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How To Ride A Bicycle (Better) for Adults and Kids

Jeff Balton

Bike Ride 101. How to ride a bicycle

No matter if you are a kid or a grown-up adult, the basics are the same. The fact you’re on this page means I don’t have to tell you why to cycle because you are already aware that going on a bike ride is one of the best things in life!

It’s never too late to start riding a bike.

In this guide, I will point out the basics of teaching kids to ride a bike and adults to start learning. Also, below, I will teach you how to be a better rider on roads and forest trails. How to brake, change gears, and so on.

So let’s start learning how to ride a bike. This guide is 1,500 words long, so it takes just 3-5 minutes to go through it.

 

1. Find a Safe Place for Your First Bike Ride

Step #1A safe place must be away from traffic. You should eliminate as many distractions as possible when making your first pedal strokes. Also, you don’t want to put yourself in danger.

For example, a safe place for your first bike ride is a park or any traffic-free road. The best place to start learning how to ride a bicycle would be on short, soft grass. It’s a little bit harder to start pedaling but if you fall, it doesn’t hurt.

Park lanes are also a good place to ride on because you’ll land on grass if you fall. Just make sure that there are no pedestrians around you.

DC Bike Ride occasionally organizes car-free rides around Washington DC, which lets you explore the capital without any traffic. This is a great way to practice riding a bike and meet other cyclists that you can ride with afterward. You can pedal past memorials and monuments with the city all to yourself and be a part of the community.

 

2. Wear Comfortable Clothes

Keep in mind that you may fall the first time you go on a bike ride and you don’t want to ruin your clothes.

You can use knee and elbow protectors, which will decrease the risk of injury. Make sure not to wear baggy shorts because if you fall, they might get tangled around the saddle and make things even worse.

Also, you should be wearing shoes that will offer at least some protection for your feet. Avoid riding a bike in sandals.

Finally, you should not wear loose trousers as they can also get stuck between the chainrings. If you have no other options, always make sure to tuck them inside the socks!

 

3. Wear a Helmet on Every Bike Ride

Step #3Let’s make it simple – wearing a helmet is an absolute must!

Wearing a helmet is especially important when you are in the learning stages of how to ride a bike. You must always wear a helmet and you should make sure that your kid wears a helmet as well.

To offer full protection, your helmet should be adjusted properly. It should neither be too tight nor too loose. Just take 10 minutes to adjust it properly because you have to do it only once and you might as well take your time and do it right.

Wearing a helmet on every bike ride is crucial because your head is fragile! In the best-case scenario, you’ll walk away from a crash with a bruise or a light concussion. Worst-case scenario, you’ll get much more serious injuries.

Related: Best Bike Helmets (& How To Choose)

NOTE: By not wearing a helmet, you set a bad example for kids and other riders.

 

4. Adjust and Check Your Bike

Before every bike ride, do a quick check-up to make sure that your bike is in good working order.

Step #4Make sure that you have the right saddle height. You can check this by leaning against a wall.

When your saddle is adjusted properly, there should be a small bend in your knee when the pedal is in the 6-o’clock position.

However, if you are still learning how to ride a bike, you can lower your saddle slightly at first and raise it when you feel more comfortable. Make sure you can reach the handlebars easily, brake, turn, and change gears.

I don’t suggest changing gears while still learning because you might get distracted.

When it comes to brakes, typically the right brake lever controls the rear brake, whereas the left one controls the front brake. Keep in mind not to brake too hard with the front brake or you’ll flip over. Using both brakes at the same time is the proper way.

 

5. Go on a Bike Ride!

Step #5There are two ways for adults to learn and one for children.

Now I’ll teach you how I quickly learned to ride a bike.

 

Kids

How to start biking for kids

If your child is learning how to ride a bicycle on a geared bike, you should select an easy gear. You should then hold the bike behind the saddle and encourage your kid to start pedaling while you’re pushing slightly. Let them feel the balance and let them stop and put one foot down.

Once they can maintain balance, ask them to start riding a bike in circles (not too small). If they can do this as well, you can let go of the saddle for a few seconds and see how they’re doing on their own.

If they’re doing well, keep your hand off the bike for 5 seconds, then for 10 seconds, (always walking/running close behind!) and then let go completely.

A balance bike is the best choice for your kid’s first bike ride – see our reviews of woom 1 and Strider

Once they are ready to change gears, you can support them once again if needed until they get used to the multitasking required to do so.

 


How To Ride a Bicycle (For Adults)


It’s never too late to start learning to ride a bike as an adult! (And you can always get better once you have started!)

Just start below from points 1 through 4.

Like I mentioned before, there are two main ways:

First of all, you want to select a low gear to make it easier to start pedaling. However, don’t select the easiest gear because you might spin out and fall.

