grabing the handle with just one hand -> back ache

Hello all
I always told people that unicycling was good for your back.
no more.
I have had recently terrible back ache and the reason is that I grab the handle of my Coker with just my left hand. I am trying to learn with both hands but when it becomes slightly technical off-road I need my flailing right hand … so my efforts are asymetrical and my back is in a terrible state.
Can you really ride with both hands on the handle when the path becomes technical? (do I need to train more?)
what to do with my poor back?

You could:

  1. Alternate: change hands every few hundred metres

  2. Ride with your hands both on the seat handle — i often do this and put quite a bit of weight on my hands.

  3. Fit a shortish T bar handle with a pair of bar ends.

  4. Ride without holding on at all.

I find that riding 1 handed is best when I need to do tight turns or manoeuvres, but I can ride long distances fast (by my standards) with both hands on the saddle handle or bars.

I hope you can make it work for you. Good luck.

Yes you can ride with both hands on the bars all of the time no matter the difficulty. (if you want)

Yes you need to train more.

Early in my riding, I used to go for an entire ride choosing to use only one hand and not the other trying to bring up the non-dominant side for the skill (whichever side it was).
Alternate till you feel no difference between left and right in your handling skills.

Even though it makes sense to approach different obstacles with different handing, I believe it makes you a much better rider if you can handle the obstacle no matter what body position you are in.

Example: people ride up to an obstacle and stop to re-position their pedals for the hop or they hop a certain direction every time. I think this is inefficient riding and poor muscle development for your body. (in your case… riding asymmetrical may be causing back pain)

So other than pushing the dominant side to achieve a “top mark” which is what most do, I prefer to try and achieve a balanced ride and my “top mark” is slowly and naturally going higher and higher every year.

I’ll never stop to hop an obstacle, I’ll roll off a drop in any pedal position, and unless I’m just rat-bagged I’ll mount anywhere on the trail. I believe I can do these because of symmetry and training.

This is what works for me.
(I also took up unicycling to fix my 23" long troubled back and so far so great!)

The original poster, Wobbling Bear, has been a regular in this forum 15 years and is a keen and experienced rider now aged 69. Training more is probably not the right answer in this particular case.

I mostly switch flailing hands when my left arm gets tired and I also think I should be able to ride with either flailing arm. On long stretches of paved roads, I try to ride with 2 hands on the seat and see how long I can do that without flailing. This has been getting better. Off-road this is still somewhat difficult, but not undoable. I’d say, just keep at it. Even when you don’t have a TBar, either ride with hands on the seat or both hands in front of your chest, while riding with a straight back.

I wear something like this when I ride and it really helps! It gives me some support but I believe that how it keep my lower back warm is a big part of it. I just know it helps although mine is a cheapie not a copper fit and was around $10.

“Can you really ride with both hands on the handle when the path becomes technical? (do I need to train more?)”

I answered this question for the person asking.
I’d give the same answer no matter what age the person asking is.

Why couldn’t muscle imbalance be a cause of back ache?

I used to hold on to the saddle with mostly my left hand, probably because I rode mostly left cambers. When I got my hatchet (more camber sensitive), I noticed I change to my right hand every time there was the slightest of right camber.
This made me discover (maybe that is only true for me) that I prefer to use the hand on the camber side.
To get more symmetry in my training, I now alternate between sides of the road and country lanes where possible and always use the „more suited“ hand. Most of the times this change is already automatized in the sense that on lanes with changing surface directions I unconsciously switch hands.
Also, the torso torsion is more equally distributed over the total ride.
@WobblingBear: So my idea is: choose your path such that sometimes holding with one hand is advantageous and sometimes the other. The change of hands will become more natural then.
P.S.: I‘m also still in that part of the learning curve, where riding with both hands on the saddle most of the time is still in the future.

yes I prefer to ride on the left side of the road when there is camber. But since I usually ride off road I have to try harder to change hands. I did this last saturday by using a 26" instead of 36" and trying to switch hands (not easy since my handle is for left hand only!) … the result is that now I feel my right back muscle (ouch) … I will persevere and try harder with both hands (though I doubt I will succeed when things get technical)

I sometimes have the same problem road riding, all my ‘muni riding’ is one handed, but then I have to get off and walk, often :wink:

One thing I do is back arch exercises if the issue crops up. I have a feeling that the back muscles might need some strength work. This might be relevant to a more sedentary older person’s lifestyle!!!(except when riding :wink:

I don’t do toe touching stretching type exercises, I think they might be bad for the back in truth.

Seems to work for me. Cheers

today was a great day for me: I took the Aulde Coker (nicknamed “Mirza”) for a ride in the woods. I took easy trails and roads and decided to learn to ride with both hands on the handle …
And success! I did it! now I can ride easy trails … next step is to learn on more technical stuff!
I am happy :slight_smile: (and my back is happy too!)
you can always learn!!

Ironically, I did a 40 mile mixed road and rough stuff bike ride today and my back started to ache half way through the ride. Now struggling a bit. I think i my case, it was caused by 2 days of heavy lifting on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by Morris dancing on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That and old age.:frowning:

@ wobblingbear- what type of handle set up are you using? I have always thought it wierd that most of the current handle designs place the grip in line with the front of the saddle. This means that if you use it, your shoulder, spine and torso have to twist in order to get purchase. With my own handle set up that I have used extensively on my geared 26" for long distance XC riding, there are two hand positions on each side all the way down to near the front of the saddle. This means that you can keep your shoulders square when using the handle and avoid twisting your spine. Might be worth experimenting with something similar if you continue to have pain when riding.


Interesting and valid point.

I often use only a T handle but for hard riding, I put the heel of my dominant hand on the T and the heel of my non-dominant (subdominant? submissive?) hand on top of it. It is asymmetrical, but there is very little twisting.

At the moment, I have bar ends on the T handle of my 36, so that means no twisting at all.

Oops … sorry but not being a native speaker I don’t get exactly the previous question…

  • on my Coker I have an “old handle” (old nimbus straight) which is below the saddle level. I feel comfortable with that (I pretend being built like a chimp: short legs long arms :roll_eyes: )
    pic of me before trying both hands HERE (so there my torso was too much to the left)
  • this morning I tried to ride on my 24" muni with it’s KH T-bar muni handle (higher) and I tried more technical trails in the forrest. … and succeeded only 15% of the time (approximate guess). Curiously I can grab this handle mostly when climbing or trying to accelerate … otherwise I fail (but picked the practice of changing hands)
  • on my 29" I have a big Qu-AX handle (still need to train and will report how I manage)

Good for you.

For long less technical distance rides, I’ve often wondered whether ShannonG’s setup is a good solution to reduce backache (

I’ve also experienced some back pain on longer rides but over the years this has definitely improved as my back muscles have got stronger (presumably).

Offroad, a lower handle position seems to make it worse, but a higher handle position seems to give less control.