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How to Ride a Bike: The Most Basic Cycling Tip of All

George Doyle/Getty Images
George Doyle/Getty Images
DCL

I didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was an adult. Yeah, it's kinda embarrassing to admit but I'm sure there are plenty of you out there in the same boat...I mean, bike. Kids hop on a two-wheeler and--in most cases--master it in no time with minimal fear. Adults are another story. We're too caught up in thinking to just relax and let it happen.

WATCH VIDEO: Better Biking

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But if you want to experience what it's like to glide on the most energy efficient vehicle ever created, you'll have to stop thinking and start riding. Remember: The planet desperately needs more cyclists and less motorists.

Some Basics

Some adults can be a little defensive about their lack of riding skills. Believe me, I know. So the first step is to decide whether you want to be taught by someone you know or an outside teacher.

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Choosing a quiet, low key location is not only safer but definitely less of a distraction for the adult learner. You might also want to find a place with soft grass to minimize bumps and scratches during the inevitable fall or two.

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It can be easier to learn on a bicycles with wide tires, large seats, thick pedals, and few speeds.

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Bring your bike to a local bike shop for a general tune-up. Watch, listen, and ask questions so you can do it yourself next time.

Some Specifics

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To get a feel for balancing, lower your seat so your feet can touch the ground. Push yourself along for a while--maybe even trying a turn or two--before lifting your feet up and feeling a short glide.

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Teach yourself (or your student) how--with one foot on the ground and the other on a pedal--to use the grounded foot to push off as the other foot applies weight on the pedal. Once momentum is created, the laws of physics will help keep the bike balanced.

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Nothing will provide more confidence than knowing how to properly use the brake for both front and back tires. For beginners, it's usually safer to use both brakes at the same time. Eventually, you can modify this approach as your skills and confidence increase.

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Keep them straight until you feel balanced and then practice turns--starting small. Don't grip too tightly.

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Once you feel a semblance of comfort with all this, challenge yourself on a small upgrade and downgrade. You'll learn that balancing is easier once you reach a steady speed.

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Everyone falls. Even Lance Armstrong takes a spill every now and then. So before you chalk up bike riding as too dangerous, remind yourself that in 2005, there were nearly 6,420,000 auto accidents in the U.S. Bikes are not greener than cars, they're also safer.

1. Helmet

2. Bike Lights

3. Use Bike Lanes

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