A few weeks ago, I posted about the process of fitting a handle to a Viscount seat. since then, I didn’t do more than a brief test until yesterday.
Fitting it was a lengthy and irritating job, needing a drill.
In normal riding, I find that the end of the handle can slightly catch against my left thigh. (Right handed handle.) However, this isn’t intrusive.
When standing on the pedals, but NOT using the handle, it can become intrusive.
This problem could be reduced by mounting the handle at a different angle, but then it would be less useful as a handle!
I have always relied on the balance and arm-waving approach to ascents, with occasional tugs on the front of the seat. On descents, I have always pulled up on the seat - at least since my first projectile dismount on a steep descent.
I have previously ridden unis with handles, but only briefly, and without ‘testing’ them. However, I have never been very convinced.
So, against this sceptical background, last night’s tough ride was an interesting experiment.
First, the handle gives better control and back-torque on steep descents, compared to pulling up on the front of the seat. It’s hard to quantify, but I’d say the difference is approximately the same as using cranks ‘one size longer’. It’s worthwhile.
On uphills, I didn’t find that I was pulling hard against the handle to gain more torque. I pulled a bit, but it was only made a small difference.
However, what I did notice is that the handle gave me better control over the unicycle, so that I could stomp on the pedals a bit harder - a bit like ‘honking’ on a bicycle. (Honking is when you stand on the pedals, and throw your whole weight onto the top pedal, relying on the handlebars for balance, rather than for force.)
On the whole, I’d say that the handle increased two things:
- The maximum gradient I could climb - but only slightly.
- The distance I could make it up a given gradient before flopping or falling.
The combined effect was noticeable.
And across rough ground, with a slight incline, the handle made a big difference.
I put it to the ‘existential test’: I rode a variety of surfaces and slopes, and observed whether I ‘chose’ to use the handle. Did my hand naturally look for the handle, or did I naturally use the arm waving technique? The handle won most of the time.
I did notice that when I used the handle, my free arm had to swing a lot more than usual, but it seemed to fall into a fairly natural rhythm.
Conclusion: although as a natural ‘purist’, my inclination is against the handle, I found it surprisingly useful, and it makes a real difference to what can be achieved on a MUni. As regular readers may recall (!) I ditched the 170mm cranks and reverted to 150s; the handle has made more positive difference than the 170s ever did, and has none of the disadvantages.
One disadvantage is does have: it hurts your heel a lot more when you UPD and it catches you.