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Teaching an adult how to ride a bicycle?

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Teaching an adult how to ride a bicycle?

Old 03-20-24, 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
I wonder how many 5 year olds really learned to ride a bike from scratch in half an hour?

My own memories of learning to ride at that age are pretty vague, but I didn’t have a balance bike and I do remember having training wheels and being very frustrated until it eventually clicked. That could have been days, weeks or months. I simply can’t remember.

But I can remember my daughters learning to ride on balance bikes and that took only a day or two and their transition to pedal bikes was almost seamless. Although our youngest still preferred to ride her balance bike for a good few months afterward because she was quicker scooting on it.
Well, I wasn't a toddler, so I wasn't fighting my own poor coordination. And I didn't have any bad habits from riding with training wheels. And with an actual bike you have to commit at some point, rather than half trusting that you are actually keeping yourself upright. I think any normal 5 year old would learn in that amount of time if you don't hobble them with half measures. Younger kids, other methods are probably better.

It is little different than learning to ski - you can snowplow for hours, or you can commit and learn to turn.


But aside from all of that, most adults over 40 are super cautious about risking getting hurt. So even if you want to use a push bike, soft grass - even with a slight downslope - will be much less mentally challenging.
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Old 03-20-24, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Kabuki12
+1 on tire choice. 700 x 23 for a new rider? Hmm
That was a pretty standard tire for a 2013 bike. Really, if the bike came with 700 X 28 or 700 X 32, does it really matter much when it comes to balance and operating the bike? It's more about comfort. I can remember racing on 700 X 19 tires. Bike still handled really well.
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Old 03-20-24, 09:27 AM
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Are training wheels available for adult bikes?
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Old 03-20-24, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by WaveyGravey
Are training wheels available for adult bikes?
I guess so!

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Old 03-20-24, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Bald Paul
That was a pretty standard tire for a 2013 bike. Really, if the bike came with 700 X 28 or 700 X 32, does it really matter much when it comes to balance and operating the bike? It's more about comfort. I can remember racing on 700 X 19 tires. Bike still handled really well.
Yes , it does matter . A little wider tire with a lower inflation can be much easier on a new rider when areas of the road are less than perfect. I have only one bike that I run 23's on and I would never put a new rider on that bike. While it is fun for me , pumped up to 110psi , a new rider would be more prone to catching separation seams in the road or uneven surfaces. It does make a difference , we are talking about someone who has never ridden a bike. I have been riding consistently for over 50 years and I am careful when I am on that bike with skinny tires and high pressure. The debate about wide versus skinny tires is endless but comfort and safety for a new rider that needs all the help they can get should stick with at least 28's IMHO. Joe
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Old 03-26-24, 06:09 AM
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It's about balance primarily

Kids have a sense of wanting to do stuff and adults depend on prior experiences.
Thus, know the adult. It's a mental game, as well as a new skill.

The long way to learn? Try a scooter to give the adult the sense of security, low to the ground, with one foot on the ground and one on the platform.

As the adult begins to get the swing of things on a scooter, he/she will begin coasting. Now take that skill and apply that to the advanced step of bikes.

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Old 03-26-24, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Kabuki12
+1 on tire choice. 700 x 23 for a new rider? Hmm
Drop bars for a new rider? Hmm.

Both choices seem to be less than ideal for a new rider, especially an older adult, even if the the "instructor" is very comfortable riding on bikes equipped with such features.
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Old 03-26-24, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
Drop bars for a new rider? Hmm.

Both choices seem to be less than ideal for a new rider, especially an older adult, even if the the "instructor" is very comfortable riding on bikes equipped with such features.
Very good point. In this situation, I'd consider picking up a cheap cruiser-style bike. The upright position (combined with removal of the pedals) would make it so much easier to learn to ride. Once she's confident on the cruiser, the eventual transition to the drop bar bike would be fairly easy.
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Old 03-26-24, 08:01 AM
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I think some here are over-thinking the five-year-old stuff. Staying on the bike is only 50% of the battle. She will also need starting/stopping, accurate steering, consistent pedal rotation, hand braking, endurance, and riding with others. Shifting does not sound like a priority.

My suggestion is to put the SO on the regular bike with pedal, helmet, and everything in a large empty parking lot and let her have at it. She is obviously highly motivated. Go ahead and drop the seat a bit.

Remember that beginners often steer to avoid small cracks.
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Old 03-26-24, 08:27 AM
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I've taught two adults using the balance bike method. Both were riding and pedaling within two hours.

First brakes, then balance, then pedaling. Ezpz.

Teaching an adult to ride a bike is exhilarating.
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Old 03-26-24, 10:54 AM
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something like this or similar can be ideal for a beginner

relatively upright - relaxed geometry - fat tires - low gearing - fairly simple / durable

the wide tires alone can make a big difference when the surface is compromised … much more forgiving - much greater ‘margin for error’
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Old 03-26-24, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by t2p


something like this or similar can be ideal for a beginner

relatively upright - relaxed geometry - fat tires - low gearing - fairly simple / durable

the wide tires alone can make a big difference when the surface is compromised … much more forgiving - much greater ‘margin for error’
Examples from my garage that also would be excellent bikes for an adult (man or woman) to learn to ride as well as being useful for casual recreational riding later. No top bar to induce anxiety for a beginner as well as ease in mounting and even more importantly quickly dismounting, unbreakable and inexpensive as well as upright - relaxed geometry - fat tires - low gearing.




