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  1. #1
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    Biking 101--How Do You Ride One-Handed?

    I am 54 going on 12, and just learned to ride a bike a few months ago. Been riding 20-30 miles/week mostly on mountain bikes. My problem: If I lift a hand from the handlebar, I lose control. This means that I can't safely signal turns or stops, or wave. Or take a drink. And as for fiddling with the downtube shifters on my old road bikes--forget it! I took a spill on my Premis trying that.

    What am I doin' wrong?

    Next hurdles: learning to "honk" and to use toe clips.

  2. #2
    Senior Member barba's Avatar
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    Your doing nothing wrong. You just need to ride more and develop your balance and riding skills.

    Keep at it.

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    Member bartier's Avatar
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    Practice with your mountain bike on grass that way when you fall it shouldn't be to painful.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Nermal's Avatar
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    Oh, and for what it's worth, Bobcat, I had terrible luck with toe clips. I tried two different pairs; neither would let me get quite the foot position I wanted, and to varying degrees, they both chaffed my toes at the nails. Since I'm 62 and don't heal as fast as you young fellers, I passed on the clipless systems and went with the Power Grips. I'm happy, and I'm not easily satisfied.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    THe reason you lose control is that your weight pushes on the bars. Normally both hands push in opposing directions and they cancel each other out. WIth just one hand, you end up pushing on the bar and turning it. One easy way to deal with that is to place the one hand in the exact middle of the bar, that way it doesn't turn the bar with your body-weight.

    WIth time, you learn to adjust your balance and COG so that when you take one hand off, you actualy shift your weight back into the seat so that there's no weight on the remaining hand. It's just holding on to the bar to steer, but is not actually supporting any weight.

    Another VERY good exercise is learning to carve turns one-handed, say in a parking-lot. Really teachs you about counter-steering and how that makes the bike lean and turn.
    Last edited by DannoXYZ; 05-20-06 at 03:43 PM.

  6. #6
    45 miles/week Eggplant Jeff's Avatar
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    What danno said, with the caveat that perhaps you're carrying too much weight on your arms? How's the fit generally on your bike? On a MTB you should have a fairly upright posture and your arms shouldn't bear all that much weight.

    However, no matter what riding posture you have, you'll usually have to lean back and carry most of your weight on your butt when you are riding one-handed. When I do it usually I sit up straight on the seat and have one hand only lightly on the handlebars.

    I can ride one-handed in a normal position, but not for extended periods (long enough to signal a turn or whatever). In that case you have to have very tight control of the handlebars... as Danno said, your weight on only one side will tend to push the handlebar away on that side (turning you) so you have to pull back by about the same amount... Takes some practice.

    One way to think of it is it's half way to riding no-handed. If you were riding no-handed, your butt has to carry all the weight and your torso's going to be more or less straight up... you could bend over the handlebars but it would be very hard to maintain that posture. Riding one handed is in a lot of ways halfway between normal and no-handed.

    [edit] thought of a suggestion.

    Practice riding two-handed, but with almost no weight on your hands. Lean back as far as you can torward a straight-up posture, and just controlling the handlebars with your fingers (both hands). Rather than gripping the handlebars, you just have your fingers on 'em lightly. That way you can get used to the posture you'll be using. And once you've got riding with your hands very lightly on the bars, taking one hand off is easy... because the other hand doesn't push the bar very hard.

    It'll be easier to do if you're riding at a reasonable speed, not super-slow... because you don't need as much force to control the handlebars at speed (they tend to stay straighter on their own). Maybe 10 mph or so.
    Last edited by Eggplant Jeff; 05-19-06 at 07:54 AM.
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  7. #7
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    Danno hit it on the head, but one more thing should be considered - your riding position. Proper riding position should allow you to remove one hand from the bars without having to shift your weight or turn your body to compensate. You may have too much of your weight supported by your arms on the handlebars. Some of this will be compensated for as you continue to ride and gain leg strength, in essence straddling, rather than sitting on the saddle with your legs supporting more of your weight than the saddle, but you still may need to adjust your bars/stem/saddle angle to keep you from having too much weight on the bars. You want to balance your weight equally between arms, legs and okole.
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  8. #8
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nermal
    Oh, and for what it's worth, Bobcat, I had terrible luck with toe clips. I tried two different pairs; neither would let me get quite the foot position I wanted, and to varying degrees, they both chaffed my toes at the nails. Since I'm 62 and don't heal as fast as you young fellers, I passed on the clipless systems and went with the Power Grips. I'm happy, and I'm not easily satisfied.
    Learning to ride clipless is far easier than learning how to ride with toe clips. You don't have to learn how to flip the pedal. Basically you start from a stop and just grind your foot around until the cleat engages. Getting out is a bit harder and you should expect to crash a couple of time (usually really slow speed) but it eventually becomes intuitive.
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  9. #9
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
    THe reason you lose control is that your weight pushes on the bars. Both hands push in opposing directions and they cancel each other out. WIth just one hand, you end up pushing on the bar and turning it. One easy way to deal with that is to place the one hand in the exact middle of the bar, that way it doesn't turn the bar with your body-weight.

    WIth time, you learn to adjust your balance and COG so that when you take one hand off, you actualy shift your weight back into the seat so that there's no weight on the remaining hand. It's just holding on to the bar to steer, but is not actually supporting any weight.

    Another VERY good exercise is learning to carve turns one-handed, say in a parking-lot. Really teachs you about counter-steering and how that makes the bike lean and turn.
    I doubt if it's a push but more of a pull. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that when he releases his hand the bike pulls to the side that still has hold of the bar. At least that's the way that my kids bikes always went.

