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  1. #1
    Senior Member bboseley's Avatar
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    Handling Question !

    I am relatively new to road biking biking in general for that matter and I am no young flatbelly. I purchased a bike, that with a few upgrades, is in the $1500 price range. Im not going to mention the brand, because I dont want this to go in that direction. Im convinced that several manufacturers sell bikes of virtually equal quality in each price range.

    With that backdrop, I believe I am progressing at a good rate. My skills increase with each ride which now average about 30 miles, three times per week and a few more turns on a trainer. The area, which gives me some concern, is this: I can go along with both hands somewhere on the bars with very good control. HOWEVER, when I remove one hand, things get a bit dicey. (For example, going for a frame mount water bottle is something I do only in total isolation).

    The reason for my concern is that I keep thinking perhaps its not me but the setup or perhaps even components. A few basics which may be pertinent:

    Total bike weigh before saddle bag 18.5
    Tire size 700x23
    Handlebars 40 Bontrager Race Lite Flattop
    Frame size 52
    Tires Conti GP3000
    Fork Carbon

    The bike has a flip-flop stem, which allows for setting the bars slightly higher - which is the case in my setup. Wheels are medium light rider weight about 155. Saddle is positioned at a fraction above bar height and about I rear of center.

    Basically my question is does good handling come just through practice, or based on the limited information I have supplied, is there something in the setup which might contribute to my problem? Could the upward slant of the stem contribute to poor handling as opposed to being flat?

  2. #2
    Are we having fun yet? Prosody's Avatar
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    Handling improves with practice. Also, when reaching for your water bottle, your control will be better if the other hand in on the top of the bar, near the stem. That way little movements of your control hand do not translate into as large of movements of the bike as they would if your hand were out on the hoods or the drops.
    You're east of East St. Louis
    And the wind is making speeches.

  3. #3
    Senior Member bboseley's Avatar
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    Thanks for the reply Prosody. As an aside I spent 30 years working in St. Louis before retiring to Florida about 5 years ago. (And, I lived east of East STL)

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    You seem to be doing very well in your progress. With the saddle above the bar, the stance is proper for fairly aggressive riding. I wonder whether you have too much weight a above the bar. Depending on gender 155 is not heavy. Your train of thought is correct in my opinion, and if you want to follow it through, go to one of the sites that deal with bike fitting. There are those who feel that this can only be properly done by an in-person fitting session by a professional. If you are willing to consider the alternative, I would go to the Wrench Science site, and see what they come to with respect to the proper fit dimensions for your particular physique. I came to realize that top bar length is crucial. Of course, after purchase, this cannot be changed, but the total length figure can be adjusted by a longer stem, or a different bar. The seat can also be moved back more within limits. If too much weight is hovering over the bar, the steering gets a little sketchy. This is dramatised more in the case of certain frame designs that have quicker handling. You obviously have a quality bike, if the issue is total reach, small fixes may do the trick, and you will start to fit into the bike, rather than riding on it. Just my two cents.

  5. #5
    Banned. DnvrFox's Avatar
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    A couple of thoughts:

    Experience does improve handling, most definitely. Have you had a "professional" or similar bicycle fitting?

    40 inch bars are pretty narrow, but may indeed be appropriate, depending on the width of your shoulders.

    700 x 23's are going to be a bit more squirrely than 700x25's

    Your bike geometry does make a difference in handling, especially the "Trail."

    From Sheldon Brown's Glossary:


    Trail
    Trail is the distance from the contact point of the front wheel with the riding surface to the intersection of the steering axis (head tube) with the surface. The trail is a function of the head angle, the fork rake, and the tire diameter. Trail has a major effect on the handling of a bicycle. More trail increases the bicycle's tendency to steer straight ahead. A bicycle with a largish trail dimension will be very stable, and easy to ride "no hands". A bicycle with a smaller trail dimension will be more manuverable and responsive.
    Joshua Putnam has a good discussion of trail and Bicycle Steering Geometry in general on his Web site.
    There is nothing I know of that you can do about "trail" given a particular bike already purchased.
    Last edited by DnvrFox; 03-16-05 at 09:19 AM.

