Via Smarter Every Day.

24 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder what would happen if he keeps on switching between bizarro bike and normal ones. Would the switch gradually become easier? Or would his brain just implode from neural overload?

  2. The changes to the bike also reduce the trail and rake of the fork making it much less stable. That could make a difference in learning how to ride it. However when he switched back to a normal bike with a normal fork he looked just as uncoordinated.

  3. nH, I don’t know where you get that. The setup involves a second head tube/steerer wended to the original head tube, and the new steerer is connected to the original one via a spur gear.

    This affects neither the rake nor the trail. In theory, if the host could ride no-hands on a regular bike, he could ride no hands on this bike with no adaptation.

  4. @nh – The rake (aka offset) of the fork, wheelsize, headangle and therefore trail all remain static on the true steering axis.
    If you ignore any weight shift from the bars themselves, the bike will handle the same as always, at least without a rider.
    Possibly there is some increased difficulty due to more forward weight distribution, but having (briefly) ridden a reverse-bike, it’s mostly down to the natural side-to-side weight shift as you steer. That is, when the bars go left, your weight follows – but in reverse-o land, that’s making you high-side the turn, rather than tipping you into the corner.
    It doesn’t appear to be much of an issue with this bike, but tight-meshing of the steering gears can make things difficult too – imagine overtightening your headset – by impeding the bikes own ‘wheel flop’ characteristics.

    As a final aside, the engineer who made the reverse-bike I rode is quite accomplished on it – and several other designs – and says swapping back and forth requires no retraining. He also definitely didn’t spend 8 months learning it.

  5. @JasonK good on ya; I noticed the same.

    None of the people in the video looked like experienced cyclists (a hoopty cruiser like that would probably make a Fred out of any of us). An experienced cyclist — someone with a bit of technical climbing ability — might know how to pull back evenly with both arms while getting started. Once cruisin’, just let go of the danged handlebars if they don’t go where you turn ’em!

    Steering is half-hands, half-butt. Gained a new appreciation for that trying to emulate these newschool enduro-randonneur AWOL kiddies with heavy dual front panniers and nothing else: way too much steering input needed from hands, not responsive enough to body english.

  6. I thought the same thing about riding no hands, but not true. Bike stability comes from a combination of things, but a key component to no-hands stability is the handbars falling in the direction of the bike lean. As the bars fall (let’s say left in a left lean) the bike steers left and “catches” the bike’s lean by initiating a slight left turn. This bike is completely different, because as the bars fall in the direction of the lean, the wheel steers in the opposite direction, make you fall over immediately.

  7. A bicycle (or motorcycle) is inherently stable when rolling (it has almost nothing to do with gyroscopic forces, but that’s another show). All a person can do is let it stabilize itself or intentionally destabilize it. On a normal bike this is called countersteering (and it’s actually more naturally aligned with the forces induced on the rider by wobble and lean and stroking under load, creating a negative feedback loop that allows for stabilization even in apparently unstable attitudes, so I’d be very surprised if anyone could ride both kinds of bike with equal competence). On the gearheded bike it’s more like counter-countersteering, but just plain steering will do. I wonder, if an experienced driver tried to think of the handlebars as a steering wheel, would it help make the switch to steering on the bike, or will the dynamic differences in the rest of the car system cause wrong control assumptions on the bike? You merely aim a car, but you have to keep a bike up under itself and you, and you can either time those wobble corrections, or let them happen…

  8. @phil “a key component to no-hands stability is the handbars falling in the direction of the bike lean” – True as far as it goes, but there is also the wheel falling in the same way, and with thick tire and tube as on this cruiser I’d think it weighs more than the bars. So there’s still a net weight transfer towards the lean, just reduced somewhat. (Also, the cruiser bars curve so far backwards that their weight transfer may actually be opposite of, say, road bars.)

    I’m wondering if the steering gears affect no-hands riding too much for it to be doable.

    As for professional/experienced cyclists learning this easily – I doubt it, but if so my bet would be on freestyle/street BMX riders.

