You may recall seeing Aidan Lytle before. He wears a foot-long, bushy beard and flashes a friendly smile. But that’s not why you may have remembered him. No, it’s his unicycle he often rides around campus, wheeling down College Ave and popping tricks off benches and rocks. Watching him land 360’s off some stairs, you’d think he’d been doing this his entire life. But you’d be mistaken.
“I was working at Recycles Bike Shop as a bike mechanic. That was last summer,” Aidan, 23, says in an interview with the Carolinian. “There was a video that [my boss] played on his TV one time of some guy writing a unicycle down some gnarly-ass mountain trail… So I was like, ‘who’s that?’ And he’s like, ‘that’s Kris Holm.’ Then I just said to myself, ‘I’m going to do that.’ Then I went home that day and ordered an $80 unicycle.”
Aidan explains there are three main forms of unicycling: street, mountain and trial. Street riding and mountain riding speak for themselves. Trial-riding is essentially rock-climbing on a unicycle, hopping over obstacles and ascending near-vertical surfaces.
After religiously watching clips of Holm – the undisputed face of mountain unicycling – and others, he practiced for a month until he could stay upright. These days, he’s an active mountain rider, able to complete two full laps of Country Park’s bike trail at 10 mph. When he first started, he could only do half of one loop at 5 mph.
Aidan’s determination is inspiring, especially when you learn more about him. He’s a veteran who worked on military avionics and is now a physics and astronomy double major. He presented at UNCG’s undergraduate research expo last week.
“Me and my advisor discovered the period of a binary star that is not resolvable by normal telescopes,” he says. “So, it can only be resolved by interferometry. It’s in the system Nu Geminorum in the constellation Gemini. I am also working with Dr. Ron Belmont studying… what’s called ‘flow vs. non-flow heavy ion collision quark gluon plasma.’”
He translates that into English a while later: “We take all the electrons off a big atom, like gold or lead. Then we hit them against each other at the speed of light.”
These experiments require particle colliders. None exist around here, so Aidan writes code for computer programs that can analyze data from other colliders, mainly the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in Brookhaven, NY. Oh, and in his spare time, Aidan is building a device called a Farnsworth fusor, which he describes as a, “micro-scale particle accelerator.”
Clearly, Aidan is much more than UNCG’s token unicycle guy. What’s most striking about him is his drive, whether he’s unicycling down a hill or observing star systems. But where does that drive come from?
“It’s that willingness to fail repeatedly until eventually you get it. That’s what it is. That’s actually what the spirit of unicycling is, essentially. If you ask any unicyclist why they do it or what’s fun about it, eventually you’ll get to this point where they tell you, ‘oh, because it’s hard’… It’s like what J.F.K. said. ‘We do not do these things because they are easy, but because they are hard.’”
Always reaching for greater heights, Aidan now plans to start unicycling competitively. He’ll be participating in the downhill and cross-country events at S.T.O.M.P. MuniFest in Alabama in October. Aidan is certainly an athlete—you can tell just by looking at him. But some people don’t think of unicycling that way, and he wants to change that.
“It’s just something I do. It’s fun. A lot of people see [unicycling] maybe at a circus… So you always get these clown jokes. But the best unicyclists in the world are athletes of Olympic caliber.”
However, not everyone is Aidan’s life is a fan of his unicycling. Aidan’s wife, Aly Glough, hates it.
“She won’t be seen in public with me when I’m on it,” Aidan says with a light-hearted grin. “She specifically hates the attention that I get. It takes away from us being able to hang out. So if I ride down the street with her and she’s on her bike and I’m on my unicycle, inevitably I will be stopped and asked about it. And she can’t stand it, so she’ll just ride off.”