  6. #6
    Papa Wheelie Sigurdd50's Avatar
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    One other consideration that I read about -- and was repeated by my gal (as she is in a workout regimen to get ready for a summer tour we are doing):

    'approx 40% of body weight is over the handlebars'
    As such, upper body and core strength are key to keeping this part in balance as you are moving. When you climb up a hill, for example, keeping the body 'quiet' and in line as the lower body works harder is controlled by good strength in the upper body and torso. As this is developed, I think stability will become improve.

    We are both 50 this year, and are celebrating by doing a week long supported tour, and we bought new road bikes (mine is also about 19 pounds). Hers is a lightweight Trek. WE both are getting used to the fast handling of these new bikes. My '71 Dawes has a very 'loping' gait (har har)

    Remember that you will put in hundreds if not thousands of miles on your bike. YOur skills will evolve over those miles... and just think of all the places you will see in addition to gaining strength (I remember seeing a cow give birth to a spring calf on a ride up the Elroy-Sparta Trail in Wisconsin!)

  7. #7
    Cat 6 Steve Katzman's Avatar
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    Just wondering if you are using a conventional saddle. Your experience reminds me of the time when I bought one of those split saddles with one articulating pad supporting each butt cheek and no saddle "nose". With the nose of the saddle absent, I found the one-handed handling to be quite squirrely, even for short times needed to reach the down tube shifters. Fortunately, the saddle had a satisfaction guarantee, that provided for money back if not satisfied in any way, of which I took advantage. Until you try it, you don't realize how much the nose (or horn) of the saddle adds to your overall stability on the bike.

    If this is not the case with your bike, then I would agree with DnvrFox that the "trail" is probably the culprit. I suspect that the model of bike that you bought is a typical racing geometry, which is characterized by responsive steering (also sometimes reffered to as "twitchy"). Touring bikes typically have a longer wheelbase and longer trail which provide a more stable ride. If this is the case, my advice would be to keep on riding your bike and you will soon get used to the responsive handling.

    With a smallish frame such as yours and short trail steering, it is very common to encounter toe overlap, a situation where your toe can contact the front wheel when making an extreme turn, such as a tight, low speed U-turn. If this is the case, exercise caution when making U-turns, especially if you use clipless pedals or toe clips. Good luck.

  8. #8
    Senior Member bboseley's Avatar
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    Getting some good replies thanks all of you. Someone mentioned seeing a cow give birth. Soooooo, I have to tell my bull story. Just yesterday I was riding on an old rails-to-trails here in central Florida. The weather wasnt the best, and I had the trail virtually to myself. I had gone out 18 miles ands was about half way home on the return when I decided to take a brief break for an energy bar and water. I stopped, leaned the bike against a post and proceeded to break open the bar. Looking around, I was startled (to say the least) to see a huge bull, with also huge horns lying within 10 feet of me in the brush. The look on the bulls face was priceless. If he could have spoken, Im sure he would have said. You A hole, you got the whole trail to stop and you pick this spot. I am a bull after all so you best get back on that contraption and move it. I started to offer him a piece of energy bar, but thought better of it. I slowly got back on the bike and left the scene.

    As to my little problem, I am thinking of trying the seat back further. My guru at the LBS loves to get folks to get the saddle way back to improve the pedaling motion. This would take a bit of weight off the front and perhaps remove some of the twitch.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Trogon's Avatar
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    You don't really elaborate on what "a bit dicey" feels like so it's hard to help with a definative answer.

    Could be a couple of things. Fit and position have been covered by others. Experience is another component, I know when I came back to the road from riding MTBs in the dirt, I found the much quicker steering to be a real shock. My handling has improved tremendously over the last couple of years.

    One thing to try - can you ride the bike without hands at all? That skill is partly you and your balance and the set-up on the bike. Every bike should be hands-free capable if your inner ear is working properly and the bike is set up correctly. If the bike veers, one of those things is amiss.

    From a mechanical standpoint, I'd check two things - your front wheel skewer and your headset.

    Are they both tight?

    Check the headset by applying the front brake and rocking the bike back and forth with your other hand on the top cups of the headset. There should be no movement whatsoever. A couple of times I've had one go loose and the handling went to hell.

    Skewer is obvious - make sure it's tight and the wheel is properly centered.