The red Schwinn and Calvin 3 speeds also have foot brakes as a bonus for simplicity and all weather reliability. Easy enough to leave in low gear while learning to ride.

Last edited by I-Like-To-Bike; 03-26-24 at 01:43 PM.
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Old 03-26-24, 02:27 PM
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I picked this "beauty" up for $10. Hey, tires are good, brakes work, 24" wheels, and a QR seatpost adjuster. I've removed the pedals and she'll be using it as a strider bike to gain balance and confidence, learn to steer and use the brakes. Then I can put the pedals back on and just let her ride in one gear to see how she does before moving up to her "adult" bike.

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Old 03-26-24, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Bald Paul
I picked this "beauty" up for $10. Hey, tires are good, brakes work, 24" wheels, and a QR seatpost adjuster. I've removed the pedals and she'll be using it as a strider bike to gain balance and confidence, learn to steer and use the brakes. Then I can put the pedals back on and just let her ride in one gear to see how she does before moving up to her "adult" bike.

Great plan, and terrific find. (Maybe wrap the chainrings to protect her legs?)
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Old 03-26-24, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak
Great plan, and terrific find. (Maybe wrap the chainrings to protect her legs?)
Not a bad idea. I could just zip-tie the crankarm to the chain stay, and use some pipe insulation around the chainrings. Thanks for the suggestion!
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Old 03-26-24, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Bald Paul
I picked this "beauty" up for $10. Hey, tires are good, brakes work, 24" wheels, and a QR seatpost adjuster. I've removed the pedals and she'll be using it as a strider bike to gain balance and confidence, learn to steer and use the brakes. Then I can put the pedals back on and just let her ride in one gear to see how she does before moving up to her "adult" bike.

A much better choice for the task at hand than the Scott Speedster 'Contessa' you mentioned in your OP.
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Old 03-26-24, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
A much better choice for the task at hand than the Scott Speedster 'Contessa' you mentioned in your OP.
Can't argue that. In my defense, when she told me she wanted to ride, she didn't tell me she didn't know HOW to ride. I'm confident that she will be able to learn and want to move up to a better bike. The Contessa will be perfect for her. It wasn't easy finding an XXS frame bike made for women.
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Old 03-26-24, 08:52 PM
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When I met my wife, she'd never ridden a bike before in her life. As so many others have said, doing it one step at a time (balance, leaning to steer, braking, then pedaling) makes it much easier. She ended up putting in thousands of miles before her knees turned ornery (and maybe many more if we can get 'em fixed). Hope it works out great.
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Old 04-02-24, 08:50 PM
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I had a work colleague who'd been recruited from to the US to play college ball, and used the scholarship to fund her engineering degree. Smart lady. About 6'6", athletic, but never learned to ride a bike. She was 30 something when I used the balance bike method to teach her to ride. She was pedaling figure 8's in under an hour.

I made a cyclist. I was plenty proud.
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Old 04-06-24, 09:48 AM
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I've taught several adults to ride. I also remove the pedals and drop the saddle very low.

Some people, especially adults, are scared of falling. I have a method to reduce that fear. Take them to a grassy place with soft ground. Practice a "stage fall" where you fall to your side: ankle, knee, hip, elbow, shoulder. Do it in slow motion. Not only does this allay fear, it's also good practice. Since devising this method, I do it once a year myself. And since I ride a lot, I have occasional falls. When I get up, I notice that my fall went according to my rehearsal, and it really minimizes pain and injury. I once went over fast, and the nearby people ran up to me because they thought I was very hurt. But because of my rehearsal, I wasn't hurt!
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Old 05-01-24, 10:00 AM
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Just an update: she has been practicing with the "strider" bike and is doing well with balance, steering, and braking. She asked me to raise the saddle a bit and put the pedals back on. Right now, it's in a low gear and I told her not to worry about shifting.
In the meantime, I got bored and needed a project, so her Contessa is being upgraded from a Sora 3X8 driveline to Tiagra 2X10. I found a sub-compact crankset (48-34) with 165mm arms and all the other 'goodies' (derailleurs, brifters, BB. etc.) Those skinny tires and wheels are being replaced by the Easton 700X25c wheels and tires from my Zwift bike, along with the Ultegra brake calipers. When she feels ready to move up to the Contessa, I'll mount it on the trainer so she can get comfortable with shifting. Maybe some hills in Zwift will help her understand how to use the gearing properly.
Oh yeah, the girls decided a spa morning beats riding.
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Old 05-01-24, 11:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Bald Paul
Just an update: she has been practicing with the "strider" bike and is doing well with balance, steering, and braking. She asked me to raise the saddle a bit and put the pedals back on. Right now, it's in a low gear and I told her not to worry about shifting.
In the meantime, I got bored and needed a project, so her Contessa is being upgraded from a Sora 3X8 driveline to Tiagra 2X10. I found a sub-compact crankset (48-34) with 165mm arms and all the other 'goodies' (derailleurs, brifters, BB. etc.) Those skinny tires and wheels are being replaced by the Easton 700X25c wheels and tires from my Zwift bike, along with the Ultegra brake calipers. When she feels ready to move up to the Contessa, I'll mount it on the trainer so she can get comfortable with shifting. Maybe some hills in Zwift will help her understand how to use the gearing properly.
Oh yeah, the girls decided a spa morning beats riding.
Sounds like she is coming along just fine. Good on her for being a trooper and giving this a serious try.

I also agree that shifting is a skill to work on after she develops basic riding ability.
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