We never forget how to ride a bike but it’s easy to overlook the fact that not everyone learns to do so. It takes strength of character to learn as an adult. Don’t let that put you off. Riding a bike is fantastically liberating, and it’s a skill you can pick up at any age.
Do it yourself
You’ll need a roadworthy bike of the right size, ideally with a flat handlebar, and a traffic-free area with a firm surface, such as tennis court or playground.
Remove the pedals; the lefthand one unscrews clockwise. Lower the saddle so that you can sit on it with both feet flat on the floor. Apply both brakes and lean the bike towards you so you can step over the top tube and sit on the saddle.
Now release the brakes and ‘walk’ the bike, like a child on a balance bike. Push off with one foot and then the other. Look ahead, not at your feet. Practise using the brakes to stop. As your confidence increases walk more quickly, then as you push off with one foot, try raising both feet just off the ground, so the bike is freewheeling. A gentle slope helps.
When you’ve mastered this and can coast for seconds at a time, refit the pedals. Set your preferred pedal in the two o’clock position and put a foot on it, with the other on the ground. Push down firmly to get moving. As you coast, lift your other foot onto the pedal. Look ahead. As you gain in confidence, you’ll get in more pedal strokes in before stopping. Keep practising. Remember: you go where you look.
The above drill is easier if you’ve got someone to help you with it. To find a National Standards accredited cycle trainer, visit the Bikeability website and enter the name of your local authority in the search box. Don’t be put it off by the images of children – Bikeability is for all ages.
There are three levels to Bikeability. Level 1 deals with bike control in a traffic-free setting, so focuses on basic skills such as stopping, steering around objects, and so on. Level 2 teaches you how to cycle on single-lane roads, making left and right turns, etc. Level 3 deals with cycling on busy roads. Fees range from nothing, if subsidised by the local authority, up to £30-£40 per hour.
Balance problem solutions
Not everyone can balance a two-wheeler. You may be prevented by injury, infirmity, disability, or a medical condition. The solution is a three-wheeler. A tricycle doesn’t need to be balanced; it’s stable by itself. It’s actually easier to ride a trike if you can’t ride a bike, as you don’t have to unlearn the skill of steeering-by-leaning.
Adult tricyles are available in upright and recumbent layouts. While they’re generally more expensive, they are available for under £1,000 and you can get one through Cyclescheme.
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