After having spent an almost complete semester (and maybe even two) here in Utrecht, surely you know how to ride a bike. Handbrakes, back paddle breaks, small saddles, comfortable ones or big ones: you’ve seen them all and you master them all. Are you ready to take your cycle skills to the next level? Check out the tips and tricks in this article and practice those moves!
Of course, cycling with one hand free is not that difficult: you’ll still have the other one to keep your bike in balance. And with the free hand, you can do what you want: indicate when you’re going to make a turn (if anyone still ever does that), hold your jacket when it’s sunny and an umbrella when it’s raining, or, best of all, hold someone else’s hand (bicycle romance is the best!). You could even text someone while you’re cycling, even though that’s not really recommended, taken into account the already high amount of almost-accidents happening in the city centre.
What you could very well do however, is taking a big bag of groceries (or some other big item) back home on the back carrier of your bike. You can steer with one hand and hold the bag (or crate of beer) with the other. It takes some practising, because you’ll have one arm folded behind your back for a while, but it can be a really practical skill. You do however have to be able to touch the ground with your feet: in this position, you can’t get off your bike, but have to stay seated in the saddle, or you’ll lose your balance.
Stepping it up
If you feel like you totally found the balance between you and your bike, you can try cycling without holding on to the steer. Hands-free cycling feels great; when I was a little girl, I used to flap my arms up and down as if I was a bird (though unfortunately I never got up in the air, but it was worth a try). If you want to learn how to cycle hands-free, the best way is to slowly let go more and more of the steer. So instead of gripping it with your hands, try to lay your hands on top, without bending your fingers. From there, you can continue one step at a time: try it first with the palms of your hands, then with only your fingers, and try to keep your balance. After a while, you can hold on using only your pinkies, and soon after, you won’t need to touch the steer at all! Total freedom is yours.
Once you master this skill and manage even to do it on cobblestones, you’re ready for the next step. The options now are unlimited: you can carry whatever you want in your arms, like that extra six pack, your normal jacket in one hand and a rain coat in the other (you never know what the weather’s going to do) or just wave your arms lightly in the wind.
You may know that with a BMX bike, you can do all sorts of tricks. Some of them however are perfectly suited for normal bikes as well, like the wheelie (some people here even do it with their scooters!). This involves a whole new kind of balance, because you’ll have to keep the front wheel in the air. The easiest way to do it is to first sit down on the luggage carrier, right behind the saddle. From that position, you pull your bike upwards, until the front wheel is up in the air and you’ve found a new balance cycling on only the rear wheel.
Like a pro
Looking for some more inspiration? Here’s a video of a Senegalese guy who totally nails it!
By Tessa Vermeir