Eddie gets his gear off.

Look Pro: Get Your Gear Off

Look Pro: Get Your Gear Off

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When you’re a kid, riding with your hands off the bars is something done for thrills, for style, and to impress chicks. As an older, wiser Velominatus, it can be a handy maneuvre to aid removing or donning extra clothing, taking a feed from your pockets, and to impress women (because that’s how adults refer to chicks). Get it right and it’s the most Pro of moves; get it wrong, and there’s little chance the nurse picking the gravel from your face will be impressed.

Surprisingly, many Cyclists are inadequately equipped in this fine, yet fairly basic and useful art. If memory serves correctly, it was one of the first things I learned to do on a bike, right after balancing and pedalling, and just before wobbling and face-planting. Anyone could ride along with one hand on the bars, waving at the girls or flipping the bird at the guys, but if you could sit bolt upright and give the ‘up yours’ sign then you were a true badass. Making sure you could haul your bad ass out of there before being dragged off the bike and beaten to a pulp helped develop sprinting skills which would come in handy later in your cycling odyssey.

Another, more practical use of riding no hands was to remove the long sleeved flannelette shirt (aka the ‘flanno‘) so fashionable in the day and deftly tie it around one’s waist, hopefully without getting it caught in the rear wheel and necessitating another trip to the casualty ward to be embarrassed in front of that same nurse yet again. Getting the six buttons undone and the sleeves tied together in a double knot in under ten seconds was the stuff of legend, and only Mick Johnson could do it that quickly, surprisingly so as his IQ was roughly the same number as the time it took him to complete the task (or write his name). How he never went on to bag a Pro contract still baffles me.

Slideshow:
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While we can see clearly from the photos that the modern Pro is just that, professional, and would never use their arms or hands for anything but the cultivation of a clean image for the sport, riding no hands can still be a useful skill for the rest of us. Having to stop the whole bunch so you can peel off your arm warmers, hat or vest is not only inconvenient, it’s asking for a mini-pump beating. To avoid such ignominy, here are a few basic tips to help with getting your gear off (or on).

  • Make sure you can actually ride no hands. Seems obvious, but you need to practice away from the dangers of cars, pedestrians and other riders to hone your no-handed balance first, before moving on to clothing removal/addition.
  • Preparation, anticipation. Pick the time and place where you will perform the procedure. Descents aren’t good. Ditto in the middle of the bunch, when a paceline is forming, or when doing a turn on the front at 45kmh. On a wide, flat piece of road, with the speed comfortable and good forward vision, drift to the back of the group and leave a safe gap of a bike length or two. Stay away from the gutter and traffic, watching for road obstacles or debris.
  • Get the job done in a flash. Now you’re sure everything’s clear, whip those arm warmers off quickly; grab the top of the right (or left if you prefer) warmer and roll it down the arm and over your hand. Keep hold of it and grab the top of the other warmer and repeat. This should result in one warmer perfectly inside the other; now fold them twice, flat, and stuff in a jersey pocket (which you would have made clear to accommodate them).
  • Don’t attempt too many items at once. Unless you’re totally badass and skilled, of course. Removing a cap from under the helmet can be a more difficult, and dangerous task. You want to get this one done real quick, but stuff it up and you may leave yourself without the most important piece of protection for the resulting crash; your helmet. First, unclip the buckle and remove your eyewear, with one hand still on the bars. Place eywear either in your helmet vents (Pro) or in your mouth (not so much, but easier). Now take the other hand off the bars, sit upright, lift the helmet off your head with one hand while whipping the cap off with the other. Replace the helmet immediately and stuff the cap in jersey pocket. Buckle helmet chin strap and replace eyewear in accordance with Rule #37.
  • Vested interests. Like Johnno and his flanno, this can be a triumph or total disaster. You need to be aware of the vest or jacket at all times throughout the procedure. Again, sit upright, hold the bottom of the zipper with one hand and quickly unzip with the other. Now use both hands to peel the vest apart and around to the back of your hips. Gather both pieces into one hand, bring to the front of the body and fold three or four times until you have a fairly neat square to stuff into the jersey pocket. Count your teeth. All there? Still riding? You got it.

