I’ve always wondered precisely how touring handles help a rider. Any time it comes up in this forum or in conversation I can never understand precisely what the handle does that riders love so much. On my last ride I think I began to see.
On Saturday I found some time between obligations to go to a nice park and ride. I logged about five miles on the Nimbus 36". It has the T7 touring handle, and on all previous rides I felt that touching the handle would only destabilize or distract me. I’ve always wondered how all the distance riders benefit from the thing.
The road I was on had a lot of long gentle curves, but the camber of the road is fairly steep in some of them, with the result that in the turns I feel as if I’m being twisted off the seat. I’ve been on that road before with other riders and noticed some of them doing the same compensating postures with body twist and arm extension that I do, so I know it’s not just me, the camber of the road is definitely altering the physics of riding.
On this day I found myself more able to experiment with that handle. I found that by using one hand or the other I could apply a gentle sideways force which would help me to feel more secure and centered on the uni while on those cambered surfaces. It wasn’t perfect or pretty, due to my need for continued practice and development, but there was definite improvement of my ability to stay on the uni despite the long duration of the cambered turns.
I am posting this here in the hopes that other riders may have more to share about how those handles actually work. I suspect there is more to gain than just lateral stability on slanted roads.
The main purpose of the handle, for me, is to take some weight off my crotch. Once that’s accomplished (and I can then ride for much longer periods of time), I think it offers some degree of stability as well, once you get used to it. If you’re used to riding freehand only, using a handle will take a while to get comfortable.
Before touring handles and Cokers, it took me a year or two to learn to hold onto the front of my saddle for racing or doing “hard stuff” but it makes a big difference. It helps lock you down onto the unicycle, gives you more torque to pedal (without lifting out of the saddle) and it allows you to pedal really fast without wasting leg energy on keeping the unicycle straight, for instance.
You noticed the Moetown, haha! Hines Park is where I rode in this episode.
I have a question about getting weight off the crotch. Do you actually lean on the handle, supporting weight through your arms? Seems as if that’s a bit like going seat in back, as the uni must lean back a bit with weight up front there, correct? I’ve tinkered with that once or twice and found it very tricky. I guess it takes a bit of practice to get used to the different dynamics. You are absolutely right, “growing up” freehand means grabbing a seat or a handle is very foreign.
Sometimes I put some weight on one horn of the T7 using one hand and push down so that the my crotch is lifted away from the front of the saddle. I don’t find this very easy to ride with so I don’t stay lifted very much for very long. But I still think it’s useful.
One of the comfier positions I’ve found (although I currently prefer doing this on the 29er which has longer cranks and I’m more stable on at the moment) is to put both hands on the horns of the T7 and lean forward gently on both of them. This places my body into a slightly tucked position but also seems to shift weight off my sensitive areas without requiring too much force on the handles. Obviously to do this you need to be able to ride with both hands down on the handle…
When I got the T7 I’d been used to riding entirely hands-free - even using the seat handle made me feel quite unstable at that time. I found with a little practice I could keep a hand on the T7 and wave the other one about (you don’t have to grip it to practice this, you can have that hand ready to wave too). Eventually, when I was riding somewhere I felt safe to experiment, I tried to put my other hand onto the other horn. Just gently - ready to wave it around at a moments’ notice, which I frequently needed to do. Whilst I got used to this, my riding was a bit wobbly and not very straight. But once I got the hang of it, I became able to correct balance and steering with subtle movements of my body without really thinking about it. I still take a hand off to go round sharper corners.
Combining the ability to cruise with 0, 1 or 2 hands down, plus experimenting with different hand positions can give you quite a lot of flexibility. I like to always ride with one hand on the T7 unless I’m doing something very tricky. This has the added advantage that when using short cranks, I always have a hold on the unicycle so that I don’t fly off the back if I have to backpedal really hard (e.g. a suddent stop). It also has the advantage that if I do pop off the back then I won’t lose the uni bouncing off away from me and hitting things!
Actually, this reminds me of one of my awesomest UPDs ever I’d recently put 114mm cranks on my 36" and wasn’t used to them. I was riding along fine, then decided to slow up suddenly. The effect of doing this against the now tiny levers presented by the cranks was to fling me bodily up in the air and off the back of the uni. I had a hold of the T7 with my left hand and landed neatly standing behind the uni, holding it in front of me. That was way cool, if a bit unexpected Oh, the joys of short cranks!
Nice detail, Mark, thanks for sharing. I couldn’t help thinking, as you described your awesomest UPD, that you were going to say you landed crotch-first on the wheel, which would have been truly an amazing UPD. I’m glad you landed on your feet.
I did a few rides along there; the part that’s connected to the I-275 bike path, on my old 45" big wheel. That would be in the Plymouth area, between the years 1982-4.
Yes, just like riding a bike. My handle doesn’t lower me much, but even in the semi-forward position of my partial tuck, I’m well aware of being closer to a forward dismount if I get a surprise. Fortunately this doesn’t happen much, and I’ve ridden up to 17 miles without a dismount. Just keep your shoelaces under control… (I’m currently recovering from a broken collar bone)
Ouch! I guess the tradeoff with a more bike like position is more bike like injuries- which tend to be things like broken collarbones. On the other hand, hopefully this decreases your risk of ankle and leg injuries (which IMHO is probably far worse).
The handles let you strectch out your body position and spread your weight just like a bike. Your set up should be pretty similar Bikes have had over a hundred years of development…and if it was more efficient sitting on your bike upright with all the weight on the saddle, I’m sure they would be set up that way.
