Cycling is liberating
Look at how happy I am in the featured image. I don’t think that I’ve ever looked happier. In a previous post I wrote about how liberating it was to learn how to ride a bike at 25. It was traumatic, but worthwhile. Cycling is an important part of my life; from riding to the shops to campaigning for a more sustainable society. I’ve had a number of people reach out to me and comment on how uplifting the article was. A few of those mentioned that it had made them think about learning to ride a bike. The number of people on twitter who are taking to cycling for the first time or the first time in a long time is exciting. I feel that I can offer some advice as to how to go about learning to ride a bike as an adult. Learning to ride a bike is about trying to balance until you can balance. If you keep practicing eventually your body will learn the skill. It is important to say that there are many ways to learn to ride a bike. Different methods will work for different people. The way I learned may not be suitable for everybody.
What not to do
I had tried to learn to ride a bike as an adult unsuccessfully before I achieved the goal. What I did when I failed to learn was go to a park and try to pedal on somebodies’ bike. I failed to push off and after about an hour I lost the will and went home sad. Trying to pedal on uneven grass was not helpful. I ended up feeling worse off than before I tried to learn. The experience was embarrassing.
The second successful attempt
As I detailed in a previous post. I went to a professional to learn how to ride a bike. I don’t think that you need a professional to help you to learn, but what the professional did was reassure me that I could learn. When I failed at the start, he asserted that this was normal and that if I continued then I would learn eventually. By the end of the second lesson I could balance without falling off and by the end of the week I could pedal and balance. Fun fact. I learned to cycle on a Brompton.
The first thing that my cycling instructor did, was tell me how to use the brakes. British bikes tend to have front and rear brakes controlled on the handlebars. He showed me how to use them. For the purpose of my lesson he told me to gently use both brakes at once. I would not be going fast enough to need to do anything dramatic with the brakes.
Trepidation on a slight hill
Next up we started at the top of a slight decline. Not a big hill, but a gentle slope that I could roll down without having to pedal. My instructor said to me don’t worry about pedalling. You can pedal once you can balance unaided. I attempted to balance down the hill on the bicycle. I did not get very far. I walked the bike back to the top of the slope and tried again. I did not get very far. I tried again. My instructor kept telling me that I would I would be able to balance eventually. I did not believe my instructor, but I kept going. This pattern repeated itself, but the more I attempted, the further I travelled. By the end of the first lesson I was getting much further than at the start, but I could not completely balance unaided. On the next day I had another lesson, where the process was repeated. By the end of the second lesson I could balance until the bottom of the slope. I would stop when I ran out of momentum. Once balancing was taken care off, it was then time to learn to pedal. In a repeat of the balancing exercise, my initial attempts to pedal were not successful. I’d pedal for a for a few metres and then stop, but as with balancing, the more I pedalled, the further I could go. By the end of the fourth lesson I could balance and pedal. Manoeuvering was still problematic. Trying to go in the direction I wanted was difficult, but I could stay upright. The final lesson was spent trying to cycle in and out of cones, with mixed success. Beyond the lessons, I kept cycling and bit by bit I got better at handling the bike. On a couple of occasions, I may have stopped by using inanimate objects rather than my brakes. Handling became easier. I went on to buy a bike. I may write a post offering advice as to what bike to buy depending on your needs.
Worth the Trauma
Learning to ride a bike was terrifying, but I eventually succeeded. It took a lot of patience from my instructor and the willingness to keep trying to get me to be able to ride a bike. We are moving towards UK cities finally seeing the value of cycling as a mode of transport. If you’ve never ridden a bike before, now is a great time to give it a go. I find riding my bike to be much more liberating than driving a car, where I sit in rush hour traffic, breathing in illegal levels of air pollution. Learning to ride a bike is worth the trauma, please give it a go.
If you would like professional help learning to ride a bike or how to cycle safely on roads, co-operator and cycle instructor Phil Beardmore could help you. He is not taking bookings currently due to the lockdown, but once cycle instructors can work again, he will take bookings. His website is www.pedalahead.co.uk