From the Street
Luge Survival Guide
Gravity Publishing, ISBN 0-9662563-7-9
Copyright 1998 Darren A. Lott
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The foot rest is at one end of the board, so its placement is fixed. The placement of the hand holds, however, is critical within inches.
I'll call my foot rest "pegs" in most sections, because my heels drop below into open air, while only my arch makes contact. Some foot rests are designed "solid," so that your entire foot rests on top of them. A solid foot rest could be conducive to a more aerodynamic design, while "pegs" give you the quickest braking access. The following illustration shows both. When you are first learning, I think pegs are an advantage as you can tentatively drag your heels to slow, while still keeping both feet on the board.
To decide how far back from the foot rest to place the hand holds, put on your helmet and lie back on the board. If you haven't yet attached the wheels, put blocks under the front and back end, lifting the board up to ride height. Now lift your head up so you can just see over your feet. This will be your ideal riding position. It will also really work your stomach muscles. Grab the board with both hands so that your arms can help support the weight of your upper body. Make sure you are gripping far enough forward so your arms are straight while your head is still up. This is where your hand holds need to go.
Also take into consideration what type of hand holds you will attach and whether this requires further adjustment. In the classic design, I've used the wooden triangles left from cutting out the board. I've also seen plastic strips attached underneath, aluminum hand pegs sticking straight up, and lots of modified bicycle handlebars. Be careful your grips don't pose a safety hazard in a crash. I recently heard about a guy who went off the road into a ditch, stopping suddenly. He had handlebars mounted in between his legs (instead of underneath) and reportedly didn't enjoy the helicopter ride to the hospital.
Aside from your own safety, consider the safety of those around you. I think an unfortunate trend in bars is the "Knife Handle" approach. It occurs when beginners take an "Open Handle" design and make the bar ends too sharp. The open handle concept is copied from the visually beautiful Bob Pereyra/UFO design. Since it is the current template for "What a Luge Should Look Like," open handles are terribly popular. And although they look fast, I would hate to be gored by someone's knife handles in a crash. If you choose this design, think about the way you can properly smooth out the leading edge.
A safer alternative has been to carry the open handle design around and down to the board forming a "Nerf Handle." It's stronger and gives you more places to grab. However, proponents of the open handle design point out that the opening between the nerf handle and the board could become a "Limb Trap" in an accident. Although this seems less likely than a penetrating knife handle injury, getting an arm or leg caught in a limb trap could result in a bad break or amputation. Again, every design needs to be evaluated from both a riding and crashing perspective.
Make sure your hand grips won't hinder you from hanging your legs off in hard turns. Also consider the aerodynamics of your position, how secure you'll feel on the board, and where it leaves your hands with respect to the spinning wheels and speeding asphalt.
More and more, riders are bolting handle bar clamps to their luge. They slide in a short length of tube and then add the vertical "bar ends" that are popular for mountain bikes. It's a pretty clean set up --adjustability, and the availability of parts from a bike shop. Just don't adjust them into horns where they could hook another rider.
In my latest racing designs, I've gone to short pegs mounted on top of a wide board so my hands aren't exposed to the road at all. I think it has been my best design decision yet. My hands are aerodynamically positioned, and I can add push/pull forces to my lean steering. If I start to lose it in a turn, I can let the board actually tip up and skid along its side without letting go. Not only does it save my hands, it means I can recover from situations that send other riders tumbling off their boards.
If you attach your grips out much wider than your body, you will probably feel more stable and get better leverage while turning. However, your arms will catch a lot of air and you won't be able to lean over as far before hitting the pavement.
Whatever you do with your board, consider how important and delicate your hands are. Position them accordingly.
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