 

// Look Pro // Technique

  1. @pistard  That photo is all kinds of awesome: 

    Deliberate on the left.  Casual on the right.  And the definition of Casually Deliberate in the center.

    Pre derailleur.  Pre quick release.  Pure hard men.

  2. @Optimiste

    I think this is 30 or 31. Charlie Pelissier in the middle, Henri’s little brother. Les forçats de la route. Cycling was just as messed up in the 20s and 30s — drugs, corruption, corporate control — and the riders got paid peanuts. Henri’s life (and death) was a soap opera.

    Shit, I didn’t even notice that! Quick release transition era: wing nuts on the left, but looks like QR on the others. Still fixed gear. Hard as fuck.

  3. Far away of being a pro riding no hands I also made the experience, that some bikes work better for that task then others. On most bikes it works okay for me but not on my SLC01 for whatever reason. So with this one I try to do the task one handed, and if this is not gonna work out I have to stop. Which is for sure uncool – but braking with your face is even more uncool!

  4. On a wide, flat piece of road, with the speed comfortable and good forward vision, drift to the back of the group and leave a safe gap of a bike length or two. Stay away from the gutter and traffic, watching for road obstacles or debris.

    @brett Apart from staying away from the gutter, I don’t think he’s paid any attention to your advice…

  5. Riding no-hands is an integral part of being at one with your machine. I did notice, however, that many commuter and city-bikes have less-than-stellar tracking at the front and an upright geometry, and thus make no-handed riding quite risky. Shifting the weight backwards helps a lot – one of the reasons why no-handed is risky on my TT machine, but effortless on the road-bikes.

    I honed my craft commuting on a fixed-gear to work – by the end of a year’s worth of commuting, I could do the entire 8km route no-handed – corners included – provided the lights and traffic were in my favour. I wish road bikes enabled the same precision for micro-adjustments of speed that a fixed-gear does. Brakes just don’t stack up. Whatever didn’t fit in my bag went on my hands, and so I found myself riding home from the shop with a new wheelset on one hand and a floor-pump on the other.

    All this is useful, but really became an asset when I joined a proper team. Our coach seems to have all the necessary personality traits to marshal the Death March, and if you find yourself overheating, freezing or hungry, you’re welcome to drop to the back of the pack and do your business, but asking for an unplanned stop is not an option. Intensity varies according to the ride’s goals, but general conduct simulates race conditions. Not faffing around with arm-warmers during refuelling stops, you need those two minutes to piss or refill. Again, this behaviour in everyday riding lends itself nicely to stressful race-conditions, when picking up a stationary bottle at 40km/h or donning a gilet because it started hailing suddenly seems natural.

    Damn near froze two weeks ago when sudden hail caught a casual bunch I was accompanying unprepared. Having to stand in the freezing air while the others carefully unfolded their jackets damn near sent me into hypothermia.

  6. As a kid I’d ride around the block playing my guitar! I assumed everyone could ride no-hands. Apparently not…have been trying to pop a wheelstand for 45 years though, and still cant do it. It’s definitely easier on some bikes than others.

  7. I remember one really bad winter doing my paper round on my old Raleigh with my hands pretty much in my jacket pockets at every opportunity! Rode 4 miles back home without taking my hands out once, it was so cold.

  8. Strong work, Brett!

    And interesting timing. I’m visiting the olds in the northern country for the holidays and I’m reduced to riding rollers for a few days. (Note to self: never, ever again live in a place where you have to ride indoors for months each year). I had a jacket on because the basement ain’t warm, pulled it off after a few minutes and though I was able to take it off while rollin’, the toss nearly did me in. Throwing in one direction sent the bike in another. I’m thinking this is similar to smacking your bar ends to reinsert a bar plug.

    Don’t do it.

  9. Well holy fuck. I just recalled a dream I had last night.

    I was inside a shop in the town where I live and I spotted a group ride assembling on the sidewalk, through the glass window. Suddenly one, then two dudes showed up in Witte jerseys.

