Questions about handlebars and bike seats

So, a little backstory. I owned a 24" unicycle several years ago and really enjoyed riding it. Except for the saddle pain. Unlike most people who seem to just get chaffing, I was having tendonitis in my inner thigh. Which is way worse than chaffing and really unhealthy to keep doing. I tried an air saddle for it, but it wasn’t much better so I gave up and sold it.

But now I’m inspired by a few posts I’ve seen of folks mounting regular bike saddles onto a unicycle with handlebars. This seems like something I could actually ride without fearing for my health! From what I’ve read, people report no leg rub whatsoever, like riding a two-wheeler.

So I think I’m going to just take the plunge and buy a new setup, probably a 29er (or maybe a 36er). I can take the dogs out on the dirt roads behind my house and it won’t be too slow for my short commute either. Here are my thoughts on how I could mount a bike seat:

  1. Using the Nimbus Shadow Handle, mount a regular bike saddle onto it with one of the old-school clamps on the bar behind the seat post. This is the easiest, but my concern is that it looks like the Shadow might rely on the unicycle saddle for part of its structural integrity. And all of my weight would be cantilevered behind the post. Can anyone with the Shadow comment on whether it would be sturdy without a unicycle seat attached?

  2. Mount a pivotal BMX saddle directly onto a pivotal unicycle post, and then add the Coker Pi Bar. This is potentially safer, although it sounds like some folks have leg rub issues with that bar.

  3. Try one of the slimmer unicycle saddles that have come out in the years since I last researched this. But honestly, even just looking at a picture of the Fusion One makes my tendons ache. It’s probably better but it still looks like bad news to me.

What do you guys think? I’m leaning towards #2 because it seems the safest. And I can get the saddle + seat post from my local bike shop, order the Coker bar and test it on my friend’s 26er before investing in a uni myself.

Update: I went to a local bike shop and was able to procure enough stuff to test this out! Not a proper handle, but good enough that I was able to ride around a couple miles this afternoon on my friend’s 26" muni to try it out. I’m pretty sold! I would never have been able to ride 2 miles on a unicycle seat without getting some tendon pain, and right now I feel pretty good.

For my janky handle setup I got a 25.4 bike seat post, the longest 25.4 stem I could find, and then two bar ends. After hooking it all together I have a handle that worked well enough for testing, and I’ve ordered the Coker Pi Bar.

Once that gets here I suspect I’ll be ordering parts to build a 29er! I’m looking at the Nimbus rounded crown frame and ISIS hub, and then I’ll get a Stans 29er rim and spokes at my local bike shop. They are pretty burly and I’m not going to be going off any drops with this thing, just riding around on the urban trail and forest roads.

I’m not sure about the BMX saddle but I can vouch for using a regular mountain bike saddle for commuting on a unicycle with a handle. I currently have one on my 36er but I don’t really use it that much any more as I am no longer in unicycle commuting range from work.

Bike saddles are great for spirited rides where you are putting a fair bit of power into the pedals but not so great in my experience on slower more relaxed rides where you want to sit up straighter and relax. You loose a bit of control from hip movement etc, but they eliminate any chafing and rubbing. I am a bit surprised that they haven’t caught on more with the more elite unicycle athletes.

The thing about getting both hands on the bars is that you can position yourself however you want on the saddle. You don’t just start using handlebars, however. You need to transition into them. I suggest learning seat-in-front technique on a 20", first. Installing handle-bars and a bike seat seems like premature optimization. But, what you’re describing sounds like the way of the future.

Why do you have to learn SIF before being able to ride with handle bars? As soon as you can ride with both hands on the seat so ur really balancing with ur hips the transition to handlebars goes pretty quickly. Or you can try riding with one hand loosely on the handlebar and gradually add the other hand. Thats what I did. As for SIF i havent got the hang of it so much. It gives a good work when ur not sitting, but mostly im too lazy to bother.

I don’t see the need for SIF neither but it seems that SIF is the elpuebloUNIdo’s answer to whatever question someone asks, right? :wink:

I personally learned to ride with both hands on the handlebar before being able to ride with both hands on the seat-handle but it’s basically the same skill and it really changed my unicyclist life, when you can ride this way you don’t use your arms and shoulders anymore to balance the uni.
This skill + a handlebar should make the bike seat a good solution to your issues.

You can learn to use handlebars first. You don’t have to learn SIF first. A couple points, though: Learning SIF skills can be done without handlebars. Once the skill is learned, you’ll know how to use the handlebars without thinking of them as a nuisance. And most techniques (or variations on those techniques) are more easily learned on a small wheel, then transfered to a larger wheel.