  10. #10
    Senior Member skydive69's Avatar
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    I started riding last June at the age of 64. I have made unbelievable progress, and can now ride with the "A" group, and reached 37 mph on the flats last Sunday. That being said, the slowest thing to come along has been my bike handling skills. At first, I could not even stand up and pedal. Reaching for a water bottle was a chancey venture. Riding with no hands was impossible. Slowly but surely, I progressed, and now can do those things very comfortably. I still think my bike handling skills need a lot of improvement. BTW, I turned 5000 total miles last weekend, and have been averaging about 175 miles per week. Bottom line is that you are on your way, and will laugh (as I do) when you think back to today in a few months. Welcome to the incredible fraternity of cyclists - it has changed my life. I am actually venturing out for my first competitions this weekend, and have entered 4 time trials in two separate venues.
    www.brokennecktobrokenrecords.com

  11. #11
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    In my youth, about 40 years ago, it was the norm that anyone could ride a bike no handed, But either skills have depreciated or bikes have progressed, so that I can no longer do it. My current bike is a mountain bike Bianchi, with an original Head tube angle of 71 degrees. Compare that with a "Beginners" bike of around 68degrees, and that 3 Deg has made the bike a lot more responsive. It has also made it a lot more twitchy, and no hand riding is not on for me. Friends of mine with Raleighs, and other less well respected brands, have no problem. The other point I have noted is that their bikes have the saddle a little further back on the seat stem than I have, so perhaps that is another reason. Weight distribution biased towards the front will make it "Twitchier".

    Mind you One handed riding is not a problem, but I also use a Camelback aswell. This is a water sac on my back like a rucksack, and whenever I go for the nozzle to take a drink, I am more upright than reaching under the saddle for a bottle.

    Practice makes perfect so up the milage to 40 miles 3 times a week, or go back to a "Wallmart" special.

  12. #12
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    Upper body relaxation is important. It might help to place the hand that stays on the bar as far away from the stem as possible. Try to relax the arms. The body tends to go where you look, so please don't look down when you grab the bottle, look at the horizon. To paraphrase Mark Twain, "buy rollers, you will not regret it if you live". Rollers will greatly advance your handling skills. (But it helps to have a sense of humor and a mattress!)

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by skydive69
    I started riding last June at the age of 64. I have made unbelievable progress, and can now ride with the "A" group, and reached 37 mph on the flats last Sunday.
    I'm very envious; how did you get to that level in such a short time?

  14. #14
    Senior Curmudgeon FarHorizon's Avatar
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    I might as well stir the anthill again - $1,500 bikes (from **most** manufacturers) are built with angles that would have been considered "track" racing bikes only a decade or two ago. These frame angles may be spiffy for racers, but they don't provide stability worth a darn! In general, the older the bike, the more stably it will ride. Yes, some can learn to ride today's bikes just fine (even *without* hands), but the average rider shouldn't expect stability without a LOT of practice on the bike. The new ones just aren't as forgiving..

  15. #15
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bboseley
    Thanks for the reply Prosody. As an aside I spent 30 years working in St. Louis before retiring to Florida about 5 years ago. (And, I lived east of East STL)
    O'Fallon? Highland? You'll certainly ride lots faster through East St. Louis if you live.

  16. #16
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    bbosley,

    Practice and just be careful. NO one can ride my bike no handed, and it's a 1968 Peugeot UO8. Changed the wheels to narrow 700x23's and it has narrow bars. It's a 60cm bike and I weigh 200.

    Practice being smooth and relaxed. Nonetheless, some bikes just are twitchy, no matter how you ride. Be careful in the peloton.

    Tyson

  17. #17
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Try elevating the nose of the saddle VERY slightly, in case you are sliding forward and putting too much weight on your hands. My Bianchi is fine when the air is calm, but it is extremely twitchy in a crosswind. I can reach down to change gears, but otherwise I keep both hands on the bars under these conditions.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  18. #18
    King of the Hipsters
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    First of all, my skills have improved incrementally when viewed day by day, but dramatically when viewed from year to year.
    I look and feel much more comfortable on a bike than I did when I started in again, and yet, I see people riding who look even more comfortable than I do.
    I think it takes time and the process never ends.

    As for bikes and handling, my bikes handle so differently, and I don't think one can attribute it all to fit, head angles or labels.
    I wish I knew more about handling.

