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Learning to ride: Reasons to pick up pedaling as an adult

The Bicycle Colorado education team spends much of the spring, summer and fall teaching adults and children of all ages how to ride a bike. These are hugely rewarding experiences for our staff, volunteers and participants, and we wanted to give you a peek into why. Here’s a look at what an adult Learn to Ride lesson looks like.

On the evening of June 14, seven participants, Bicycle Colorado educators AJ and James, volunteer Alissa and members of the BC communications team gathered at the City of Arvada’s Bike Training Course for an adult Learn to Ride lesson. Participants ranged in age from early 20s to age 74 and were nervous, excited and determined to get pedaling. The class was mostly first-timers, but a couple of participants were here for their second or third Learn to Ride class, looking to improve the skills they had already picked up and ready to get rolling (pun intended).

A group of people stand facing an educator in a parking lot.

While many of us may have been taught to ride bikes using training wheels, our education team uses the balance bike method. New riders are first taught to lower their seats and use their feet to glide on their bikes, getting the hang of balancing and shifting their weight. Once they’re successfully gliding with confidence over 10 seconds or longer, they “graduate” to pedals. In every session, our educators walk and bike among the participants, giving them tips, encouragement and bike adjustments as needed. After getting over the initial hurdle of a few rounds of pedaling, several of our students that evening were able to get riding with pedals!

A person standing over a bike speaking with another person standing and holding up a bike.

Most of the students in this class began learning to ride bikes as children, but didn’t progress past training wheels, like Andrew, or using hand brakes instead of pedaling backward to stop, like Elizabeth. Anuja, another participant, never learned as a child. This isn’t uncommon—not being able to access a bike, not having a safe place to ride, not having an available adult to teach you, or familial or cultural expectations are all reasons why someone might not learn as a child.

Three people smiling, wearing helmets and looking at each other.

Some of our students do know the basics of riding a bike, but are looking to improve their skills, like Shelly, who is learning how to handle her bike better so she can comfortably ride uphill back home after picking up items at her local Target. It might seem like a small thing, but the satisfaction of getting up that hill without having to walk your bike feels pretty great! Beyond simply pedaling, we also teach other important bike handling skills like using gears, turning safely and being able to take one hand off the handlebars to our more advanced participants.

Two people standing over bikes practice gliding on them.

Like always, each participant has their own reasons for deciding it was time to jump on a bike. Coy, for example, is preparing for a 22nd wedding anniversary river cruise trip in Europe next year, and decided to join the class so he could ride bikes with his wife on their vacation. Participants Meeka and Dan also joined so they could ride with their spouses and families. Meeka’s got another goal as well—start riding before her 1.5-year-old niece. It could be tough competition, as kids as young as 18 months can in fact start learning on balance bikes. Go Meeka!

An older adult learning to ride a bike with a volunteer alongside, encouraging him.

Several participants reflected on the benefits of biking for their physical and emotional health and to improve their daily lives. Elizabeth has been dealing with some injuries and pain in the last few years and was looking for a low-impact exercise. Her doctor suggested swimming or bicycling, and she chose biking! It’s true that bicycling is a great low-impact activity for people looking to move their bodies and get around without stressing the knees and hips too much.

Andrew, Anuja and Dan all told us that they want to be able to get around by bike, both recreationally riding on the trails near their homes and for transportation, like work commutes. Andrew and Anuja both are excited to have a different way to move around their communities, as neither likes to drive; Andrew observed that bicycling seemed fun and “peaceful.” It certainly can be, and that joy and peace is a big reason why many people, including those of us on the BC team, ride bikes.

Two people on bikes smiling.

Not everyone quite got the hang of pedaling a bike at this particular class, but our Learn to Ride lessons generally have a high riding rate—for adults, on average 85% of participants are pedaling by the end of the class. For those who aren’t, they’re invited back for a followup lesson and get tips from our educators on where and how they can practice their skills at home. We’re proud of all of our participants for being brave and trying something new with us.

If you don’t know how to ride a bike, or have a loved one interested in learning, please learn more about our Learn to Ride lessons at the Bicycle Colorado website. If you’d like to support the work of our education team, please join us as a member or donate.

Bicycle Colorado

About the Author: Bicycle Colorado

Bicycle Colorado is a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in Denver. We use advocacy, education and passion to make Colorado one of the most bicycle-friendly states in the nation. We encourage and promote bicycling, increase safety, improve conditions and provide a voice for people who ride bicycles in Colorado. With the support of our members and numerous partnerships across the public and private sector, we’ve made significant strides in improving bicycling since 1992.


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