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Balance problems

Old 01-22-19, 08:36 PM
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cormacf
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Balance problems

Any suggestions for improving balance? I've been cycling pretty regularly for the past four years. I commute an average of maybe 2500 miles per year, I do three or so centuries per year, and a lot of 30 to 50 milers, so I'm no rando maniac (yet), but I ride a bit.

Except...

Despite multiple fits from some of the best fitters in the business (no, really), and on multiple bikes with different geometry, my balance is crap. Drinking while riding is a feat requiring level ground or a climb, and works best when I ease off the pedals. Reaching into my pocket for grub is pure stress. Forget riding hands free, and when I'm in the drops on any downhill, I feel like I'm going over the front at any minute. Which means a lot of riding the hoods and brakes and hunkering back, MTB style, which is dumb and means everyone I passed on the way up passes me on what should be free coasting.

Again, I've had lots of fits, so it's not that. It's me. Like, I can get to the drops, eater bottle, barend shifter, etc. fine. I just feel like I'm going to fall over.

Any suggestions? Lessons, maybe? Thanks!

Last edited by cormacf; 01-22-19 at 09:43 PM.
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Old 01-22-19, 08:48 PM
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I don't have anything to base this on but that won't stop me from suggesting it Try practicing riding as slow as you can without falling over. If you can master a trackstand, all the better. I find that it helps my slow speed balance, but I don't know if it carries over into other aspects of cycling.
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Old 01-22-19, 08:57 PM
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How is your balance off the bike? How is it standing on one leg? How about on a Bosu ball?
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Old 01-22-19, 08:57 PM
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You might want to try sublingual vitamin B12.

Although I rarely watch daytime TV, one day I caught a few minutes of Dr Oz, who was asking the audience to stand, close their eyes and count to 10 or 15, then open them up. He asked if anyone felt dizzy. He said those who did might have a B12 deficiency, and noted that B12 is not absorbed in the gut, but under the tongue instead. I take 5000 units daily. Does it help? I don't stumble much.

But I still drink on the bike only while coasting at moderate speeds.
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Old 01-22-19, 10:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
I don't have anything to base this on but that won't stop me from suggesting it Try practicing riding as slow as you can without falling over. If you can master a trackstand, all the better. I find that it helps my slow speed balance, but I don't know if it carries over into other aspects of cycling.
I'm pretty good at trackstands, and super-slow balance seems fine. To the other poster's point, my balance off-bike isn't bad. I just always feel the need to be holding the bars (low-trail or medium-trail bikes--doesn't matter). I do a bit better with flat-bar bikes going downhill, which kind of makes sense, since it's more upright and like riding the drops, position-wise.
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Old 01-22-19, 10:33 PM
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Originally Posted by cormacf View Post
Drinking while riding...
There you go... that'll cause anything to go wonky!!!



I suppose a little will depend on your ride. I don't like to be grabbing for the water bottle in real technical areas. I've been experimenting a bit with a stainless bottle vs plastic bottle, and the plastic bottle is definitely easier to use. Also, I found that 100+ loaded miles into my last ride, and doing anything but pedaling becomes difficult.

I personally stop and get off my bike to eat a snack every once in a while (snack in a backpack or other bag).

I'm not sure about the drops. When I was a teenager, they were very comfortable. But, I never liked riding on the hoods. With new brake designs, the hoods are comfortable. I'll still hit the drops occasionally, but not a lot.

Also, when I was younger, it was typical to set the seat and the bars at the same level. Now, one will have a minimum of 10cm bar drop, I think in part due to changing positioning in the way the bike is configured. That means not only am I older , the drops are also lower.

Overall, I think it just takes practice.

On hard descents, It never hurts to scoot the butt back a bit, as it is more stable with braking.
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Old 01-22-19, 10:35 PM
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Are you taking any meds like Warfarin (Coumadin)? I'm on Warfarin and slight loss if balance is one of the side effects. However, I'm fine at apeed, it's s-l-o-w speed where I wobble. If you feel like you're gonna' do an endo' while riding down hill, try scooting rearward on the saddle and move your weight back.
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Old 01-22-19, 10:36 PM
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Originally Posted by cormacf View Post
Any suggestions for improving balance? I've been cycling pretty regularly for the past four years. I commute an average of maybe 2500 miles per year, I do three or so centuries per year, and a lot of 30 to 50 milers, so I'm no rando maniac (yet), but I ride a bit.

