Professor takes up unicycle on 40th birthday

When most men turn 40, they get a new sports car, or a trophy girlfriend. When Tim Clark, a professor in the Elliott School, turned 40, he got a new hobby. Proudly propped against a couch in his office, Clark’s blue Kris Holm unicycle epitomizes the creativity that he brings to his classroom every day.

One would never suspect that behind the open Microsoft Word files on his Clark’s desktop is a YouTube video of “the Tony Hawk of unicycling,” commonly known as Kris Holm. That same day, Clark rode his Kris Holm signature unicycle into his 8 a.m. business administration and government relations class. Although the reactions were of surprise and shock, he said that, “for being an 8 a.m. class they were pretty interested.” He received more enthusiastic responses from classes later in the day though.

Clark said that riding a unicycle “stretches you, (it) challenges you,” and that it is “physically and mentally relaxing and valuable.” Because he is a doctoral student halfway through his Ph.D., he can get swamped with papers just like any student. With just 10 or 15 minutes of “fresh air” on his unicycle he can come back “from a complex paper with great creativity.”

He ordered his first unicycle through Unicycles.com in April for $100. After about five or six hours on the rooftop terrace of the building where he lives, he was able to complete two pedal strokes without hopping off of the unicycle or grabbing anything to hold him up. Come August, his skills had improved so much that it was time to invest in his second unicycle – his $600 blue signature Kris Holm unicycle that he now rides approximately one mile from his home to the Elliott School.

“The road cracks and breaks are hard. You’ve got to go up the wheelchair ramps,” he said of riding down Pennsylvania Avenue. “If you’re afraid of embarrassment, it’s not for you – you’ve gotta have tough skin.”

Clark has been a bicycle enthusiast for years. His newest titanium bike has already clocked 6,000 miles in just a few years. But the large appeal of the unicycle was how practical it is for everyday use, he said. The unicycle fits on the Metro, the escalator and the elevator.

In the future, Clark said he hopes to be an 80-year-old professor emeritus. Although he can juggle, he does not plan on juggling on his unicycle. When asked if unicycling was the weirdest thing that he does, he responded, “No comment.” He’s not into unicycling for the “sensationalism,” nor is he going to try and top what he did this year. However, it is safe to say that he’ll “do something creative, interesting and physically active for the rest of (his) life.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.