Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reaching for Water

Moser 300
Spending lots of time on the roadbike has improved my speed and endurance more than I ever thought possible. Unfortunately, my bike handling skills are lagging so far behind that the gap is becoming almost comical. 

What's causing some frustration at the moment, is that I can't drink water on the bike while in motion. Other cyclists will nonchalantly remove their water bottle from the cage without reducing speed, drink while continuing to cycle as if this were the most natural thing in the world, then replace the bottle in the cage and keep going as if it never happened. For me this maneuver is impossible to execute; I need to stop the bike in order to drink.

Prior to now this was never a problem. For the most part I cycled alone, and if I needed a drink I simply stopped the bike any time I felt like it. And the paceline rides I went on were only 20 miles, plus our stops at intersections were sufficient to sneak a quick guzzle. But now that I am going on longer rides and with groups of people, I am finding it more difficult to manage my water intake. I need to learn to drink without stopping the bike!

It's just so sad, because I've been practicing the water thing since summer, but progressing at a snail's pace. I can now grab the bottle with my left hand, but the bike jerks wildly when I attempt to yank it out of the cage. And if I do pull it out, what on earth will I do with it? Should I need to turn or stop the bike suddenly, will I be able to do it with one hand holding a bottle? Panic! Panic! Swerve! Panic! Yes, I am really that neurotic. 

It doesn't help matters that I am extremely resistant to being taught. "No, really! If I could do it, so can you. Look, I'll teach you." Yeah... Suffice to say, I've never met a well-meaning cyclist whom I couldn't frustrate with my inability to learn technique. So, for now I'm stuck drinking water at stops and gazing in awe at those who can drink while cycling. Maybe some day I will read this post and laugh. Till then, I can only resume my snail's progress.

113 comments:

  1. You could try a camelbak... i never thought i'd like one, but i really do. Or switch your helmet for a stylish one like this: http://www.amazon.com/Beer-Guzzler-Helmet-Yellow/dp/B000QV9XDI :)

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  2. "Should I need to turn or stop the bike suddenly, will I be able to do it with one hand holding a bottle? Panic! Panic! Swerve! Panic!"

    Drop it.

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  3. Obviously if you're not confident, then practicing when it's quiet and safe is important. What to do if you need to stop the bike suddenly? Throw the water bottle and get your hand back on the bars ;-)

    Do you have the same problem when on your less sporty bikes? It sounds to me to me like a weight distribution / core stability problem. Lighten your hands, placing your non reaching hand on the top of the bar rather than on the hoods. Can you ride no handed? Improving your core stability helps with being able to steer your bike with your body.

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  4. Can't do it either, V. If you have some of the same problems I have with proprioception (the sense of your body's position in space), which as I remember you said you think you might, this is always going to be tough for you. It's not about balance so much as reaching and grabbing and lifting while riding. Your nerve problems in your hands might make this even worse, making your hand movements less precise and meaning your brain is spending more energy being focused on just grabbing the bottle than those folks you see doing it so effortlessly.

    It might also explain why you find learning physical techniques from others so difficult. I have to physically DO something to get it. I can't watch someone else do it and just get it. And I have to do it over and over. But once I get it, I've GOT it. Then I can't explain it to anyone else. You should see me try to teach someone else to knit: hopeless.

    Maybe a handlebar-mounted water bottle cage? Or a small camelback with the straw thingy?

    Or you can just be me, and use it as yet another reason to stop and take more photos! "Hey, look at that bird... I need to stop and drink my Snapple!" Click.

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  5. A worn-on-the-back water bladder like a Camelbak is a great option. Although it does sort of wreck one's retro-chic aesthetic!

    That said, I think for your own safety improving your bike handling skills is extremely important. Keep practicing the difficult stuff, even if it takes a long time. I suspect it won't be too long before you'll turn a corner (figuratively speaking) and start becoming comfortable with more technical bike handling skills. For urban riding, can't stress enough the importance of fast stopping, quick turning/swerving, looking back w/o weaving, and super-slow handling.

    Mt. biking on semi-technical terrain is great for improving your technical skills and comfort on two wheels.

    And thanks for all the great work you do with this blog!

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  6. Perhaps a rucksack system may solve your problem?

    Here's an older article about choosing one...

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  7. Not ideal as you would be wearing a backpack, but what about a camelback pack?

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  8. How about getting one of those water-pouches, worn on the back, with a drinking-tube that goes over your shoulder to near your mouth? (The downside is that it might give you a sweaty back, but that's better than panicing and killing yourself, right?)

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  9. The similarities between your cycling experiences and my wife's a remarkable. We've just got rid of a bike at a significant mark down because of the toe overlap. Jayne can't grab a bottle from the cage while moving either. If we drink on the move, I normally wait for a long straight piece of road then hold a bottle out within her grasp. Jayne can then grab it when she's confident to do so and rest her hand, with bottle, back on the bars. She can then take a drink when she feels able. Then she holds the bottle out and I take it back. It does mean I have to ride quite close, which also makes her nervous. No problems on the tandem though, apart from occasionally headbutting me in the back reaching for the lower cage.

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  10. Hope you had a great holiday!

    Yes, this took me a long time to master too. I think you're on the right track though simply because you recognize it as a technique that has to be learned over time. Don't worry, you'll get it. I'm pretty good at it, but each time I take my water bottle out of the cage it takes a conscious effort and a bit of added concentration. It may look nonchalant ... but I think all good cyclists realize this can be a dangerous moment on on the bike and are actually quite careful.

    For me, I keep my right hand on the handlebar so that I can still brake in an emergency (and by using your right hand, you'll be activating the rear brake, which is safer than using the front one alone). And I have no problem letting the bike coast for a bit. It's a chance to take a little breather and the bike doesn't slow down that much in such a short period of time. But I think the biggest thing is to wait to take the drink when the road is clear and safe.

