How to ride a bicycle

By dkl9, written 2023-202, revised 2023-202 (0 revisions)

Riding a bicycle is a very simple. Just push the pedals around and balance.

If you've done it before, that's just as easy as it sounds. If you haven't, that's much harder. I was in the second camp for far too long. Here's how I fixed that. It might help you.

  1. Get a working bicycle. Adjust the seat-height so you can touch both feet to the ground whilst sitting on the balanced bike.
  2. Get a well-fitting, intact helmet. Wear it whenever you ride, or try to ride. You might get away with only hitting your limbs in falls — I have, so far — but it's better to not expose yourself to lethal mistakes.
  3. Find a place to practise.
  4. Figure out the brakes. These are typically levers next to the handles. Be ready to press them whenever you need to stop. There may be separate front and back brakes. Use either just-back, both simultaneously, or both with a delay, back first. Don't use just the front brakes.
  5. Practise basic balance. Sit on the bike and "walk" it with repeated pushes from your feet.
  6. Practise half-coasting. Mount one foot on a pedal, push that pedal, and coast briefly.
  7. Start pedalling. Mount one foot on a pedal, push that pedal, coast very briefly, and put the other foot on the other pedal.
  8. Keep pedalling. If you start as in the previous step and can pedal/propel the bike for at least five seconds without falling, you can now ride a bike! At this point, what remains is a matter of endurance and stability.

When to move from when step to the next? For steps 1 to 4, it's obvious when you're done. For steps 5 to 7, do the step for some minutes — maybe an hour at most — then try the next. If the next step seems thoroughly impossible, move back.

§ "Advanced" techniques

If you're already pedalling and moving, but starting to fall to one side, try turning a bit to the opposite direction. You can often restore balance without stopping and restarting.

To turn, look in the direction you want to go and turn the handles accordingly. The rest should come naturally. Don't overthink it.

Be very careful when near kerbs or going down a slope. Perhaps avoid those situations entirely for some time. I did not do that. It went badly.

To change speed or climb slopes, switch gears: up for easier pedalling, down for harder pedalling. The exact mechanism depends on your bike, but usually takes the form of buttons or levers next to the handles.