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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 03-15-14, 03:20 AM   #1
lopek77
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Unable to ride hands free...

Hey cyclists!
So, I'm 6.3 and at 280 lbs at this moment. I'm riding my entire life, " I'm an cyclist...hi lopek77", and I even ended up in the hospital twice because my leg muscles just quit when I was younger.
It was a lot of fun riding hands free when I learned how to do it. Then it became a very convenient trick when I needed to "stretch" my spine or to drink/eat during the ride. I was able to ride hands free any distance, and on any bike, including folding bikes with small wheels, and big old school bikes, road bikes and mountain bikes with much bigger wheels... All my bikes were either too big or too small as far as I remember and what I know today about proper bike fitting. They were also very heavy steel frames, rims...well, everything was either rubber, plastic or steel, and I was 180 lbs at most. Still, I didn't have any issues with riding them hands free and having a lot of fun doing it.

Now, with properly fitted and in the right size bikes, I almost can't ride hands free. I just can't keep the ballance.
I know that wheels and their rotating mass create gyroscopic effect along with other forces, that helps to keep bike stable.

I have no issues riding hands free on crappy, old, heavy or too small bikes though...
My bikes are relatively light weight, with pretty light wheels/tires.

So, am I sitting way too high with all my weight/size and that makes my bikes "unstable" - high center of gravity issue?
Or is it the lack of the gyroscopic effect from light weight aluminum wheels and light weight tires?
Or is it the mix of both or something totally different?

This thing bothers me a lot for some reason. No idea how to explain. One thing I did notice, it's easier, actually the only way to balance the bike if I "squeeze" my seat with my tights. I don't remember the need for that on any other bikes in the past, and I didn't need to do that on my neighbors Next steel bike.
I will appreciate any logical, unlogical, outside of the box feedback lol

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Old 03-15-14, 09:21 AM   #2
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I'm the same way...used to be able to do easily and comfortably, not anymore. I think that possibly the geometry and inherent stability of a given bike has something to do with it, but I also think being top-heavy has something to do with it, too.
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Old 03-15-14, 09:48 AM   #3
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When I had a 2006 Allez Triple, I could ride hands free like it was my special talent. I then sold that and had a 2009 Sirrus, could NOT ride hands free at all. Mountain bikes I don't know if I can either.

I think a lot has to do with your CORE strength, as well as frame geometry. Core strength is essential to balance
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Old 03-15-14, 10:20 AM   #4
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When I had a 2006 Allez Triple, I could ride hands free like it was my special talent. I then sold that and had a 2009 Sirrus, could NOT ride hands free at all. Mountain bikes I don't know if I can either.

I think a lot has to do with your CORE strength, as well as frame geometry. Core strength is essential to balance
I used to lift weights, I even broke few professional excersise equipment in the past, and I have a body of an amateur bodybuilder who happened to like food little too much So strong core, but still it's not helping me with balancing when hands free.
I'm happy I'm not the only one here with that "issue". I hope this thread create some solid conclusion.
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Old 03-15-14, 10:23 AM   #5
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Agree, it's a bike geometry thing. I too am a big guy (240). On my Colnago with 25mm tires I cannot ride hands free, very twitchy but on my Tri-Cross with 38mm tires and much slacker geometry I can ride hands free all day long.

Now the skinny guys in the Tour all eat and ride hands free on very twitchy geometry bike, but they also ride 8 hrs a day, 10 months out of the year. Practice makes perfect

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Old 03-15-14, 10:44 AM   #6
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I hsve never been able to ride hands free. Been riding since the 1960's serious riding off and on since 1972.
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Old 03-15-14, 11:09 AM   #7
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Does it pull to one side, or just feel unstable? A one-side pull is probably a frame or fork out of alignment.

Bike physics is pretty complicated--this discussion is way over my head.

The gyroscopic effect is very small, compared to other forces on the steering. (Experimental bikes with counter-rotating wheels to cancel the gyro effect have been shown to be just as rideable.) The design of the fork angles and the resulting amount of "trail" have more to do with riding hands free.

