Question: I’ve been cycling for 3 years but have never learned to ride no-hands. I want to be able to throw my arms in the air like when crossing a finish line. And I don’t want to crash doing it! How can I learn? — Chico N.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Riding no-hands is dangerous. It puts you a long way from the handlebar and brake levers. This skill isn’t for showing off, Chico, but it does come in handy. If you can’t free up your hands while riding, you’ll be limited in the distance you can cover without stopping to eat or peel off extra layers of clothes.
Fortunately, it’s easy to learn to ride no-hands. But please be very careful and don’t use this skill when it isn’t necessary. It’s inherently dangerous to be rolling down the road with no direct control of the front wheel. Your hands are a long way from the brake levers, too.
Here’s what you need to do.
- First, check your equipment. In some cases, it’s not poor technique that makes riding no-hands tough, it’s poor bike maintenance. Things like a headset that’s binding, a fork that’s out of alignment or a wobbly front wheel can make a bike track crookedly.
- Go to a large, flat, empty parking lot or other place with no traffic. Wear your helmet and gloves.
- Ride at a moderate pace with both hands on the bar top near the stem. It’s easier to ride no-hands when you’re going about 12-15 mph rather than slower. When you’re ready, relax and push back equally with both hands while continuing to pedal smoothly.
- Sit up straight with your weight over the saddle. The mistake most riders make at this point is to lean tentatively forward, arms outstretched like they’re sleepwalking, ready to grab the bar at the first wobble. That won’t work — your balance and weight distribution is all wrong. Being tense will make any bike develop a mind of its own. By sitting upright and dropping your arms to your sides, you’ll allow the bike to track naturally. You’ll quickly get the feel for steering with hip movements.
- Practice! Do the above drill till it feels natural. Then begin to actually do things while riding no-hands. Good riders can peel an energy bar, put on or take off a jacket or arm warmers, or clean a smudge from their glasses. When he competed in the Race Across America, Jonathan Boyer ate spaghetti dinners while riding no-hands for minutes at a time.