    Well, good luck! Have a great New Year, and thanks as always for your wonderful blog!

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  11. Maybe a camelbak drinking system is a good idea or break down the process of drinking on the move into easily learnable sections and as you feel comfotable with one stage move on to the other. Just a thought. Phillip.

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  12. If you figure it out, let me know. I don't like having anything in my hands when cycling unless I'm going really slowly, although I have managed a few shaky panda shots. Fortunately I don't do the sort of cycling that requires me to drink a lot - or I just stop at the top of a hill if I get thirsty.

    I suppose the way I'd do it if I had to would be to practise the holding the bottle part - eg, going quite slowly and on a nice safe section of road or track, cycle along with the bottle in your hand and practise braking, slowing and steering. Once you're confident that having the bottle in your hand won't cause you problems, you might find that getting it out or putting it back becomes less problematic because it may be your subconscious is sabotaging the process. Or else find some other way of mounting the bottle (jersey pocket, handlebars)

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  13. I bet we learned this stuff on our bikes as children. I mean riding no hands, etc. Children aren't afraid to fall; we even crashed deliberately.
    If the bike is tracking properly, it wants to keep going straight. It doesn't need your rigid control.
    Work on riding no hands on your loop frame bike. Just take your hands off the bar, and if it tracks properly it will just keep going straight.

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  14. Have you considered using a Camelback instead of water bottles?

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  15. Have you tried the cages that go under your saddle to hold 2 bottles?

    http://shop.trail-rail.com/product/v3100

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  16. Well, I don't have much problem taking the water bottle out, but putting it back in is another matter; I feel the need to look if I'm aiming it right (a couple of times I missed the bottle holder and dropped the water bottle). I do this in places where I have enough room to maneuver.

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  17. Maybe try a Camelbak? When I rode recumbent, I used one with the wire in the drinking tube, so I could bend it to just in front of my face. To drink, I just had to lean my head forward a little. Worked great, since water bottle placement is often a bit awkward on a recumbent.

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  18. Have you considered using a camelbak instead?

    Just a thought :)

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  19. Maybe it's my coming from mountain biking, but I love to use my camel-back. It provides an easy way to drink on the go.

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  20. Rollers. Learn to ride them. Learn to ride them no-hands. Learn to sprint on the rollers, learn sprinting no hands. Did it when I was a kid, it has stuck with me. It will take you a little time, but it's not especially dangerous, especially if your rollers have a platform around them, or if you do it in a narrow hall. Be sure to tie up your hair, just in case you fall on the rollers in a spill.

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  21. Is your bike geometry extra "twitchy"? That could be the underlying problem.

    All I can suggest is to practice riding "no hands" while sitting up. This is a useful position to "relax" in and too stretch on longer rides. It's also good to learn so you can stip off a top layer while on the bike. It might also make you more comfortable grabbing a water bottle, although you are, of course, in a different position when you do that.

    Learning to ride "no hands" also helps you learn not to grab the bars tighter than necessary, which can lead to fatigue and hand problems.

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  22. I guess if you really can't do this maneuver you can always get a CamelBak hydration system for the new Year

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  23. How bout the "slow but sure" method? Little steps. Stick with just removing/replacing the bottle until it gets into your "muscle memory" comfort zone and then take the next little step. No rush, no worries. The tortoise wins the prize:)

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  24. Have you thought about a camelbak type setup?

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  25. My wife can't drink while riding without slowing down to a crawl. Even then she prefers to stop. Since we ride for fun, we don't mind stopping, though when I'm out for a solo ride I usually don't stop only to drink, though if I stop for a photo I'll drink my fill too.

    If the problem is reaching down to the top tube, Topeak makes a handlebar adapter for bottle cages:
    http://www.topeak.com/products/Bottle-Cages/cagemount

    It adds weight, of course, but if you use a small or partially empty bottle, it shouldn't affect handling too badly.

    Otherwise there's always the Camelbak option.

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  26. Re Camelbak - I know that I would not find a backpack type system comfortable. But I've just gotten their tank top with a built in water reservoir and will give that a try.

    And I am intrigued about those under the saddle water things I've seen with the straw running along the TT! They look silly, but I am fine with that if it works.

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  27. "The similarities between your cycling experiences and my wife's a remarkable. We've just got rid of a bike at a significant mark down because of the toe overlap. Jayne can't grab a bottle from the cage while moving either..."

    Based on private feedback I get from readers and particularly women, my impression is that my issues with bikes are not at all unique. Unfortunately, most people who have them are made to feel bad about it ("toe overlap is not a problem, you just need to get used to it!") which discourages them. I even know of plenty women whose husbands/boyfriends have told them that they cannot ride a roadbike if they are unwilling to learn to ride clipless. Kind of sad and ridiculous. And hopefully my experiences show that none of this is true, and that people with varying levels of technique and natural ability can ride with the right set-up.

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  28. Performance anxiety is how I describe this type of challenge for myself. Whether learning how to shoot a pistol when I was in law enforcement or shearing a sheep in sheep-shearing class, it seemed I have always been skill-challenged. But for me, it must mostly be in the head, as at some point of practice, the "wall" or veil disappears, and I let the body and instinct take over, and I can do it. If I had to think about how to shift a transmission with a manual clutch or read about how to do it when I was first learning I would never have been able to do it. Peer anxiety, for me, is part of it.

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  29. How about one of those hats that spectators use at baseball games...the one that has two beers and straws in it :)

    Don't worry it will come to you someday. The need to drink will overcome your current ability. Just think of all the other cycling maneuvers and different types of riding you have already mastered.

