Not everyone in the Kenyon community knows Peter Fornell ’22, but many may recognize him riding his unicycle around the Hill.
“I feel like I’m bringing joy to people’s days when they see me riding by. It brightens my day [as well],” he said.
As a unicyclist myself, I sat down to speak with Fornell about his one-wheeled endeavors. We first interacted at a Horn Gallery concert in 2019, when I saw his unicycle casually leaning against the building and felt compelled to ride it around.
At the time, Fornell had just begun learning how to ride the unicycle, which he had bought on a whim after his bicycle broke down. Rather than invest in fixing his bike, Fornell decided to step out of his comfort zone by shifting from two wheels to one.
“I didn’t think much of it at the time,” he said. “I spent a week or two practicing in the [dorm] hallway, but after some time I felt confident to ride it around.”
His first successful unicycle ride was from Watson Residence Hall to Peirce Dining Hall, and since then, Fornell has made significant progress on his cycling skills. He recently upgraded from a 20-inch wheel to a 36-inch one, and is currently training to develop stamina for cross-country endeavors. He typically rides 10 to 20 miles every other day.
“I’ve taken the step from making it more of a hobby to a passion,” he said.
Fornell is currently training to unicycle the Appalachian Bikeway this summer, which spans from Georgia to Maryland. Roughly 800 miles, the trail is physically demanding and Fornell thinks it will take him anywhere from three to four weeks. He has been preparing for this journey by taking lengthier rides around Knox County, with his longest one so far being the 16 miles from Gambier to Danville.
Fornell considers professional unicyclists Ed Pratt and Cary Gray role models of his, as each of their unicycling adventures have made headlines in recent years. Pratt, who traveled the world on his unicycle, documented his entire 1,200-day journey around the globe, which Fornell has studied at length for his future adventures. Gray, who had unicycled more than 20,000 miles cross-country, has agreed to advise Fornell about lengthy, one-wheel trips and is currently building a structure for the Kenyon junior’s unicycle that will allow him to carry several days’ worth of supplies.
Reflecting on the past year and a half, Fornell feels that he has grown significantly, both in his unicycling skills and confidence. Every week, he pushes himself to ride on main roads, alongside cars and up and down hills.
“It’s kind of uncomfortable [at first],” he said. “People are looking at you, and you’re noticing that they’re looking at you.” However, Fornell says that over time he has gotten used to the second glances. “It’s built up my confidence a little bit. I’ve learned to have more fun with it — to embrace the ridiculousness of it,” he added.
“It’s always nice to have another passion in your life, something to look forward to, something to improve on, something to strive for,” he said. “I think it’s definitely added a lot to my life.”
As his unicycling hobby becomes a serious passion, Fornell recognizes the importance of documenting his endeavors. He hopes to capture his unicycle tours on his Instagram account, @cyclinpete.