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Old 11-25-13, 06:00 AM   #1
Murray Missile 
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Riding hands free.

When I was a kid I could ride any type of bike from a Stingray to a 10 speed for miles no handed, around corners, etc. but now when I try the bike goes into a serious wobble and I have to grab the bars. I don't believe it's a matter of my sense of balance though, I can come to a complete stop at a stop sign and start again without unclipping. Could it be that I'm a lot heavier now and there's too much of a weight bias toward the rear wheel? There have been a couple times it would have been useful to be able to go hands free for even just a few seconds to make an adjustment. I have only tried this on my 2 MTB's but they are set up differently. Any suggestions would be most welcome. TIA.
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Old 11-25-13, 06:46 AM   #2
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Weight distribution might have something to do with it, but I think it's mostly because today's bikes have different geometry. Less rake and steeper head tube angles make the bikes feel quicker, but aren't very friendly for no-hands.
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Old 11-25-13, 04:19 PM   #3
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There is a huge difference in my bikes riding no-handed. My CX geometry bike has long wheel base and slack head tube. Much easier to ride no handed on this bike than my Road bike. The bike's geometry does make a difference.
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Old 11-25-13, 04:27 PM   #4
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Blows my mind when I see people ride with no hands. I couldn't do it as a kid and can't do it now.
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Old 11-25-13, 04:38 PM   #5
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I can do it without too much trouble but on my last bike I moved my seat back an inch or so and that small change made it harder, so I think it's important to keep some weight on the front wheel. Sitting up totally straight or leaning back is harder than maintaining a slight lean forward too...

My saddle isn't terribly comfortable when I sit up straight so I don't do it a whole lot but periodically it's fun to do and rests my hands.
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Old 11-25-13, 05:14 PM   #6
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Probably not the case as you have multiple bikes, but thought I'd point out that sometimes your frame or fork alignment could be a little off. I believe my very first steel Trek road bike had this issue, although it rode beautifully, I was never able to ride that bike no-handed, use to frustrate the heck out of me, when I would see guys sitting up no hands at the end of a long ride! Every bike I've had since then I can ride no handed no problem.

Which brings up another point, a couple months ago I sat up during a ride and my bike would track off to one side or another and felt really unstable. When I got home and was trying to figure out what was going on, I realized my headset bearings were shot and had started to 'index' on me. Had the headset replaced and one again rides beautifully no-handed. Check your headset and make sure it feels smooth and isn't slipping into grooves in it's range of motion.

Wanted to point out those two things from a mechanical perspective so see if it's either of those.
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Old 11-25-13, 07:42 PM   #7
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Which brings up another point, a couple months ago I sat up during a ride and my bike would track off to one side or another and felt really unstable. When I got home and was trying to figure out what was going on, I realized my headset bearings were shot and had started to 'index' on me. Had the headset replaced and one again rides beautifully no-handed. Check your headset and make sure it feels smooth and isn't slipping into grooves in it's range of motion.

Wanted to point out those two things from a mechanical perspective so see if it's either of those.
Both bikes have had the headsets replaced this year. One I have had since new in 1997 and I have never been able to ride no handed on it, the other is a Frankenbike I put together from leftovers, most of which came from the other bike and eBay bargains so it could very well have a frame or fork issue but it handles like a dream. I can ride both with just a light touch with one finger on the bars. I'm finishing up a hybrid build in the next few days, it will be interesting to see how I do on it. Thanks all.
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Old 11-25-13, 08:38 PM   #8
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I once rode with no hands... for about two seconds and then did a spectacular "10/10"-worthy pirouette in the saddle and then crashed and burned.
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Old 11-25-13, 08:42 PM   #9
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I've tried riding hands-free a few times but haven't been very successful. Like the OP, I used to be able to do it fairly easily when I was a kid. Different bike geometries must be part of the reason like others have pointed out, though my current bike is a hybrid and probably doesn't have as aggressive a geometry as a road bike...

I do find it easier to ride hands-free while I coast.
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Old 11-25-13, 08:46 PM   #10
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I could do it for miles as a kid. I can do it for 100 yards now. It does vary with the bike and headset maintenance plays a role, but I'm sure age and decline in balance are a large factor.
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Old 11-25-13, 09:23 PM   #11
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I did it all the time when I was a kid but lost my nerve when I broke my collarbone, it took me a while to get it back. I'm fine now. Put the bike in a higher gear, you want to be mashing. This lets you put more control into the bike with your lower body. I don't know about racy vs. not-racy geometry. My Paramount is definitely twitchier than my Hardrock but both tend to find the center. But I had a weird experience on a rental city bike a few months ago, it just wanted to keep leaning over further.

A motorcycle with no hands is pretty weird, they are VERY stable compared to bicycles, they want to stay straight and take a lot of weight transfer to steer.
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Old 11-25-13, 09:40 PM   #12
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I can ride hands free on some of my bikes but not on others. My chopper and recumbent are definitely hands on. My Hard Rock depends on how well I've got the rear wheel aligned and my two old 10 speeds are hands free friendly.
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Old 11-26-13, 05:55 AM   #13
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I can ride hands free on some of my bikes but not on others. My chopper and recumbent are definitely hands on. My Hard Rock depends on how well I've got the rear wheel aligned and my two old 10 speeds are hands free friendly.
I had a chopper as a kid, 26" Schwinn with a raked neck, straight 4 ft. fork, 20 inch wheels and a 48 inch sissy bar. A friend's Dad did the frame and fork, he got it aligned perfectly and put ballast in the fork legs. You could lean back on the sissy bar and let go of the handle bars and it would go straight as a string for blocks. Turning corners with no hands was a bit of a challenge as it wanted to go in a straight line no matter what but as long as it wasn't too sharp and the pavement was clean it could be done.

