Can you ride a bike no-hands? Should you? Well, I believe it is a useful skill—even for us recreational cyclists.
Professional cyclists often raise their hands in victory crossing a finish line, but I’ve never had the occasion to do that! I do go “no-hands” so I can remove my arm warmers or vest or zipper up my jacket, and to clean my sunglasses without having to stop riding. It probably only saves a minute, but stopping interrupts that flow and pedalling momentum. I also use it to open the wrapper on my energy bar or gel packet, and to switch the empty water bottle with the full one. (Yes, I always carry two water bottles on my bike because you never know when the next refill will be available.)
You were taught to keep both hands on the bar, and it takes a little technique and confidence to relinquish that control, but it is a bit exciting too! And, once mastered, it just becomes another practical tool in your skill set—to use only as needed.
First off, know that a bike is largely steered from your weight in the saddle and from your hips; very little comes from your hands. Yes, this involves having a little faith. But then, you learn to ride a bike, right?
So, find a quiet road with no traffic or even an empty parking lot. Make sure to wear your helmet and gloves in case you do take a tumble. Pedal away at your normal pace. Don’t go slower as you need the momentum to keep the bike moving straight. Place both hands on top of the handlebar and sit square in the saddle. Now, simply push back evenly and sit up. Lift both hands at once. Don’t leave one hand on the bar as it will twist your body off centre. Just sit back and keep your butt weighted in the saddle. Don’t lean forward or keep your hands hovering over the bar—sit up straight, breathe, relax and have confidence. Oh, and remember to keep pedalling!
After a few tries, you’ll get the feel for it. Once you can get into the no-hands position easily, then you will be able to make the bike go where you want it to. Just use a minor hip/butt movement to control the bike and you can get around a rock or pothole in the road.
If you find that you can’t keep a straight line, it may not be your technique. Your bike may be the problem. If your bike has not had regular or recent maintenance, something as simple as a wobbling (untrue) front wheel, or a misaligned fork or even a binding headset can make the bike feel squirrely.
Once on the open road, don’t ride no-hands unless it is safe to do so. This means waiting until the road is smooth and there’s not a lot of debris or gravel lying around that could put you into a skid. Make sure there are no gusty crosswinds, no traffic, no upcoming intersections, and nobody riding close to you. You don’t want to crash and you really don’t want to knock someone else down. If in doubt, be safe and just stop.
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