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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Watching the Tour has prompted this question. I've never been on a road bike but notice those guys can take one or both hands off the bars for extended periods of time without swerving. On my mountain bike, I'm all over the place even on flats if I take a hand off the bars for more than the few seconds it takes to have some water. Just curious about the difference between road and mountain bikes and whether my issues on the bike have anything at all to do with those differences or if it's just a matter of skill, balance, upper body strength, bike setup, etc?
 

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The first thing is just practicing balancing. Taking one hand off while riding on dirt generally isn't an issue for me anymore (though it used to be when I first started...), and on pavement, I have no problem riding with no hands for a while (on my MTB). So yes - on pavement it's going to be easier to ride with no hands because the surface is steadier. A road bike or a MTB with slick tires would make it even easier. But there's a lot of experience and balancing skill that those guys have that's making it look so easy on TV...
 

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Loose Nut Behind d' Wheel
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CarolinaGrl said:
Watching the Tour has prompted this question. I've never been on a road bike but notice those guys can take one or both hands off the bars for extended periods of time without swerving. On my mountain bike, I'm all over the place even on flats if I take a hand off the bars for more than the few seconds it takes to have some water. Just curious about the difference between road and mountain bikes and whether my issues on the bike have anything at all to do with those differences or if it's just a matter of skill, balance, upper body strength, bike setup, etc?
It shouldn't be bike setup, unless your bike is set up unusually. A mtbike would tend to be more stable than a road racing bike, anyway, since the wheelbase is longer and the angles more relaxed. If it were upper body strength, I'd never be able to ride. ;^P It's really mostly balance and practice. You can get a lot of steering input through your hips. Are you still pedaling while you take one hand off the bars? If so, try it when you are coasting to see if it still happens. Or, does it happens when you are reaching for a waterbottle? Try keeping your butt steady when you do these things.

Training on rollers definitely helps you learn to keep your butt still.

Kathy :^)
 

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Domestic Fowl
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Physics lesson:
Your wheels are basically gyroscopes. The faster a gyroscope spins, the more it resists a change in the angle of its axis (the axle on your wheel). So, when trying to ride without hands speed is your friend. Other things that help with the gyro effect are the diameter of the wheel and the mass of the wheel. For gyroscopic stability bigger is better in all three departments(speed, diameter, mass). However, for performance, low wheel mass is desirable and you can't easily (or cheaply) change the diameter of the wheel. So, speed is the easiest parameter to change.

Also, I've found that unweighting the front wheel as much as possible helps a bunch too. When you let go of the bars sit up straight.... maybe even lean back a tad.
 

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Here is a similar discussion on roadbike review discussing possible reasons for instability when riding with no hands: http://forums.roadbikereview.com/showthread.php?t=10104

Good Luck.

P.S. Shallower head angles and more trail make it easier to ride no hands. My Fisher hardtail has a 71.5 HA and is a bit squirley with no hands, my Titus 71, much better, and my Turner 70, can practically go down a fire road with no hands.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks all for the feedback. Since I occasionally take my bike out on the road, I think my problems have more to do with skill and speed. I'm a bit of a klutz in general (i.e. running into walls, falling on the sidewalk) so some days I'm amazed I can even stay on my bike much less ride with one hand. :p

Lucky, that's funny you mentioned the rollers. The first time I saw someone on one of those, I said to myself I could never stay on! I need to work on my balance -- maybe practicing trackstands??

Man those guys in the Tour though sure can ride straight with no hands!
 

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Rollers= Scary. I grew up riding trials motorcycles (they demand very good balance) and rollers still scare the hell out of me.
 

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Not to butt in, but it isn't the gyroscopic action of the wheel that keeps you up when riding no hands. Its the trail of the fork. Take a bike that has the steering axis in line with the axle of the wheel and you wouldn't be able to ride no hands. I didn't believe this either until I had a physics professor go into detail on the matter.

Now back to your regularly scheduled topic...

-James

FreeRangeChicken said:
Physics lesson:
Your wheels are basically gyroscopes. The faster a gyroscope spins, the more it resists a change in the angle of its axis (the axle on your wheel). So, when trying to ride without hands speed is your friend. Other things that help with the gyro effect are the diameter of the wheel and the mass of the wheel. For gyroscopic stability bigger is better in all three departments(speed, diameter, mass). However, for performance, low wheel mass is desirable and you can't easily (or cheaply) change the diameter of the wheel. So, speed is the easiest parameter to change.

Also, I've found that unweighting the front wheel as much as possible helps a bunch too. When you let go of the bars sit up straight.... maybe even lean back a tad.
 

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Domestic Fowl
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Not to butt in, but it isn't the gyroscopic action of the wheel that keeps you up when riding no hands. Its the trail of the fork. Take a bike that has the steering axis in line with the axle of the wheel and you wouldn't be able to ride no hands. I didn't believe this either until I had a physics professor go into detail on the matter.

Now back to your regularly scheduled topic...

-James
Trail is definitely part of the equation as well. Trail is the distance the tire's contact patch "trails" the point at which the steering axis would intersect the ground. Trail is a function of the tire radius, head tube angle of the frame, and the rake angle of the fork..... rake being the offset between the steering axis and the wheel's spinning axis(axle). Trail causes the wheel to turn to the left when you lean the bike to the left. The gyroscopic action helps in the stability.

Your suggestion that the "steering axis in line with the axle" doesn't have trail is only true if the head tube angle is 90 degrees (vertical). You can also achieve zero trail, or even negative trail (bad news) with too much rake angle at a given steering tube angle. In fact, in most bike setups the fork rake serves to reduce trail. Increasing rake for a given head tube angle reduces tail. Increasing head tube angle (closer to vertical) for a given rake also reduces tail.

I took physics too. ;)
 

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Loose Nut Behind d' Wheel
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CDMC said:
Rollers= Scary. I grew up riding trials motorcycles (they demand very good balance) and rollers still scare the hell out of me.
It must be a matter of what you learn when you're young. I couldn't ride trials, with or without a motor, to save my life. However, when I first learned to ride rollers back in college (I was young and still invincible), I would warm up with a sweatshirt on, then sit up no handed and take off the sweatshirt while still rolling. When I got really bored, I'd do stand-up sprints. The bike I had was a real short wheelbase crit bike, so it's not like it added any stability. No way I'd try either of these stunts now.

Kathy :^)
 

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CarolinaGrl said:
I need to work on my balance -- maybe practicing trackstands??QUOTE]

Yeah, that'd probably help. It's easiest psychologically if you put on some flat pedals so you don't have to worry about getting unclipped in time.

Kathy :^)
 

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it's mostly about the bike. road bikes (at least the well designed ones) are made to be handled "from the hips" and not "from shoulders", like modern mtbikes. i can corner on my road bike no hands and i find it dificult to ride no hands on my mtb. you are supposed to take off coats, arm warmers, drink and eat while pedaling on the road.some riders "relieve" themselves while riding (sorry for the graphic description but it's true). road bikes are made to be ridden for 12 hrs non stop, by a tired rider on bad roads. they are much more stable than mtb's.
 
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