How to Learn to Ride a Bicycle Without an Instructor


Perhaps you’ve found yourself sitting on a park bench and noticed the colorful parade of bicycles rolling by and the smiles on the faces of the riders. It looks fun, but you never learned how to ride a pedal bike.

An adult cyclist getting ready to learn how to ride

You’re not alone if the idea of finding an instructor to teach you—a grown person—how to ride a bike seems daunting. That’s OK, because you’ve come to the right place. You can easily learn to ride your bike alone.

No teacher, no problem

Let’s say you’ve got your bike and your helmet and you’re ready to learn to ride.

If you have the bicycle but not the helmet… Stop! You only have one brain. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

First steps in learning to ride a bike

Adjust your bicycle seat height so that it’s low enough for you to put your feet flat on the ground. Find a quiet street or parking lot nearby, preferably with a gentle slope.

OK, you’re ready. Now what?

Mount your bicycle

Now that you’re in your chosen location, go on and throw your leg over the bicycle and have a seat. Make sure both of your feet can touch the ground and lay flat.

Close up of feet reaching to the ground on either side of a bike
If your seat is low enough, you should have an easy time getting both feet on the ground. (© Samuel Cockman | Creative Commons)

Get to know your brakes

Next, put your hands on the grips and familiarize yourself with the brakes. You should be able to easily hold your balance with your feet on the ground and your rear end on the seat.

Roll slightly downhill

Allow yourself to roll forward slightly with your feet barely touching the ground. Do this several times down a slight decline to get your speed up. The faster you go, the easier it is to stay upright and steer.

Lift your feet to the pedals

Once you’ve rolled down a slight decline a few times with your feet out and you’ve managed to scoot along without falling over, are you ready for the big leagues my friend? Now is the time. Scoot again to the point where you feel comfortable lifting your feet and putting them on the pedals. You can do it!

Did you crash?

If not, woo hoo! Great job.

If you did, well… that’s why we fall off, so we can try again!

Remember that the faster you go, the more stable the bike is. Don’t feel rushed to think you need to try and pedal right away. Hold the front wheel pointing straight and try not to make rapid movements. Ride smoothly.

Keep the seat low, your feet out, and practice gliding along the ground and gaining the confidence to pull your legs in and start pedaling. Don’t feel shy if people are watching. Riding a bicycle is one of the most rewarding things and even strangers will want to share in the joy of your success.

You won’t be going fast at first, but remember, at higher speeds you don’t want to hit the front brake too hard or your body’s momentum could carry you over the handlebars.

More tips for beginner cyclists

Tie your shoelaces

One of the most dangerous things you can do is ride with loose shoelaces. They can come undone while riding and get caught in the bike chain. They can also sneakily wrap around the base of the pedal. You can get hurt real bad if all of a sudden you feel your shoe growing extremely tight while riding. To counter this, pedal backward to untangle your lace.

Wear appropriate clothing

Baggy clothing can easily get caught in your gearing or wrapped up in the chain. Don’t wear your nicest pants, either, as the chain can sometimes brush against your leg depending on how you ride, leaving a nasty grease stain. On the bright side, other cyclists will recognize one of their own!

Avoid slippery surfaces

Your bike will react differently on different surfaces. If sand is present, watch out. Your tires can slide sideways much more easily on sandy pavement than nearly anywhere else. Be careful of wet leaves as well. Trying to stop on slick, wet leaves can have you tasting the pavement in a jiffy. Yeowch!

You’ll be an expert in no time

A cyclist waves from a bike path
Soon you’ll be joining the ranks of happy cyclists on the bike path. (© Oran Viriyinci | Creative Commons)

It was said that Johnny B. Goode could play a guitar just like ringing a bell. It became second nature to him, much like riding a bike will become easy for you. People learn at their own rate. If you find yourself unable to master it the first time you try, don’t despair! Nothing worth anything in life comes easy. If you’re an adult and you’ve hesitated out of fear of getting hurt or being embarrassed, no worries my friend. Simply start with the scoot method, conquer your fears of lifting those footsies off the ground, and have at it.

You’ll be blowing the spandex off wannabe Lance Armstrongs in traffic before you know it.