Riding With No hands

nohandsI think I can remember

Last summer as I was pulling hard up Bear Notch Road in New Hampshire a rider passed me going in the opposite direction: casually zipping-up his jersey while riding with no hands.

First thought: that is cool. Second thought: can I do that? Third thought: I can’t do that!

But it was not always so.

Once upon a time I did do that: fishing pole in one hand, tackle box in the other. My bike just went where it was supposed to go. That was 40 years ago, back when I didn’t think so much about what I was doing. Call it the curse of mid-career up-tight adulthood: replacing doing with thinking.

thinking about thinking too much

sagangumpRiding with no hands – in it’s pure state – is not a conscious decision, e.g. now I shall remove my hands from the bars. Look at Peter Sagan at this year’s Tour de France doing [what the media dubbed] the ‘Forest Gump’ as he won stage 3. What I see is a rider having a spontaneous moment of celebration: an un-choreographed dance of joy.

If you think about what you’re doing, the fun drains RIGHT THE HECK OUT OF IT. Riding with no hands is part of cycling.  Thumbing our noses at gravity – a gesture inherent to cycling – is at the very soul of the sport. It takes me back to popping wheelies on my  banana-seat Schwinn and whole days spent cruising the neighborhood. The height of cool? Cruising with no hands while slapping a beat on the top of your legs.

‘In the summer time when the weather is fine, you can stretch right up and touch the sky’ 

Then there was coasting down our one hill – still no handed – while trying to look completely casual: followed by a contest to see who could slam on the coaster brake and leave the longest skid mark on white concrete sidewalks.

so I googled ‘riding with no hands’

NoHands625When the going is uncertain, there’s always Google.

First Step…try riding with only the pointer finger from each hand resting lightly on the bars. Ride at about half your normal speed.

Second Step…lean back just a smidge and take your finger tips off the bars for a few seconds. Keep pedaling! The centrifugal force helps with balance. Focus on keeping your upper body quiet.  If your choice is between leaving skin on the pavement and grabbing the bars, for goodness sake GRAB THE BARS.

Third Step…after getting comfortable with steps one and two, find a parking lot or a quiet road with good pavement. Accelerate to your normal speed and then gently sit back until you are upright while still pedaling. Use your hips to steer.

Last Step…don’t think too much and just do it.

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