What to do when you're clumsy.

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Erica
Participant
#

So it’s not secret that I’m clumsy, uncoordinated and have poor balance. I can hardly stand up straight when not moving; it’s a wonder I can ride a bike at all.

Which brings me to this point: Standing up on the pedals is not something I can do on my new bike. The bike is so light and I’m terrified that I’ll fall over or something. This makes climbing hills more difficult, as I have to do all of them sitting down.

Are there any other clumsy folks out there who have any advice?


Pierce
Participant
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Larger gear ratio?

Maybe practice pedaling out of the saddle when you’re not going up a hill?


Erica
Participant
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it is a more difficult gearing, but I’m getting a little better with it.

As a point of reference, it took me well over a year to be comfortable standing on the pedals on my mountain bike, which, while still light-weight, is decidedly heavier than my new bike.


HiddenVariable
Participant
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yeah you shouldn’t have to stand up to climb except in the most ridiculous of hills. and you’ll probably want to avoid those anyway.


Erica
Participant
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But, over the next few months, I’m going to be attempting far more difficult hills than I’ve ever attempted before. While this type of thing is obviously not the main thing behind climbing tough hills, it’s something that’s been bothering me that I can’t do anyway.


Marko82
Participant
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This probably has more to do with your new drop bars than gearing. Try riding with your hands on the hoods when you stand up. I think this gives you the most control of the front end of the bike.


Erica
Participant
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I might try that – normally, I attempt this with my hands on the straight part of the bars, where the other brake levers are.


edmonds59
Participant
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^ that. That’s probably the biggest part right there. I’m as comfortable standing as sitting, and I don’t even do it on the straight part of drop bars. Usually.

Practice on the flat, while coasting, instead of just trying it while climbing. It is a valuable skill to have, not just folly. For one thing it is hugely valuable to be able to quickly stand and take the weight off your seat to reduce the impact on your wheels if there is an unavoidable pothole or other crappy road surface, and absorb the jolt with your legs.


HiddenVariable
Participant
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or give your backside a break on long rides. and yeah, riding with your hands farther out and farther in front of you will give you a ton more balance. it should be immediately noticeable.


Mick
Participant
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@rubberfactory it is a more difficult gearing, but I’m getting a little better with it.

It’s the gears that need to be fixed. Not you.

It’s usually not hard to get a smaller small chain ring installed.


Erica
Participant
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Aw, but I was so proud when I started to not need the smaller chain ring anymore when climbing Penn ave.

I’m not a hill climber, historically, but I’m hoping to change that.


dmtroyer
Participant
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I’m guessing dan could give you a good trike recommendation :-)


Pierce
Participant
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@rubberfactory

The collective wisdom around here seems to be that pressing harder going up hills using a larger ring is worse on your knees.

I think for a whole summer I refused to use my granny gear because I thought it was giving me strength training or something. I think it just let premature wear on drive train though


chemicaldave
Participant
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I believe edmonds59 is correct. If you want the most stability standing up then you want your arms as wide as possible. Plus, having your arms wider probably helps you take deeper breaths which will help going up hills.


Astrobiker
Participant
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Definitely try a wider grip out on the hoods.

The straight part of drop bars puts your hands significantly closer together than they are on a tradition mountain bike straight bar set up.


ejwme
Participant
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What Mick (et al) said about gears.

I also had trouble switching from my Old Mtn Bike of Substantial Weight to my new bike (it’s a cross, and by comparison wicked light and “tall” feeling on larger wheels). Balance was weird until I got used to it, took a few weeks to a month before it felt really natural again, and I was riding 20 miles a day at the time.

But nothing compares to what happened when I swapped out the stock gears for actual mountain bike gears. I don’t know numbers. Went in to DH and told them I wanted better gears, they did it while I waited, fan-frigging-tastic. All of a sudden, I had somewhere to go when it got so hard I felt like hopping off and pushing.

Granny gears are your friend. We are not in Kansas, and we understand mechanical advantage. Don’t let topography con you into thinking that downshifting is for wusses!

But being able to stand is a good skill too. I just wouldn’t rely on it for hills.


stefb
Participant
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I disagree with sitting and spinning. I am probably wrong, but I think it is good to get up and out of the saddle. Gives the undercarriage a rest. I am a masher. I started riding and mashing and I hate spinning up hills. Works for me, but may not work for others. RF, great job on setting goals to tackle more hills. You’ll get there. And if you’re not clipped in and have to get off of the bike, it’s easy to do.


Mick
Participant
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@stefb – you’re an extraordinary rider. Crush the Commonwealth proved that.

For most (but probably not all) ordinary riders, low gears can be a blessing in Pittsburgh. I suspect that group includes a lot of people who have some macho idea that they shouldn’t need lower gears.


Erica
Participant
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Well, I’ve started to feel that it’s easier in some cases to use the higher gear. Today I climbed two hills that were new to me (Stanton from Butler to Highland, and Robinson St from Fifth ave to wherever the hell I spilled out into), and I definitely used the lower gears, because I needed them. I felt like on Robinson St, I could’ve used the ability to stand and pedal, if I had better balance. The stuffed bag on my back that holds my 2 u-locks and all my bike tools has got to go, though.


buffalo buffalo
Participant
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Definitely a stand-and-masher in general, but I’ve been very very happy for my lower gears on Brereton. (Somehow haven’t run out yet. Must be getting lucky.)


eMcK
Participant
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High Gear = higher effort, shorter duration

Low Gear = lower effort, longer duration

Work done to climb a hill is equal regardless of your gear selection. Use whatever works for you, there isn’t universal correct gearing for everyone.


rice rocket
Participant
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How is duration relevant? You can climb slowly in a high gear…


stefb
Participant
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If I am correct, I think Eric means that a higher gear will get you up the hill faster.. In most cases. I seem to get up hills faster than people sitting and spinning when I ride in a harder gear.. Up to a certain grade.. Not sure what that grade is, but it happens.


edmonds59
Participant
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Never mind.


