Adult learning to ride a bike

A woman I work with, age about 30, has never learned to ride a bike. We don't know what advice to give her except keep trying. I learned to cycle as a child, just did it like most others.

I went to a cycle shop and they said they could hire out a stabiliser for an adult bike but she says she would be embarrassed. I also read up cycling for children that suggests using the bike without pedals and just scootering along until a balance is obtained. I am inclined to think even a child can be self conscious about learning but the end result is the motivation. Any ideas?


  • popsiderpopsider ✭✭✭

    Yes take the pedals off and lower the saddle a touch til she can scoot - 2 feet at a time and try and keep the feet off the ground as long as possible - if you can scoot you can balance which means you can ride.   Also I don't know if this is a national initiative but round here adults can get a free course of lessons so maybe look into that.   

  • I can appreciate her embarassment, but if she perseveres, she will be able to ride a bike and never need to feel awkward again.  I work with someone who couldn't swim until her 30s.  She felt like everyone was looking at her, but worked through it and can swim.  The thing to remember is that once she can do it, it will look to the outsider that she's been doing it forever.

    Keep saddle low, so she can put both feet on the ground.  Other than that.... time.... just keep doing it and she will get there.

  • Do you mean she's never learnt - keeps trying and falling off or never learnt - never been on a bike?

    I was in my twenties when I got my first bike and learnt to ride it. Ten minutes in an empty car park, saddle low enough to put my feet down. If she's tried scooting etc and is still struggling there are some very elegant ladies tricycles out there.
  • NayanNayan ✭✭✭

    Buy her a fixie. Dont bother with the balance bike scooting thing - just tell her to put on some skinny jeans, grow a bread and change her name to Jules or Tarquin, and move to Shoreditch to set up an iphone app company on a government grant. She'll fit right in.


  • The removing the pedals thing is brilliant.   We're doing this with our grand-daughter at the minute and she able to balance and scoot down hills in a matter of days - it was a new one on us - getting the pedals off is kinda tricky but our local bike shop said they do it for a tenner - butt didn't count on MrGFB's brute force approach image

  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭
    gingerfurball wrote (see)

    getting the pedals off is kinda tricky but our local bike shop said they do it for a tenner

    A 15mm spanner and a youtube video will cost less than 15 pounds.  image


  • It can be done, I didn't learn to ride a bike until in my fifties.  And no I never had a bike as a child (parents saw them a dangerous as lived in London).  It does come together as others have said just got to keep on trying.


    Have now done a couple of tri's just got to get a grip with the clipless pedals now and that's not coming so easy.

  • Miffi wrote (see)
    Do you mean she's never learnt - keeps trying and falling off or never learnt - never been on a bike?
    I was in my twenties when I got my first bike and learnt to ride it. Ten minutes in an empty car park, saddle low enough to put my feet down. If she's tried scooting etc and is still struggling there are some very elegant ladies tricycles out there.

    Miffi, I have assumed my colleague has tried to ride and just keeps falling off. She must have tried someone's bike and not the sort to give up easily. She is good at running, golf and swimming. Without any real training she can do well at various track and field events.

    As I said we could only say "keep trying" and most posts suggest the same. The only new idea was take the pedals off for scootering of which I will tell her. I had hoped to hear of some new modern ways to learn from the forum cycling enthusiasts. 

    I have said nobody will be bothered for the short time she would need stabilisers, if they even notice. Where we are the pavements are signed for cycling so no need for the road and there are industrial estates with quiet carparks at the weekend. So long as she avoids teens and twentysomethings I don't think anybody will heckle her especially if she is with friends. I don't have a bike but might do something about that!

  • SuperCazSuperCaz ✭✭✭

    Car parks are good.  Or a quiet cycle path with grass on either side to provide a soft landing.  Early Sunday morning is a good time to go out.

    I *may* have used this approach myself to get my confidence up

  • Practise on a canal path image the added concentration will do wonders image 

  • No canal or towpaths where we are but those are good ideas for learners. The added bonus of falling in the canal is not to be missed by those also learning to swim!

  • Gentle grassy slope with a gentle run off onto flat and freewheel down with the pedals off

  • Sticky88Sticky88 ✭✭✭

    Not sure which region you're in, but I tried go:cycling in West Yorkshire, and I highly recommend them!! They're free, and they do and 1-to-1. I'm sure there are similar programme elsewhere.

    I had not been on a bike for 20 years, I wobbled on the first bike I went on outside a bike shop, fell into some bushes on my first ride out! I booked onto the free training course, 3 lessons, I said I couldn't lift my hands off the handle bars to do hand signals, he said 'you will at the end of this 2 hours', and he was right!!! I had endless cycling round and round in a deserted car park (sunday mornings are best!), as I was too embarrassed at my zero confidence and terrified of traffic.

    3 months later, I cycled from Paris to Leeds, all 500 miles of it!

    Granted I could cycle 20 years before, unlike your collegue,  but do check out local free courses for adults, they are qualified instructors with a knack of teaching adults! Good luck with your collegue! image

  • Sticky88. Thank you that is just the sort of thing that I was looking for but unfortunately not in our part of the country. I did try to find something like this but even "gocycling" did not turn up. Apparently Germany has lots of this sort of thing for adult learners and I suggested she go for a short holiday! A short holiday in West Yorkshire will be my next suggestion. Thanks again. image

  • My husband learnt to ride a bike in his late 40s - he was the youngest of 4 children and his parents were fed up of having bikes around that his older siblings didn't ride, so when he came along they didn't get him one and he didn't learn to ride!  He also lived in London, but still. Total dereliction of parental duty - there are certain things that kids must learn to do and swimming and riding a bike are two of them.

    Anyway he found a local teacher (we're in Hampshire, he learnt with a guy in Reigate but since then I've seen a lot more websites locally).  I would have thought that at least some of your local schools run the bikeability scheme and the people who do that will probably teach adults as well.  My husband said that the teacher did say something to him that was like a lightbulb moment - and he learnt to ride in an hour and a half. He's not confident at all and will only ride in a park with nobody around, but at least he can balance and managed to ride a few miles along a cycle path in Jersey last summer on a hired bike. Try the bikeability website or the CTC or similar - I am sure someone will help.

  • Thanks Hellywobs. All these ideas will benefit anybody wanting to learn how to cycle.

  • CindersCinders ✭✭✭

    Are there any online vids or tips? 

  • Cinders, that the thing about cycling, it is not something technical like swimming. You just get on and go so the initial problem is balance or staying mounted. I don't think video would help solve that problem.

    Simply put, the seat and back wheel is where you balance and the handlebar manoeuvre of the front wheel is mostly navigation, point it in the direction in which you want to go. Since the back wheel is also what propels the bike the action of pedalling is probably what unbalances the beginner so the handlebar can also help balance. All this needs personal practise and as you say tips..

    Tips or ideas such as practise without pedals and find a quiet car park and find a spot with grass for a soft fall are good. I see nothing wrong with those or using stabilisers or someone holding the seat while you pedal except adult embarrassment but the upside is that it will not take long.

    One website said a good instructor will have you balanced and cycling within 90 minutes but indicating and turning corners will take a little longer!

  • I checked with my husband and he said that the "lightbulb" moment was basically what Martenkay says above - steer in the direction you want to go.  He said that learners tend to keep the handlebars rigid whereas you need to move them.  I don't know if that helps, but maybe it will image

  • Age is just a number you need to target goals and give your 100% to achieve them. I read lots of article from for motivation
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