Sore back

So today i went for my longest ride yet (just over 9miles). I ride a Old KH24 around the VERY hilly Cornwall, if im not riding down a hilly road, im riding up one!

I was aiming for a 12mile ride today but wasnt able to complete it, my body was beyond exhausted, but i think this was because i didnt eat the right food today. However although this was a strong factor in not completing, the main factor i think was my mid and lower back as it was aching a lot.

Does anyone else have/had this? Is the main reason because i dont have a handle bar?So today i went for my longest ride yet (just over 9miles). I ride a Old KH24 around the VERY hilly Cornwall, if im not riding down a hilly road, im riding up one!

I used to “believe” that a handlebar would give me these things:
1.) Something to rest my upper body, so my butt can get relief.
2.) Something that will allow me to ride further.

What I found:
1.) I got something that “constrained” my ability to balance. Without my arms or shoulder to “enhance” balance my pedaling foot action needed to be “perfect”.
2.) I got something that gave me the ability to lean more weight forward = give me more UPD’s. I did not need to lean forward any more than I usually do when I ride.
3.) I got something that allowed me to go faster, because it “stabilized” my side to side(or what we call wobble).

What I learned;
1.) My pedaling action was “not” equal, and I still had to let go of the handle bar often to allow my body to compensate. Solution? Take off handle bar and “get better” without it.
2.) How painful it is to have a UPD with a “horn” between you and the ground. Solution? Take it off.
3.) How pain it is to have a UPD at “higher speeds”. Solution? Go slower by removing bar(I don’t need to go faster)

You need to have an absolutely perfect pedaling action, and a “need” to want to go faster(w/acceptance of risk of going faster=more bones broken).
Then it will be worth your while to use a handlebar.
Good luck and ride safe.

@slamdance You rebel!
Many of the “experts” here will NOT tolerate any negative references to handlebar use.

JM

2 Likes

Ride with 2 hands on a handle. I found it really helps with back pain on long distance rides.

I occasionally got a backpain, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the handle bars. When riding on flat surfaces you can try to sit up straight. Then you won’t get back aches. On my longer rides where I do have a handlebar, I still switch to having hands by my side, or on the seat or on the bar. Sitting in the same stance for hours on end can’t be good anyways.
Also I don’t go faster with a handlebar. My speed is still the same. I can go faster with just one hand in the air in front of me and the other on the seat. Don’t need the bar for that, so

-1 for SlamDance
+1 for BungeeJoe

:slight_smile:

I tend to feel my back after long and technical Muni rides, where I’m using my upper body a lot to balance. So yes, it’s a normal thing to happen that your back is the weakest link.
Will handlebars fix those issues? Probably no. I think in a combination of getting stronger, and smoother will do it. So probably just more riding.

That being said, if you want to become a faster rider, at some point you’ll want to have both hands on the seat or a handle bar. Maybe think of getting a handlebar like getting a roadbike with drop bars. If you want to go further and further, or faster and faster, at some point you will want them. If you are perfectly fine with riding through the park at a medium pace, you don’t.

Thank you everyone! Really appreciate all the input

Do you ride one sided? (using one hand for most of the time)
If so, a handlebar may start balancing you out.

If you use one hand more than the other you’re going to run into muscle balance problems when you start getting stronger.
Just my thoughts.

Slamdance, I love your detailed analysis of riding. I think you posted that somewhere else too and it makes total sense. I started to analyse my own riding the way you (must) do. And I came to the same conclusion: not only I have a stronger foot, but the other side is also less smooth. Which explains how I drift to the right if I ride on a flat open surface.
Thanks!
I didn’t mean to hi-jack this thread, I went thru the same thing: my back started to ache when I started to control the uni more with the hips than the upper body (arms). I guess it’s new muscles coming into play.

Only posterity will tell if I am ahead of my time…or if you are a Luddite dinosaur, JM! :wink:

I had the great good fortune to ride, as a beginner, with Jamie Mossengren (level 10 rider, professional (without the quotes) unicyclist). He urged me to get short bar ends and to work towards getting both hands on the bar ends.

Another “expert” told me that when you examine the riding styles of different unicyclists, you see a lot of variation. The reason for this, he said, was that unicycling is an immature sport. Best practices for a more mature, developed sport, like bicycling, are more well defined.

As far as riders go, I am fairly tall and heavy. My weight distribution is top-heavy. I have wider hips and sit bones, and I suffer when putting too much weight in the seat for too long. Maybe all these factors, including the very steep hills in my neighborhood, make riding with handlebars a better fit for me.

I have to address Slamdance’s concerns. Handlebars constrained his ability to balance. This was the case for me, until I learned to use the side-to-side motion of my hips for balance. But I had to get both hands on bar ends before this started happening. I can see how leaning forward might cause more forward UPDs. However, the stability of “four points” on the seat/handle prevents the unicycle from being kicked out behind me. I have drastically reduced the frequency of forward UPDs since riding with both hands on the bar ends. Regarding the notion that you need better balance to ride with hands on the bar ends: I think it only “looks” that way. If you were only accustomed to watching bicyclists riding no-handed, you might think that putting hands on the handlebars required better balance. But the control gained by putting the hands on the steering is greater than the control gained by holding hands out in the air. That is for a bicycle. I think it applies somewhat to a unicycle. Finally, regarding having a UPD with a horn between you and the ground: You have to practice keeping one hand on the bar for long enough to clear the bar during a UPD. Once I learned that, the bar was no longer a nuisance.