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  30. What Steve said. Don't give up on the bottles. Camelbaks and other hydration solutions are great, but bottles are fundamental.

    Take a first small step by practicing removing and replacing the bottle in a parking lot where you have no fear. Practice following a line in the lot, keeping your head and eyes on the road and remove and replace the bottle.

    As a second step, after you've mastered the first, practice bringing the bottle to your mouth and turning it up. If you get disoriented by rocking your head back, then concentrate on a hand position that allows you to turn the bottle up without changing your head position. A lot of cyclists will invert the bottle in hand (nozzle pointing down when fist straight out) to reduce the need to tilt their head back.

    Once you master the skills in a safe environment like a parking lot, you can then take them out on the road.

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  31. Handlebar mount bottle cages have a lot of problems. Most marketed in recent years are flimsy, fail from the constant vibration. Don't even think about side mounts or double carriers. You will not like the effect on steering. As is often the case, steel cages and steel mounts from the classic era work best.

    Another accessory from the past is called a flask. Just because it's smaller it could be easier to manage. Riders used to carry "the charge" in their back pocket and there are official TA flasks for just this purpose. Any flask will work. You could carry three or more if needed.

    If you end up with bottle in hand and a safety related situation occurs, if you just get nervous, DROP THE BOTTLE. It's only a bottle. If you want to be hyper-polite on group rides you could be at the back of the bunch when this happens. If someone is behind you drop it anyway. Dropped bottles are a constant on group rides.

    You describe a big yank to get the bottle out. Not necessary. Bend the cage out to make the fit looser. The worst that could happen is the bottle flies out on a stretch of rough pavement. This happens all the time anyway. If the bottle jumps out the cage often, then the cage is too loose.

    Any straw arrangement requires a vent. Slop. Straight water only and constant obsessive cleaning required.

    The suggestion above about riding rollers is a good one. Set up a complete booth, bungee limits of travel, whatever you have to do. They are appearing quite regularly on craigslist now that it's winter.

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  32. I learned to drink pretty quickly, although I still sometimes struggle to drink as much as I would like to, especially out of a mostly empty bottle, and can't maintain top speed, though I can pedal, brake, etc. How would that work in a paceline? Would I just wait until I was at the back to drink? I'm curious to try a ride like the ones you have been doing but wonder about such things and whether I am ready.

    FWIW I can only ride no hands on my loop frame for a few moments and not at all on my road bike but can still manage to drink. Still, more core strength could not hurt, however you want to acquire it.

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  33. Anon 9:42 - Performance anxiety is a legitimate phenomenon, but I don't think what I am experiencing is it. I find it just as hard to do the bottle thing on my own with no one watching as I do around other people; there is no audience effect. It seems to be more of a matter of finding some skills unusually difficult to learn - skills that have to do with balance and coordination. I know so many people who cannot draw or knit when they are being watched, whereas I have no problem with it. I also never have performance anxiety when I give a talk or lecture, or when I acted on stage when I was younger.

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  34. Sounds like you could benefit from feeling more comfortable on the bike. Though it may sound extreme I think you should get on some sweats, find a nice grassy field, and do slow speed leaning and bump and touch drills. If one of the women at the pace line rides you do has done these she could teach them to you. No cleats or straps. Grass and sweats so falling is not likely to hurt much. Use your old race bike. When you are comfortable on the bike in lots of body positions, and accustomed to being bumped etc. many things will be easier and safer.

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  35. I can do a bottle on a tour trip going slower, but on a faster bike, I can't do it well at all. Pulling out the bottle and drinking is okay, getting it back in the holder is impossible.

    From the comments.. everyone seems to have the right hand on the drops and the left hand doing the bottle? I find that so weird after years of driving with the left hand on the car's steering wheel and the right hand on a shifter or a coke bottle. I can't hold on a bike with just my right... how ikky!!!

    There are really small camelbacks now. It's not like when they first came out and they were all huge. There's also systems like H2Bike which work with your current bottle racks and provide a slinky-like hose. http://www.bluedesert.co.il/h2b.html

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  36. I've found that as a righty I am more stable with my left hand on the bar. I also practice when riding at speed with just my hand off the bar. No bottle. Then I took the bottle and waggled it around wide, up down, etc. trying to improve my overall stability. Try disengaging your strong arm - it is more likely to be able to assist with your balancing off the bike than our weak one. Just a thought.

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  37. I think the camel back is the best idea, they make too much sense not to try. If you look at old racing films the riders were using bar mounted bottles, that might be a good transition. If conftormity is important in your riding group just get some rollers and practice in the safety of your home until you get it right.

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  38. b. said "Mt. biking on semi-technical terrain is great for improving your technical skills and comfort on two wheels.

    And thanks for all the great work you do with this blog!
    "

    Thank you (NOTHING beats singletrack on a SS HT :) ),and +2,I really enjoy your blog,my friend. Have an awesome New Years! I don't really have any magic bit of wisdom to give on this subject that hasn't been given several times already (Camelback and practice),but I feel you're frustration,it took me a while to master too :)

    Disabled Cyclist

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  39. Maybe start even smaller than a flask. Can you eat a cookie while riding? A two bite cookie?

    Be very wary of non-standard drinking systems. Most are made and sold to very casual intermittent cyclists. A few look all tech and are no better engineered than bicycle cupholders. I've owned and quickly broken two underseat bottle carriers, it would have been more eventful had a straw been attached. That top tube straw should be as firmly secured as brake and derailleur cables or it shouldn't be on the bike. If it is firmly secured, how often will you clean it?

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  40. How about moving the water bottle behind the seat?
    http://www.amazon.com/Profile-Design-2008-Aqua-Black/dp/B001C69YYO/ref=pd_sbs_sg_3
    I have no experience with that rack but it clamps to the seat post.
    Is the issue riding one handed? or the act of getting the water bottle?

