Riding with a pole/staff

I’ve been riding with a pole lately. To get my upper body in on the workout action more. Why should my legs and core get all the fun?

It is an experiment and a work in progress. Currently, I have pieces of tire on the ends of a piece of PVC pipe for added mass and as bumpers. I have caution tape streamers on one end, which I try to remember to have at my rear when riding on the road. The center handle, made of tire, was a particularly useful addition, and it gives the whole thing a solid, controlled feel that the bare pipe doesn’t. I have a bicycle bell mounted next to the handle. Since this is for exercise, it doesn’t matter if it weighs a few pounds or even a kilo.

For the upper body workout thing, I can use it like a boat oar, pushing against the far end’s own inertia instead of water. Especially when climbing a hill. The strokes synchronize with and work against my pedal strokes. That’s not the only available motion, though. Holding it horizontally at my side, with one arm and moving the end(s) up/down with my elbow works too, albeit doing little to counter twisting forces; it just lets me put more energy into the pedals, like using the saddle handle does, and they can be done simultaneously. Mostly, just holding it “stationary” gives me enough to work against for small adjustments. I switch sides to balance out the workout, of course, as it is very asymmetrical otherwise. I can ride without the pole just fine. The pole actually adds difficulty overall. Not a lot. Mostly just due to tying up at least one arm and the need to manage the movement of the mass when switching sides, both of which are common to carrying anything.

The other day, I found a garden pinwheel in the road. It was missing two of the six blades, and was unbalanced because of it, but it still spun when lashed to the pole and when the pole was held upright. It was very popular in town. I have since relocated one of the four blades to balance it and attached it more solidly to the pole, so we’ll see how that works on my next ride. This has little to do with exercise, of course. Performance art figures into my riding too.

On a slightly different subject, I know a few of you have a go-pro on a stick that you use to video yourselves riding. I don’t, but there may be some common attributes between that and what I’m doing. At least as far as managing the object is concerned. Is there a weight and/or gimbal to keep the camera vertical, or is that all up to the rider’s grip?

So, to the point of my post. I haven’t seen a lot of discussion of this sort of thing. Is there prior art that I can benefit from instead of reinventing the wheel and/or learning things the hard way?

Another way to get an upper body workout is to learn to hold on with both hands / use bar ends. I don’t know where your current progress is toward that goal. It really improved my hill climbing.

Or juggle

When juggling, after several hundred successive catches, while riding a 36 on the daily commute my arms are spent…


I don’t have a handle bar. I do use the saddle handle, rather a lot, especially for hills, bumps, or speed, but not with both hands. I can use both hands with the saddle handle, and I have on long rides when the saddle is hurting my sit bones, but it’s not a great look, and the handle is only really big enough for one hand, so the other hand just ends up on the first one, not the handle.

This is next level or just different.

Juggling while riding is great exercise. I felt it more as an aerobic workout (more so than either juggling or riding alone) rather than wearing my arms out. But, then, I have juggled a lot. I don’t do it on the road for safety reasons.

How does holding on with 2 hands on the seat or handle bars, improve your upper body workout? It makes your legs stronger and improves keeping your balance through the hips.

You still push and pull quite a bit on your handlebars.
This translates into a isometric workout that transmits throughout the upper body.

More so than the one arm bullrider wave.

I am referring to a short muni-style bar setup, here, not a long, touring bar setup.

I’m doing more than just holding the bars. Typically, I’m leaning on them, putting a lot of weight on them. And when I’m climbing, I’m pulling back/up on them. This may not qualify as a legitimate upper body workout, but it feels like my arms, shoulders, upper back are doing some work.

When I first started using bar ends, the force I exerted on them was much less. Over time, I started sitting further back on the seat. This created leverage between the back of the seat and the bar ends. Another rider described the “four points” system, where the bar ends are two points and the left and right sit bones are the other two points. Sitting far back on the seat allows me to pull hard on the bar ends (pulling towards my body) without making the saddle move backwards. Conversely, I can place a lot of weight pushing forward/out on the bar ends without moving the connection with the saddle. I don’t sit up straight while riding in this position. I sit more like a bicyclist. If my posture were upright, I probably would be putting less weight on the bar ends. Also, the bar ends are positioned lower than a touring setup. The closer my hands are to my abdomen, the stronger I feel on the bar ends. I experimented with both the upward curving and straight bar extensions of the Shadow setup, initially preferring the upward curved setup, then eventually moving toward the straight, lower-positioned extension.

Could you not just strap weights to your hands/wrists and do some 80’s workout video poses?

I reckon my climbing capabilities need some fine-tuning, but when I ride on sandy ground and have to climb I tend to hang forward with both hands in the air. Naturally when the wheel locks up I step off. In the weekend I noticed, my shoes aren’t very good. It was very wet as I like to ride with flat soles, because of the pins in the pedals, I still managed to slip off as I was climbing. I suppose I will still have to figure out where best to apply pressure and how not to hang too much forward.

I have ridden with dumbbells. No poses. There is an object manipulation aspect to the pole that dumbbells lack. And, of course, the whole mass-further-away-from-me-than-my-arms-are-long thing.

I think there’s a limit to your progress hill climbing without at least one hand on the grab handle. Not to sound like a jerk, but fine-tuning or not, you may be approaching the limits of your hands-in-the-air technique.


I have never seen you ride, but my guess is that your climbing technique relies on a cycle of weighting and unweighting yourself from the unicycle on every half revolution. You hang forward in order to give yourself extra momentum to make it through the weak part of the pedal stroke. Throw your upper body forward, pedal your lower body under it. You slip off the pedals when the pins are not able to maintain connection during the unweighting.

My climbing technique relies on maintaining leverage with the unicycle at all times. I kind of suck at the unweighting method. If there were a way to get maximum upper body displacement every half-revolution AND maintain the leverage at all time …I think it takes both these systems at play simultaneously … to achieve the highest possible performance during hill climbing.


Extend some bar ends out the front of the saddle for a great look!!!

I have already worked out responses to certain quotes from non riders.

Stranger: “It looks like you’re grabbing your junk!”
Me: “Thanks for noticing!”

You describe quite accurately how I ride uphill when the uphill gets too steep for me. I start out grabbing the seat handle, but then I guess it gets to heavy for my legs and I hang to the front, “swimming” my way uphill. It must look very silly, but Im always proud to have reached the top.

Unfortunately there aren’t so many hills nearby that I can practice on.

As for your future, SIF is not going to be my future and I love handle bars on my 32 and 36". They add a lot of comfort.

When you climb, do you still sit in the seat or do you stand on the pedals, which I reckon you can do both even though you pull very hard on the seat.