Do you want to learn how to ride a bike? Awesome! Cycling is a wonderful sport. It can take patience but is very rewarding. Once you figure it out, it is, as the saying goes, “like riding a bike.”

The benefits of riding a bike far exceed the struggles of learning. Riding a bike is a fun activity and good exercise, a great way to enjoy the outdoors and meet new people.

If you’re starting and are eager to get going, here are some steps to help you learn how to ride a bike like a pro!

Two men are riding up a hill on gravel bikes.
Gravel Bikes.

The First Step – Familiarize Yourself with the Bike

The first thing is before you stand over the bike. With the bike upright, in a step-by-step approach, go over the bike.

Tires

Check on the tire pressure. The PSI of how much pressure should be in the tire will be imprinted or printed on the tire’s sidewall. Before every ride, pump tires to the correct PSI.

Next, inspect the tires, first the front tire, then the rear tire. Make sure the tire has no tears or thorns before you begin.

Bike Tire and a Bike Pump
Essential Gear – Bike Pump

Brakes

Then, look at the brake pads. The pads should have their shape and not be worn down or cracked. Next, follow the cables from the brakes to the left brake and squeeze the lever. Make sure the brake pad moves. Next, do the same process with the right brake pad. Ensure both brakes work.

When examining the brakes, notice how one brake, typically the left, stops the front wheel. The right brake stops the rear wheel.

Engage both brakes simultaneously, with even pressure, allowing you to stop safely. Squeezing only the front brake can cause the bike to an abrupt stop in the front and too much momentum in the back. Under certain conditions, this can throw you over the handlebars (ask me how I know).

Cables

Next, follow the cables from the gears to the gear levers. Look for any frays on the cable. Squeeze the front brake levers and, next, the rear brake lever to ensure the brake pads are moving. If your bike has gears, shift gear levers to ensure the front and rear derailers move.

Chain

Lastly, inspect the bike chain. Is the chain clean and oiled? Are all the links in good working order?

After checking on all the parts of the bike, now is time to start. Put on your helmet and eyeglasses, and stand over the bike. Get ready to ride.

Next, Time to Ride Your Bike!

Now is the moment you have been waiting – the time to ride.

Location

The best place to get started is in an open space. A grassy field or an empty parking lot are good choices to start.

Starting Position

Once you pick a safe location to start, swing the leg over, and hop on the bike. With your feet flat, squeeze both brake levers from a stopped position. It can be easier to get on the bike if you lean it towards you.

If your bike has gears, put your bike into easy gear.

Time to pedal

With one foot flat on the ground, put your other foot on the pedal. The bike crank arms should be almost verticle. With the pedaling leg on the top pedal with it tipped slightly forward.

The next step is to release the brake. With the bike moving, push down with the foot on the top pedal. Lift your other foot and push down on the opposite pedal.

Start moving forward in a straight line. Then push with t one pedal and the second pedal, and your legs start pumping. 

The momentum will keep you moving and balanced on two wheels. It is easier to maintain balance with enough momentum and enough speed.

Stopping

Learning how to ride is the first part of the equation. The next step in how to ride a bike is stopping. Plan where you are going to stop. Have your hands on the brake levers before you start to stop.

When you stop, use both hands and squeeze both brakes simulation with steady pressure. As you slow down, first take your right foot off the pedal.

As you come to a stop, put your right foot on the ground. Once you come to a complete stop, placing the left foot on the ground is okay.

With both feet on the ground and one hand on the brakes, pat yourself on the back. You just learned how to ride a bike.

Learning to get on and off the bike, pedal, and the stop takes persistence and patience. Only some people pick up the skills right away. It is a learning process that takes time.

Repeat the process of each step. Start with both feet on the ground, and practice getting on and off the bike. Start pedaling in a straight line and practice stopping with both hands on your brakes.

Practice makes perfect and builds confidence. Once your confidence builds, Once you have mastered these steps, it is time to move on to turning.

How to Steer and Turn

You are off to a great start if you have mastered getting on and off your bike, starting and stopping. The next step is steering and turning. Changing directions is partly using your handlebars and your body to turn.

When turning, think of a flashlight in your belly button. Pointing your eyes and the light from your belly button will help your body turn corners.

Practice making large circles on your bike. First, circle to the right, then circle to the left. Once you feel comfortable with making large circles, please bring in the circles to make them smaller and smaller.

When comfortable with small circles, work on figure eight configurations, turning right, and then practice turning left.

Hills – Climbing and Descending

Once comfortable riding on flat ground, it is time to master the hills. Start with a slight slope. Riding up a hill requires more balance because you are riding up a hill. While descending, focus on braking.

A man riding a bike on a paved road at sunset. The trees have yellow, fall, leaves.
Cycling means freedom.

What’s Next?

Putting in the time to learn bike skills will give you the confidence to venture out past the empty parking lot or grassy field—time to ride on bike paths and roads. Be sure to read up on your local cycling laws and codes.

At first, avoid riding on busy streets or in large groups with other cyclists. After a week or two of building your confidence and learning how to ride a bike, it is okay to venture out to group rides or busier areas.

