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Old 07-07-08, 08:19 AM
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Are you still with us? Good, because if you’ve persevered this far you now have a bike! (Even if that purchase has only really been made in your head, yet!)

It’s time to hop on the thing and go for a ride, and that can be a daunting challenge for those of us who haven’t been on a bicycle for a long time. Especially for those of us who, like me, hadn’t really thought about riding a bike in any ‘technical’ sense at all, ever. So we’ll spend a little bit of time talking about the ‘basics’ of riding, and the most basic thing of all is starting and stopping.

Taking off.

Swing your leg over that bike and stand with your legs astride the top bar, your bum forward of the saddle, and your hands on the handlebar. That’s your “at rest” position. It’s how you stand and hold the bike upright before you take off, and it’s how you stand and hold the bike up straight when you come to a stop. And it’s the position from which you can take off with best control of your bike. You do that in the following way. Don’t be put off by the detailed description of it, please. It all happens in one continuous, smooth action, so practice until it becomes easy.

Decide which leg you want to take off with. That’ll usually be your ‘strongest’ leg, but it doesn’t really make much difference which. Spin the pedals around until the pedal on that side is at the ’10 o’clock’ position. (Up and a wee bit forwards, in other words.)

Get your upper body a bit forward so you can support your weight on your hands, and push down on that pedal.
As the bike starts to move forward, bring your body up and back to sit on the saddle, and allow your upper body to come back and up a bit into a comfortable riding position.

Sounds technical, but it’s not really. That ‘weight over the handlebars’ when you take off gives you better control of the steering, and allows you to take off smooth and straight. It eliminates the ‘wobbles’ once you get the hang of it.


Pulling up to a halt is the reverse of the above, basically. Weight a bit forward again, bum forward and off the saddle, leg down to the ground to support you and then stand astride the top bar.

But what about the balancing?

There is one (and only one) exception to the principles outlined above about saddle height and starting/stopping. That’s the person who has genuinely never ridden a two-wheeled vehicle before, and who doesn’t yet have the concept of sitting on one when it is moving and being able to stay upright!

Learning to balance a bike is the same for older folk as it is for little kids, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘training wheels’. Training wheels suck! Learning to balance a bicycle is where that “you need to be able to put both feet on the ground” comes into play.

Drop the saddle down so you can put both feet on the ground. Point the bike downhill, sit on it, kick off and then lift your feet up off the ground. That’s how you learn to ‘balance’ a bike. There’s no other way. You keep doing that until you stop falling off, it’s as simple as that. When you’ve learnt how to roll downhill sitting on the thing, and turn the handlebars to steer it, you’re ready to put that saddle back up to where it should be and then learn to take off and ride correctly.

By the way. If you’ve chosen a nice,gentle, soft grassy slope to practise on (as most of us would do) don’t be too nervous about making the move to a harder sealed surface. Keeping a bike upright on grass is harder than keeping it upright on a hard sealed surface, so if you’re happy on the grass you’ll be right as rain on the pavement.

Last edited by Catweazle; 07-07-08 at 08:29 AM.
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