IIRC the first production bike I couldn't successfully ride hands free was my Miyata 510 back around 1982. Even hands on it was a bit "twitchy", I never really warmed up to that one. It was a good looking bike but I never really enjoyed riding it. I bought it used at the LBS, a guy bought it and only kept it a couple months then traded it in on a different bike. He didn't like the way it rode either. I had 3 other road bikes about 10-15 years ago, I could only ride one of those hands free and then only a short distance.
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Old 11-26-13, 06:33 AM   #14
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For me it depends on the bike. I have a couple that can be ridden hands free for miles, others you don't want to take you hand off the handlebars or you will have gravel for a snack.

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Old 11-26-13, 07:12 AM   #15
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Funny. I've been "testing" all of my bikes recently for no-handed stability. They're all okay, but some track straighter and easier than others.

I remember riding my Mercier with my friends when I was an early teen. We would see who could ride the farthest without touching the handlebars. This went on for miles, through intersections and around normal roads.

I remember also that I attempted to ride to high school once without using my hands. That was about 6 miles, but I had to brake at one light and start again from a stop. Didn't make it, I guess...
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Old 11-26-13, 08:27 AM   #16
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I, too used to ride no handed as a kid. It became harder as an adult. Along with bike geometry I think the weight ratio between the bike and the body is important. Just like a high-wire walker uses a horizontal pole to balance, I thing the relative mass of the bike (which is relatively stable) is easier to balance than one's own body.
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Old 11-26-13, 12:18 PM   #17
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I think weight has something to do with it. Riding with my nephew who is 130 dripping wet and 6'1" he can ride no
hands on my brothers serotta racing bike and a specialized cf at 20 mph. He can also climb like nobody's buisness.
But he can't catch me on a downhill. Not enough weight.
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Old 11-26-13, 12:39 PM   #18
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It has to do with the bike. My dept store Mountain bike is really steady hands free, my Cannondale EVO SuperSix is twitchy and took some getting used to. I can ride them both hands free for as long as I like but there is a huge difference.

I believe I get lazy and have poor form towards then end of my longer rides, as my lower back starts to ache. I ride hands free and sit up straight to stretch a little.
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Old 11-26-13, 01:02 PM   #19
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Oodles of trail .. now if your department store bike was assembled by someone that didn't have the clue
that you turn the fork around, before you put the Stem On, then that will give you lots of trail.

FlevoBikes had a recumbent without any handlebars ,,well there was a place to hang on,
& Fit brakes and shifters,
but the whole steering was done by shifting your weight. pivot under the seat.

http://flevofan.ligfiets.net/?doc=ch4-01-

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Old 11-27-13, 12:38 AM   #20
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I actually never thought about trying it when I was younger but I tried recently and pretty much mastered it in 3 days, steering around potholes, other cyclists etc. Basically started from page 1, just kept practicing and trying. Each time using less pressure on the handlebar, using finger tips.. 5 seconds at a time, then finally letting go. Sitting up and putting the weight to the rear was the biggest thing. The gear made a difference, easier for me to do on one where I am half mashing like Darth Lefty mentioned. Try a breathing exercise, in the beginning I would always have to grab the handlebars because the wobbling was caused by me being tense. Breathing paces me while pedaling.

Then again.. it could be just the bike

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Old 11-29-13, 03:12 AM   #21
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it is quite easy for me when i was a kid, but now as the gravity got stronger i can't control it much well a i did when i was a kid.
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Old 11-29-13, 05:53 AM   #22
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I tought it was just me. When I was a kid I rode all the time with no hands, now I think it is because I think about it too much, I cant. One day this summer on my ride home from work, back in the neighborhood, I was riding along no handed messing with my helmet when I realized I was riding no handed and had to grab the bars.
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Old 11-29-13, 01:45 PM   #23
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It took me a little while to get back into the idea of riding no hands. Confidence, core strength, and geometry. I can ride all my bikes with no hands, some are better/worse than others. Both Mountain bikes are very easy to ride no hands, relaxed geometry is nice. My touring bike has relaxed geometry, but it's a very tall frame so it will develop a shimmy, my grocery bike is ok, but with the basket on the front it gets really nervous, and finally my roadie. All day no hands.
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Old 11-29-13, 03:52 PM   #24
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Blows my mind when I see people ride with no hands. I couldn't do it as a kid and can't do it now.
Thats me, riding no hands, trackstands and bunny hops are not part of my skillset.
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Old 11-29-13, 05:12 PM   #25
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It helps if you have a relatively heavy front wheel.... like, a balloon-style tire. Road bikes now are all built much lighter, and the wheel just doesn't have as much gyroscopic stability.

Also it helps if the wheel is larger--as in, not-a-BMX-bike. I see lots of wayward teenagers riding no-handed on MTBs, but not very many who can do it on a BMX bike. (Of course, the BMX seats are usually adjusted down all the way too ...???)

For recumbent bikes it could be any answer--a few are easy to ride no-handed, many are difficult to ride hands-free until you get up to a pretty good speed (20-25 MPH or so). Some won't do it safely at any speed. And then there is a few designs that don't ever require you to steer with your hands.
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