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  1. #1
    Senior Member jagged's Avatar
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    Teaching someone to ride

    What is the best way to teach a 30+ year-old adult how to ride a bike? By "how to ride," I don't mean how to ride vehicularly; I mean how to maintain balance, pedal, turn, shift gears, and so on. Apparently the guy grew up without ever having a bike. Pride is a serious factor, so training wheels are not a possibility.

  2. #2
    contrarian lala's Avatar
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    I've heard, initially, it's good to let the rider scoot around on the bike with no pedals. (Obvious the seat is at a height where his/her feet can comfortably reach the ground.) That way, the rider can learn about balance without depending on such things as training wheels. Maybe also engage in some tandem action. After that tho, I don't know.
    Higher ground for the apocalypse!

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    start off on the grass, maybe, with the seat down. It's just a matter of letting go and doing it. Training wheels will only prolong the agony of learning, anyways.

  4. #4
    Bent_Rider
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    Quote Originally Posted by lala
    I've heard, initially, it's good to let the rider scoot around on the bike with no pedals. (Obvious the seat is at a height where his/her feet can comfortably reach the ground.) That way, the rider can learn about balance without depending on such things as training wheels. Maybe also engage in some tandem action. After that tho, I don't know.

    That's the way to do it all right, also have them start out on a down slope so they can coast.
    And yes, have them on a bike that allowes them to keep their feet on the ground.

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    Its easier if there is less stuff on the bike (ie a simple singlespeed). If not, then ensure that you pick an easy pedalling gear and leave it there.
    Dress in long sleeves, pants and gloves to protect against abrasion.
    The two important lessons are:
    1. How to go.
    2. How to stop.
    Advise that you teach lesson 2 first. Teach them how to brace their arms, apply the brakes without grabbing, lean to one side and put their foot out. NOT to touch their foot on the ground whilst moving.
    Lesson 1, how to go: Start with one foot on the ground and other foot on the pedal at 3:00. Apply weight to pedal and you will go.
    Ride in slalom curves, leaning to turn and steering to recover balance.
    Gradually increase the length of curves till they are effectively riding a straight line.
    You may want to hold on to their back or saddle whilst they practice gentle slalom curves.

  6. #6
    Listen to me powers2b's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lala
    I've heard, initially, it's good to let the rider scoot around on the bike with no pedals. (Obvious the seat is at a height where his/her feet can comfortably reach the ground.) That way, the rider can learn about balance without depending on such things as training wheels. Maybe also engage in some tandem action. After that tho, I don't know.
    Lala, you are truly wise in the ways of cycling....
    We call it a balance bike. It's a bike with the cranks removed. The student uses their feet to propel themselves (or a gentle grade) and can concentrate on balance and handling without having to "commit" to putting their feet on pedals.

    Enjoy

  7. #7
    No Rocket Surgeon eubi's Avatar
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    ...kind of like a Draisine...

  8. #8
    scofflaw
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    First off, I think it's geat that your friend wants to learn to ride. More powewr to him!
    Bicycling magazine has the best article I 've read to teach a child to ride, but it would
    work for an adult as well. Here's the attached url.

    http://www.bicycling.com/article/0,3...ategory_id=364

    Good Luck!

  9. #9
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    Everyone I tell this to thinks it cruel, but here's how I was taught to ride a bike by my father. He never let me have training wheels (he didn't let me play tee-ball, either) and I didn't mind his teaching method.

    All you need is one grassy decline and a bicycle.
    1--Push rider down the decline, letting them balance on their own until they fall.
    2--Repeat until they don't fall.

  10. #10
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anthony King
    All you need is one grassy decline and a bicycle.
    1--Push rider down the decline, letting them balance on their own until they fall.
    2--Repeat until they don't fall.
    It seems this method might be better for children, who more or less have rubber bones, and who are used to falling all the time. Adults are likely to break before they bounce, and they tend to view an encounter with gravity as an indignity.

  11. #11
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    My experience in teaching adults to ride a bike indicates it is not so simple as some would portray.