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  41. I find it odd that I can ride one handed better with my left hand (and arm) than with my right. Maybe it's because I'm right handed and use my right hand for the majority of tasks.

    But reaching for the ipod or handkerchief (or water bottle) is always much easier when I steer with the left and reach with the right. When I try it the other way around I feel liable to crash and totally off kilter.

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  42. I have this exact problem too and it is very frustrating as I do want to begin doing more permanents and longer rando rides and stopping to drink water and then getting started again is a real drag. You don't seem opposed to Camelbaks, but I am because of the plastic issue - and I don't own one and thus don't want to buy one. How does one drink fluids fluidly from stainless steel bottles? I am okay with messing up and spilling water all over on hot days, but not on chillier days.

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  43. Three suggestions, and apologies if I'm belaboring the obvious........

    When grabbing the water bottle, keep one of your hands on the handlebars as close as possible to the stem. The reduced mechanical advantage on steering minimizes instability.

    Use an open-type water bottle cage, like the Nitto that Compass sells. It will be less a wrestling match to remove the bottle, hence less impact on steering.

    Try to break the natural habit of clinging to the handlebars with both hands at all times, which is more common among riders who learned to ride performance bikes that are equipped with brifters, since it's possible to ride without moving one's hands around.

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  44. My wife has always had issues with reaching for a water bottle while riding. She is blind in one eye and has trouble with depth perception. Her new bike is a mixte that has a water bottle mount between the downtube and the diagonal which is almost inaccessible. Needless to say this just exacerbated the problem. She had to stop every time she wanted to drink, which was frustrating for her also. After several months of this, I discovered handlebar mounts for waterbottle cages on the Velo Orange site.
    These have worked very well for her, the first ride with them on she was almost ecstatic, now she could ride and not worry about losing control while reaching for a waterbottle.

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  45. I wanted to throw in one more recommendation for rollers. Riding on rollers feels like riding 2 foot wide a bridge made of ice with no railing. Once you've got the hang of it, a bike lane feels down right roomy and holding a perfect line is no effort at all. Start out in a doorway or narrow hall where you can tip over without crashing.

    Water bottles used to be hard for me, too. Practice on rollers really helped. Good luck!

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  46. Oh great, give your bike a colostomy bag with that under seat thingy.

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  47. Peppy (I can lap from my bowl at speed)December 27, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    I can't believe no one recommended training wheels yet. That's what young kittens use until they become cycling cats.

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  48. You could mount the bottle on your handlebars, like racers used to do back in the 30's and 40's. Add the retro straw to a steel kleen kanteen, wrap it in shellacked twine, and you're stylin'!

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  49. My wife will never ride semi-technical or singletrack off road (another thing in common with V?) so those "skills" I developed by being an idiot as a kid are coming more slowly.

    V, she has the same issues with clipless. Fine on the tandem but not on the solo. And having ridden the tandem with SPD's for over 10 years, she does have an appreciation of the benefits but can't get over the fears.

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  50. The Minoura bottle cage mount for the handlebars, used with Nitto touring cages, is rock solid. I used this on trails (single track, abandoned farm roads, etc) with no problems.

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  51. @sam - "Rollers" is three cylinders that you ride your bike on. The rear wheel rests between two of them, the front wheel rests right on top of the third, and a cable between rear and front cylinder make the front roll. You steer the front wheel to stay upright. And when you first (and 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th) try them, you will ride right off the edge. Sooner or later, you don't.

    Note that when you ride off them, you just stop. The wheels are all that is moving, and they don't have that much momentum compared to a great big human. If you hit your brakes, the rollers just toss you (and the bike) off backwards. Maybe rollers are quieter now, but when I was a kid, we had an informal roller race in a mall, and it sounded like a turbine room (i.e., to be avoided in a room above someone who desires peace and quiet).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_rollers
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKEHoA_xl-U

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  52. Are you looking down at the water bottle when you're pulling it out? If so, that could be the problem.

    Try staying focused on the road (as if you're not getting the water bottle). Your focus on the road should increase your stability as you get the bottle out.

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  53. "Are you looking down at the water bottle when you're pulling it out"

    No, I'm focused on the road. Just the act of reaching there in on itself seems to compromise my stability.

    I have heard such mixed reviews of handlebar mounted bottles, that I am reluctant to try that system. Also, once I extract the bottle there is also a matter of drinking from it while in motion, which I think would be a problem in of itself. Maybe a very long straw extending from the handlebars...

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  54. I think I'd practice these skills:

    1) Braking the bicycle with one hand, using both front and rear brakes. You can keep both hands on the bars at first, and then remove one as you get better. The front brake is harder to do, as other have pointed out, but can allow you to stop faster.

    2) Riding with no hands. This skill will allow you to control direction using your weight only. I think most people shift their weight a little when grabbing and drinking from water bottles, so getting comfortable with it is helpful. It also will allow you to change up your position when on long rides.

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  55. When watching criterions I'm absolutely amazed with what these cyclists can do at full speed in tight quarters. Even in the old days when down tube shifters were used they were fearless and confident. So yes, bicycling skills seem to be a huge part of competitive team cycling. It seems merely being fit just gets one in the door. It's frustrating for me, as an old man, to learn new skills. I tend to over think things now where as in my youth it seemed more natural -- the wrong part of my brain gets in the way :) Juggling is what I'm working on now and it's comforting to sense progression even though my kids already manage to make it look easy. Slack lining as well is helping to develop balance and instincts where none existed before. Practice and patience....

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  56. I used to have a similar issue when I weaved my arm to signal a corner on mountain bikes. Then I switched to a proper city bike - a Raleigh Sports, because of your blog !- and the problem completely disappeared. The handlebar did not wobble anymore when I lifted an arm, because the more upright position shifted a lot of weight off the handlebar and on to the saddle.

