Learning to ride a bike can be intimidating, but it’s not as hard as you think to get started. Whether you’ve not ridden a bike in years, or you’ve never been on the bike, we’ve outlined what you need to do to learn to ride a bike.
Step 1: Find a suitable bike
The first thing you need is -of course- a bike, preferably one that fits you well. You can use your height to find the right type of bike for you, using our chart below. Remember this is a rough guess and if you want a proper fitting, a bike shop will be able to help.
|Rider Height (Feet, Inches)||Bike Size (Inches)||Bike Size|
|4’10 – 5’1||14”||XS|
|5’1 – 5’5||15”||S|
|5’5 – 5’9||16”||M|
|5’9 – 6’0||17”||L|
|6’0 – 6’3||18”||XL|
|6’3 – 6’6||19”||XXL|
Don’t worry about buying anything fancy if you’re just starting out, but a good bike should have properly working brakes and everything should be secured tightly, wobble the seat to make sure it’s secured. The tyres should also be well pumped up, and you should be able to spin the chain with the peddles before you get started. Make sure to wear protective gear (at least a helmet).
We would recommend starting with a more upright bike as this is easier to balance on than a mountain bike or road bike. You can learn to ride on any bike, but if you have the choice, you would recommend making the learning process easier and using an upright hybrid bike.
For starting, lower the seat so that you can sit on the bike with both feet firmly on the ground. In the future, once you’ve mastered not to lose your balance, you might want to raise the seat, but initially put the seat down low so that you are sitting with your feet firmly touching the ground as this will make it much easier to stay stabilised.
If you have a road bike (and once you have mastered not to lose your balance), have a look at the graph below in order to adjust the height of the seat and handle bars correctly.
Step 2: Find someone to help you and a suitable place to practice riding
Find someone to help you who can already ride a bike, and who is willing to spend time with you to help. This can be a family member or a friend, or it can be someone from a cycling charity who teaches people to ride bikes. If you’re determined to try on your own, just remember, it is possible but will take a bit of perseverance!
Once you’re ready to ride, find a place without traffic that has a nice paved surface.
Step 3: Practice your balancing
To get on to the bike, stand next to the bike, holding the bike with both hands clenching the brake levers to stop the bike from rolling forward.
Bring the bike towards you and swing your leg over the saddle to get the bike between your legs. You should be able to roll the bike back and comfortably sit down on it. Once you’re sitting on the bike with your hands on the handlebars, start walking forward, practising your balance and moving your feet from side to side to move the bike forwards. This is known as scooting and is designed to help you get comfortable on a bike.
Once you are scooting comfortably on the flat road, try scooting on a slight downward slope to pick up some speed and get more comfortable with your balance. Practice doing this again and again until it feels really comfortable as the next step will be to lift your feet off the ground.
Step 4: Pedalling
Now that you’ve mastered scooting you’ll be ready to start pedalling! Adjust the pedals so they are at a 2 o’clock and 8 o’clock position and put one of your feet (whichever feels more natural, on the pedal), keeping the other foot firmly on the ground. Make sure you don’t put your other foot up before you’ve pushed forward with one foot. Often beginners try to put both feet on the pedals immediately without pushing forward and you’ll end up falling over.
Let the person who’s helping hold the back of the saddle to keep you upright, and have them encourage you not to lean to the side. It’s harder to balance a bike at slower speeds, but understandably you don’t want to pick up speed until you can get going.
It will take some time to get used to pedalling and steering at the same time. Try keeping your hands covering the brakes so that you can always stop if you need to. Make sure you’re practising in a calm environment, with a paved road and no cars or other distractions. The biggest thing is to try and keep calm and not panic!
I’m riding a bike! What else do I need to know?
As you continue riding your bike, you’ll eventually want to learn how to use your gears (if your bike has them)! A lot of the skill of changing gears will come with practice, and as you need more you’ll get a feel for when to change gears. For now, we’ll give you the basics to get you started.
Most bikes have gears that can be changed by levers on the left and right. The left-hand controls the chainring and causes big jumps in the number of gears. You might want to use this when you switch from going up a very steep hill, getting to the top of it and then riding down the hill. The right-hand controls the sprocket and this causes smaller adjustments in your speed. You will change these gears much more frequently and can help you get more efficient at riding your bike. You can pair any of the sprockets with any of the chainrings to create multiple combinations, and different bikes have different numbers of gears.
City bikes and hybrid bikes have the lowest number of gears and mountain bikes normally have the highest number of gears. The gears don’t change how fast you can ride your bike, they just help to make you a more efficient rider. You’ll want a high gear, or big gear when riding down a hill or going fast. A low gear or smaller gear is better for going uphill or when you don’t want your legs to work quite as hard.
To change gears, make sure you’re pedalling and don’t try to change gears while the bike is standing still. You’ll feel yourself needing to change gears as you start going up and down hills and when you start cycling faster your gears will become more useful. Remember, you don’t have to ride a bike with gears (especially if you are planning to use your bike in a flat city most of the times)! There are lots of single speed bikes that don’t have any gears at all. Lots of people like using single speed in bikes in cities as they are cheaper and simpler to take care of.
What else do I need?
As a new cyclist, you may be forgiven for thinking you need to be clad in lycra before you can step on a bike. In reality, you just need clothes you’re comfortable with, preferably ones that aren’t too loose so they won’t get caught in the bike. We’d also recommend you purchase a helmet to keep your head safe, as well as some front and backlights, even if you don’t think you’ll be riding at night as they can help with visibility in the fog or rain.
If you are finding that you’re getting uncomfortable from sitting on the bike, bike shorts or trousers can make a big difference. There are loads of different options including bib shorts, cargo shorts, and ¾ lengths. Bike shorts come with in-built padding that make sitting on a bike seat more comfortable. You can also look at getting a better saddle, or a gel cover for your saddle to make it softer.
Taking care of your bike
Now that you’ve got yourself a bike that you love to ride, there are some ways to take care of it and make sure it doesn’t get damaged.
- Keep your bike inside. Rain and the elements will make your bike rusty, so keeping it inside is the best way to avoid that.
- Keep the tyres pumped up. Deflated tyres are the easiest ways to get a flat tyre so ensure that your tyres stay pumped up and you’ll avoid wearing out the tyres.
- Keep the chain oiled. A rusty chain will cause lots of problems down the line, especially if you keep using it without oil, so put on some lube every now and then to keep the chain turning nicely.
Once you’ve mastered riding a bike you’ll be amazed at how much freedom it gives you to explore and how many places you can get to. It’s a skill you’ll never forget, and we encourage you to be patient with yourself at the beginning and enjoy the process. Learning to ride a bike opens up a whole new world of sports, transport and fun. We hope you enjoyed our guide on how to ride a bike and are successful in your attempts!
Please let uns know in the comments below if you have any questions or if there is anything we can do to help you to learn how to ride a bike!
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