You can teach yourself the basics of riding a bike. It's helpful to bring a friend or support person who knows how to cycle.
Go somewhere quiet, flat and away from roads. A park or a school on the weekend are ideal.
Wear comfy clothes that won't get in the way. Avoid long loose skirts, loose pants and open-toed shoes. Tuck long shoelaces into your shoes.
Your bike needs to be the right size — you should be able to stand over the middle of the bike and be clear of the top tube. Set the seat height so both of your feet are flat on the ground when seated. Make sure the brake levers are easy to reach.
Learn to ride
Here's what you'll focus on:
- balancing on a bike
- starting and stopping your bike
- pedalling along
Get on and off the bike
Hold the handlebars and squeeze the brakes. Lean the bike towards you. If your bike has a low top tube, step your leg over the tube. If it has a high top tube, swing your leg over the seat.
When getting off the bike, remember to keep the brakes applied.
Stop by using both brakes
Learn how to use your brakes, before you start riding. Start by walking along, pushing the bike. Use both brakes to stop (front and back — these are the brake levers on the two handlebars). Using both brakes evenly helps you stay in control of the bike.
Also use the brakes when you learn to balance by scooting and gliding, see next step.
Learn to balance without using the pedals
Get on your bike and scoot along, using your feet to push off the ground. As you get confident, push off and glide for as long as you can with both feet off the ground. This helps you get the feel of balancing on two wheels.
Steer the bike where you want to go
Look where you go and the bike will go where you look. Keeping your eyes up and looking ahead helps your body's inner-balance and direction. Looking down makes it harder to balance. Practice this while gliding along with your feet off the ground.
Start off and pedal
Now you're ready to pedal. Make sure you are in a flat place with nothing in your way. Check the bike is in a low gear.
It's easier to start if you have one of the pedals aimed forwards, roughly in line with the downtube of the bike. This is like two on a clock. It's called the pedal ready position.
Relax, get one foot on the pedal, push forward and go. Get your other foot on the other pedal and keep turning. Look ahead.
A support person can help you balance by lightly holding your waist or the seat post and running alongside until you get your balance. Brake when you want to stop.
Once you are confident riding on your own for about 25 metres and can make simple turns, you'll be ready to learn more bike riding skills. Well done. And never forget the joy of riding a bike for the first time.
Learning to ride (The official New Zealand code for cyclists)(external link)