    “Huh? Two Followers live in my town and I’ve never met them? What the hell…”

  10. Nice one, Brett…

    I’m a bit ashamed to have to admit this, but back in the day (early eighties), I had a tendency to combine two nasty habits: one was smoking (particularly roll-your-owns. with the Dutch brand ‘Drum’ being my favorite), and the other, riding my bright orange Peugeot ‘racing’ bike with both hands off the handlebars.

    Sometimes – especially when the stupid kid that was me had just returned from a long cycling holiday and was, as a result, in pretty sharp cycling shape – I would carefully time things in such a way that i could overtake other cyclists while carefully rolling one up – or whizz by them while casually lighting said fag with a Zippo lighter that I carried in my jersey pocket for that very purpose… Ah, the folly of youth.

  11. @frank

    Are you suggesting that Dave should be given priority over The Prophet?

    The Keepers reserve the right to change anything at any time, with or without notice. Including putting the peanut gallery in the penalty box for talking out of turn!

    Obviously The Prophet gets priority but you could have at least changed the lead photo to one of Eddy doing something with both hands off the bars.

  12. @ped

    I have not yet had my morning omelette but somehow my effort is going to seem boring… also, maybe my life is too tame but watching this made me quite hot.

  13. @ped That was really really ridiculously good.

    @sthilzy Steve Perkins? Don’t you mean Tex?

  14. @Rob

    @brett

    How not to do it… (via Vacebook)

    Fook, I was waiting for the jacket sleeve to go into the front wheel and the face plant.

    Another vote for practicing in a parking lot?

  15. @Chris

    On a wide, flat piece of road, with the speed comfortable and good forward vision, drift to the back of the group and leave a safe gap of a bike length or two. Stay away from the gutter and traffic, watching for road obstacles or debris.

    @brett Apart from staying away from the gutter, I don’t think he’s paid any attention to your advice…

    Nutter!

    Pity I won’t get the chance to try that next year…

  16. @ErikdR

    Nice one, Brett…

    I’m a bit ashamed to have to admit this, but back in the day (early eighties), I had a tendency to combine two nasty habits: one was smoking (particularly roll-your-owns. with the Dutch brand ‘Drum’ being my favorite), and the other, riding my bright orange Peugeot ‘racing’ bike with both hands off the handlebars.

    Sometimes – especially when the stupid kid that was me had just returned from a long cycling holiday and was, as a result, in pretty sharp cycling shape – I would carefully time things in such a way that i could overtake other cyclists while carefully rolling one up – or whizz by them while casually lighting said fag with a Zippo lighter that I carried in my jersey pocket for that very purpose… Ah, the folly of youth.

    Dude, you were The Fonz!

  17. Ok, so it’s not no-hands:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgSv8B6UiUY

  18. @ErikdR I used to role Samson gold. the Dutch make good tobacco.

  19. @RedRanger Ok, we can talk about kayaks, and rope tricks even see-saws but riding whilst sucking a fag??

  20. @The Pressure I’ve never done that

  21. The real trick:

    If you are cold: Dress normally and apply more V.

    If you are warm: Unzip and apply more V.

    If you don’t know what to do: Apply more V.

    If you are cold and V is not working: Find pub and apply more beer.

  22. @RedRanger Round these parts, only ones smoking and riding are DUI superstars on E-bikes…

  23. @Harmimator

    @ped That was really really ridiculously good.

    @sthilzy Steve Perkins? Don’t you mean Tex?

    Its “Shane” , but whos counting ?

  24. @brett

    @ErikdR

    Ah, the folly of youth.

    Dude, you were The Fonz!

    Heheh – I wish. Not really, though: I was way too much of a long-haired hippie at the time, I’m afraid

  25. @RedRanger

    @ErikdR I used to role Samson gold. the Dutch make good tobacco.

    Ah yes – Samson! Very nice taste…

    A lot of people rolled their own in those days – and it was funny how they would usually be either a ‘Samson’- or a ‘Drum’-person – you would hardly ever see anyone cross over (I would on occasion cadge a smoke off a Samson-rolling friend, but it would always taste ever so slightly different… Good, but unfamiliar)

    For the record: I’ve been a very happy non-smoker for almost ten years now – never going back, I hope

  26. @The Pressure

    @RedRanger Ok, we can talk about kayaks, and rope tricks even see-saws but riding whilst sucking a fag??