I also suggest, as have others, that newcomers to handlebars start with the bars in a very short position. This is a drag, because the setup frequently has to be cut down, but it’s safer. You’ll have to buy a longer extension, later.

Why SIF?

To support the mentality that SIF will help you learn to use a balance bar, think about the “traditional” unicycle riding mentality of the following:

1.) Hands out
2.) Back straight
3.) Light pedal weight and maximum weight on seat.

Now, look at SIF
1.) No hands for balance.
2.) Full weight on pedal zero weight on seat.

How can the unicycle even stay up? How is that possible?

Well, the key is the downward leg pump dynamics(think of a tall boat with ballast to keep it up, but you are using downward momentum) When done in a controlled/consistent manner, you can ride!!! Anybody who can ride a bicycle without hands has learned this skill.

So, the encouragement to SIF is really a mindset to stop relying on the traditional method. Just remember everything you did when you first started learning. Now forget about efficiency for a second. Lean forward, more pedal weight and less on the seat. Now, you got it. Ready for the bar. Keep on!

Thanks for the great responses everyone. I hadn’t thought of using SIF as a training method but it makes a lot of sense. I will definitely try that on the 26er I’m borrowing, especially since once I add a longer handlebar the consequences of a UPD go up. That seems like a safer way to develop the skill needed to ride with both hands on a handlebar.

That said, I went for another ride today, about 3 miles total. I’ve been riding with my left hand on the handlebar and just trying to use my right hand as little as possible for balance. I’ll occasionally swap to right hand on the bar and left hand out, and sometimes put both hands on but I can’t keep them there for very long.

I’m probably pushing it riding that much, but I just wanted to make sure that it’s feasible to ride with a bike seat. And it is! My legs feel fine, and it should be even more comfortable once I get a longer handlebar to get a less upright posture. But for that I should learn how to ride with both hands on the bar at least most of the time. And practice the rear dismount - I realized I’m not used to that one and it will become essential.

So I have some training to do, but it’s nice to know that it’s going to work out. Oh, and here’s a couple pictures of the current setup:

That is an interesting handle bar you got there. You shouldn’t expect to be able to ride with 2 hands on it ride away. It took me some time too. It depends very much on the surface you ride on too if you can ride with both hands on the handlebar / seat. When it is very flat, it is much easier than when the uni pulls to the side. Without handle bars or when there is oncoming traffic, I hold the seat with my right hand and balance with left, but it would be better to do the other way round, so cyclist behind me won’t be afraid to be hit by my left hand. Had that once with an old woman who wanted to pass me. Switching hands helps with the balance too.
It is always best to slide off the rear of the uni when getting off, so it doesn’t fall sideways and becomes a danger to traffic. You can just hold on to the saddle when dismounting. That is better than holding to the handlebars.

As with everything, just keep at it. you will learn over time.

I’ve been progressing faster than I expected with the handlebar. I have been able to do a hundred or so feet at a time with both hands on, sometimes very smoothly.

I also got my Coker Pi Bar in the mail. I like this thing! Unfortunately it came missing the bar ends and the adapter to attach to the seat post. I notified Coker and they sent them out immediately, but once I got the Pi Bar in hand I decided to try a different way to extend it in the meantime. This is kind of like UniGeezer’s method but without quite as much extension. It also should be stronger, with fewer parts:


The image at that link explains it, but basically I mounted a regular MTB stem onto my seat post using a shim (normal threadless stems are 28.6mm so I got a 28.6-25.4 shim). Then I mounted it to the cross beam at the rear of the Coker Pi Bar. This requires another shim, a standard handlebar shim for 25.4 to 22.2mm.

I like this method because it has very few parts, and all of them are standard MTB equipment and designed to take a good amount of force. Much more than I will give them, even accounting for the added leverage of the bar. If I was doing serious Muni it might exceed MTB loads, but I don’t think anyone does serious Muni with a bar that long anyway.

I took the new bar out for a spin and it works great, even without the bar ends. Having an actual centered handlebar makes a big difference and it’s easier to ride with both hands on the bar compared to my rigged up one. It’s also much easier to swap between left and right hand on. I’d say that riding around the urban trail right now I can spend about 25-30% of my time riding with both hands on the bar, and the rest an equal mix of left and right hand. That’s good enough to start commuting!

I went ahead and ordered parts for a 29+. This is going to be a lot of fun. I’m really psyched that I can ride again.

