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Riding a bike with no hands is a common quirk in Amsterdam. Here are reasons why people do it with tips on how to try it yourself.

Why do people ride with no hands?

There are many reasons why people ride with no hands. Sometimes you have to make an adjustment, like buttoning up your jacket. You may need to send a text message. Or your hands may be just cold and you want warm them up.
Riding with no hands is also common among bike couriers. They like to do it as a jab when they pass other couriers. In fact, bicyclists who aren’t couriers will do it to couriers for the same reason.
Other times, you’re not doing anything specific beyond giving your posture a break.

Isn’t riding a bike with no hands dangerous?

There are risks with anything, including just riding a bicycle. Though there is a balance (pun intended) between risk and reward.
For militant cyclists, riding a bike with no hands in the city would be like jumping out an airplane without a parachute. There is no context to justify doing it.

Accidents do happen

I’ve witnessed dozens of wipeouts over the years and it’s never because someone was riding without hands. Accidents are often caused by not paying attention.
Of course, using both hands to text while riding a bike is never a good idea. Amsterdam recently banned using your phone while cycling.
But for the reasons mentioned earlier, there are reasons why people do it, if only for a moment.

How to ride a bike with no hands

It begins with a well-balanced bike, dictated by the front wheel. Not all bikes are equal. Some bikes are born this way, others may require some tuning.

1. Find a spot to ride

When it comes time to ride, find a smooth path without distractions.

2. Begin pedalling

You need to have momentum and you need to have some resistance when pedaling. Look ahead down the path and not at your hands.

3. Sit up straight

Loosen your grip. When you let go, sit upright so you create a nice, stable equilibrium. Relax your arms and keep pedaling.

4. Steer with your gut

Balancing comes from your gut. Put your focus there. Your torso does the work and will steer you in the direction that you want to go.

To ride or not to ride

What may seem like an ego-driven spectacle, doesn’t have to be. Riding a bike with no hands is just an evolutionary process on the mastery of your bike. If you’re going to try it, follow these tips and go easy at first. Happy riding!

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Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Well, actually i can ride a bike with no hands, it’s a very nice balance training, my record was like 5 km without touching the handles! Although it’s kinda dangerous it’s also satisfying in the same time. Keep practicing. <3

  • mjorks says:

    This is so dutch Gus….. We do this -a competition against ourselfs – since child time. It’s always to see how far you can go… On that difficult strech, or that simple one… you have your own goals and records. Not to share but for yourself. The longest I got was from the ferry in noord till Monikendam

  • Liadan says:

    I find that riding without hands gives me more access to my shoulders and allows me to look in my blindspots without turning the bars. It also allows me to make eye contact with passing motorists, and they typically give me more space and slow down.

    There’s just better visibility sitting up.

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