    Try this: Close your eyes and put your hands out like you are riding a bike. Really get the feel. Now lift either hand. I can feel the hand on the 'bar' pull back ever so slightly. If your grip on the bar is too tight, this would lead you to pull back on the bar and send the bike into a swerve.

    To Bobcat: Try to lighten your touch on the bar. You shouldn't have a death grip but your hands should be lightly on the bar just as the rest of you should be lightly on the bike. If you look critically at your riding position, I think you'll find that you arms are probably straight and you are tense, especially at the elbow and the shoulders. Bend your elbows slightly...I'm really have to think about this stuff because it's so automatic...like you are typing at a keyboard...there's the ticket Like you are sitting nice and straight at a keyboard (like your typing teacher taught you not like we all slouch) with your elbows slightly bent. Bend forward at the waist a little and keep that position (relax and don't be rigid ) then do like DannoXYZ says.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    I doubt if it's a push but more of a pull. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that when he releases his hand the bike pulls to the side that still has hold of the bar. At least that's the way that my kids bikes always went.
    Pushing on the left bar makes it turn to the left - thats countersteering

  11. #11
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    1) You might try a higher gear.

    2) Your bike might be poorly designed and inherently unstable.

    learning to "honk"
    I suggest you get a horn that you can work with you thumb. Taking your hand off the brake is a bad idea and takes more time than you may have.
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  12. #12
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewP
    Pushing on the left bar makes it turn to the left - thats countersteering
    Counter steering is more of 'a move the bike to the right before you turn left' kind of thing. And it's done mostly with body english. You lean out away from the curve before you dive into it.

    Watch a kid who is new to riding. They wobble all over the place because they are making big hand movements. When they are trying to learn how to ride one handed, they tend to pull the bar that their hand is on back towards them and they end up veering sharply towards the side their hand is on. It's not the fluid, subtle motion you get from countersteering.
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  13. #13
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    Thanks

    Thank you, folks. I do have a long torso and a center of gravity just below the sternum. My bikes are all different sizes, and this problem is common to all. So it's me. You gave some good tips on unlearning bad habits.

    By "Honk" I meant standing up and pedaling, not tooting. But I'm sure the senior member knew that.

  14. #14
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewP
    Pushing on the left bar makes it turn to the left - thats countersteering
    Counter steering is more of 'a move the bike to the right before you turn left' kind of thing. And it's done mostly with body english. You lean out away from the curve before you dive into it.

    Watch a kid who is new to riding. They wobble all over the place because they are making big hand movements. When they are trying to learn how to ride one handed, they tend to pull the bar that their hand is on back towards them and they end up veering sharply towards the side their hand is on. It's not the fluid, subtle motion you get from countersteering.
    Well, that's probably known more as "the flick" than countersteering. It can be used to set up the countersteering and give you more room on the inside to carve a turn, but it's the actual countersteering that leans you over and make bike turn.

    What the kids are doing is actually at low-speeds and balancing (<10mph), they steer into the direction they're falling into, which puts the bike underneath them and they stay upright. It's actually still countersteering becasue if they're falling to the left, steering left will make them fall to the right, thus the opposing forces balances out and they remained balanced. Whether they pulling on one side or pushing on the opposite side doesn't matter, the bars still turn in the same direciton.

    The OP's problem at speed is slightly different. Think about where the force of the weight is when you're leaned over the bars. With both hands on teh bars, where is the pressure on the bar? On top from your palms or on the bottom from your fingertips. Most likely the weight of your upper-body is pushing down on the bars. When you release one hand, that weight is removed and the remaining hand is still pushing on the other side, there's no more equalizing opposing force and the bar turns.

    You can get a better sense of what the OP's dealing with one-handed by riding in the drops with a low and flat back and taking one hand off to drink. While it's easiest to learn one-handed riding by sitting upright and resting all your weight on the seat, it's not necessarily the only way that one-handed riding can be done. It is possible to ride one-handed in the drops and supporting your upper-body's weight as well. How that's done requires some shoulder & back-strength. When you take off one hand, your body-weight will push on the bars on the other side and the bike will steer towards the side with one hand on the bars (countersteering). You take off your right hand to reach for a bottle, and your left hand will push forward on the bars (turns it to the right) and the bike will lean and turn left.

    To negate this natural turning, you end up having to support your upper-body weight with that one hand AND pull back on that arm at the same time. This keeps the bars aimed straight. You'll also notice that your upper-body will kinda arch towards that side as well to keep your COG centered between the one hand and the rear-contact patch. If you do this for a long time, like taking an extended drink, or chewing on an entire PowerBar, you'll feel that side of your body, like around the ribs & shoulder-blade, getting slightly tight or sore because it's stiffening up to support your weight and pulling your arm back.
    Last edited by DannoXYZ; 05-20-06 at 04:05 PM.

  15. #15
    Barbieri Telefonico huhenio's Avatar
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    think of motorcycles.

    The motorbikes are steered with changes in center of gravity - aka your body - pulling your butt to the desired direction. At high speeds, the handlebars are pushed AWAY from the turn, but just by a fraction.

    One MAINLY steers with one's butt, that is why one can ride non handed.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    How do you steer with your butt when you're trying to pedal in a straight line?

  17. #17
    Barbieri Telefonico huhenio's Avatar
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    Practice ....
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  18. #18
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by huhenio
    Practice ....
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  19. #19
    100% USDA certified the beef's Avatar
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    It's all about weight on the handlebars, like some others said. My mom used to ride with a death grip on the handlebars due to nerves.. the moment she took a hand off she'd lose control. The trick is to simply find a position where you can put more weight on the saddle, while putting less weight on the bars. With that said, practice!

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