sit around a lot. So I thought, what can I do to stay in shape. So I thought, how about a unicycle. I went from 170 to about 140. Went from a 34 waist to a 29. All my old clothes wouldn’t fit anymore. Use a belt now to cinch them up.

Val Zavala: Today he’s more than just a cyclist – he’s a passionate evangelist for the sport.

Kid: Isn’t that hard to ride?

Terry Peterson: Only when you fall. Yeah, but it’s just like a bike. Once you learn, you can’t forget. I bet you could ride one. You ever tried riding a unicycle? Ever thought about it?

Kid: Kind of.

Terry Peterson: Now that you saw me riding this one are you thinking maybe you can learn?

Kid: Yeah.

Val Zavala: The most feat he ever attempted was a grueling climb up Fargo Street. With a 33 percent grade, it’s the steepest street in Los Angeles. If he could make it to the top, it would be a record breaker.

Terry Peterson: With a unicycle, unlike a bike, there’s no gears to help you climb up steep hills. You can’t coast, so you’re pedaling every inch of the way.

Val Zavala: It was four, exhausting minutes of painful pedaling. Halfway through, he didn’t think he’d make it.

Terry Peterson: I can really move on this one now.

Val Zavala: It’s a perfect day to head out to the rugged trails overlooking Simi Valley, northwest of L.A. Mountain unicycling has been around for 20 years, though recently it’s gained popularity.

Terry Peterson: I’d like to say we’re like mountain lions. We’re out there, you just don’t see us out there as often because for every one unicyclist, there’s probably 10,000 mountain bikers. Even though there’s quite a few of us, we are spread out over the state, globe.

Val Zavala: Terry treats every encounter as a chance to make another convert. But fellow bikers aren’t the only thing you’ll encounter on the trail. Even risk takers like Terry treat the locals very carefully. Now that the trail is clear, it’s time to get back to riding. I asked Terry what kind of person puts in the thousands of hours it takes to get this good at something so difficult. His answer was surprisingly open.

Terry Peterson: It helps to be a type A personality, which I am. I have a lot of excess energy even at my age and it could be due to the fact that all my life I’ve had ADHD. But the great thing about having it – and I don’t even think of it as a disorder – I think of it as a benefit because you can hyperfocus on what you love to do, in my case riding unicycles. I don’t see myself quitting. I see myself riding well into my 80s. I want to be the oldest extreme unicylist.

Val Zavala: And what would Terry be if he weren’t an extreme unicycler?

Terry "Unigeezer" Peterson lives on edge as he rides for hundreds of miles on his favorite unicycle.

Peterson is no stranger to extreme sports. At one point, he covered 100 miles on his one-wheeler in just 11 hours. He gets plenty of practice as he tries out new tricks down a fleet of stairs in his backyard in Torrance, Calif.

Peterson received his first unicycle at the age of eight, but he didn't get serious about the sport until he turned 50. After spending much of his time as a piano tuner, Peterson made a conscious decision to get out, and get in shape. That's when he turned to unicycles.

You can expect to spot Peterson riding around the Huntington Beach Promenade and Fargo Street, one of the steepest streets in Los Angeles.

Unigeezer says he doesn't plan on retiring from unicycles any time soon.

"I don't see myself quitting. I see myself riding into my 80s. I want to be the oldest extreme unicyclist as I probably am at this point," he says.

Featuring Interviews With:

  • Terry "Unigeezer" Peterson, unicyclist


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