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How to Learn to Ride a Bike as an Adult

By Mark   /  Last updated - November 9, 2022   /  Advice, Blog, Guide

adult learning to ride a bike

Many people don’t get to ride a bike until they have reached adulthood and although this may seem strange, it’s not that rare. For various reasons, some adults pass through their childhood and teens without coming close to a bicycle and, when older, are less likely to pick up this new skill. 

Like life itself, biking is all about keeping balance and moving forward. With adequate practice and proper guidance, almost anyone can learn how to cycle. The key to learning how to ride a bike as an adult is patience and a go-getter attitude. 

Most riders that learned to ride as adults recommend the process outlined below, which will help you emerge as a safe and confident cyclist. However, there’s no fixed timeline to reach a stage where riding is stress-free – move at your own comfortable pace. 

Once you teach yourself, you may also want to read our guide on how to teach a child to ride a bike, and head out for fun family rides!

Without further ado, here are 10-steps on owning your first bicycle and how to learn bike riding for adults.

Step 1: Preparation Is Key  

If you want to buy a bike, you need to find one in good condition and make sure it fits you. If the bicycle is too big or small, it may be uncomfortable and a nightmare to learn on. Experts recommend visiting a professional biking shop to search for a basic cycle that fits your size or speaking to a close friend that could lend you theirs.

The next step is to get protective gear like a bike helmet, knee pads, and elbow guards. This is necessary as the chances of an accident or a fall are much higher for beginners. Training wheels for adults are a very rare sight and are generally not considered the best way to learn.

It’s advisable to prepare the mind for failure before hopping on a bicycle. It could take a few attempts over many days to ride without help. However, remain in high spirits and let it fuel a passion to succeed.

Step 2: Watch Someone Ride

One of the best ways to learn how to ride is to watch someone handle their bicycle.

woman riding step-through bike

Try taking mental notes of: 

  • Hopping on a bike without falling over.  
  • How to maintain a balance. 
  • How they manage their weight while cornering. 
  • When to decelerate and the stopping distance.

This helps you better understand how to pedal, steer, brake, shift bike gears, and operate other components of the bike. It may sound strange, but on their first attempt, some individuals pedal in the wrong direction. 

Step 3: Find a Suitable Spot

When learning how to ride a bike, it’s very important to identify a suitably safe spot to learn how to cycle. Open and flat places with no cars and few people are some of the best spots to pick for personal safety and to avoid feeling pressured. It’s more difficult when you’re trying something for the first time if people are watching.

In the event of an accident, the chances of injury are minimized. Wider spaces also make it easier to navigate the bicycle around and learn how to balance. Parks and recreational grounds are reasonable locations – especially if someone needs to teach you by pushing the bicycle. 

Step 4: Get Familiar With the Bike

The bike can be your friend or enemy, so it’s advisable to get familiar with the various components – especially the brakes! Most bikes have front and rear brakes, each controlled from either the left or right of the handlebars. It’s not the same on every bike, so learning how to control them is very important. 

Pressing hard on the front brake when going downhill can send a rider toppling over face-first. To avoid such a scenario, you must understand the bicycle well before taking it for a ride. Some members of the biking community even recommend labeling the levers to avoid confusion.

Bikes also come with a variety of different gear types – another thing you’ll need to familiarize yourself with before starting. Hybrid or MTB bikes with thumb-activated shifters are usually the easiest to learn, while racing bikes often have more complex gears integrated with the brakes.

Step 5: Hop On The Saddle

Hopping onto a bicycle for the first time is an exciting point in almost everyone’s lives – no matter what their age. Many beginners experience sweaty palms and shaky legs on their initial rides, so don’t let this get in the way. 

young man riding mountain bike

Gripping the brakes, mount the saddle with one foot on the ground and try stabilizing the bike without letting it fall. This may seem challenging, but this is the most important first lesson. Cycling revolves around balancing and multitasking with all the levers, pedaling, cornering and braking.

