Friday, June 10, 2011

That Which is Held With No Hands

no hands were used in the riding of this bicycle

I rode a significant portion of my commute with no hands on Thursday night, riding along singing REM tunes. On an empty street and still, warm air it felt like what to do. Life is bigger. I don't recommend riding regularly with no hands, but I also rode a couple of miles today with no helmet (forgot it, running late to meet someone), too, so, yeah, just a little letting loose was occurring. Through the traffic circle: no hands. Left at the turnoff: no hands. Waving and smiling at the woman riding the other way, her beaming back: one hand waving, no hands on the bike. Hell, I was waving at cars. CARS. One beeped a happy beep back.

The no hands riding experience gives you a sense of what balance on a bicycle really is. I put my hands straight up in the air for a minute, why not? This warm pre-summer desert air wrapped around me and I closed my eyes just for a moment. Three pedals, one, two, three. That which is held with no hands: now? Here and now? More at balance, everything beautiful in its time. Then it slips away, it all does, the next moment arrives full in itself, though. With no hands you're riding like a river over rocks through riffles down to the sea. 25 years ago I imagined what this would be and I think this is actually as I imagined it. Delusions for a fool. But her smile across the street was no delusion. That was a real instant. Actuality. With no hands. Get up. Go ride.



  1. What a great picture. I feel like I'm moving over the road while looking at it (without hands!).

  2. I hate to admit to this, but not only am I unable to ride no handed, I also have a hard time riding with my right hand only. I learned this the hard way when I was 12. I ended up with stitches in my chin and a couple of chipped teeth. I am quite envious of those who can, which seems to be most everyone.

  3. Some of our family bikes are much easier to ride with no hands than others

  4. Debbie, thanks! It's a freeing feeling, I guess I caught a little of that in the picture.

    Darin, it's true, as Steve says, some bikes are easier to ride no-handed than others, I would guestimate the ones with the best tuned headsets, best trued wheels, and least twitchy steering would be easier, but bicycle balance is so strange that it probably has more to do with the rider-cyclist system as a whole. I notice that little things like the seat position and type have a significant impact on no-handed technique. And:

    WARNING DO NOT TRY THIS IT IS DANGEROUS AND YOU WILL CRASH!! DON'T DO IT!! When I was a kid the neighbor dared me to ride cross-handed. Sounds simple, right? I had never done it, though, and pretty much the instant my hands crossed and touched the bars, I crashed like a sack of potatoes. I'm sure it has to do with L-R brain perception and balance system going haywire with the crossed hands position. I read a story this week that crossing your hands in front of you can confuse your brain enough that it decreases severe hand pain, so I guess perhaps my cruel neighbor was years ahead of his time in neuroscientific practice. The only way I feel confident about doing it to this day is crossing my hands to give the appearance of riding cross-handed but actually not really holding the bars and essentially riding no-handed with my hands crossed. Which is some sort of strange pile-up of who's fooling who psychology-physiology-neurology that makes my mind feel cross-handed.


Please feel free to comment here, almost anything goes, except for obvious spam or blatantly illegal or objectionable material. Spammers may be subject to public ridicule, scorn, or outright shaming, and the companies represented in spam shall earn disrepute and ire for each occurrence.