How To Look Cool While Cycling (Look Ma, No Hands!)
Riding ‘no-hands’ isn’t just for show-offs — it’s a genuinely useful racing skill! Even the simplest of things like taking a swig from your water bottle is a daunting feat for someone just starting off on their new bike.
Whether it’s to unwrap an energy bar or put on your jacket when it starts raining, being able to take your hands off the bars and sit up on the bike is a valuable skill. Done confidently, your balance and control should be as good as they are with hands on the bars.
That said, you won’t need to ride no-hands very often unless you are racing at a high level, where it is essential for taking on food or changing a rain cape. However, there are fringe benefits for everyone.
Having hands free helps you to develop control of your bike and increase confidence. It does provide a little bit of a core workout and teaches you how to engage your core muscles instead of slumping your weight on the handlebars. Also, you'll be thirsty and hungry less often. (Remember to bring water, people!)
So where do we start? The first thing that worries people about learning this skill is how to control the bike. Moving your body directs where your bike goes — your hips contribute massively to steering.
First things first: start with one hand off the bar. Once you have let go with one hand, experiment with moving your body around, particularly your hips, to see how this controls the bike.
"Moving your body directs where your bike goes — your hips contribute massively to steering."
From one-handed, it is a small step to no-hands, but the key is sitting upright in the saddle, not leaning forward hovering over the bars in order to correctly position your centre of gravity.
Imagine you are sitting on a bar stool and all your weight is going down through the saddle to the ground. Now relax; the more relaxed you are, the easier it feels. You will naturally steer to wherever you are looking — so keep looking ahead and not down.
You need some speed to maintain your balance and momentum, but you don't need to go flying down the street to pull it off. Try to ride no slower than jogging pace, but not so fast that you'll lose your front teeth if you stack it. Pedalling steadily also helps to maintain a straight line of motion.
Kids tend to learn this skill fairly early on, being fearless and whatnot. Or at least they're more willing to test the waters. If you are nervous, try using flat pedals and trainers instead of clipping in so your legs can't save you in a fall. Ideally find somewhere with loads of space to maneuver (and less traffic helps too).
Though this is a good fun skill to learn, and will benefit your riding in lots of ways, we would caution against using it at inappropriate times. Never do this when in traffic, and make sure you are confident doing it in a safe setting before doing it anywhere else or around other riders. Nothing worse than being humiliated while trying to be cool.
On the other hand, imagine being able to pull this off!
But really, in the end it comes down to have the guts to lift those hands clean off the bar and sit back and feel the wind in your face. That, and practice. Practice practice practice. Yeah, what's new?