I’m not saying anyone needs to use bar ends. But I have to push back against some concerns about them. Don’t expect to like them at first. Spend time adjusting them. Learning SIF techniques on a 20" helped me learn to ride with handlebars.

Alright guys, regarding handle bars. I really do appreciate all your input . I still have my nimbus shadow handle set, which I paid $110. I’m not quite ready to put it back on my nimbus muni(24") yet, but I am considering all your reasons. At the same time, I’m actually working on my SIF skills which elpueblo mentioned. Maybe that will get me to the next skill level, because if you can do SIF you have very precise pedal control.

I’m curious, what size unicycle everyone uses with their handle bar set. I see it’s almost “mandatory” with 36r’s. How about 24" and 26"? I know the bigger the wheel the more stable due greater wheel inertia.

BTW, sorry NickG for high jacking the topic from back pain to handlebars. Hopefully, you are getting some information to help you out. Keep on.

Alright guys, regarding handle bars. I really do appreciate all your input . I still have my nimbus shadow handle set, which I paid $110. I’m not quite ready to put it back on my nimbus muni(24") yet, but I am considering all your reasons. At the same time, I’m actually working on my SIF skills which elpueblo mentioned. Maybe that will get me to the next skill level, because if you can do SIF you have very precise pedal control.

I’m curious, what size unicycle everyone uses with their handle bar set. I see it’s almost “mandatory” with 36r’s. How about 24" and 26"? I know the bigger the wheel the more stable due greater wheel inertia.

BTW, sorry NickG for high jacking the topic from back pain to handlebars. Hopefully, you are getting some information to help you out. Keep on.

Currently I have them on 32 and 36. I think handle bars are mostly nice on longer rides as I never know what to do with my hands. For a while I had a bar on my 29", but that one rubbed my legs soo much that I still have scars from it. That bar looked like the Qu-ax Q-Bar Touring Handle though might not be quite the same… Handle bars have never been in the way when UPDing for me. Mostly because I just ride too quickly when I UPD and then fly well clear of the T-BAR to run out of the UPD.
The handle bars helped me a lot in being able to keep both hands on the seat and balancing from my hips, though this doesn’t help me one bit with learning the Ultimate Wheel. Maybe I should just hold on to one, even though I don’t have a frame there and try to keep it in the middle :slight_smile:

No worries, I feel it is kind of linked and handlebars has been an area I’ve been curious about. Been enjoying the read

For seat drag or ultimate wheel, you need very precise pedal control. When I learned SIF, I was very bad at pedal control, and I had to compensate by holding on / pulling / pushing harder with my hand(s). If I focus on holding the seat very lightly (SIF or SIB), then that forces me to use more pedal control. When I practice seat drag (scares me, I’m afraid of twisting my ankle), I focus on holding the grab handle behind me as lightly as possible, maybe in one finger, prior to dropping it. Otherwise, I have no chance of even riding half a rev. I really suck at it! My point is: You don’t need great control of the pedals to start practicing SIF, but you may have to hold on tightly at first.

I do most of my muni/xc on a 24". There is something about the geometry of the 24" and my body weight / dimensions that feels right with handlebars. It has something to do, I think, with the relative placement of my hips and the amount of side-to-side related to the overall size of the uni-rider setup. I also love the 24" because it’s a nicer unicycle. Better parts, Shadow Handle. The thing is light and tight like a tennis racket. And I feel safer being closer to the ground. I tend to think that for most techniques, it’s easier to learn on a smaller wheel. Handlebars on a 20" might seem weird, but I think that might be a good way of learning how to use them. You can play around more on the smaller wheel, and the point of no return is stretched. Conversely, learning to use handlebars on a larger wheel means you already need a fair amount of control.

Something something SPD’s.

I’ve not found any correlation in either direction between handlebar use and back pain. The only thing that makes my back hurt less is not putting things on it. Camelbaks are out of the question for me, 2-3L of water is heavy enough to tank my posture and make me sort of ‘slouch’, causing back pain after enough miles. The same goes for sticking things on my head - a heavy bike helmet with an action cam strapped to it does my neck in far worse than a baseball cap (Obviously if you choose to wear a helmet, then I suppose I’m recommending find the lightest one you can that still offers the protection you’re after) and that neck pain travels down your back.

Definitely not mandatory on a 36er, or any uni really. I’ve got a Q-Handle on my 36er and to be honest it’s more of a thing to put a brake lever, garmin and light on than anything else. On my G29 it’s a bit more ‘necessary’ for me, I find in high gear I can use the handle to control the weird frame jerk you get. Even then, if I use the longer crank holes I’m absolutely fine just using the saddle handle!

I occasionally get lower back pain. My observation (which maybe incorrect but is my current theory) is that this happens if my cycling is not smooth, e.g. attempted higher speeds with a soft tyre and/or low saddle can introduce some amount of bobbing up and down with each pedal stroke. Correcting those things, by either slowing down or adjusting saddle height and/or tyre pressure, and the pains seems to go away after a couple of days.

maybe you should just take away the saddle and ride without. Then ur forced to stand upright :slight_smile: The only backpain I get with the UW is muscle aches. I agree that the unicycle back pain is more likely to appear when not riding smoothly, also like when sitting twisted with a road crown. I had a period like that a while back and then when doing additional back exercises in the evening and morning, the pain went away.