    Yes, remove pedals and have them scoot. Firstly on flat ground as bunny hops, then kangaroo hops. Then put the pedals back on, etc, etc.

    But there are a number of other factors that come into ADULT training as opposed to kid training.

    The first is the considerable fear factor. It cannot be underestimated. Invariably, the process of learning to ride a bike is very stressful. The indicators are shaking fingers when a hand is held out horizontally, sore hands from gripping the bars very tightly, sweating for reasonably low effort, and so on.

    Routine also is important. People who "know" how to ride a bike do it almost intuitively, and unfortunately, there are many many bad habits that interfere with getting adults to ride properly. In my experience, there are too many to list, but... it can result in unwarranted injury (even broken ankles and stuff like that).

    Our courses also test out people's ability to balance. And we demonstrate how it is essential for them to look ahead when starting to pedal, and to "look where you want to go". It's an adult learning thing whereby understanding why things work the way they do assists in them being able to do those things.

    Learning sessions should be kept short. Each of the two sessions in our course cover two hours, with about half classroom and half practical. Many breaks are taken in the practical because of the emotional and physical stress. We usually have people riding before the end of the first two-hour session. The revelation expressed by the riders themselves is worth the patience and effort for everyone concerned.

    If the OP is serious about helping an adult to learn, PM me and I will send you our material to assist you in understanding the issues, and how we go about the process.

    Essentially, teaching adults is vastly different from teaching kids. And a tutor should NOT be emotionally attached to the student.


  12. #12
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Regarding falling, in addition to having more brittle bones than kids, adults are also falling from a greater height, with greater mass.

    Along the "scooter" idea, my 5-year-old just learned to go without the training wheels last summer, and at the same time, we got him one of those little Razor scooters. We think that the scooter helped his sense of balance with the bike, too. So that's another option, although just wheeling along with the bike is probably easier.
    Quote Originally Posted by MadfiNch on Commuting forum
    What's the point of a bike if you can only ride it on weekends, and you can't even carry anything with you?!
    Portland Maine Bicycle Commuting Meetup

  13. #13
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    My 2 cents? Besides the advice everyone else gave, adjust or remove the front brake so that it's not grabbed in a panic stop by someone learning to balance and turn. That just seems like a disaster to me.

  14. #14
    DEADBEEF khuon's Avatar
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    A little pricey but if all else fails...

    http://www.bikepartsusa.com/product_...lizers&large=1

    1999 K2 OzM 2001 Aegis Aro Svelte OCP Club Member
    "Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send." -- Jon Postel, RFC1122

  15. #15
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    Thanks Bento Box Boy

  16. #16
    2-Cyl, 1/2 HP @ 90 RPM slvoid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by khuon
    A little pricey but if all else fails...

    http://www.bikepartsusa.com/product_...lizers&large=1

    I'm going to pretend I never saw that....

  17. #17
    2-Cyl, 1/2 HP @ 90 RPM slvoid's Avatar
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    Well I might just as well suck it up and admit it.
    I NEVER knew how to ride my bike until about 2 years ago. Never learned. And as an adult, yes, there's a lot of pride on the line. I recommend starting with something cheap and disposable (just in case it's not the thing for your friend, no harm done), as long as you adjust it so that the majority of the parts work, that's fine.
    Put it in a gear where you can pedal at around 60-70 rpm at around 10mph, no more to start with and never touch it again. Either disable or rotate the front brake all the way down so he won't touch it, rely on the rear brake initially until he can control the bike, then teach him to use the front properly. Lower the seat so it's easy to get the feet on the ground if he goes off balance. Distance matters a lot, do not have him practice in a small lot, you need enough distance to get up to speed (1/8 mile at least) in order to really balance well. Wobbling around in an empty lot won't help. Have him wear knee pads under his clothes, he will most likely fall a few times as I did. Do not have him wobbling around at 2mph. Try to have him push off with his feet and "coast" the bike as far as possible with his feet off the ground holding onto the handle bars. With enough distance and speed, the bike should almost balance by itself (it took me about a year to realize this and be able to ride no handed down the street).