    Maybe you could change your riding position until you feel more comfortable with the water bottle gesture ?

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  57. msrw above is absolutely correct the one hand remaining on the bar must be at center of bars, near stem. It's hard for those of us who do these things as second nature to remember someone as otherwise accomplished as Velouria would need to be told these things. If you try reaching for the bottle while one hand is weighted on the brake hood or on the drop of course you are unstable. Very unstable in fact.

    Try reaching for small things in the jersey pocket. Then eating them. Hand to mouth. Then put a sport top on a small small bottle, pull that out of your pocket and drink. Flexible bottles like the ones supermarket bottled water comes in will be easier to drink from. Get used to doing simple things that you can do right away.

    None of this is hard. The only problem is a mental block. If you can balance a bike and survive in traffic or down hills this is much easier.

    The bottle should go in and out of the cage easily. The picture in the original post shows a long bottle. Do a short bottle first. Try a bottle mounted on the seat tube, you will be going right into your center of gravity when you reach for it.

    If you drop a bottle nothing happens. Straws and bits and pieces of not-bikey hardware get caught in spokes. Bottles don't fit or wedge anywhere. If a falling bottle hits frame or leg or chain or anything on the way down, nothing happens.The bottle bounces clear. If you can't complete a motion, drink, get the bottle all the way back, dropping it is safe. You have a fallback. Happens thousands of times daily, no accidents.

    As determined as you are it is very hard to imagine you will fail.

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  58. It's never been an issue for me. I think that's because I was born and raised on down tube shift levers and continue to use them on all my road bikes, 2.5 decades in. This means I am comfortable reaching all over the place for whatever with either hand, under most circumstances. And I am only truly ambidextrous on my road bikes.

    If I were the brifter type, I would probably go with a jersey having three pouches in back and flasks. And I would investigate pre-hydration.

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  59. "Based on private feedback I get from readers and particularly women, my impression is that my issues with bikes are not at all unique. Unfortunately, most people who have them are made to feel bad about it ("toe overlap is not a problem, you just need to get used to it!") which discourages them. I even know of plenty women whose husbands/boyfriends have told them that they cannot ride a roadbike if they are unwilling to learn to ride clipless. Kind of sad and ridiculous. And hopefully my experiences show that none of this is true, and that people with varying levels of technique and natural ability can ride with the right set-up."

    Didn't you just earnestly admit in this blog post that you're completely incapable of handling your road bikes "with the right set-up"?

    Just because many other women have been enculturated with the same set of anxieties doesn't make them any less absurd. That you're insistent on compromising absolutely everything about your fit on the bike as a salve for your toe overlap anxiety is making your other issues far worse.

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  60. One reason you could be having problems when you take one hand off the bars to reach for a bottle is that you are carrying too much weight on your hands.

    One reason you could be carrying too much weight on your hands is because your seat tube angles are too steep and you're not using enough setback.

    Without enough setback your body's center of gravity falls forwards of the cranks. If your feet and saddle alone can't hold your body on the bike then the job of holding up your body falls to your hands.

    When too much weight is on your hands, and you take one hand off the bars, the other hand pushes the bar to the side and you swerve.

    Of course, obtaining correct setback means that your Rivendell will turn out to have too long a top tube. It's just too big for you; sell it.

    And shorter top tubes that would fit you would make it harder to escape toe overlap.

    I don't think anyone will tell you that toe overlap is not undesirable, but they will tell you that even for shorter riders, lack of toe overlap is way down on the list of desirable traits in a bicycle, ranking well below (1) good fit without carrying weight on the hands; and (2) good handling that needs good weight distribution between the wheels.

    And you cannot escape toe overlap without messing up one or both of the above (or using smaller wheels, which would be the correct solution for a lot of shorter riders).

    I can understand the desire to avoid toe overlap with a beginning rider, but you are leaving the beginner realm, and you seem to be running into a lot of problems (reaching for bottles) that are made worse by prioritizing lack of overlap above other things.

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  61. What is absurd about my being able to ride 100-150 miles a week happily while keeping up with experienced cyclists, with pretty much my only problem being not being able to drink water without stopping? Sure I don't ride clipless, but I don't consider that a problem. I've been told that I can race in my Power Grips if I like.

    I am not compromising anything for lack of TCO. I've ridden roadbikes with TCO and have had the exact same problems with them. I also know a number of experienced cyclists who race and compete in long distance events who have a similar dislike of this "feature" as I do and are unwilling to ride a bike with TCO. As I've said before, it is a matter of preference.

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  62. I understand the "too much weight on the front" reasoning, but I have this problem no matter how I set up the bikes. Remember that I have only very recently reconfigured my bike with a seatpost with little setback, previously I had slack seatposts on all my bikes and that did not help me any. The bike on which I made the most progress reaching for the bottle was the Seven, and that had a straight Thompson, so there goes that theory. It seems to be more me than the bike, and over time I can almost do it regardless of the bike. The comments about not having a sufficiently "built up core" are most likely correct, so perhaps that will come with time (or I could do sit-ups?).

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  63. havent read the comments...try stabilizing your core like doing a sit up.

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  64. Okay, please help me....If one is bent over in an aggressive riding position and removed one hand from the bars and let the arm drop naturally, wouldn't that hand now be close to the water bottle? To pull out the bottle and lift it requires core strength? As often happens on this blog, things get technical and confusing...arrgh. Is this not just a fear, or is it a physical thing?

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  65. I can drink while biking....sometimes. If I'm coasting. And I don't have to worry about traffic. And, and, and. Which means I hardly ever do it.

    Doesn't help that my handlebars are super high up. It's just a long distance to my water bottle!