HiddenVariable
Participant
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the amount of energy to raise a certain mass a certain height is the same for an ideal machine, just by the law of conservation of energy. the potential energy imparted on the mass is the energy input into the system, and it doesn’t matter what imparted the energy.

however, things are not that simple. human beings are not ideal machines. in order to impart that energy into the system, different methods burn different amounts of energy, and require different amounts of perceived exertion.

additionally, the way the human body drums up the energy needed differs by way of the force and timing demands, and as a result, the recovery and perceived exertion change dramatically. the body is much better at doing things fast and easily than slowly at high levels of force. even professional cyclists didn’t realize this until around the late 80s, and climbers started using a lower gearing and higher cadence to lift their tiny little bodies over those crazy hills.

tldr version: the same amount of energy is required to lift a mass up a hill regardless of how fast it is lifted (discounting air resistance), but the human body does a better job of it at lower gearings, and it feels easier.


melange396
Participant
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you didnt even gloss over elasticity of the chain and tires??! hiddenvariable, i am disappoint


ejwme
Participant
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RF – if you’ve got a bag actually on the back of your person, instead of balanced panniers or stuff tied to your bike, it will be a LOT harder to balance (even for people with good balance!). The lower you can put your (you+stuff+bike) center of gravity, the easier to balance – assuming the weight is distributed evenly side to side. I wouldn’t hang the bag off one side of the bike, but even just tying it to the rear rack (if you’ve got one) will provide a tangible difference. Heavy front baskets can throw off steering, though, so where you put that weight can really matter.

++ personal preference – if you’re a masher and you’re thoroughly happy with the results, I’m not pushing gears on you! I was just suggesting gearing changes as an alternative for people not happy/not able to mash.

As a kid I mashed exclusively (ok, I don’t think I knew how to change the three gears I had), and I was happy with it. I guess I’m going farther now, or am less enthusiastic about that jelly feeling, or just old and lazy ;)


HiddenVariable
Participant
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you didnt even gloss over elasticity of the chain and tires??! hiddenvariable, i am disappoint

so disappoint, about a lots of guy?


Anonymous #

What can I do if I have trouble keeping my balance sitting down?


Mick
Participant
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@hiddenvariable human beings are not ideal machines. in order to impart that energy into the system, different methods burn different amounts of energy, and require different amounts of perceived exertion.

+1

And this varies from person to person.


rzod
Participant
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What can I do if I have trouble keeping my balance sitting down?

Not get high so often?


Mick
Participant
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@high cyclist What can I do if I have trouble keeping my balance sitting down?

That depends.

Do you have a good cadence when you are sitting down? If not, then switch to a lower gear.

How fast are you going when you have trouble balancing? If it is under 4 mph, you might as well get off and walk. A lower gear might (or might not) help you increase your speed.


eMcK
Participant
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In my experience, a higher gear with a lower cadence stabilizes things much better than a lower gear and a higher cadence.

My best advice for all these questions is to find a place to try out all kinds of things. Your bike really wants to not fall over, you’ll eventually figure out ways to get along with it, and with practice it will be come second nature.


chemicaldave
Participant
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One advantage I’ve found to using a higher gear going up long hills is that the lower pace allows me to focus on exerting force evenly throughout the entire stroke. I’m not at a point where I can both spin and apply force evenly.


rzod
Participant
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High Cyclist, is it on hills that you’re having trouble with balance? If so, I agree with Eric and Dave. I find that when I’m climbing in my lowest gears, I feel slightly unstable. Sometimes moving up just one gear can really help stabilize things (for me; YMMV). I like to have those low gears available (and even changed cassettes to get them), but I only go to them when absolutely necessary.

Rubber, I think you should work on riding on the hoods. I bet you’ll be surprised at both how quickly you get used to it and how much it helps with climbing. I forget – did you have bar ends on your old bike?


Ken Kaminski
Participant
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@ ejwme if you’ve got a bag actually on the back of your person, instead of balanced panniers or stuff tied to your bike, it will be a LOT harder to balance

My experience has been exactly the opposite of this.

Standing to climb is really useful to me when I start the hill with a lot of momentum, or if the hill is really short. Otherwise I like to sit and spin, even though I’m bad at it.


melange396
Participant
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> so disappoint, about a lots of guy?

hah, thats old school! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agL3NHgb8Rk

i was more referring to the silly internet meme “son, i am disappoint”.

</ot>


Erica
Participant
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Rubber, I think you should work on riding on the hoods. I bet you’ll be surprised at both how quickly you get used to it and how much it helps with climbing. I forget – did you have bar ends on your old bike?

I did not.

Also, I plan on getting a rack and a set of bags tomorrow for my new bike, and this Tuesday, I’m repeating the hills I did yesterday, so I will be able to report back on the difference I experience with the redistribution of weight.


Erica
Participant
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I wanted to update this by saying that shifting the weight that used to be on my back onto the bike itself (using a rack and pannier) has helped with this immensely. I think the thing causing me to be so worried about falling was the feeling that my bike is so light, especially compared to me. I’m still uneasy standing during any sort of climb, but on flat road, it’s much less scary now.


ejwme
Participant
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RF, I had the same feeling when I traded up from my old heavy beater to my new light bike – it will get easier as you get used to the lighter weight.

Unfortunately, when you get used to the new, lighter weight bike, it will be less pleasant to revert to an old heavy mountain bike. This is why I never test drive a car or bike I can’t afford – I don’t want to know what I’m missing!

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