It is easier to learn with trainers on, because you will be dabbing your feet for a while to get the real hang of it. and be sure to practice in an easy gearing, so that you can ride out of the stand. The way I learned was on a grassy knoll with a slight uphill rise. Grass is soft and green, but also adds some more resistance for balance.
1. While standing up on the pedals, ride up to the slight rise on the grass, and position the bike so that it is pointing at either 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock, depending on what side you prefer first.
2. Turn the wheel slightly so that it faces back towards the 12 o’clock.
3. Now BALANCE. You don’t want to use the brakes – use the gears to keep you in place. Gravity will force your front wheel back down, but your gearing will force you back up. So when you feel the bike go back down the hill slightly, apply some pressure to the pedals and go up a foot or so, then relieve the pressure and roll back, and so on and so on.
4. With the front wheel going slightly across the front of your body (at 10 or 2 o’clock) allows you to spread the base of the bike, so that it can be moved to balance you.
5. As with all balance techniques, focus on one spot on the ground. If you follow something moving, you are going to move with it.
Once you get this on grass with trainers, then use your clipless pedals, then try it all on the road. You will notice that a lot of roads are not flat, and allow you to practice this technique a bit easier on the road. Try not the first few times in busy traffic… it can be embarrassing. Soon enough, you will be able to do this on the flat, by forcing the bike backwards, but pedaling forward at the same time.
When you are in the city next time, watch a courier at the lights. They rock. They do it all day and are my personal local hero’s. Weaving through the traffic like a sword through the air, but when they stop at the lights (sometimes…..) they don’t unclip, they just be.