Except...

Despite multiple fits from some of the best fitters in the business (no, really), and on multiple bikes with different geometry, my balance is crap. Drinking while riding is a feat requiring level ground or a climb, and works best when I ease off the pedals. Reaching into my pocket for grub is pure stress. Forget riding hands free, and when I'm in the drops on any downhill, I feel like I'm going over the front at any minute. Which means a lot of riding the hoods and brakes and hunkering back, MTB style, which is dumb and means everyone I passed on the way up passes me on what should be free coasting.

Again, I've had lots of fits, so it's not that. It's me. Like, I can get to the drops, eater bottle, barend shifter, etc. fine. I just feel like I'm going to fall over.

Any suggestions? Lessons, maybe? Thanks!

You might have a read through this site and see if anything applies to you:
https://vestibular.org/understanding...order/symptoms
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Old 01-22-19, 10:55 PM
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Machka,
Great article. I have most of those symptoms. Tinitus from 40 years in a machine shop environment and some times attention span problems from the ADD. Most of it is from just being old, I guess (I'm 64). It sux getting old.
Jon

Last edited by Jon T; 01-22-19 at 10:59 PM.
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Old 01-22-19, 11:49 PM
  #10  
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Sounds like your balance is actually OK, but more of a conditioned response.

I suggest core strength exercises, & EMDR therapy.
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Old 01-22-19, 11:57 PM
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Head and eyes up and level with the horizon. This is taught to motorcyclists, kayakers, horsemen, and pilots. It also helps my elderly mother walk with a bit more stability.
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Old 01-23-19, 12:03 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by justslow View Post
Head and eyes up and level with the horizon. This is taught to motorcyclists, kayakers, horsemen, and pilots. It also helps my elderly mother walk with a bit more stability.
At the risk of asking a really dumb question, doesn't that violate the "look where you're going" rule? I live in the middle of a ton of twisty hills in the 15-20% range.
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Old 01-23-19, 02:44 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by cormacf View Post
At the risk of asking a really dumb question, doesn't that violate the "look where you're going" rule? I live in the middle of a ton of twisty hills in the 15-20% range.
No. "Head Up and Eyes Level means you CAN see where you're going. If you can't see where you're going, dude, you're going to the doctor.!!! Just saying....
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Old 01-23-19, 03:19 AM
  #14  
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Sounds like your fitness level is high -- better than most people just because you ride at all, period -- but I wonder if core exercises (like planks or side planks and all that) would help. It might make balance adjustments happen sooner.
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Old 01-23-19, 03:25 AM
  #15  
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My balance is a little wonky sometimes. It's almost always due to chronic allergies and congestion in the sinuses and eustachian tubes.

I'm usually skeptical about herbal, homeopathic and "natural" remedies (there's nothing unnatural about Sudafed or pseudoephedrine -- it's very similar to ephedrine which was synthesized from ephedra, a naturally occurring decongestant and bronchodilator). But I tried bromelain this year, an enzyme from pineapple. It's supposedly good for inflammation, especially sinus inflammation. It sure seems to help me. So does niacin (Vitamin B3), although at first there's some flushing and stinging sensation. But that disappears after a few days. It helps clear my sinuses too.

When I resumed cycling in 2015 I hadn't been on a bicycle in more than 30 years. Took awhile to get the hang of it again, including handle a water bottle. It helped to start with a bottle with a grab loop -- some Polar bottles include a grab loop. Not sure about Camelbak, mine doesn't have that. But I could swap the same plastic tether between bottles.

By now I don't think about it much. Helps to practice while on the indoor trainer. Muscle memory so I don't need to look. But when I switch bikes and the bottle cage is set a little differently, I need to look a few times until I remember where the cage is.

