Bike-handling is integral to riding outdoors, and this series covers the basics — from cornering to descending, handling rough surfaces, riding out of the saddle, riding in a paceline — and now doing tricks like a pro.
If you’ve spent any time watching the pro peloton, then you’ve likely seen cyclists bunny hopping curbs and Peter Sagan pulling wheelies up monster climbs. But while many spectators might see these moves as nothing more than show-boating, many of these bike-handling skills have practical uses that could potentially side-step an accident.
To take your bike-handling skills to the next level, use this guide to learn how to perfect several advanced techniques so they’re in your arsenal when you need them.
Whether it’s to sit up and take a jacket off, use your hands to open the package on your energy bar or salute the crowd during your victory at the finish line, there are times when knowing how to ride without your hands can be helpful. However, those times are not during a race or when riding in a pack or when road traffic is heavy.
Here’s how to practice riding with no hands:
- While riding, shift your weight more toward the back of your seat and engage your core.
- Keep your eyes down the road just as you would normally and continue to pedal to maintain your speed. This makes it easier to balance.
- Remove one hand from the handlebar and drop it to your side while lightly controlling the bike with the other. Practice drinking water or removing items from your jersey pockets at first.
- When you’re comfortable balancing with one hand, practice removing both hands at the same time, while keeping them close to the handlebars at first.
- Once your confidence increases, place both hands by your sides as you sit all the way up. Use your core and hips to balance.
- Practice this technique on flat roads with little to no traffic or, better yet, in an empty parking lot.
While this might seem like a flashy move you’d only use to show off to your friends, this is actually a practical move that can save you from a flat tire or even a crash. A well-timed bunny hop can help you clear obstacles like a pothole when there’s no way around it, or hop up on a curb to avoid a collision.
Though this maneuver might sound impossible, the good news is, it’s actually pretty easy to learn. For those rare times when you have to pull this trick out of the bag, here’s how to get it done:
- Practice by riding at a moderate 10 miles per hour. Riding faster than this can make the timing difficult at first, but cycling at a slower pace makes it more difficult to get airborne.
- Set up an obstacle or pick a spot in an empty parking lot you want to hop over.
- As you approach the obstacle, lift your butt off the saddle. Keep your elbows bent and move the cranks to the horizontal position (3 and 9 o’clock). Your knees should be bent and your hands should be in the bar drops or hoods.
- Lift the front wheel first just before you reach the obstacle. Use your arms to lift the wheel up, pushing your feet into the pedals slightly.
- Once your front wheel is off the ground, push your handlebars forward as you simultaneously spring your body upward, lifting your rear wheel with your legs.
- Timing will be the most difficult, so practice over small objects before moving to larger ones.
- If you don’t feel comfortable practicing with clipless pedals or on the pavement, use an old mountain bike with flat pedals in a grassy area.
OK, so this pro maneuver might not be as useful as the other two, but you will win a lot of cool points with your friends. It’s also kind of fun — and on the bike that’s pretty much a requirement, right?
To practice wheelies, find a slight uphill section of road to make it easier to pop up the front wheel. Pedal slow in an easy gear (small chainring on the front, one of the largest cogs on the back) with your hands on the hoods and your strongest foot in the 2 o’clock position. As you push down hard with this foot from 2to 6 o’clock, simultaneously lift up on the handlebars. Practice getting your front wheel off the ground a few inches until you can reach a respectable height.
Once you’re comfortable lifting the front wheel, concentrate on not letting the bike veer left or right while the wheel is off the ground. When you can keep a straight line and have good height, start to play with your back brake. Applying pressure to the back brake when your wheel is lifted puts the front wheel immediately back on the ground. This prevents you from going over backward when you get more aggressive lifting your front wheel off the ground.
The next step will be finding the balance point. This is the point where you are in between going over backward and having your front wheel fall back to the ground when the wheel is lifted. It takes some practice to find this point, but once you do, this sweet spot is what allows you to pull off the wheelie for a distance that impresses your friends.
Once you’ve found it, lift the front wheel off the ground until you reach the balance point. Pedal as you would normally, keeping your bike in this position. If you start to move too far backward, apply the rear brake to bring your front wheel back down. Practice makes perfect.
As always, if you don’t feel comfortable on the road, practice in a grassy area until you get it down. Flat pedals are also recommended at first, which allows you to bail a little easier off the back when needed.
While we don’t recommend trying this move during a sprint at your local Gran Fondo, there may be times when an accidental elbow or shoulder bump could happen when riding in a tight group. To handle this scenario without taking a spill, lean into the bump to keep your weight over your bottom bracket. Pushing your shoulder against their shoulder will also naturally move your handlebars away from theirs, avoiding a dangerous entanglement.
To practice, head to a grassy location with a friend. Ride at a slow speed and practice lightly touching elbows and shoulders. With a little practice you’ll become comfortable putting your weight into your partner to keep your bike a safe distance from your bumping partner.