    Yesterday I did a training ride with some friends, and later that day I was so effing thirsty because I hadn't had enough water on my dang ride!

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  66. Anon 6:06 - It's confusing for me as well. The way I understand it is that the hand that remains on the bars begins to rest on them too hard, since the front of the body is only supported by that one hand now. This can destabilise the handling, sine one side of the bars now receives more pressure than the other. The idea is that if you have a strong core, then the abdominal muscles are holding you up better without the hand that rests on the handlebars having to compensate. Of course I could be thinking about it all wrong...

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  67. Haha, some comments made me think of a new term: "toe overlap deniers."

    I ride large bikes, so it's hard for me to get TCO (unless I custom-order a frame with it, apparently), but I sincerely sympathize with those who suffer from it on their every-day bikes, primarily because they have to endure all sorts of "experts" telling them it's okay.

    I don't know if this problem can be solved for the smaller frame sizes entirely, but it's good that awareness of it is reaching the consumer. Don't buy bikes with TCO and there won't be as many bikes with it.

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  68. @Velouria@5:43 All your bikes besides the Riv probably also have steeper seat tubes, and you have a Brooks on the Riv which places your butt a couple centimeters further forward than more modern saddles. While your Seven has a straight post, it also has a Selle An-Atomica, whose rails are almost the opposite of the Brooks, allowing the butt to sit much further back of where the saddle clamp is.

    So I'm going to hold onto the "not enough setback" theory for the moment, but you are right that even with the right setback you need core strength to hold your upper body.

    Anon@6:06, the core strength is involved in holding up your upper body, in its leaned forward position, when both hands aren't on the bars to prop you up. Try standing up, letting your hands dangle, and then leaning forward and maintaining that lean; you will notice that this takes tension all along your back muscles.

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  69. Anon 6:38 -

    The roadbike I am riding right now (the one in the picture) is a Francesco Moser racing bike. It is a small frame (52cmx53cm). It has a seatpost with setback. And it is fitted with a Selle Anatomica.

    My Riv is fitted with a Berthoud, not a Brooks.

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  70. The Moser also has a horiffically steep seat tube angle, and you An-atomica is set well forward on it.

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  71. I don't think it's horrifically steep. 74deg, maybe 74.5deg - typical for a frame its size. The effective seat tube angle, given the saddle placement, is about 73deg.

    The fixed gear Mercian is a bit mor relaxed and no diff in ease of bottle reach.

    The Riv was even more relaxed before I changed the seatpost (very recently) and no diff in ease of bottle reach.

    I am not trying to be argumentative just for the heck of it, but nuances of the bike's geo really does not seem to be the culprit.

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  72. Practice on a flat stretch of grass. At moderate speed, place one hand on the top of the bar near the stem. Remove your other hand from the bars and pedal a little bit. Now, reach down with your free hand and pull the bottle out in one quick movement while stabilizing the bars with the other hand. Keep pedaling and take a swig. Replace the bottle in one firm movement while coasting. Put both hands on the hoods, and pick up speed. Repeat a few times before trying this on the road or in a group. On group rides, float to the rear to hydrate and then move back up until you are confident in your skills. Drinking while riding is a necessary skill that must be mastered in order to do group rides for everyone's safety. Good luck.

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  73. I am right handed and I agree with the others who say that it is easier to grab the water bottle with their right hand while steering with their left, which is placed near to the head post while doing this, then drink with the bottle from the right side of your mouth so you can look at the road while you are drinking. After your drink you can still hold the bottle while resting your hand on the bar for a short time if you need to, then replace it when there is a clear bit of road, this is how I managed drinking when I used to ride road bikes, but it took a bit of practice and I made sure I drank at times where there were no obstacles ahead.
    Vicki

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  74. Okay, I am going to try and experiment with different hand positions. Must confess it did NOT occur to me to keep my other hand closer to the stem, since I almost never keep it there in the first place. Will try this tomorrow.

    I am ambidextrous, but on the bike it is def easier to keep my right hand on the bars than the left. On certain bikes I can let go with both hands, but not for long.

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  75. Your computer is too far towards the shlever for right hand btl. Either move it towards the stem or use your left hand to get the btl.

    Upper body should mostly support itself, hand lightly on bar, thumb around it. Sit a little more upright.

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  76. As a dancer, I have good balance generally, and excellent proprioception. However, similar to the wife of Anonymous at 12:19, I am nearly blind in one eye and have poor depth perception. As a result, I'm rather clumsy - I trip often, though I almost never fall because I can almost always get my feet under me. Anyway, reaching for a water bottle obviously doesn't require any depth perception, but the act of negotiating a road at speed takes so much concentration, I never think to even attempt it. I have the balance and core strength, but not the vision. My main point is that there are many different reasons why people have difficulty with various cycling skills, including physical differences and past experiences. If I went by the advice of some, I would never bother riding at all because clearly I don't belong on a road bike until I have learned to ride one properly.

    I very much agree with others who have suggested breaking things down into small steps and practicing those. I will try that. I suspect that if I master the individual skills, eventually my bike skills and my water drinking skills will catch up to one another, and I'll be able to do both at once.

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  77. "...there are many different reasons why people have difficulty with various cycling skills, including physical differences and past experiences. If I went by the advice of some, I would never bother riding at all because clearly I don't belong on a road bike..."

    Yes x 1000000000000

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  78. I should mention that my eye was probably damaged in an early cycling -- er, tricycling accident. At about age four I bombed down the driveway, crashed at the bottom and the handlebars hit me in the eye. I'll never know for sure because my parents didn't take me to a doctor since the only obvious injury was a black eye. But, I remember the experience will and don't wish to relive it! I appreciate the vision I have very much.

