Okay, it happens. You get through adolescence skipping over one of the seminal steps of growing up. Like missing that first kiss, you find yourself in adulthood with no memories of skinned knees or the thrill of your first real freedom…somehow you never learned to ride a bike. That’s okay, you are still a good person. And the good news is that it is not too late to learn. Follow these steps and you will be pedaling your way to fulfilling adventures and creating memorable experiences with friends and family.
1. First, You Need a Bike
If you don’t know how to ride a bike, you probably don’t have a bike in the first place and the cramped spaces found in many cities do not lend themselves to keeping one around just in case you decide to learn. Find a place where you can rent bikes by the hour. When you are starting to learn you really don’t need more than an hour or so at a time. Also, consider the type of bike to rent. Fat bikes are popular now and have extra-wide tires that make balance a little easier. Think about bikes that will keep you a little closer to the ground so the perception of falling a scary distance is decreased.
2. Find the Right Place to Practice
A flat grassy field works the best. Grass will make the potential falls less traumatic and will give you more confidence when trying to learn to balance on two wheels. Also try finding a place that is semi-private to protect your potential fragile ego and keep you from offending anyone when you start to curse. A local high school track works well on the weekend, try going in the morning. Parks are also a good choice, try to pick a time when not a lot of kids will be there. Remember, you are the adult, you have more choices.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
The process will go slow at first, just keep trying, you will get it. I promise. The great thing about the brain is that it will store information from one ride to the next and your muscles and coordination will quickly learn the repetitive movements to keep you balanced. Another benefit of learning to ride as an adult is that you can reward yourself with ice cream…or beer to provide additional motivation to keep practicing (beer after practice of course). Keep your practice sessions short at first to reduce the stress and anxiety. Try an hour once or twice a week for a few weeks; you will be pedaling with confidence in no time.
4. Increase the Challenge Slowly
Once you have mastered the basics and can start, stop, and ride continuously for several trips around the track, it is time to try more challenging rides. Try longer rides in more difficult environments; hills and trails will provide variety and increase skills. Be mindful of hitting the busy city streets before you are ready. Cars, bikes, and pedestrians come fast in the city; you have to be a master of your bike to react appropriately and to anticipate problems. Stay on the quiet streets and park paths for several months before engaging in the contact sport of city riding. Remember to go slow; you have your whole life to enjoy the sport.
5. Make Some Bike Friends
A benefit of learning to ride a bike as an adult is that it can be a great social experience. Once you learn, you will find that many of your friends also bike and were just waiting for you to go with them. You can add biking to your social repertoire and exercise while building stronger friendships. Throw a lunch and some water into a bicycle travel bag and head out on a bike adventure over the weekend. You will soon find that both your biking skills and social relationships have improved.