I find it easier to do when I'm pedaling, and when I have a reasonably high speed.
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Old 03-15-14, 12:25 PM   #8
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toss me in the "it's a geometry issue" camp... I have an old trek Crit racing frame (31 years old to be exact) and it's a great bike but as soon as I take my hands off the bars it gets the speed wobble feel, putting the rear wheel all the way back in the dropouts helped a little, I also put a bar bag on it and that helped a bit more (perhaps slowed down the steering?).

I could ride for miles on my MTB (on the road) without hands... could even stand up no handed (that impressed my kiddos ;-) I can hop on my touring bike and ride without hands... but that racing frame just won't let me... it's by far the most aggressive frame I've put any time on but I know the old trek "sport" frame (aka somewhere between a racing and touring frame) wasn't an issue... I keep my eyes open for another one of those... I prefer the slightly slower/more stable handling myself.
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Old 03-15-14, 12:30 PM   #9
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Try sliding more forward on the seat when you want to ride no handed. Putting more weight on the front wheel always works for me.
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Old 03-15-14, 01:34 PM   #10
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Too much rake gives too little trail making the steering twitchy and riding hands free a challenge.

More rake > less trail > quicker steering.......opposite of what would make sense. (There are other factors, of course)

Bottomline, it is the bike.
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Old 03-15-14, 03:46 PM   #11
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Found this on Wikipedia...some info is pretty interesting. Bicycle and motorcycle dynamics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 03-15-14, 03:56 PM   #12
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It's fear. For me, anyway. I thought I couldn't do it anymore (like you, I did it everywhere as a young man) until I said "screw it" and just lifted my hands, sat upright, and did it. I can do it now on my twitchy "race bikes" or slacked - out mountain bikes. As long as I commit, sit up, and lean back a touch, I'm good to go. I'm about 5'11 and 235 now. We can discuss geometry all we want, but it was all in my head. I found the same to be true on my motorcycle at speed, for example (different issue, same fear--corner entry and speed).
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Old 03-15-14, 04:19 PM   #13
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I noticed this too. It's like I had regular steering on my old 10-speed and power steering on my new bikes.
In college I rode home no-hands from Target with a beanbag chair and a new laundry basket completely full of other purchases.
Now, my recent-model road bike seems twitchy if I ride on the bar tops near the stem using both hands or if I ride with just one hand on the hoods.

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Old 03-15-14, 04:25 PM   #14
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I noticed this too. It's like I had regular steering on my old 10-speed and power steering on my new bikes.
In college I rode home no-hands from Target with a beanbag chair and a new laundry basket completely full of other purchases.
Now, the bike seems twitchy if I ride on the bar tops near the stem using both hands or if I ride with just one hand on the hoods.
Yup. It's as if we get older, we are pre-disposed to adopt an over abundance of caution. A self preservation instinct or something. I used to ride with reckless abandon, jumping everything, bike surfing, wheeling, and just general 2 wheeled mayhem. Now, I worry about it. Too much. Tryjng to shake that now. Life is more fun this way. Lol.
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Old 03-15-14, 06:33 PM   #15
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Thread is shaping...We went from "bad" geometry of new bikes AND us clydesdales/athenas, to us being just old and worrying too much comparing to our young years
We are still far /or maybe not/ to some solid conclusion lol
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Old 03-15-14, 07:40 PM   #16
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I had an older roubaix and could ride no handed just fine... I moved the saddle back an inch and all of a sudden it was problematic.

New roubaix and it's a bit dicey, but if I lean forward and pedal in a big gear, I can ride for quite a while no handed. I do feel like I'm leaning to the side a bit though, I'm not sure why.

I think it's a balance thing, a geometry thing, a coordination thing and of course, if your wheels are off one way or the other that will affect things as well.