    I ride two bikes: a hybrid commuter with very good, almost annoying stability; and, in contrast, I ride a track bike with exquisite handling, but which I can't ignore for a split second.
    Neither of them has a water bottle, but if they did, I would have a little difficulty getting at the water bottle with either bike.
    So, what does that say?
    I think it means different bikes handle differently, but the rider makes the biggest difference; and, we will all continue to improve in our bike handling skills until the day we attain perfection and disappear in a flash of white light.

  19. #19
    Gios
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    I'm in a similar situation, and what improved my skills immeasurably and quite quickly was getting a set of rollers. I bought mine on eBay for 20 for rainy day riding. The first time I tried them, I couldn't even balance properly without holding on to a door. Now i can balance, change gears, and reach for my water bottle. This has translated to a much more solid ride out on the road, whether it's no-handed, reaching for my water bottle or cornering.

    As always, YMMV.

    B

  20. #20
    Rides again HiYoSilver's Avatar
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    Couple quick thougths. I returned to biking last year and have logged just under 200 miles. I used to ride a bike daily for 5 years. I expected balance and shifting and handling to be no brainers. Not the case. The muscles don't work the way they used to. The bike handles totally different. The shifting is different. The rider positioning is different. The tires are different. The muscles reach tired situation quicker and so tend to have jerkier movements.

    It sounds like you are making good progress in returning to biking. My guess is that you just need more time in the saddle, so all this stuff becomes literally nobrain situations and the muscles have an opportunity to rebuild.

    I've noticed the most difficulty in the middle position,i.e. on the levers. If I'm in the drops, I don't have too many stability problems. If I'm up on the bars, I also don't have problems. But the levers still feel a bit funny and the wheels wobble more than I would like. This month is better than last month, which is better than previous. So I think it is more of a conditioning question.

    Your setup sounds good. If you want to try a change, you could ask your LBS to swap the 700x23 for something like
    a 700x28 or 700x32 tire and see if that makes any difference. Another option would be to see if you could mount the water bottle higher on the frame so you don't have to reach so far.

    Good luck and good pedalling.
    Hi 'o Silver away

  21. #21
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    Perhaps the problem is a function of your lateral body position. Perhaps you lean to the side as you reach down, rather than remain in your normal position. Why don't you try practicing, i.e. riding with just one hand, and get used to that. Then start moving your free arm around to various positions. I would hold the bar above the brake or on the side but slightly closer to your body, and certainly not on the drops.

  22. #22
    Senior Member bboseley's Avatar
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    Great suggestions from one and all. Thanks. I going out for a ride later today and one thing I intend to try is tilting the nose up very slightly. I do tend to slide forward thus leaning on the bars from time to time. I have one of those long nose Fizik saddles, so Im not sure how the boys will take to it but its worth a try. I do think as suggested by many, that the problem is ME. I need lots of saddle time. There was a time like the first week or so when I thought I would never get used to clipless pedals, but now they are second nature

    Now let me get some thoughts on another topic ! As I said in the original post, I have a bike that with upgrades is more bike than I deserve or need. HOWEVER, I can already feel the yearning for one of those $4000 machines. Some of my buds around here who purchased their bikes from Wal-Mart already think Im nuts. How can the desire for an exotic bike be successfully defeated?

    Thanks again for the assistance.

  23. #23
    Banned. DnvrFox's Avatar
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    How can the desire for an exotic bike be successfully defeated?
    Never.

    It should be fed and encouraged and reveled in!

    Go for it.

    When you get that $4,000 bike - guess what - you will be looking at a Seven or other bike for $6,500 or more!

    Sorry, it never ends.

    Have fun.

  24. #24
    Senior Member skydive69's Avatar
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    Yes, the Fox speaks the truth. I started off with a $1200 bike, and within three months found myself on a carbon fiber, Dura-ace equipped Roubaix Pro. Now, just a few months later, I have a custom bike being made in Canada that is going to set me back the better part of 6Kbucks. I just turned 10 months of total riding, so I am averaging a new bike every three months and change!
    www.brokennecktobrokenrecords.com

  25. #25
    King of the Hipsters
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    The ride just keeps getting richer and richer.
    Compared to open heart surgery, a 6K bike costs nothing and it provides everything.

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