Soft handles are soft casings of the hard handles that cover the regular hard handles of the handlebars. These soft handles invite the cyclist to touch the handlebars very gently. Gently (as compared to tightly) touching the handlebars has two immediate consequences and two consequences on the longer term. The two immediate consequences are the following:
- The cyclist can better perceive small forces on the handlebars. These forces result from the fact that the bicycle leans to the left or to the right, and are a sign that the cyclist must respond if he wants to keep riding straight ahead
- The cyclist can only exert small forces on the handlebars. However, this is usually not a problem because only very small forces are needed to turn the handlebars and make the bicycle lean.
These two immediate consequences influence the cyclist’s riding strategy in the longer term. In fact, the more gentle the contact with the handlebars, the more the cyclist must use body weight displacements to control the lean angle of the bicycle. In the most extreme situation, the cyclist rides with loose hands, and the bicycle is only held upright by means of body weight displacements. This change in riding strategy also implies that the cyclist learns to keep his center of gravity above the tipping point of the bicycle. Many cyclists have their center of gravity next to the tipping point and compensate this by (counter)steering in the appropriate direction. These cyclists thus depend on their handlebars for riding straight. By learning to cycle with a gentle touch of the handlebars (as invited by the soft handles), they learn to position their center of gravity above the tipping point.
At the first use of the soft handles, the cyclist is encouraged to squeeze them. The cycling experience then is about the same as with the ordinary hard handles. The more trust one gets with the soft handles, the more one can let them relax. The final situation is that the hands are positioned so gently on the soft handles, that one can almost ride with loose hands. In this situation, the cyclist can experience how little he has to press the handlebar to keep the bicycle upright and to steer in the desired direction.