K-State students trudge en masse from class to class. Suddenly something – someone – appears in the distance. He is on a unicycle, and he is juggling. “Who is this guy?” they wonder in surprise.
The man is Lance Williamson, graduate student in chemical engineering.
Joshua Cook, graduate student in mechanical and nuclear engineering and Williamson’s friend, said Williamson is extremely passionate about unicycling, and the passion carries into other parts of life.
“A lot of times when he’ll be talking about his coursework, he’ll get on a topic, and you can just tell that he’s really excited about it,” Cook said. “He goes on for a while about the details and all the things he finds really fascinating about it.”
Williamson said unicycling piqued his interest at a K-State Juggling Club event four years ago.
“At first it was a little bit odd, but now I consider it really commonplace, much more than other people around me,” Williamson said. “When I get on a unicycle, it’s more like getting on a bike and just riding somewhere, but then people take notice.”
Williamson said he is often surprised by different people’s reactions to his hobby.
“Some people will intentionally ignore you,” Williamson said. “Some people will try to put attention either on them, or on you. I’d say a lot of kids really enjoy seeing a unicycle. There’s a variety of different perspectives.”
Williamson said it took him a month to get a solid handle on basic riding. Soon after mastering it, he began adding tricks to his repertoire.
Ryan Krehbiel, junior in mechanical engineering and member of the club, said his favorite of Williamson’s tricks is when uses his unicycle to hop up steps.
“Most people don’t realize how difficult it is,” Krehbiel said. “They think riding a unicycle is hard, but he does it casually. Hopping up steps is what’s harder for him.”
Cook’s favorite trick is when Williamson juggles torches at night while riding his giraffe-style unicycle, which has a seat five feet in the air.
“That would probably be the best [trick] I’ve seen,” Cook said. “Juggling flaming objects – I find that entertaining.”
Williamson has also played Frisbee and basketball on his unicycle, rode backward, pedaled in place and more.
The summer after he learned to unicycle, Williamson traveled to Pennsylvania State University and joined its juggling club.
“We did a half-dozen mountain unicycle trips, taking the trails,” Williamson said. “The leader actually had 15 or 20 unicycles. That was a crowded jeep, but that was probably one of the most memorable experiences.”
No matter what experience he encounters, Williamson will keep riding his unicycle.
“The novelty of it makes me want to keep going,” Williamson said. “Also, to try to get better, and then just as a mode of transportation. I think it makes going somewhere more interesting than just walking.”
To watch Williamson juggle while riding his unicycle, visit the K-State Juggling Club from 6-8 p.m. on Thursdays in the K-State Student Union.