It could be difficult to balance a bike for adults, but mastering this shall make biking fun and safer. However, before hopping on the bike, make sure that your saddle height is adjusted properly.

Step 6: Glide Away

Release the brakes and push off with one foot, trying to go as far as possible without putting your feet on the ground. This is an excellent exercise to practice balancing and riding before peddling. It also gives beginners a basic feel of how cycling is and how to counter the bicycle’s weight and momentum. 

adult woman gliding on a bike

Having a guide to hold the bicycle and help with the balance for the first few rounds is useful. Experts suggest this for people who aren’t comfortable doing it on their own and for those that may need a hand because of various reasons. 

Balance bikes are the best way to achieve this, but there aren’t many models intended for adults. Instead, you can simply remove the pedals from your bike and lower the saddle as much as possible to temporarily turn it into a balance bike look alike. 

Step 7: Start Pedaling 

Pedaling is one of the easiest parts of cycling – left, right, and repeat. This propels the bike forward and all the energy comes from the body. Having not skipped leg day at the gym comes in very handy – after all, most of the muscles that are used to cycle are in the lower half of the body!  

man helping girl ride a bike

Experts recommend starting off with one foot on the ground and the other on a pedal which has to be positioned at 45 degrees. As you push away, place the other foot on the pedal and press on them in an alternating pattern. This is where the gliding and balancing practice shall be tested and come in handy.

Expert tip: pedaling too slowly can make beginners lose their balance. Therefore, try to pedal at a comfortable pace, but not too slowly.

Step 8: Learn The Highway Code

It’s best to keep practicing how to ride along private trails and parks before heading out into the busier public roads. When you do, remember – every jurisdiction has regulations that are put into place by the authorities, so learn the road rules in your area and follow them for everyone’s safety.

There are also laws and etiquette that specifically apply to cyclists, so it’s crucial to be aware of these beforehand. 

People usually ask, “How do bikers turn without indicators?” Well, the biking community and drivers on the road observe basic bike hand signals. But keep in mind – bigger vehicles have blind spots in their mirrors and can’t spot bikers when they are at certain positions, so try to stay clear of them.

Step 9: Bicycle Maintenance Is Important

Like any machine, bicycles have moving parts and components that face wear and tear, so learning how and when to service each part is important. This not only increases the lifespan of the bike but contributes towards overall bike safety and improves ride quality. 

man pumping bicycle tire

No one likes squeaky bike brakes, so get the right lubricants and grease it thoroughly. Also, check the brakes aren’t imbalanced and make sure the chain is sitting well – these are some of the many checks beginners can expect.

There are other basic maintenance jobs that are worth learning early on, such as checking tire pressure, patching a puncture, and adjusting the seat height.   

Step 10: What Bike and Gear to Invest In 

If you haven’t done so yet, the next step to take after learning how to ride a bike is to buy one. As a beginner, the best thing to do is get a pre-owned bike in good condition or find one that is basic and not too costly. 

Here are some recommendations that will make your experience on a bicycle better and safer:

  • Straight handlebars are easier to learn on than drop bars.
  • If you live in a hilly area, get a bike with a broad range of gears.
  • Get a decent bike lock to secure the bike from theft. 
  • Don’t disregard safety gear – especially a helmet.

For a start, try not to focus on extras like bigger gears, trendy designs, gadgets, and gizmos. These things can come later on after practicing how to ride and getting comfortable with it. Also, choose a bicycle that will not be a challenge to get on and off – step-thru frames are particularly helpful for people with shorter legs.  

It’s common for beginners to overspend while buying their first bike and put it aside quickly after losing interest in their new hobby. Therefore, refrain from going all out when making your first purchase.

Conclusion 

Learning how to ride a bike for adults may seem difficult and embarrassing initially, but by following the guidelines above, you’ll be a competitive cyclist in no time! The key to learning anything is by putting one’s mind to it and following through. Even though it seems challenging at first just to balance the bike, you’ll quickly find yourself improving with a bit of practice.

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