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  79. Velouria,
    I just started reading your blog about a month ago and it has been very inspiring, thanks. I have began winter riding on my commuting bike, and even did my post Christmas shopping by bike. Thanks for your inspiration.

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  80. I've only been reading for a while. I've been an athlete my whole life. From what I sense,you have way too much going for you for this to be an issue.

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  81. Thanks Kedrik and Herringbone. In one sense it is not an issue, because the people I cycle with have been very supportive. They do not mind lingering for an extra couple of seconds at intersections or pulling over once in a while. But at the same time I feel some responsibility on my end to learn this skill if I am going to keep doing longer and harder rides. Hopefully I will get the hang of it soon.

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  82. Why don't you just use a camelback. The hose can be placed where you can get to it much easier.

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  83. I worry you know even less about road bikes than when you started this experiment, having talked yourself into all kinds of odd outsider conclusions.

    You're riding frames that have too much reach, solely to get the front wheel out of the way of your foot. If you had a guy's longer arms and torso you could get away with it, but as a short woman you can't.

    Shortening the stem to compensate ruins the handling, especially on mid to high trail racing bikes. Slamming your saddle forward to compensate makes you unstable over the pedals. Having too long a reach to the bars puts too much weight on your hands, though you also have them jacked way up to compensate which also screws up the handling if you don't use the drops.

    You should perform this experiment on your Moser and report back: http://www.velocipedesalon.com/forum/f7/riding-tip-1-a-550.html#post7428

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  84. Fred - The 52cmx53cm Moser frame is a tiny frame; it does not have too much reach for a 5'7" woman with standard length arms. I have been fitted by several builders now who confirm this bike fits me properly in its current incarnation. But moreover, as I've written several times already - the bottle reach problem is independent of which bike I am on and how I have it set up, so I am not sure why you are drawing these conclusions. In any case, I don't think you need to worry. It's not that serious. Will check out the Velocipede Salon thread, thanks.

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  85. I didn't see the way I handle this in a quick look, so in case it hasn't been suggested -- I made a tube system that works well. You start with a large capacity water bottle mounted in your down tube mount. Put a Camelbak adapter top on it and then a long Camelbak Big Bite tube. Run the tube up your downtube and hold it in place on your handlebar stem with one of those retrievers they use for ID cards at trade shows. You can buy them at an office supply store. Then to take a drink all you have to do is put the tube in your mouth, drink all you want, and then spit it out when you are done. The process is very simple and easier than grabbing a water bottle. I started to do things this way when I noticed I wasn't drinking enough on long (randonneur) rides, limiting my range. Now I drink a lot more and that is not an issue.

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  86. Not sure if anyone has suggested it but you might consider using a Camelbak.

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  87. For the Moser to have no TCO something's got to give somewhere to keep the front-center that high on a 'small' frame. A 53cm TT is not very short when the STA is steepened by several degrees.

    The reason I'm bringing all this fit crap up is that outside a few anxieties, the reach to the water bottle isn't the problem here. It's that you're having trouble keeping any control over the bike without staying upright keeping both hands on the bars, which is all about positioning, especially having enough setback.

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  88. Fred Blasdel sounds so earnest beneath the gruff I had to check his link. The meat is contained in framebuilder Dave Kirk's Riding tip #2. It's a fit test that takes 2 seconds on any ride. Anybody who is comfortable and in control on the bike will pass the test with flying colors. And stop worrying about it. It is important at some point to just stop worrying about it.

    A rider who fails that test could do worse than listen to Dave or Fred.

    It's a pretty non-dogmatic test. You could/should pass and have a broad range of adjustment for personal preference. Failing the test means you're fighting the bike all the time, only in control when you work too damn hard for it. And reaching for a bottle will be scary.

    Only a couple of us here ride with V. Most of these fit questions are normally addressed on rides, not on message boards. I'm guessing someone who enjoys riding so much isn't doing it with horrid fit.

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  89. Sit ups are good, Mrs. GR does planks religiously. Various sorts: regular, alternating, swiveling. They work.

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  90. Fred - Oy. I am obviously (or so I thought) dramaticising the extent to which I "can't control the bike." If I am going on tight paceline rides and on group rides with serious cyclists with no ill effect, obviously I have some degree of control over my bike! I have a lot to learn is all. I am getting there, slowly. I am in the middle of a bunch of work, but thank you for the links, I will check them out.

    GR Jim - Let's just say I have to look up what "planks" are. That should give you a clue about my involvement in what they call "exercise."

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  91. @V - I think I might second the "core" stuff, even though my core is nothing to shout about. If you have to support your weight on one hand on the bars when you reach down, that's not so good. One thing I practice is going into a no-hands tuck and kicking up the pace; I don't know how much this depends on core, and how much this depends on learned-on-rollers balance. I've been doing this since I was a kid, on whatever bikes I am able to ride no-hands.

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  92. I figured that, but you asked about sit-ups.

    Anyway, I don't do that stuff. Turns out I could just do the exercises well if I rode a lot - imagine that.

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  93. I have only skimmed the comments so apologies if someone has asked this before. Could the issue be how you are trying to take the bottle out of the cage? I find it easy enough as long as I slide the bottle out.
    Putting it back in, now that's another story. It took me a while to get used to doing that without looking but I can do it now.
    I always try to drink when I'm going uphill. I reason that I'm probably not going to be going to fast and stopping in a hurry won't be too much of a problem. I find that the bike is generally more stable then too.
    I do hope you work it out; it's an invaluable skill.

    I love the work you do here; keep it up.

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  94. Fred

    We don't know what the front-center is, do we? Yes, I would rather see that number than talk about TCO. Some people aren't so much numbers people.

    Allow in your speculation that V has recently remarked on her rather small feet.