Am I the only one who is bothered by that? $70 (USD) plus extra weight to tote around for a T7 to make up for an uncomfortable saddle? And then they tend break after enough mileage. Couldn’t we come up with a more comfortable saddle for $70 extra? Granted, there could be other benefits for some, maybe… ?
Leaning over maybe? I experimented with leaning over more (without a T7) during the local 70K ride, and I think that combined with <125 mm cranks may be the key for me to bump up my speed, short of getting a second gear. The leaning over stance feels more bike like, and it seems to make faster spinning feel better, biomechanically speaking.
You could spend another $70 on your seat, but then you’d still need a touring handle! OK, maybe not NEED, but even the perfect seat will still cause saddle soreness after a while, and taking weight off it makes a difference.
The T7 may be heavy, and it may have a finite life, but its still the best mass-produced touring handle out there…ok, the ONLY mass-produced touring handle. Touring is the key word here, I definitely won’t use one for racing.
What I like about mine is that I can push it forward, and it pushes my butt toward the back of my seat giving me a new position and a bit of relief. I love the freeride/T7 combo.
One thing I’ve discovered, leaning forward doesn’t work with geared unicycles.
You hauled ass yesterday. I was cramping toward the end, and had a spectacular UPD trying to climb a hill in Sausalito (I was on the v54)
I personally don’t notice a huge weight difference with having a T7 versus not having it. I use mine to shift in the saddle as I ride. Having a better seat will be worth it, and I think the T7 is worth it as well. Helps to have something to hang on to when you climb hills and such. And once I get my dream 29er built, you can bet it will have a T7 on it, just as the one I have now does.
But if a saddle were designed so that the “while” were around 200 miles a day, it wouldn’t matter. I can be optimistic, right?
Interesting. I wonder, could it be learned? Of course, at some point a geared unicycle goes so fast that it’s just humanly impossible to push any faster, and the need to spin faster is no longer an issue.
I kept expecting you and Tom to catch up, but I did catch a second wind of sorts right after I crossed the Golden Gate bridge. That’s where I was trying my fast spinning in a forward leaning position.
The climb out of Sausalito? I imagine that was quite hard/impossible with your v54. There were onlookers muttering something about me being crazy when I rode up it on my tiny N36.
Only problem is that if the saddle fit you so perfectly as to be that comfortable, it’d probably be rather less comfortable to anyone but an identical twin! Part of whether a T7 (or suchlike) is worth it largely depends on how you’re put together…
I use a T7 on my 36 and 29. I use a Fusion Freeride on one and a Nimbus Gel on the other - both are widely considered generally comfy saddles. And they are comfy, as far as unicycle saddles go. But I do feel significantly comfier riding long distances if I use the T7 to take some weight off my crotch. I guess if had something like a Wallis road relief saddle then I might be comfy - but I suspect I’d still want a handle to take weight of and be even comfier. My problem isn’t saddle soreness as such, it’s a strong dislike of any crotch pressure at all from the saddle - essentially, the saddle isn’t uncomfortable, I just don’t like sitting on saddles anyway I suspect others who favour touring handles have similar crotch-related motivations.
Also, the T7 has a stack of other things going for it if you’re touring (e.g. bottle cages, light mounting, fitting a wedge bag, etc) which don’t apply if you’re racing or doing short trips in daylight. That offsets the weight of the thing somewhat too.
The ride I describe in this post was a bit farther east, between Farmington Rd and Middlebelt. The part you’re talking about caught my eye because while looking for that connection to the 275 trail I also found a gravel/sand horse path leading around the west and south sides of Newburgh Lake. It’s a nice place for some easy muni under a canopy of trees. I have yet to ride it to its end, but I believe it comes out on Ann Arbor Trail, right to the parking lot of a nice restaurant. Could be a pleasant ride some Saturday or Sunday, particularly now that the fall colors are in.
I recall you posting about that recently. I hope it heals quick.
I got a Nimbus deluxe 36" in August. It’s awesome! I got it with the KH air saddle and the T7 of course. The air saddle is really comfortable and cushy. The only thing is that the tubes don’t line up perfect and they can shift to one side leaving your sensitive areas pushing on the seat frame sometimes, Ouch!
The T7 is great. It really allows you to make the comfortable air seat even more comfortable. I got some nice bike handle grips from a bike shop for free:D (They love me). I cut the bottoms off and used them to pad the back of the handle and used the rest to put on the front. This makes the T7 more grippy and protects it. I still have some nasty dings though. Anyway i ride my 36er to school which is about 6 miles round trip. It takes me only 15 minutes to get there and 17-20 to get back because it’s uphill a lot! Getting to school and back is cake and 36er T7 combo can’t be beat. Unless you geared it maybe?
You could try that custom crotch mold idea, but I think it would set you back considerably more than the extra $70. Meanwhile, it will still be more comfortable to take some of your weight off the seat by using a handle. At least that’s true for me.
If you’re on a road bike, properly adjusted for optimum position, you suppposedly ride with about 40% of your weight on the handlebars. If it works for bikes… And bike seats already have the advantage in that your pelvic structure sits on them at a different angle than on a unicycle. We’re much more vertical, which makes it harder to get comfortable if you ask me.
Unicycle seats have improved a lot since I got into this sport. A real lot. But I still like it a lot better to take some of the weight off. Of course if I rode more often I’d have less weight to take off…