How to ride a bike

Never learnt how to ride a bike? With our handy tips anyone can master getting around on two wheels

Clock08:00, Monday 7th August 2023

It’s never too late to learn to ride a bike. While mastering two wheels as an adult can be challenging, it’s also a rewarding experience. In this guide, we’ve gone back to basics, pulling together everything you need to know if you’re learning to ride a bike for the first time, whatever your age.

white orbea road bike

Equipment

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but you’re going to need a bike. It doesn’t have to be fancy and you don’t need to buy the best bike on the market - anything will do! If you don’t have your own bike, why not borrow one from a friend or family?

Similarly, there’s no need to buy fancy clothing. The great thing about cycling is the fact that you can jump on a bike in most types of clothing. For your first rides, just wear whatever is comfy. The exception is flared trousers - they can get caught in the chain which is a recipe for disaster.

Finally, we recommend wearing a helmet, even if you’re only riding in a field or on a quiet road. It’s important to be safe.


start riding in an open, flat and ideally quiet location

Location

It can be nerve-wracking learning to ride. That’s why it’s best to find a quiet, safe location for those first pedal strokes.

Car parks or parks are good options, though it’s best to avoid grass as it’s more difficult to ride on.


saddle height is really important

Bike setup

Learning how to cycle will be much easier to learn if your bike is set up correctly.

The main consideration here is the saddle height. Adjust the saddle height with some Allen keys until it’s in a comfortable position. If you need any help, check out our guide. With your legs outstretched, you should be able to touch the floor with both feet while sitting on the saddle. This way, you can easily correct yourself and support the bike if you lose balance.

Next, reach out to the brakes to make sure that you can easily pull the levers. The tyres also need to be pumped up to the correct pressure otherwise they’ll affect your ability to handle the bike.


without pedalling just get used to balancing on the bike

Learn to balance

Now that everything is prepared, it’s time to start riding. Before you hop on the bike and start pedalling, try to get used to balancing on the bike.

Start by sitting on the saddle with your feet on the floor, then starting slowly walking your feet to move the bike. It’s a simple exercise that will help you develop balance and get a feel for the bike. Just avoid banging your shins against the pedals! To prevent some nasty bruises, it can be a good idea to remove the pedals before doing this drill.

Always look ahead while doing this exercise. It’s very tempting to stare down at your feet, but that’s a bad habit and something you’ll need to avoid when riding on open roads.

As your confidence improves, try taking things to the next level by going around a corner. Then you can try building up a little speed before taking your feet off the floor, allowing yourself to coast.


practise pushing off using the pedals

Start pedalling

Now that you’ve mastered the art of balancing, it’s time to start pedalling. If you took the pedals off of your bike for the last drill, you’ll need to reattach them, of course. There’s a guide to help here.

First things first, you need to practise pushing off using the pedals. Shift to the easiest gear and then decide which foot you’re going to take the first pedal stroke with. We’d generally recommend using your dominant leg, although some people may find using the opposite leg more natural.

Next, sit on the saddle with both feet on the floor. Then, with your most dominant leg (or the opposite leg if this feels more natural), bring the pedal up to the two o'clock position. The pedal should roughly be pointing diagonally upwards towards your handlebars.

Now you’re ready to start practising, so press the pedal down while lifting your other foot slightly off the ground. Try this a few times to build confidence. Once you get better, you can then start trying to pedal with the other leg too. Just remember to use your brakes to come to a safe stop!

Riding at slow speeds can be hard so take your time and have some patience. If you don't feel confident pushing with the pedal straight away, try scooting along for a bit to gain speed before pushing the pedal.

look at where you're turning when practising cornering

Practise cornering

Comfortable pedalling? Great job! You’ve almost mastered all of the skills needed. There’s just one final skill to go: cornering. Here are a few tips to help:

  • As always, safety is the first priority when cornering so keep looking ahead. Look at where you’re turning and not at your handlebars or down at the floor
  • Keep the pedals in a neutral position so that they don’t hit the floor. Neither pedal should be at its lowest position
  • Naturally, steering is the most important aspect of cornering, but you probably won’t need to steer the handlebars as much as you think. Instead, use slight movements and lean into the corner using your body
  • Finally, take a wide line when cornering, as long as it’s safe. If there isn’t anywhere safe to practise this, put out some cones or water bottles and then you can weave around them instead

Top Tip

Follow these steps and you’ll soon be flying along on two wheels. Naturally, everyone learns at different speeds so don't worry if you don’t complete all of these steps in one go. You can always come back to this article to take on further steps as you build up confidence. Good luck!


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