How To ride a bike for adults

The first method is that you lean against the wall, feet on the pedals, one hand on the handlebar. Start pedaling and push yourself away from the wall. Make small circles and then 8’s. Feel the brakes (RIGHT – REAR first!). Change gears, first with the rear derailleur and then with the front.

NOTE: Keep in mind not to push hard on the pedals when changing gears. You can damage the derailleurs or lose balance and fall.

 

The second method is to put one pedal up and place your foot on it. Then push down on it and sit on the saddle. At the same time, put the second leg on the other pedal and start pedaling.

Both are quite easy ways for those who want to learn how to ride a bike.

Related: Find proper bikes for yourself here.

 


Changing Gears

How To Change Gears on a bike ride

Changing the gears is also a part of learning how to ride a bicycle.

Go from low to high. Change the gears by using the gear levers. I suggest not to change more than 2 gears at once.

Make sure not to pedal too hard while changing gears because you might damage the derailleurs in the long run.

What if the gears don’t change? Sometimes they do this. I hate when it happens on a hilly bike ride! You should press the lever again to change the gear up or down. If it’s a common problem, you might want to take your bike to a Local Bike Shop or learn how to fix this problem yourself on YouTube.


NOTE: Don’t press hard when changing gears!

If you get the feeling, try to find the proper gear before you start climbing. You want to be in a lower gear to get up the hill much quicker. But what should you do when you realize that you can’t go over a very steep hill? Let me explain in the next chapter.

Related: Bike Gears Explained

 

Braking

Front and rear brakes and derailleurs

 

How to Brake with the Rear Brake?

Use the rear brake only in the beginning.

I will also teach you how to use the front brake properly. Just try to get the right feeling about how the brakes work. Ride at the speed of 10-15 mph, look for a reference point on the ground, and try to stop there with moderate braking. If you stopped too soon or too late, try again. It should be easy.

NOTE: Your tires should not skid while braking. If they do, it means you pressed the brake levers too hard.

Try to brake on different terrains – tarmac, wet asphalt, mud, etc. Notice how the bike acts differently. Braking is very important when learning how to ride a bike.

 

How to Brake with the Front Brake?

That’s one of the scariest things for a lot of cyclists, especially for those who are learning to ride a bike as an adult. Actually, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Let me explain.

When you ride a bicycle, your center of gravity is around the middle of the bike and quite high. Here comes the physics – if you brake with your front brake, then your bike stops, but your body (which is heavier than the bike) wants to move forward. Because you didn’t slow down your body but the bicycle! To avoid that, you might want to brake smoothly with your front brake.

But, you must use your front brake! It’s crucial in many situations. You can use your rear brake in most cases, but for emergencies, you want to use your front brake too.

Practice makes perfect. Try using only the front brake while riding a bike slowly. Do it smoothly. If you get the feeling, then try to turn. You see that it acts differently.

When riding a bike on a very steep hill, you must use only your front brake!

Why? Because otherwise, you might fall backward.

Always use the front brake with caution!

 

How to Brake with Both Brakes?

Actually, you should use both brakes all the time. You should look at the rear one as the main brake and at the front one as the auxiliary brake. When turning on slippery roads, you might want to let go of the front brake because it can make you fall.

 

Bike Ride Practice

Bike ride practice

Practice, practice, and practice. That’s the only way to learn how to ride a bicycle. Riding a bike is something you never forget. The more you practice, the more you know about how to ride a bike and the more confident you become.

If you have any questions, you can check YouTube too, there are brilliant bike ride videos.

And remember, even if you can ride a bike – ALWAYS wear a helmet! I hope you now know how to teach a kid to ride a bike as well!

I wish you safe bike rides!

 

FAQ

Frequently asked questionsWhat are the benefits of riding a bicycle?

Going for a bike ride is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. Riding a bike will help you lose weight, keep your joints healthy, reduce blood pressure and risk of heart rate disease, as well as help you fight depression and anxiety.

What is a good distance for a beginner cyclist?

If you are an absolute beginner and you’ve never gone on a bike ride before, you should start with 5-mile rides. Do them a few times a week and then increase your weekly mileage by 10-15% each week. Depending on how you feel, you can lower or increase the mileage more.

What does a beginner cyclist need?

Everything that a beginner cyclist needs to go on their first bike ride is a working bicycle and a helmet. That’s it. In the beginning, you don’t need to worry about fancy components, accessories, and advanced gear. Put your helmet on, get on the bike, and start riding.

What is the best way to teach a child to ride a bike?

The best way to teach a child how to ride a bicycle is with a balance bike. Balance bicycles provide a natural, intuitive, easy, and fun way to learn. Children quickly figure out how to work a balance bike with minimal input from parents and then easily transition to a real bicycle.

How long does it take to learn to ride a bicycle for adults?

Everyone is different, so the time it takes to learn to ride a bike as an adult is individual. Some people might need minutes or one hour, others might need an entire day, whereas some might need a few days or weeks. Just remember not to give up and you’ll learn eventually.

 

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