Countless students walk in front of the Nebraska Union every day, creating a chaotic, flowing river of people on their way to their next destination. At peak hours, it’s almost impossible to pick any one person out of the crowd.
But for Eli Kliment, this isn’t quite the case.
A constant blur on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus, glimpses of Kliment’s flowing mane of hair can be caught as he pedals his way to his next class. He bikes, but his physical contact with the bike doesn’t stretch far beyond his pedaling. Kliment has gained a reputation on campus for consistently riding his bike — but almost never placing his hands on the handlebars.
Kliment, a junior biological sciences major, relies on his bike as his main form of transportation throughout the school year. His art of no-handed cycling has been a work in progress for years, stemming from the pure joy he said he found in biking throughout his small town of Creighton, Nebraska.
“I spent a long time just riding my bike for fun around my hometown, but it wasn’t until I was around 17 that I actually started trying to ride it without touching the handlebars or anything,” he said.
As he slowly became better at the skill, Kliment said he realized riding without hands might be a technique that’s better suited to his tastes. He found that the stoic, upright position that he rides in now was simply more enjoyable.
“It did take a little bit for me to really get the hang of it, and then once I let my skills progress, I let the muscle memory develop,” he said. “It almost became second nature to the extent that nowadays, it’s actually more comfortable for me to ride my bike like that than to ride the normal way.”
Aside from the more comfortable seating position, Kliment utilizes his skill for the practical benefit of having free hands while riding. He occasionally plays baritone with the pep band at Nebraska volleyball and basketball games, and he said trekking with an instrument that large requires free hands.
“Whenever I have to go down to the Pinnacle Bank Arena or the Devaney Center or to Westbrook Music Building to practice, I just get on my bike and I carry my instrument while I ride my bike there,” he said.
Spencer Langholdt, a junior physics major, is one student who’s caught on to Kliment’s mystique.
“I think I see him every day,” Langholdt said. “I don’t know anything about him. I know he rides his bike without handlebars.”
Grace Wiseman, a freshman pre-criminology and criminal justice major, stressed her amazement with Kliment, both with his skills and consistency in riding.
“He’s talented, definitely talented,” she said. “He’s very dedicated to his classes, he’s always somewhere, always on campus.”
Aside from zipping around his busy college schedule, Kliment’s cycling renown is furthered simply by his passion for biking. He doesn’t need to be carrying a massive musical instrument to take his bike out for a no-handed cruise.
“Even when I don’t have a specific destination in mind, I find it very enjoyable to just get on my bike, ride around for maybe a few hours at a time, just different routes around or just kind of randomly ride around campus, around the area,” he said.
Kliment’s love for riding continues all year round, as he said he even pedals no-handedly through the winter months — despite damage to his bikes and frigid temperatures.
“I’ve been through a few bikes recently,” he said. “My bikes tend not to last very long because I also ride in the winter. They tend not to last more than a few years at a time.”
Kliment has gained additional attention for his refusal to wear any sort of winter clothes, even as he bikes in the coldest months. According to Sammi Yates, a freshman pre-health major, Kliment’s scantily clad choices are an everyday occurrence.
“He never wore sweatpants or a coat in the winter. It was always just the same T-shirt and shorts,” she said. “He zooms by me every day.”
Kliment said his decision to never layer is based on his lack of time and his distaste for the feeling of coats. Consequently, Kliment has spent much of his life working to reduce his dependence on winter wear.
“I had the idea to sort of condition myself to handle the cold better,” he said. “So what I started doing was each year, I waited a little longer than I did the previous year before I started wearing a coat. So I waited until it got a little colder, each year, year by year, and eventually, near the end of high school, I got to the point that I didn’t really need a coat unless it got to like sub-zero temperatures. Nowadays, I don’t know if I actually even own a coat anymore.”
Although braving freezing temperatures in a T-shirt and shorts may sound painful to most, Kliment asserts that his decisions are designed simply to make him as comfortable as possible. Whether it’s his lack of a coat or his rigid cycling posture, Kliment said his quirks make his life more enjoyable.
“I just do the things that I’m most comfortable with, and they just happen to be pretty eccentric,” he said.