Always better with the illustration :slight_smile:

I thought I’d update this thread, for posterity’s sake. I’m a few months into riding my new 29er with the handle pictured above (+ bar ends) and it’s awesome! Unfortunately I tore some cartilage in my rib mountain biking, so I had to take a long break. But I just did 8 miles the other day which is a distance record for me. I felt great too, no tendon pain at all.

In regards to how to learn to ride with a handle, I ended up not learning via Seat In Front first. I found SIF to be pretty challenging and it was more fun/interesting to just ride with only one hand on the handle and slowly transition into putting both hands on for longer periods of time. Maybe I’m just a wimp but it’s worked out.

The other day I was able to ride with both hands on for a couple of minutes straight, and on my last ride I noticed myself subconsciously grabbing onto both bar ends on climbs and occasionally even lifting my butt off the saddle as I cranked. So I am actually on my way to learning SIF, via learning to ride with a handle. Kind of the reverse of elpuebloUNIdo’s suggestion.

Nice! In my case, I had a regular unicycle seat to play around with before I had handle bars. Whether or not a rider learns SIF, getting the handle bars into both hands is a game changer. It allows you to ride long distances comfortably.

The skill you need for riding SIF (properly) is distributing your weight evenly on your legs, no matter which position they are in. In the beginning, you place more weight on the bottom leg. Why did I say properly? Because there is another way to ride SIF, which relies on holding onto the seat as strong as possible, and putting weight on it through your arms. In my eyes, SIF is good for:
(A) learning Dragseat
(B) sidehops, unispins, flatland tricks
© generally extending your skills on a unicycle. The more different things you have practiced, the easier any other new tricks will come.

The key thing you need to learn for using a handlebar is using your whole upper body instead of your arms for balance, which requires a certain bit of unicycle experience to do, of course, since it is a slower way to adjust your point of balance. That is something you do in SIF too, but it’s not what most people struggle with when they learn SIF, making it not an ideal way to learn riding with a handlebar.

So in my eyes, doing as you did makes perfect sense, Smo, and congratulations to your new skills!

I stressed out my arms learning SIF. I had to hold onto the seat very tightly because I was not distributing my weight well on the pedals. Since then, however, I have learned how to ride two handed SIF, which greatly reduces the strain on the arms. Now, I can hold onto the seat gently with one hand. It has taken time to develop that skill. It has been pretty typical for me to have a rough, inelegant technique when learning new things. I read a lot of posts by good riders that seem to suggest that the way to learn new techniques is to perform them properly, as if proper technique is a antecedent to learning, rather than a consequence. Understanding good technique is fine, but I am even more interested in the series of baby steps that’ll get me there.

When I am riding both hands on the bars, I don’t think of balance as coming from the upper body. I think of it as coming from the center of the body, from the hips. I don’t see what is slow about that form of balance. I am capable of making sudden hip motions with my hands on the bar ends.

Your hands are a lot faster at making adjustments than your hips will ever be, that’s why everyone rides one handed for difficult trails. On normal terrain, a good rider doesn’t need the hand for adjustment, allowing them to have them both on the handle. As a rider get’s better, his adjustments become slower and less frequent. Beginners flail their arms around like crazy, while better riders barely make any noticable motions to correct their point of balance.

That’s not typical for you, that’s typical for any rider that learns a new skill. It takes two things to learn something: Knowing what you need to do (that may not always be concious), and actually being able to do what you need to do. Some tricks, you have to do the technique 100% right from the start. You will not be able to do a 540° unispin at all if you don’t do the technique completely right, while you will be able to do some amount of SIF or wheelwalk with bad technique.

People struggle at different parts of the process, non unicycle example: I have a friend that looks at a bouldering route, and usually struggles with finding out what moves he needs to do, but if you tell him: “put your weight on your right foot, move your hip over, and now slowly push up on your right leg”, he will be able to perform them flawless. I struggle with actually doing what I know I need to do more.

As far as baby steps go: some skills are easily broken down into them, some aren’t. I highly recommend using them to learn if there are any, the way you learned SIF is doing exactly that. I just don’t think riding SIF is an appropriate baby step for riding with a handlebar, since while it contains one similar part, it’s not the key ingredient.

I am going to have to think about that. For me, it seems to apply to some situations, but not to others. For some conditions, I think my adjustments are getting smaller and more frequent, quick tiny adjustments that may not even register to an onlooker. On the other hand, As I improve, I’m able to better predict what kind of correction to make, giving me more time, slowing down the adjustment. I think your comment is correlated to beginners’ inefficiency.