How to Ride a Bike

Learning to ride a bike can seem nerve wracking. Ask anyone around you and they  likely will share stories of falling and scraped knees. But they will also tell you about taking those first few exhilarating pedals and the joy and weightlessness of gliding on your bike!

For generations, people have used the “toss em’ into the deep end” approach when teaching others how to ride a bike. They may get bumps and bruises along the way, but eventually they learn to ride a bike.

Riding a bike is a lot easier than you think! WABA’s Learn to Ride classes take an easier approach, breaking down the process into three easy to follow steps. We are so confident that our technique works that we are happy to share our methods with you to try out at home. You can use these to teach yourself how to ride or to teach others, including kids!

What You’ll Need

  • A bike – we recommend one that has you sitting upright. 
  • A helmet 
  • A flat, wide open surface – like a parking lot or a quiet street 

Tip: If you don’t have a bike or helmet, our Learn to Ride classes are a great option since they include a bike and helmet rental.

Before You Get On Your Bike 

Before you get started, be sure to check out our tips on how to properly fit your helmet and size your bike.

How to Ride

Now, you are ready! You’ve got your helmet on, your bike properly fitted and you’re standing in a wide open parking lot, not a car in sight. The next thing to do is learn to ride a bike. Here are the three simple steps that our highly experienced instructors use at our Learn to Ride classes.

Step One: Learning to Glide 

In order for the bike to glide, you’ll have to first gain momentum. Sit on the saddle (just a fancy name for a seat) with your hands on the handlebars, fingers on your brakes, and your feet flat on the ground. Begin rocking back and forth, shifting your weight from your heels to the balls of your feet. The bike should move with you, but your feet should not leave the ground. Continue to rock, gaining a bit more speed as you push your weight backwards and forwards. When you are ready, push off the balls of your feet and glide forward. Kick your feet out on either side to help maintain balance. 

The goal is to be able to keep your feet up off of the ground for as long as you can. Once you start to slow down practice using your brakes. You should practice pressing down on the brakes to see how long it takes you to come to a complete stop. Once you are able to maintain a controlled glide across the length of a parking lot (a few hundred yards) you are ready to move on to step two! 

Tip: This is hard work! It is ok to take breaks or to split the step over a few hours our days!

Tip: This step can be easier if you take your pedals off. It prevents you from banging up your shins. 

Step Two: Finding the Pedals

Now that you are able to balance on a moving bike, let’s move on to gaining momentum. Bicycles are human powered machines. You use your legs (or hands if you are riding a hand-pedal bike!) to propel yourself forward. When you pedal, you  move the chain and gears that control the wheels. 

Sit on the saddle with your hands on the handlebars and fingers on the brakes. Using your dominant foot,move the pedal to the “2 o-clock” position. This is called Power Pedal Position – when you push down it will help you gain the most momentum. 

To start, push off and press down on the pedal. Kick your non-dominant foot out to the side to help maintain balance. As you begin to slow down, use your brakes to come to a complete stop. Reset your pedal until you are in the Power Pedal Position and do it all over again. Keep practicing until you are able to maintain a controlled glide across the parking lot. 

On your next glide, instead of kicking your non-dominant foot out to the side, try to find the pedal. With both feet on the pedals, each leg will take turns pushing down to help propel you forward. This step is tricky, but keep practicing over and over until you get it. 

Step Three: Pedaling in Control 

You’re doing it! You’ve learned to balance, gain momentum, and now you are able to pedal. The last step is putting it all together. Start at one end of the parking lot. Give yourself plenty of space to work with. Place your dominant foot on the pedal and your non-dominant foot on the ground. Push down the pedal and add your second foot as you move forward. The faster you pedal, the easier it is to stay upright. As you gain more control and confidence, you can practice riding in circles, making turns and coming to a controlled stop. More practice will help you get the hang of it, but stop for a second to congratulate yourself, because you just learned to ride a bike! 

Tip: Now that you know how to ride a bicycle, WABA’s City Cycling classes are a great way to boost your confidence and get you riding on trails or the road.

Get Help in Person!

Learning to ride by yourself or teach others can be hard. If you are struggling, we are here to help you! WABA’s Learn to Ride classes take the same easy, three-step approach. We provide the instruction, equipment and support you need to learn to ride in no time. We have classes for adults and youth across the Washington region from spring to fall. Classes start at $10!