And it's possible you may never get comfortable with the downtube bottle cage. A couple of friends don't like them. One in particular has chronic balance issues that may have been related to chemical exposure in a former job. Those two fellows, and other folks I know, prefer Camelbak backpacks for water.

I kinda wish handlebar bottle cages made a comeback. For folks who are accustomed to handlebar bags it wouldn't be any worse. Many road racers used handlebar bottle cages until the 1960s.

There are also collapsible bottles that fit into pockets. I have a collapsible Mylar squeeze bottle that I carry in my jersey pocket in summer. I freeze it first and with electrolytes it'll stay cold and keep my back cool for a couple of hours before I need it. By then I've gone through my two regular bottles.
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Old 01-23-19, 07:21 AM
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Is it on all of your bikes? I have some that are far twitchier than other, and some that are far more stable than others. Is the geometry simply not right for you and your riding style?
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Old 01-23-19, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by BirdsBikeBinocs View Post
No. "Head Up and Eyes Level means you CAN see where you're going. If you can't see where you're going, dude, you're going to the doctor.!!! Just saying....
Ah. When you said "Look at the horizon," I imagined careening down a hill with my neck craned back, looking up at the water.
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Old 01-23-19, 07:38 AM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
Is it on all of your bikes? I have some that are far twitchier than other, and some that are far more stable than others. Is the geometry simply not right for you and your riding style?
If I had to guess, it might be somewhat more exaggerated on my low-trail bike, which has twitchier steering, but the feel-like-I'm-endoing thing is every drop-bar bike I've ever ridden. And my weight distribution is a LITTLE weird (shortish legrs, long torso), but nothing crazy. So I'm thinking it's a matter of comfort / familiarity? But I'm able to get in the drops for extended periods of time ducking under wind on flats.
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Old 01-23-19, 07:59 AM
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When it comes to taking food from a pocket, it might help to sit up a bit higher and move the hand that is still on the hand bars closer to the stem.
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Old 01-23-19, 07:59 AM
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The simple solution to your biking problem is simple, go to a trike. Besides they are great fun.
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Old 01-23-19, 09:31 AM
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practice riding with no hands.

while riding dont look down, look out in front of you. Relax, physics will help keep you upright until you slow too much, or if you let your brain micromanage your body's balance.
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Old 01-23-19, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by superpletch View Post
practice riding with no hands.

while riding dont look down, look out in front of you. Relax, physics will help keep you upright until you slow too much, or if you let your brain micromanage your body's balance.
Maybe it is just a matter of chilling out and getting comfortable. And putting hydros with big rotors on my commute bike, just in case.
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Old 01-23-19, 11:20 AM
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Or getting a trike , no one in the recumbent section, will talk you out of that idea..
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Old 01-23-19, 11:28 AM
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I found this helped noteably in making me more comfortable and "balanced" on the bike (Limber 11):

What you describe I believe is a combination of mobility issues - muscles that don't turn on, muscles that are gunked up and have trouble activating, muscles that are overly tight, bad muscle activation patterns...there's a whole list of mobility causes. I've had to deal with a bunch of this stuff because of a non-biking leg injury. There's a things that are relatively easy to do that sometimes provide improvement right away:
1. Do some sort of full body work like yoga or light aerobic exercise that moves you around in all direction. Sometimes with some movement and bloodflow things will loosen up and turn back on.
2. Go the the gym workout machines and try to hit every one
3. Get down on the ground on all 4's and move your legs in every direction possible - kick it out to the side, rotate it forward, rotate it back. Some of this is covered in limber 11. The idea is to flush some blood/etc through the joint as well as try to kick the body into using lesser-used muscles that move the legs in odd directions that get gummed up and unused over time.

There are things you can do past this but it gets real complicated real fast and the odds of it working well are about the same as the odds of making something worse....I've gone to "experts" (physical therapists) but they are not particularly good at fixing long term medical problems.
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Old 01-23-19, 11:58 AM
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spend twenty hours or so on rollers. enforces "balanced form"
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