Different approach to handlebars

I searched on handlebars and found a pretty impressive collection of what people have put on their unicycles but they all are based on a hand-in-front-of-seat solution. Has anybody built handlebars that put your hands adjacent to your hips? That is the approach I am thinking about as I work to consider a seat and handlebar answer that would permit one to spend hours in the seat without going numb.

Here is a picture of Keith Case using this approach for his cross country trek. Anybody else done any work in this regard? I am looking at putting a stem around the seat post with a normal set of handlebars where I could easily hold onto them at my side.

The next step would be to find a long-duration seat to complete the set-up.


I believe his name is Keith Cash, not Case. That handle configuration would not be in the way during forward upd’s. Upd’s off the back might be a problem, as it appears the rider would be “locked” in! Pretty amazing story about Keith, and his grueling 3,000+ mile trek from coast to coast way back in 1981, nealy 30 years ago! Kinda makes a century ride seem like a walk in the park! And he did it on an old Schwinn 24!


You are correct, it was Keith Cash, sorry for the typo.

Good point on the aft-UPD limitation but I think this is still a good option for long distance riding.

Mr Cash was not the first cross country unicycle rider. A man named Walter Nilsson rode coast to coast during the 30s. We bought my first unicycle from him in LA when I was a 10 year old kid in 1962.

Anybody else ever done anything like this with handlebars for the road?


I’ve seen a similar side-handle setup used by a couple riders in the Atlanta Unicycle Club’s videos.

You get a good shot of the bar structure at about 4:13.

with the handlebars coming from behind you, it’s as if you’re pushing directly against your weight. I’ve always thought that it’s more important to put the weight of your body in the right spot rather than try to counter your weight directly with your arms. The forward bars let you push forward on bars allowing you to put yourself on the saddle as if you were on a bicycle. This position makes you sit on your sit-bones rather that your . . . undercarriage. Keep in mind a running mount will also be much more tricky.

I can’t imagine riding in that position for that long either : P

anyway, the ride this year was great!! :smiley: (I did tour de cure with the ATL club this year)

how did Keith Cash mount?

you have to step over the handlebars, and have them behind you when you mount.

Read Keiths story here.


He does mention that mounting was a bit of a chore due to the excess weight he had strapped to the uni.

UPD with those Handlebars

I have always thought that Keith’s Handlebars were very cool. Not only that but they seem very comfy and practical.

First off all I have never experienced a UPD while riding on the street or sidewalk to the rear. It almays seems like there was a pot hole or dip in the sidewalk or some kind of bump that stopes your tire unexpecedly making you UPD forward. I can’t think of the tire ever all of a sudden speeding up on a street or urban environment making you UPD backwards.

If you doo happen to UDP backwards with those handlebars then you just UPD with the unicycle between your legs.

The only thing that I would fear is one of those handelbars getting lodged where the sun dont shine!


The other day I was cut off by a car making a right-turn. I was riding at about 27km/hr. I was right next to him when he started to turn, and when I jumped off there was about 9" between his car and the curb; I landed on the sidewalk. I had no choice but to jump off backward, and I managed to grab the (“traditional” - non-backward) handlebar and pull the uni off to the side and not even touch the car.

I would never ride in traffic or for any distance on handlebars where I couldn’t jump off the back. I’m pretty sure it’s the best way to get off most times, intentionally or not: you end up going at a slower speed when you hit the ground (energy goes from you into uni instead of uni into you) and if conditions are right you can grab your uni, preventing damage. It’ll never come and hit you from behind.

I think mounting would be straight-forward on a 24 with those bars, but hard on a 36. I can do a normal free-mount on my 36, but not with any amount of weight on my back or uni, and I’m pretty tall with very long legs. Even then the seat is at a low angle when I’m getting ready; I think the handles would really complicate mounting. Also, sometimes (especially when I have extra weight), it takes more than one try to mount. I always dismount backwards on the failed attempt.

From a practical perspective, I think it would feel great for short distances. After a time though, I think hands/wrists would go numb. I get that on my T-bar when I lean hard for long times, and that’s less force than I think I’d want to use on these. I could see it being pretty comfortable with arm rests, maybe resting weight just below the elbow on some aero bar pads or something. I’d worry about my shoulders and neck getting sore there though, but perhaps not much worse than traditional aero bars.

Looking at the photo again, he’s got the grips vertical where he holds them, so he’s probably pushing back more than up, moving the pressure to his sit bones. I could see that working, at least in the same sense that regular uni bars “work”. I think a basic problem with trying to do distance unicycling is that the seat tube angle almost always ends up being close to vertical. Bikes are 72-74 degrees, so pushing on the pedals pushes you back into the seat. Handlebars are not meant to push you back into the seat on a bike, but at this point that’s about all we’ve got on unicycles. Until we start seeing offset pedals (shifted forward a few inches from the wheel), we’ve got to deal with numb wrists, sore shoulders and neck. I’ve done some research into this, maybe I’ll start a thread on it sometime.

These are my reasons for not going and investigating myself, but if you think it’ll work for you, do it! Your experience and reports will help inspire future unicycle handle designs, or at least clear up some ideas that have not been thoroughly investigated.

Oh yeah, and they look damn cool!

That’s an interesting idea, which definitely deserves it’s own thread. I’ll contribute! In fact I just spent an hour trying to think of why it wouldn’t be necessary or maybe wouldn’t work, and I ended up concluding that you’re probably right.

There only one good solution I’ve seen in use up until now: long handlebar with aerobars. I’ve got lots more to say, and lots of ideas, but I’ll save it.

Back on topic, if you’re just holding on the handles, and not using the side bits, it doesn’t matter where they come from. Could you have a stem in front and then a really wide handlebar with bar-ends? Then you’d be giving up all hope in the event of a forward-upd, but only in the same sense as you would for backward-upds the other way. Maybe in either case some sort of safety-release is possible? Most of the force on the handles when I ride is forward and down, though I do pull on very steep uphills. On a side-handle system I’d give that up for a safety mechanism.

My intuition is that the right handlebar configuration would allow a less constrictive seat option which is ultimately what I am after–a long distance seat that is more comfortable. If that means you might have to adjust the entire construct of unicycle control from upper thighs to upper body…it will be interesting to find out.

And, the handlebars are not only to allow you to easily unweight your seat, they are also capable of being held to increase pedal-pushing strength. It will be interesting to see the perception of increased power to use your legs by holding yourself in the seat so you can really push. It might allow climbing on shorter cranks, for example. Imagine if you could draw on the pedal strength that you see people use in a recumbent by holding yourself in the seat during times when that pumping power is needed. For all current designs and options you are limited on how hard you can push by the limits of gravitational body weight.

We probably need to hear from one of those Atlanta guys–their set-up actually looked like it was designed specifically for what they were doing.

Yesterday, I ordered a seatpost-to-stem shim, an adjustable bike stem, and a set of cruiser bars of about the right dimensions to try it all. We’ll see how it goes.