Article disclaimer: the writer takes no responsibility for any injury arising out of any attempt at freehand riding. Do it at your own risk.
So goes a song about riding without handlebars. “Handlebars” is a song by Flobots, released as the first single from their debut album, Fight with Tools
I can ride my bike with no handlebars
No handlebars
No handlebars
I can ride my bike with no handlebars
No handlebars
No handlebars
Look at me, look at me
Hands in the air like it’s good to be
And I’m a famous rapper…….

If Simpsons can do it…

The song goes on to talk about darker and darker things in the United States, an analogy on life between two friends. However, this isn’t what this post is about. Riding without handlebars is extremely freeing if you master its rudiments. Benefits include opening a Kitkat with your freed hands on the go; undoing your water-bottle cap for a quick slurp without disembarking; putting on and taking off your jacket without losing speed. The advantages are endless, not to mention the don’t-carish attitude one can take toward life…. okay, I’m talking like a problematic teenager.
First, ride within your limits. Please observe safety rules when you try freehand riding.
Here’s a video showing you how riding with no handlebars is done. Whatever the reasons, it can be a handy skill to have should you need an extra hand for anything on the go. Okay, stopping and getting down and doing it is probably more logical. But doing it while on the bike is even better.
To quote John Keatings from Dead Poets’ Society: “Carpe Diem!!” Seize the day.
The technique is basically the same for any bike: sit upright/straight, lean your weight far back as possible on the saddle, lean your body to the left or right shifting your weight for left or right turns. The trick is to go faster – rotational physics keep the wheels in the same plane of rotation and you are less likely to fall off at higher speeds. And, find a big open space to practice if you’re new to the art of freewheeling.
We’ll break it up into 6 steps as shown in the video:
Precursor: safety. The video recommends a helmet and a big open space for lots of practice. Of course, most of us cycle without helmets unless going on roads, so it’s really up to you.
1) Start riding your bike on a long straight path at moderate speed. Go too slow and you’ll wobble and lose your balance; too fast, and you’ll be unable to avoid the obstacles. The median is always the best path.
2) Keep your feet pumping the pedals and eyes looking straight on the road ahead. It’s the same theory with heights: don’t look down if you wish to stay alive. 🙂
3) Sit up straight. You’ll steer using your body weight, so lean far back on the saddle as possible while maintaining that straight posture.
Now, hands.
The video recommends a gradual take-your-arms-off-the-bars approach. So start by putting both hands on the ‘bars. Pedal off, then gradually take your hands off. Keep them open flat, hovering above the ‘bars like spaceships ready to grip the metal lifelines again should you lose your balance. As you get better, you can keep your arms to your side or whatever safe and comfortable position. Just be ready to save yourself from a possible wobble.
4) Once you’ve successfully taken your hands off the handlebars, keep pedaling to maintain momentum. Remember that rotational physics keep the wheels on the same plane; the faster you go, the less likely you’ll wobble. I recommend a moderate to high speed (on an open stretch of land) to maintain that pesky balance first. As you get better, you can go slower – keeping yourself balanced at low speed requires great mastery.
5) Squeeze your inner thighs against the bike seat to keep your centre of gravity and steer the direction of the bike.
6) Steer with no hands by leaning your weight in the direction of turning. Lean left for left, right for right. It’s not so much steering with handlebars than the subtle shift of your body weight in the direction of turning.
The video recommends step 7) practice riding longer and longer distances with no hands… but this is self-explanatory. With time and practice, you can definitely take off your jacket (not your shirt please!) with both hands in mid-ride without ever slowing down at all.

Carpe Diem!

Just be wary of safety. I take no responsibility for any injury arising out of any attempt at freehand riding. Do it at your own risk.


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