How to ride a bike

How to Ride a Bike

We wrote these instructions for people of all ages who have not learned to ride a two-wheeled bike.  It explains how, if you already have a bike which fits you.  If you don’t, we have all sizes of “balance bikes” (without pedals, cranks or chains) that you can use in our parking lot, or borrow to practice with at home (with a $25 deposit).

We’ll lend you a helmet if you don’t bring one, and show you how to get started. We offer this service for free (but donations are appreciated), because it’s part of our mission to “help people use bicycles.”

The “balance bike” method:
You probably already know how to pedal a bike from riding a tricycle, or on a stationary bike or with training wheels, so that’s easy. The hard part is finding your balance, and keeping it.  So you won’t have to worry about falling, the easiest way to learn to balance is by sitting on the seat and pushing the bike along with your feet on the ground, instead of on the pedals.  
How it works:

You balance on a bike by steering to keep the bike underneath you. When you start to lean too far to one side, you steer toward that side.  By starting with your feet off the pedals where you can put them on the ground quickly, you can keep yourself from falling while you learn how much to steer.  It’s the same as using a push-scooter, only with a seat.

Don’t use the pedals at first — but don’t hit your shins on them while you are pushing along. If they are in your way, you can learn how to take them off at the bottom of this page.

What to do:

Wear a helmet! Even if you never fall, it helps if you don’t have to worry so much about hurting your head. Also, wear shoes that will stay on your feet (like tennis shoes: not flip flops!), and clothes that won’t get caught on the bike.

Put the seat where you can just reach the ground with your feet almost flat. Put the handlebars where you can reach them sitting straight up on the seat. Don’t put the seatpost or handlebar stem up past the safety line! Make sure they are tight (try to turn them while holding the wheel between your legs).

Pick a spot without traffic (cars, bikes or walkers!) that is flat, smooth, wide, and long enough. There are lots of good spots in school yards.  Be sure you have room to come to a stop (don’t ride out a driveway into the street)!

Sit on the seat with your feet on the ground. Turn the handlebars to see how they feel. Keep your arms loose and relaxed. Without rolling forward (or backward!) pick up one foot, balance on the seat, and start to lean toward the foot that is up: stop yourself from falling by putting your foot back down. Try this on both sides a few times. Then try picking up both feet at the same time, and see how long you can balance. Keep your feet out where you can put them down quickly: don’t put them on the pedals, or on the bike frame.

The important part:

Now start pushing the bike along with your feet on the ground. You can use one foot at a time, like walking, or both together, like hopping.  Be sure to sit on the seat — don’t just walk on the ground — and look up where you are going, not down at the bike. Relax your arms, and practice steering!

Remember to hold your feet out where you can put them on the ground easily, and where you won’t scrape your shins on the pedals. When you can glide a long way without touching either foot to the ground, you can put them up on the pedals and start pedaling.

If you want to remove the pedals:

They are on tight, so use the right wrench, hold the wrench all the way at the end, and be careful of smashing your fingers between the wrench and the bike. The left pedal (on the left side when you sit on the bike) has left-hand threads, so turn it clockwise to loosen. The right pedal has right-hand threads so turn it counter-clockwise to loosen. A good method is to put the pedal forward and the wrench pointing back, and push down on them both while you lean over the bike from the opposite side, so it doesn’t roll away from you. To put the pedals back on once you have gotten your balance, do the reverse. They are marked “L” and “R,” for left and right. Be sure they are on tight.

If you need help:

If you want a hand practicing, fitting the bike, or taking off the pedals, we’ll help you at the Ohio City Bicycle Co-op for free (donations are appreciated!).  Our number is 216 830 2667.