    Mea Culpa – and my apologies, sir, for having conjured up that appalling image. But yes, in those days I really thought that smoking – whenever and wherever – granted me a certain street-cred, I suppose. Pathetic… Still, there’s something wickedly cool about those photo’s of TdF racers lighting up ‘en route’, I think? Merckx have mercy on my soul.

  27. @all

    A tad off topic, perhaps – but in case any of you out there are having trouble kicking the smoking habit, and are at present mucking about with nicotine plasters, plastic inhalers, nasal sprays and all kinds of other expensive substitute crap, two words: Allen Carr. Seriously. (And no, I have no vested interest and am not in any way associated with any institution(s) built on the legacy of the late, great AC)

  28. I must confess I am not sure I am yet in the “change kit whilst riding” category, but I live in hope….one day!

  29. In my youth, my fully rigid Raleigh Strata Mtb was so easy to ride no-hands: it was long and had raked forks.  My Ragley Blue Pig with Revalations is impossible to ride no-hands for more than a few pedal strokes.  My commuter frankenbike is OK and my #1 is a touch wobbly unless contstantly peddaling-it’s a cyclocross bike with discs and road tyres.

     

    Best bike for no-hands: a ‘dutch bike’ I had when I lived in Germany- I could ride several kms into town, freewheeling, pedalling, whatever.  Just so easy. I swapped it for an old BMX though which I painted silver.

  30. Good God it’s quiet here today.  Clearly all of the US is either hungover, shopping, shooting stuff in the woods or hopefully on a bike ride.

  31. @Mike_P

    Good God it’s quiet here today. Clearly all of the US is either hungover, shopping, shooting stuff in the woods or hopefully on a bike ride.

    Yes, but everyone knows that you produce more V when riding off a hangover.

  32. @DexterSellers

    In my youth, my fully rigid Raleigh Strata Mtb was so easy to ride no-hands: it was long and had raked forks. My Ragley Blue Pig with Revalations is impossible to ride no-hands for more than a few pedal strokes. My commuter frankenbike is OK and my #1 is a touch wobbly unless contstantly peddaling-it’s a cyclocross bike with discs and road tyres.

    Best bike for no-hands: a ‘dutch bike’ I had when I lived in Germany- I could ride several kms into town, freewheeling, pedalling, whatever. Just so easy. I swapped it for an old BMX though which I painted silver.

    I now have another reason to look forward to my rebuild coming back from the respray to test out this theory on the actual bike I had back then as I was considerably more skilled at hands off back then so will be able find out if it’s me or the bike…………..

  33. Here’s one for the group. Your thoughts about rollers? I’ve heard much said positive and negative re the benefits of training on these. I’ve never tried em…and a little reluctant to spend $$ on something I may not like. [This would make the VMH cranky, which could result in no sex during base building] All recommendations are welcomed.

    My question was absolutely NOT influenced by any videos of attractive blonde cyclists riding on rollers while cooking an omelet. Any implied motive is purely coincidental…

  34. @gregorio

    Here’s one for the group. Your thoughts about rollers? I’ve heard much said positive and negative re the benefits of training on these. I’ve never tried em…and a little reluctant to spend $$ on something I may not like. [This would make the VMH cranky, which could result in no sex during base building] All recommendations are welcomed.

    My question was absolutely NOT influenced by any videos of attractive blonde cyclists riding on rollers while cooking an omelet. Any implied motive is purely coincidental…

    I regularly train on rollers.  Nothing like it for helping your pedal stroke due to the need to keep each leg turning as evenly as possible. Because you’re not attached to the device, as you would be on a turbo, you will quickly feel that you’re getting a core workout as you need to concentrate on balance also. Combined, I think those two factors help me maintain a better position on the bike when I’m on the road…relaxed, stable top half, more even pedal stroke down below.

    Some come with resistance settings these days, but as you’re actually riding your bike on them and are likely have anything up to 22 gears, unless you’re on a single speed, I don’t see the point in spending additional money on those models.