  9. Years ago (about 20) there was a guy who made a bmx bike like this and use to get people to pay $2 to see if they could ride the bike for about 10m continuously. They won $50 if they could. A mate of mine (Paul) managed it on his first go. The guy gave him the bike as the prize as he had been making money off it for years but never once had anyone ridden the 10m.

    Paul had ridden and raced bmx and mtb for years. Having said that, virtually no one else could ride the bloody thing. Myself included. Seasoned racers and riders alike didn’t stand a chance!

  10. A guy in Temple bar in Dublin was probably making huge money with a bike like that!! 🙂 apart the fact to find someone sober around there :-DD

  11. I think many underestimate how many incredibly small, un-noticed corrections everyone makes when riding a normal bike.

    Being an experienced cyclist won’t help you much here.

  12. A coworker of mine built one of these a few years back. I could not ride it. With practice, maybe. The hard part is the balance. Cyclists make minute adjustments to keep upright, but on this bike, it makes you more unbalanced the more you try to correct (in the wrong direction.) Even knowing that you need to turn the opposite way to make the bike work will get overridden by the brain trying to save you from face planting. This is why the kid in the video could learn so quickly. He doesn’t have years of ingrained auto responses to rewrite.

  13. Did an engineer actually admit that welders are smarter than them? I’ve known this to be true for some time, but I’ve never heard an enginerd admit it.

  14. I tried a bike like this at an carnival. The carnie could ride it no problem. I got three tries to ride 10′. Thought my superior bike skills would help. I couldn’t even ride 2′.

  15. Riding a bike requires the creation of a motor program in your brain. This program can be revised or rewritten, but it takes (well, for most mortals at least) many hours of repetition. It is possible to have 2 motor programs for the same physical movement to coexist in your head, but switching back and forth between them can be dangerous if the stakes are high. An example of this is in aviation. First you learn to pilot an aircraft in visual conditions, but then you must revise many of your lifelong habits to progress to flying in instrument conditions, where you can’t see anything outside (when in clouds, etc.). In instrument conditions you have to learn to ignore many of your previous and very powerful, lifelong, ground-based instincts. Instead, you have to learn to trust and follow your instruments even when they completely contradict what you feel is right. Many less seasoned pilots kill themselves by inadvertently falling back on their ground-based instincts in instrument conditions and then end up inverted in a cloud, then in a dive, and then dead.

  16. It’s not that hard. First of all the geometry of the bike is bad. Therefore you pull too much at the steering wheel. But if you are able to ride a bike without using your hands, than the switch to riding it while holding the steering wheel is smaller. Maybe that is why it’s so hard? The bike can barely be used without pulling the handle bars. At camp many years ago there were 2 funny bikes. One with the drive train reversed. And one with a frame that could move between headset and crankshaft. Both bikes you learned in a couple of hours. Btw I am Dutch. I rode a bike at a very young age. Many miles a year, still do today and I guess I will do until I am to old or sick to ride one safely.

  17. @Ilikeicedtea “I’d put my right hand on the left grip and left on right, and pedal off into the sunset.”

    Nice try, but if you watch the whole video, you’ll see a guy doing exactly that. Didn’t help him.

  18. These comments are great. “It’s the bike’s geometry, I could totally do this. I’m the best cyclist in the world; i rode a bike out of the womb.”

    Geometry is not the issue here, guys. It’s the ingrained, subconscious motor control we use everyday to keep ourselves upright, except the actions we’d normally use to stabilize the bike now destabilize it. Normally you’d turn the handlebars into the turn to bring the bike back under you, but with this setup that action –that you do totally without conscious thought– actually steers the bike further out from under you. The issue lies in trying to steer with the handlebars. If you can ride a normal bike without hands then you would be able to ride this bike without hands as well, but you would almost certainly crash when you put your hands back on the bars. As evidenced in the video and from others’ anecdotes you can definitely learn to ride this kind of bike, but it’s not like flipping a switch to turn your brain from “turning left makes the bike go left” to “turning left makes the bike go right”.

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