    The most important thing is a patient teacher, especially for an adult. If his pride is shot, learning becomes next to impossible. In my case, my gf was patient enough to stay with me for about 2 afternoons, which is about how long it took me to learn how to ride straight and steer w/o falling. I started with a cheap walmart bike and within about a month, I tried a 5 mile commute. 3 months later, my gf bought me a specialized hardrock for a present and 6 months later, I had increased it to a 10 mile round trip commute, bought my first road bike. A year later, I was doing a 25 mile round trip commute. Now I have 3 bikes in my room and I'm rapidly running out of space to walk.

    I guess try to curb his enthusiasm so he doesn't end up like me.

  18. #18
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    No-one should ever fall off a bike if they are taking part in a structured training program to teach them to ride a bike properly. There is no need to armour to protect them.

    Again, I point out that the tutor should not be emotionally attached to the student.

    I'm still waiting for the PM, by the way.

  19. #19
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    Rowan, I am extremely interested in any information that you can share regarding teaching an adult to ride!

    I do hope that you are still in posession of said information as this thread seems somewhat old. I will PM right now, if I can figure out how. Many thanks in advance, as this threadhas been extremely helpful already!!!

    ~j!
    Last edited by Coluch; 06-19-08 at 12:09 AM.

  20. #20
    Bicycle planner and coach John Ciccarelli's Avatar
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    I've taught over 300 adults and kids (mostly adults) how to ride. Most adults require two lessons of two hours each to get all the way to confident turning (figure-8s) and shifting gears; a few do it all in one lesson. My method is described here:

    Learn To Bicycle At Any Age

    Several other instructors and groups around the U.S. have developed this coaching as a specialty. Susan McLucas and Pata Suyemoto of the Bicycle Riding School in Somerville, MA offer group classes and have taught over 2,000 adults. Bike New York offers adult learn-to-ride classes in the New York City area. In Canada, Can-Bike's Adult Learn To Ride 1 class is offered in various cities.

    John Ciccarelli
    Bicycle Solutions
    "Expert Coaching for Confident Cycling"
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    League Cycling Instructor #453
    Last edited by John Ciccarelli; 08-06-11 at 10:22 PM. Reason: Updated content and signature, added more links.

  21. #21
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    I've just joined Bike Forums(after coming across this post) and tried sending a PM to Rowan (but wasn't allowed as I haven't made 50 posts yet!?).

    I am trying to teach myself to ride as a fairly old newbie without much luck as yet and would love to read about how you suggest adults should learn. If you can Pm me that would be great.

    Thanks

    Newbikie

  22. #22
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Newbikie View Post
    I've just joined Bike Forums(after coming across this post) and tried sending a PM to Rowan (but wasn't allowed as I haven't made 50 posts yet!?).

    I am trying to teach myself to ride as a fairly old newbie without much luck as yet and would love to read about how you suggest adults should learn. If you can Pm me that would be great.
    Thanks
    Newbikie
    What questions do you have?
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGukLuXzH1E

    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jfcWEkSrI

  23. #23
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    Having come off a few times while trying to ride, I'm getting worse rather than better. So any suggested methods starting from the very basics would be much appreciated.

  24. #24
    Senior Member
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    I'm working on my wife learning, and what's been a great benefit to us is to work with a certified Instructor from the League of American Bicyclists that has experience in teaching adults. He didn't do the no pedal part, and she can balance once she gets started after three sessions.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Newbikie View Post
    I've just joined Bike Forums(after coming across this post) and tried sending a PM to Rowan (but wasn't allowed as I haven't made 50 posts yet!?).

    I am trying to teach myself to ride as a fairly old newbie without much luck as yet and would love to read about how you suggest adults should learn. If you can Pm me that would be great.

    Thanks

    Newbikie
    Instead of actively pursuing spammers, they do it passively on this site, which mostly inconveniences non-spammers. But I think Rowan moved on a while ago.

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