The Right Gear

Before you start, you must make sure you have the right gear. The most crucial piece of equipment is an appropriately sized bicycle. Next is protective gear, like a helmet, glasses, and cycling clothes. The third is the equipment to fix a flat.

How to Pick the Right Bike

Picking the right bike can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are several factors to consider when choosing the perfect bicycle for you.

Type of Bike

First, you must determine what type of riding you plan to do. This will help you decide on the design and features of the bike.

Are up you planning to ride on paved roads or dirt roads? A road bike, hybrid bike, or cruiser will work for paved roads. Cruisers are great for hanging around in the neighborhood.

Road bikes are for covering longer distances for an extended period. The lighter bike choice is a road bike. If you want to sign-up for your local century bike ride or cycling event, a road bike is the best option.

Do you ride a bike on dirt roads? A gravel bike or mountain bike will work. Gravel bikes are great for well-maintained dirt roads. Mountain bikes have suspension and handle technical trails and bumpy roads well.

There are many specialty bikes, from cyclocross to fat tire and BMX bikes. Most adult bikes are two-wheelers. There a three-wheeled adult trikes and recumbents.

The important thing is to choose a bike that is right for you and what you want to do. Choose a bike that has hand brakes.

Pedal breaks are hard to use and unsafe, and the skill of using pedal breaks is less transferable to riding various types of bikes.

Size

The next question is what size is right for you. Check out this basic size chart. Having long legs or a long torso may alter your best size. This chart is a starting point.

Bike Size Chart for Mountain Bikes and Road Bikes.
Essential gear in learning to ride a bike as an adult is a bike that fits.

Pedals

There are many pedals: flat, toe cages, and clip-in. If you aim to ride for many hours or to train for long-distance events, clip-in pedals are an excellent place to start. For everyone else, stick to flat pedals. 

Bikes can range from less than $100 to thousands of dollars. New or used, factor the gear into the total price of your bicycle.

Here is a basic chart on which bike size will fit you for used bikes. Ensure that you pick the right bike for the sport you are interested in.

Bike Safety – Essential when you learn how to ride a bike.

If you are planning on a used bike, make sure the tires, cables, and gears are all in working order. A bike tune-up is recommended for any used bike. Look ahead at your local bike shop for the tune-up cost and factor that into your bike budget.

A tire repair kit is an essential bike accessory. No matter how diligently we are in picking the perfect path. Flats still happen. There are some accessories that you don’t need, like a pedal wrench.

If you are planning to ride in areas with traffic or at night, front and back blinking lights are an essential accessory.

Every state has laws and regulations regarding cyclists. For an idea about your state, check out your state laws.

Dress for the Part

You may have noticed how cyclists cover their heads with helmets, flashy clothes, and spandex shorts. They don’t do them just for style points; they have a function.

Helmets

Helmets are essential in protecting your head. Check out the best bike helmets of 2023. You want to rely on something other than a used item in this area. The material designed to absorb the shock of an accident can break down over time. A helmet should be replaced every five to ten years.

Yellow bike helmet hanging from a bike handle bar.
Learn how to ride a bike. Make sure it includes essential gear like a bike helmet.

Keep your eyes safe from debris and from drying out in the wind. Wear eyeglasses.

Initially, even for road cyclists, invest in knee and elbow pads. Many mountain bikers use them regularly.

Flashy jerseys have pockets to carry everything from your wallet, phone, and food. The bright colors are to let everyone else on the road know that they are there.

Padded bike shorts keep your fanny comfy while riding for longer stretches.

It is okay if you are not ready to ride far or invest in bike shorts. If you wear long pants, fold up the left side. You don’t want the hem to get stuck in the gears.

Pro tip: Bike shorts are designed to go commando. No undies are needed.

Further Reading – If you want to learn more about Stephanie Holbrook and her work, please visit the Blog for additional Resources page.

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Ride a Bike

Is riding a bike easy?

Riding a bike can be easy once you learn how to do it. Many people didn’t learn how to ride as a child. It can take time to learn how to balance on a bike.

Everyone learns differently, but anyone can learn how to ride a bike with practice and patience.

What is the best way to stay safe while riding?

You are staying alert and wearing appropriate safety gear. Know the area where you are riding. Be a defensive cyclist. Avoid places and times of day where with heavy traffic.

How long does it take to learn how to ride a bike?

It depends on how often you practice and how comfortable you feel with your bike skills. Some people learn how to ride a bike in one afternoon, while others take several weeks or months of practice. It is essential to stay motivated and focus on the progress you make rather than perfection.

What is the best bike for beginners?

A comfortable hybrid or city-style bicycle (with flat pedals) is an excellent choice for beginners. Comfort is key. The overall bike fit and how your body and the bike interact should be considered when selecting a bike for beginner riders.

Can you teach yourself to ride a bike?

Yes, you can teach yourself how to ride a bike. Finding an open space is essential as practicing the basics of starting and stopping, steering, turning, and braking before venturing out in large groups or on busier roads. Take your time learning to gain balance, ride a bike safely, and enjoy the process.

Ready to ride for an event?

Check out my coaching services, or start training with a training plan. Let me know how it is going for you to learn to ride a bike.

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