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I have been riding a bike for years. There is one thing I never managed to do is to feel comfortable about letting go off the bars with even one hand.

This is actually not exactly true, I can ride without a problem with my left hand only on the bar and the right hand in the air or whevever... (I suppose it is because I am left-handed so keeping control of the bar with only the laft hand feels more right).

Still, how can I train to let go off the bar with the left hand too (which is more useful for signaling than the right one, since turning right is always easier in countries where we ride on the right of the road)?

Every time I try to let the left hand off the bars, I have the reflex of getting a tighter grip on the bar with that right hand and after a couple of meters I start feeling unsafe and my trajectory stops being completely straight and I catch the bars back with both hands before losing balance.

I don't intend to learn this just "for the trick",... I just believe it is useful in the ride.

Any tips for me?

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What kind of bike do you have? As covered in the possible duplicate, some bikes essentially steer themselves, others are tuned for maximum maneuverability and as a result are nearly impossible to ride no handed. Yours will be somewhere in that continuum. –  whatsisname Feb 24 '13 at 0:05
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5 Answers 5

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From your description I would guess that your problem not about learning how to do it (you can do it, but only on one side) but more about fear and confidence.

There are two things you will need:

  • some quiet spot to practice with smooth surface and not many obstacles, maybe a parking ground or so,
  • a bike that has a preferably upright riding position.

The reason for the latter is, that your hands on the handle bar serve two purposes: the hold the bar to control the front wheel and they support your upper body. The bent over your upper body is on the bike, the more weight has to be taken by your arms to support your body and the more can your upper body influence the steering behavior (as already mentioned in webbgeek's answer). With an upright position the weight of your upper body is lasting on the saddle via your hip and the arms only have to steer.

So if you have different bikes at hand, chose the one with the most upright position you can get – chances are good that this is your grandma's bike or something similar ;-) If you have no other bike but different possibilities to place your hands on the handle bar, start your practice with the hand position that allows for the most upright position instead.

When on your safe spot now, try to ride some straight lines and circles while putting as less weight as possible on the handle bar. Also try not to wrap your fingers around the bar but only put your palms or the joints between hand and fingers on the handles while keeping your hands open, so that you have only the friction between your palms and the handles to control the steering. By trying to put as less weight as possible on the handlebar you also will sit more upright which will make it easier to use your upper body and hips for steering.

You will also realize, that you don't have to hold the handles tight like you tried to squeeze water out of them. Once you feel safe with this situation you can now try to take away the weight from one hand completely without putting this weight on the other hand and also without closing the remaining hand to fasten its grip. Maybe it helps, if you don't take away the weight by just lifting your hand but by rotating your shoulders a bit, so that the shoulder of that side, where you want to take the hand away, goes slightly away from the handle bar. Now you can again first practice going straight and then some (hopefully now intentional) wiggly lines which should give you more safety while riding with one hand.

I also would recommend to do this not only with your weak hand, but practice with both hands and watch if you unintentionally fall into some certain behavior while riding with your strong hand.

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Play bike polo, you'll get really good at using one hand after a while. You can also hold yourself up with your mallet while you figure it out.

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Nic -- Have you ever watched a Madison race? When they sling another rider they put their hand near the middle of the bar (handle bar). (my first post here, not sure if this video link will pass) Here's a video link that shows the hand slings:

When the hand is near the middle of the bar, forces are directed into the frame, rather than deflecting the steering.

Briefly stated, often riders have too much weight transferred to the hands from poor saddle angle. Symptoms are, need to ride straight armed, numb hands, riders shaking their arms and hands out. They are often judged to be squirrely by other riders, as any upper body movement goes straight into the bar. If your saddle angle is good you should be able to let go of the bar without falling forward.

Over the years I've had to push many riders over hills or just giving them some help back. I've been asked how do you do that? You start by putting your bike hand in the middle of the bar, and pushing with the other. Just like the Madison racers, of course they don't push, they sling-shot the other rider, but the same concept.

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What is the purpose of including the altbike.org link? –  jimirings Feb 24 '13 at 20:37
    
Welcome to Bicycles! Please don't include any kind of 'signature' or non-related links in your posts. Every post you make has a link to your site profile automatically added, and you can put links in there. When you earn more reputation on the site, there is also a mini-profile that pops up on hovering over your userpic. –  freiheit Feb 24 '13 at 21:57
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Practice riding with both hands lightly touching the handlebar. In a sense you're learning to ride by controlling the bike with your seat/legs but you don't have to completely remove your hands from the bar, just try to transfer more and more control away from your hands (this is just an exercise, not for general riding). You should get to the point where you have very good control with your seat/legs (going straight) and your hands are just lightly touching the bars. At this point you can try releasing your left hand (with right hand firm on the bars but not clamped tight).

Find a place to do these exercises away from others (cars, bikes and pedestrians) and only do it on a smooth surface until you master it.

When you can right with just your right hand on the bars (I'm assuming you're in a drive on the right country) and can use your left hand to signal turns and braking, you'll be a much safer rider.

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Practice! Start out by not pedaling and just get used to controlling the bike with your seat, you might also twist your heels into the frame for better control if you have platform pedals. Lean back, kind of scary, but you have way more control that if you are hunched forward. Even for one hand, it is better to be as far back as your arm will let you. Drop the seat to where you can put both feet on the ground while still in the seat. This will allow you to step off your bike if you are about to fall. You will have to be willing to let your bike fall and get scuffed up. If your bike is more valuable than your body, and you are more willing to get knee surgery than have your bike scratched, you might want to skip this whole thing. I am right handed but prefer my left hand on the bars, might have more to do with being goofy foot than left/right handed. You are going about it correctly now, just raise your hands off a little and be ready to grab the bars if needed. Do it in a safe place like a parking lot until you get comfortable. There is no real advantage to riding with no hands, but one handed should be learned. Strange as this sounds, riding no handed will not help riding one handed, they are different enough that your balance and technique are not as related as it might seem, unless you can have your back completely straight up with one hand on the bars.

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