So keep practicing! Riding no handed is cool, and your hands will thank you.
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Old 03-15-14, 10:40 PM   #17
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I am 6'4 and 275 and had the same problem for a while. For me the bike would get a little wobbly. After a while I was able to ride hands free. I am still not great at it, but I can use a water bottle. But, I am not comfortable yet using both hands for something like opening a food bar.
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Old 03-15-14, 10:52 PM   #18
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I am 6'4 and 275 and had the same problem for a while. For me the bike would get a little wobbly. After a while I was able to ride hands free. I am still not great at it, but I can use a water bottle. But, I am not comfortable yet using both hands for something like opening a food bar.
Almost identical to my numbers and situation. I'm losing weight really quick in the last 2 weeks, so I will check it again when I have a nice, snow free day.
Will see if I can feel any difference with less weight. I was 295 or so 2 weeks ago, and now 279.
Looking for a new wife, so I need to look sexy again ;-)
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Old 03-16-14, 07:19 AM   #19
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I have found that on my Giant Escape and my Origin8 road bike I can ride hands free pretty easily as long as I am not going slow. Below a certain speed I just can't get it to happen. I also have a old steel Huffy 10 speed with 2.25x 26 tires on it. You would think it would be great for no hands riding but I haven't had any luck at all with it.

I like to be able to turn loose & stretch on long rides, it helps keep me from getting stiff and keeps my hands awake.
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Old 03-16-14, 12:05 PM   #20
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Yup. It's as if we get older, we are pre-disposed to adopt an over abundance of caution. A self preservation instinct or something. I used to ride with reckless abandon, jumping everything, bike surfing, wheeling, and just general 2 wheeled mayhem. Now, I worry about it. Too much. Tryjng to shake that now. Life is more fun this way. Lol.
Sure, I've become more cautious but my new bike is just more floppy than the old one. I noticed the difference the day I replaced my 1978 10-speed with a 2006 c/f road bike. The new bike cornered very differently too even with both hands on the hoods.
The 1973 10-speed (college bike) seemed even more stable.

On the older bikes, I could just put one hand on the saddle to push it while walking and it would still stay pointed straight. The new bike needs a hand on the handlebars to maintain course.
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Old 03-16-14, 01:30 PM   #21
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I had an older roubaix and could ride no handed just fine... I moved the saddle back an inch and all of a sudden it was problematic.
I recall reading a good article by Zinn talking about this, on bike frames for tall guys the seat ends up being much closer to the rear axle than short folks, this causes a lot of instability, this was one of his arguments for long crank arms as it moves the saddle forward (as well as down) making the frame fit more like what the average/typical rider has.
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Old 03-16-14, 01:32 PM   #22
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I recall reading a good article by Zinn talking about this, on bike frames for tall guys the seat ends up being much closer to the rear axle than short folks, this causes a lot of instability, this was one of his arguments for long crank arms as it moves the saddle forward (as well as down) making the frame fit more like what the average/typical rider has.
That might also explain why younger versions of us could do it more easily than older versions.
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Old 03-16-14, 02:03 PM   #23
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On my hybrid I've learned to ride no handed very easily, even perfected eating a pop tart and drinking a small coffee from McDonalds all while riding in traffic. When I ride a road bike, I'm afraid to even try. For some reason, although they're the same height, I feel like I'm higher off the ground on the road bike and that makes me feel a little unstable. It's probably the fact that the seat is higher than the handlebars that I'm not used to.
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Old 03-16-14, 02:40 PM   #24
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toss me in the "it's a [COLOR=#000000]geometry issue" camp....
I'm with you.

I have 5 road bikes. Each has a different "hands free" experience. One of them (Fuji Touring) I can ride hands-free for miles. Like when I was a kid. Taking turns, full U-turn on a wide street...

One of the bikes, no-hands is a dangerous choice. yet it's stable with the lightest touch of a single finger on the bars.

It's all about the bike.
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Old 03-17-14, 09:58 AM   #25
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On my old Puch I could never ride hands free. As soon as I let go of the bars it tried to veer one way or the other. I bought the bike new in 1981 and have been through the mill with it. There have been many, many falls, hopped curbs, various flavors of debris and potholes in its history. Twice I had the frame and fork checked for alignment. Each time I was told that it was fine. Then one day while riding a dusty road I saw the dust band around the front tire was off-center. I hopped off the bike, undid the quick-release and moved the wheel a bit. It did not look centered, but it rode better.

My new Cafe Noir is perfectly balanced and all but begging me to let go. After letting go I find I no longer have the confidence to lean back or even sit up straight. I'm working on that. Go figure.
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