    For more intense interval sessions I’ll be on the turbo.

    One tip if you do get some…try to be as relaxed as possible when you’re training.  Just like a relaxed descender is a happy descender, the same applies to rollers as your tension gets transmitted straight through the frame and you’ll feel more “jittery” the tenser you are.

    They take time to get used to, but not long at all; about half a dozen uses and you’ll be happy. Others will have their own opinions, but for me they are part of my training regime I wouldn’t want to do without.

  35. @gregorio

    I’ll echo Mike_P.  I just got a trainer after a couple of years on the rollers (KurtKinetic road fluid and Kreitler 2.25, respectively). While the two are similar, the rollers add a dimension that I wouldn’t want to lose.  Pedal stroke, fine balance, feedback, focus. On the trainer, I imagine that bad habits can get ingrained unless one is careful.  Initial learning curve for the rollers is fairly short.  Out of the saddle, no hands, making a fried egg, a bit longer (can’t do no hands myself, but I’m a bit of a palooka).  Like Mike, big bike-slinging hypoxic efforts are probably best on the trainer.  a fluid trainer and rollers are similarly relatively quiet.

    if I could only have one, it would be the rollers.

  36. @The Pressure

    @RedRanger Ok, we can talk about kayaks, and rope tricks even see-saws but riding whilst sucking a fag??

    @RedRanger

    @The Pressure I’ve never done that

    +1 to the Ranger!

  37. Rollers have been good for my base so far.  I spent the $$ on that over full-blown winter kit, and it is easier to just slog away without worrying about anything on those things.  I usually queue up some Netflix as well.

  38. @Mike_P

    @xyxax

    Thanks guys. looking at the cycleops rollers since I’ve had such good luck with their mag trainer. Cheers!

  39. I’ll be moving to Wisconsin in a few weeks. Coming from Arizona its gonna be a real shock to the system. In my effort to purge and take what I can fit in my truck I donated my trainer to a local highschool cycling team that runs on donations. They were stoked to get it.

  40. wrong topic…

  41. Essential to be able to ride no hands. Open a troublesome food packet, remove your jacket when the temperature rises, stretch your back, get your hands out of the wind for a while when it turns out to be colder than you reckoned, get that wasp out of your helmet vent…

    I like to ride up hills no hands, forces a super smooth magnificent stroke. This is reasonably doable to about 7 or 8%, steeper than that you’d best be mighty strong or riding in no car land.

  42. It does look mighty Pro when you get it right; arm warmers are easy, the gilet slightly less so but I haven’t yet tried removing leg warmers on the move. I’ve tried it on the turbo (no rollers yet, but I really need to get some) and it’s not easy. Not sure I’m willing to risk it on the road yet.

  43. I wish I could combine casually deliberate with doing my expenses…

    An absolute gem from @oli’s tumblr

  44. @The Pressure

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlLi0Hrx9QE

    That was excellent on so many levels… no the least of which was the significant elevation of the bridge.

  45. This is a skill that should be learned as a young rider however unlike riding a bike it can be a skill that your body forgets.

  46. @RedRanger

    I’ll be moving to Wisconsin in a few weeks. Coming from Arizona its gonna be a real shock to the system. In my effort to purge and take what I can fit in my truck I donated my trainer to a local highschool cycling team that runs on donations. They were stoked to get it.

    How are you liking WI? Gotta love our winter eh? Where are you located? I’m hoping to put a cogal together this year in SE Wisconsin.

  47. On a long straight stretch of carless bike path I decided to practice my hands free jersey zipping skills today.

    I saw a mother pushing a stroller far ahead and her back was to me so I figured I could disrobe in privacy and practice in motion before I passed her. So I violently unzipped my full jersey and started to put it back together.

    Unfortunately it’s difficult to do the first time! After 5 or 6 unsuccessful tries I realized she was actually walking toward me the whole time. So I basically just flashed my scrawny cyclist torso at an unsuspecting mother and also showed how unskilled I am at rezipping a jersey in motion.

    At least she was laughing as I passed by!

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