Remember when you were a kid and “Look Ma — no hands!” was a rite of passage as you learned to ride? But that was years (decades!) ago, and for some reason it seemed a lot easier back then than on your lightweight road bike today.
Now when you try to ride no-hands, the bike wanders or veers. You need to quickly grab the handlebar to prevent a crash.
Pros routinely ride no-hands as they change clothes and eat on the bike and, um, take care of other needs. And the best ones get to do it as they cross the finish line (not hands, that is, not those other needs!).
Even though no-hands is a useful skill for recreational riders, too, many people feel intimidated by the idea of having both hands off the bar.
I respect that and don’t want to talk you into something you feel is unsafe. But this is not a hard skill to learn, and it can come in very handy. By riding no-hands, you can do things like opening food and removing arm warmers or a jacket without stopping.
Here Are a Few Tips On Riding a Bike With No Hands
Start by checking your bike. Sometimes it’s not poor technique that makes no-hands riding difficult, it’s poor equipment maintenance. Before you practice this skill, be sure your bike is in good repair.
It’s hard to ride no-hands if the headset is binding, the fork is out of alignment or the front wheel wobbles. These things make a bike track crookedly. Some people who can’t seem to learn this skill become frustrated at their supposed clumsiness when it’s the bike’s fault.
Practice. Use an empty parking lot or other place without traffic. (This is not a technique to learn on a grassy field because of the roughness and rolling resistance.) Pedal at a moderate pace, not too slow. It’s easier to ride no-hands when you’re going at least 12-15 mph (19-24 kph).
Hold the bar top and sit square on the saddle. When you’re ready, push back evenly and sit up, letting your arms drop. Don’t lean tentatively forward with your hands hovering at the bar like you’re sleepwalking, ready to grab it at the slightest twitch.
Keep your weight back and centered. Remember, even when you’re gripping the bar, steering is done with your hips and weight shifts. That’s really true now. Spin smoothly and move your hips slightly to affect the bike’s line. I’ll bet you quickly get the hang of it. Many no-hands riders can guide their bikes smoothly past obstacles and even around corners.
Relax. As usual in bike handling, everything works better when your body is loose and fluid. Small faults get dissipated instead of amplified. Being tense makes a bike develop a mind of its own.
Be careful on the road. Good riders can sit back and peel an energy bar, take off a jacket, remove arm warmers or clean their shades. Ultramarathon riders can eat a full meal handed to them from a support vehicle.
But remember, riding no-hands is inherently dangerous. Your hands may be occupied and they’re a long way from the handlebar and brake levers. Pick your spots, which usually means a flat section without a bumpy surface.
No-hands is tricky in a strong crosswind, and really risky when it’s gusty. Wait till a turn puts the wind at your back. In a group, if you need to go no-hands, wait till you’re at the back of the group where a mistake from you won’t crash someone else.
I think this is an very irresponsible article…for newbie riders…Sure it looks cool but how much of a hurry are you in?? Are you a pro that needs to be in the front!
Think Chris Froome…and other pros that have gone down on their faces with a vest/jacket half off.
Very useful skill and can actually be safer than trying to eat etc. gripping the bar
Ray Quillen says
I think this is fine to do when you are all alone but agree is is a potentially dangerous practice when sharing a public trail with others. One never knows when you might hit something on the pavement that could cause you to crash into someone else.
Ramsey Emera says
I find that doing it on a fixed-gear is much easier, since your legs are controlling how the bike handles as opposed to the “disconnect” of a freewheel. And, you do have the advantage of the ability to slow down some without grabbing the bars to avoid a problem far enough ahead without breaking stride.
Dave in Spain says
I always drop down a few gears so the pressure is greater on my legs and the muscles have more control. Why ride with no hands? Besides being fun, it is very useful for many things
Dave in Spain says
Also, riding hands free lets you know whether you are ‘balanced’ with your seat and cleat positions😉
Susan Clarke says
What kind of bike are you using? I just bought a new bike, and when I told them that I used to ride with no hands, they said “Don’t try riding no hands with this bike!”
When I did my test drive, I found the front wheel turns very fast at the slightest touch from my hands, and I have to be very careful to keep going straight. I did not ride, but walked the bike, when I went past any walls, because the first time I tried changing geers I was in a parking lot and I fell to the right, landing on both calves, and then, when I tried to get up, my legs got tangled with the bike again and I fell to the left, with the bike right on top of me, and it was scary trying to get out from under it. I didn’t know whether to crawl forward or reach back with my arms to try to push it off of me. What I found worked best was crawling forward. Suddenly, I got out from under it, and I wheeled it to the lawn off of the pavement and got on and rode it there.
My old bike had even thinner wheels, but I had no trouble riding no hands. I am, so far, having difficulty riding even short distances without falling, and I found I have to put on the brakes and somehow get off it without falling. I fell twice, so far, and I had never ever fallen before in my life. The helmet makes a difference. I always thought since they required helmets was after my bike got stolen so I never had to wear one before that I would have trouble balances with a helmet if I ever got back on a bike, but I found it easy to ride this new bike with a helmet, and when I fell, I fell on my calves and hands, but then in my driveway I forgot to put on my helmet and I immediately started to fall and I had to catch myself and I thought if I didn’t I would have fallen on my head.
Do you know what kinds of bikes are good for riding with no hands?
Are you talking about motorbikes? This article is about the good old-fashioned bike with pedals.