Millions of people around the world ride bikes every day, and millions more are always learning. Unlike walking, riding a bike isn't something that everyone just eventually figures out on their own with minimal assistance.
Riding a bike is a learned skill, and isn’t something that someone can immediately do.
Many people don’t even remember learning how to ride a bike, as this skill is often learned at a somewhat young age. Still, depending on your situation, it helps to be able to know the best methods for teaching someone else -- or even yourself.
There are countless adults who have never learned to ride a bike, and that’s not something to be embarrassed about. Everyone’s situation is different, so not everyone has the chance when they are young, or someone that can teach them. If you fall into this category, you’re in the right place as well.
This guide will lay out the steps for learning how to ride a bike, and also a few bonus tips for some other situations and types of riding as well.
If you’re an adult that doesn’t know how to ride a bike, don’t fret -- it won’t take you very long. While kids may take a bit of time to get the hang of things, adults are fully developed physically and won’t have the same hindrances that children deal with.
For an adult learning to ride, you only need to follow a few simple guidelines in order to figure things out. It all starts with proper preparation.
Prior to getting on the bike and trying to stay on board, there are a few things to take care of beforehand in order to make sure you’re all set.
The area where you are going to be learning is very important. It needs to be well lit, away from traffic, and with enough room for you to move around freely. Avoid narrow paths like sidewalks if at all possible.
Cul-de-sacs are ideal, or any road without through traffic. If you can find an area with short grass, that will be just fine. Some may actually prefer a softer surface just in case they take a few tumbles.
Regardless of where you end up, the most important criteria is no traffic, or people that may get in your way.
What you wear can make a difference in how easy it is for you to learn. Don’t worry about getting all decked out with cycling clothing or something though; your clothing choices should be centered around avoiding a few things.
Baggy shirts, Baggy jeans, and open-toed shoes like sandals need to be avoided. Loose clothing can snag easily, and while some may be able to ride just fine with baggy clothing, it’s not something you are going to want to deal with when learning.
Baggy pants can get caught in the chain or crankset, and your pedals can get caught up in them as well. Wear shorts or fitted pants. Sandals should be off limits as well, for obvious reasons. Wear athletic shoes if you have them.
This should go without saying. You should always wear a helmet when you ride no matter what, and certainly when you are trying to learn how to ride.
Although it’s always best to have a proper bike fit when riding, you need to make a few exceptions when learning. The seat should be lowered to the point where you can place both feet flat on the ground whenever you are seated.
This makes it easier to touch the ground with your feet in case you lose your balance.
You can raise the seat back up later once you’ve gotten the hang of staying upright.
It’s probably not helpful to just grab a random bike and try to start riding it. You need to take a few minutes to get familiar with how the bike feels, how responsive the brakes are, what it feels like to sit on the seat, etc.
To do so, walk the bike around for a minute or two, and randomly squeeze the brakes to get a feel for them. After that, sit on the saddle with your feet planted on each side. If there is a small incline, let the bike roll for a bit with your feet barely off the ground, and use the brakes to stop.
Once you’ve spent a few minutes doing this, you’ll feel much more comfortable once you start riding, even if it’s for a few seconds at a time.
The majority of prospective riders will prefer to start out on flat terrain.
While many will feel comfortable learning on flat ground, others may prefer using a small sloped area to do some of the work for them.
Do keep in mind that while we are using the term “slope,” don’t go looking for some giant hill to learn on. We’re referring to gently sloped declines that provide you with a way to coast without having to push off the ground as often.
Follow the same instructions above, but try to find a sloped area with a flat portion prior to the decline that gives you an even surface to mount the bike. After doing so, you can move to the decline and start making your way down.
Okay, now that you can ride a bike and pedal successfully, there are a few basic things to know about brakes and gears.
Starting off in a “higher” gear means that the bike is easier to pedal at a low speed. As you gain speed, you should shift to lower gears to get more efficiency out of your pedaling.
As for brakes, when you are starting out, always use the rear brake first when stopping or slowing down. If you are going fast, and slam on your front brake first, you might end up taking a tumble over the handlebars, and nobody wants to do that.
So you want to teach a child how to ride a bike, as in, reallyride a bike, without training wheels. Learning to ride a bike without training wheels is a right of passage of sorts for kids, as it signifies a newfound independence that gives them the freedom to get somewhere on their own.
Kids aren’t as developed as adults, so learning how to ride a bike may take a little while, and isn’t something most kids can do with just a few minutes off the training wheels. While there is no set age that a kid should be riding by, the 4 or 5 year mark is generally considered a good starting point.
Not much is different from the adult instructions. Your kid will need a helmet, tighter clothing, closed-toe shoes, and a willingness to learn. You’ll need a positive attitude, and plenty of gentle encouragement.
Kids do much better learning with a gentle slope, which needs to be on grass if at all possible.
Have you ever wanted to ride a bike with no hands? Of course you have. While we don’t recommend this for extended periods of time, or when turning,. You can easily ride hands-free for a little while.
The key is to work your way up to it. Begin by riding with one hand on a straight path, and away from others. Slowly relax your hand until you're gently steering with the tip of a finger on the handlebar. Raise your finger off for a few seconds and see how you feel.
Eventually you’ll be able to take your hands off at the same time, and even sit up straight. This is great for when you need a break from leaning forward for an extended period of time.
Riding a bike with your dog next to you can be beneficial for you both. It allows you to get some riding in, while giving your dog the opportunity to not only join you, but get a good exercise in as well.
(A few quick pre-requirements: Your dog will need to be highly leash-trained, in shape, and able to run at faster speeds for an extended period.)
Just as with riding hands-free, you will need to work your way up. Begin by going on a run with your dog to see if it can handle moving at a faster speed alongside you. Always keep the dog on the same side that you will have them while you are riding.
Once your dog is ready, try walking around the block with your bike on one side, and the dog on the other. This gets them used to being around the bike. After that, you can start to slowly coast around the block while sitting on the bike, while holding the leash on one side.
Eventually you will be able to start riding at a higher speed, with your dog keeping the pace with you. Make sure your leash is long enough to let you steer with both hands while holding the leash with one hand.
Riding a bike is a piece of cake once the lightbulb goes off. With just a little persistence, and the right attitude and precautions, you can teach yourself or someone else all of the necessary basics required in order to enjoy one of the best activities on earth.
Do you have any stories or tips from when you were learning, or teaching someone else? We’d love to hear about it. Let us know in the comments below!
Over the last few years, I’ve taken my love of the outdoors, hiking, skiing, trekking and exploring to the next level by starting this site. I started a bike shop in Denver, CO, and have seen amazing growth over the last few years. Getting paid to do what I love has been a dream come true for me. That’s also what led me to start BikesReviewed.com. In my shop, I spend a large amount of time helping people find the perfect bike for them and the style of biking they’re going to be doing. It only made sense that I expanded my reach and got online, making it possible for me to help people all over the world. If biking and staying fit is your priority, too, you’ve come to the right place.
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