    The way that most builders looking to market bikes for the nervous have done this in recent years is sub-optimal. Basically they do steep seats and shallow heads and can't be bothered with adding rake. Without a set of full measurements we don't know what the Moser has. A 1978 bike is not doing current fashions though.

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  95. Right. Maybe there was some confusion, but the Moser is not some weird newfangled bike that I had custom-made for me specifically to avoid TCO. It is a fairly classic Italian racing bike from the '70s. The previous owner was shorter than me (but a man, so longer arms) and raced on it for over a decade. The original stem on the bike was 11cm. Might also be worth noting that I have ridden two other Italian bikes from the same era of a similar size that happened to have no TCO. They were also normal bikes, not custom made by request to avoid it. Some bikes just have it, some don't. Some riders care, some don't.

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  96. And if you think that's fun, try it on your fixed gear where you can't stop your flailing legs...

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  97. This is an interesting article on not just toe overlap but also tight fork clearances.

    www.ctc.org.uk/resources/Magazine/200505044.pdf

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  98. Re reaching for water bottle; may be too simplistic or obvious but I have a rubber catch strap or ring on my bottles that makes it ever so much easier to pull the bottle up and out while riding.

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  99. Try a handle bar mounted bottle. I enjoy your blog.

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  100. Ah, worry not. I cannot do it either. I believe I used to be able to, but no more. I think I will get a handlebar bottle cage if I do want to have water on the bike again. I just stop and have a drink. plus, I refuse to use those plastic bottles with the squeezy suck thing, so have to open my klean kanteen all stainless steel bottle. The metal lid is a bit of a pain.
    I just keep water in the pannier , if I remember to bring any!

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  101. somewhere around middle of the posts I stoped reading, it was too much :)
    but i have two advices. first one was already given: put your hand as close to the stem as possible.
    second one is: try to drink water on little slopes. the ones on which you don't have to maintain speed, the gavity does it for you, and it is not to steep to be too risky. with less body (leg) movement you'll keep the balance easier.

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  102. It's not you. The magnetism of your steel frame just needs to be repolarized.

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  103. When I'm alone, I prefer to coast and drink. When in a group, I drink and pedal. It looks nonchalant, but I'm very conscious of my movements when doing this.

    Just like others have said. Start slow and practice reaching down and touching the bottle. Then progress to pulling the bottle out and putting it back right away.

    The camelbak podium bottles are easiest to work with. Side pull cages might help too.

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  104. I wouldn't overthink it, just keep practicing, preferably in a quiet area without other riders, nearby cars, etc.

    In the beginning I used a cambelback because I couldn't grab the bottle on the long steep climbs that are common here. Now I never use it and I don't think twice about grabbing the bottle.

    Oh, and it's perfectly OK to glance down quickly before you grab or return the bottle to the cage.

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  105. Everybody, how about reading all the comments before you post more? Half of the comments on this pages say the same thing: "try a camelback." If you don't have an original comment to make, please don't waste our bandwidth by stating something that has already been said.

    As for Fred Blasdel, I'd rather not read anything further from that blustering, chest-thumping, self-important blow-hard. (V, considering you moderate these comments, why don't you just delete the comments from the doofus commenters?)

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  106. Yeah, those Camelbaks are all the rage : )

    I try to stay away from heavy-handed moderating; it is a slippery slope. My policy is that I approve all comments including critical ones, as long as they are not outright insulting or inflammatory. I think that Fred actually means well. TCO is a surprisingly controversial topic.

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  107. I wouldn't worry about it, just keep doing it and it will become second nature. There are plenty of people who drink from water bottles while riding like it's nothing but get freaked out at the thought of dismounting a fixed-gear bike.

    Maybe the issue here is just a bottle and cage combo that's easier to pull and put back. I use King cages and a Kleen Kanteen aluminum, it's smooth and easy. I don't consider myself a good bike handler either.

    Camelbaks? Well, they are good for offroad but really we should be trying to minimize the amount of things we "need" for riding.

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  108. Balance is related to core strength. You can start doing this short workout routine every other day. It is simple and consists of 3 exercises. The video says it is for runners but it just as useful for runners or for anyone:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbjnhxZq_fY

    Yoga also helps develop core strength. So does pilates. The tree pose in yoga is a great pose for learning better balance.

    Once you get the bottle out of the holder you use your teeth to pull the spout open so you can drink from it. Then once you place it back in the holder you tap on the tip of it to close the spout. Of course like others have mentioned it is best to hold the bars at the tops more close to the stem when riding one handed.

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  109. I'm late commenting, as usual, but I feel compelled to reply to X0-1.ORG:

    Since comments are moderated on this blog, they do not appear immediately, and often show up in bunches, sometimes resulting in a number of people appearing to repeat earlier comments without reading them first. That clearly doesn't explain all of the "try a Camelbak" genre, but I'm pretty sure that takes care of quite a few of them.

    As for Fred Blasdel, he sure rubbed me the wrong way, too, but at least he contributed something thoughtful (though perhaps insulting) to the discussion. I am very impressed by the manner in which Velouria handled his rather derogatory attitude. I wish I could handle such insults as calmly and with as open a mind.

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  110. I love this article by Heidi Swift about Skill Building...the bit about "100 catches and 100 throws" http://gritandglimmer.com/get-some-skillz-cyclocross-basics/

    With any skill it's practice, practice, practice until you get the muscle memory.

    Was really effective method for me learning to ride w/ clipless pedals. Clipped in and out 100 times on each foot, then spent the next day just practicing stopping and starting in an out-of-the-way place until I felt confident enough to go for a proper ride on the path.

    I can't balance too well with my left hand off the bars--guess what I'm going to be practicing next?

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  111. You should try the Pontus. It is the answer to your problem.

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