Learn to Ride a Bike!

Metal Skuut balance bike in action
Metal Skuut balance bike in action – click photo for more info. on Skuut balance bikes.

We occasionally get inquiries about how to learn to ride a bike.  While I have offered one-on-one sessions for people just outside our shop there is a very simple way to learn that just about anyone can use to learn.  It’s the method of learning using a “balance bike” rather than “training wheels”.  I’ve used the method to teach grown youth (10-12 yrs. old) within an hour and some of the videos I’ve seen say within 30 min. for younger kids (which I’m assuming is due to them being generally less scared of falling than older people).

In a nutshell, ‘balance’ bikes are like a normal bike except they have no pedals and are designed to help the person figure out how to balance while rolling.  Typically the seats are much lower than on a bike with pedals so that the person can easily touch the ground to help avoid a crash while learning to balance.  A smooth grassy area with a slight decline is the ideal place to learn so that if there is a crash the person doesn’t get hurt. Once the person can roll for 3-5 seconds with their feet up (might take a bunch of times up and down the same hill) then it’s time to put the pedals on and raise the seat a couple inches and encourage them to pedal (on the same grassy hill).  Once they’re able to put the pedaling together with the balance without crashing on the grass then get them on a smooth hard surface (away from traffic and other objects) and encourage them to keep trying the pedaling and within a short while most will begin bicycling!

Here are some videos that will show you how this is done:

Adults can learn too!
Adults can learn too! This young lady learned in about 15 minutes!

A series of three videos I shot after successfully teaching a young adult woman (June 2015):

Some additional videos:

This is one of the best I’ve seen that you should encourge your kid(s) to watch:

Another great one:

If you need a bike in order to teach yourself or another adult you can rent a bike from us; for access to smaller bikes for teaching children contact the Share a Bike program in E. Lansing to see if they would loan you a smaller bike for teaching, or you might be able to acquire one from them via a donation (contact them for details).

Good luck learning and/or teaching!

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Author: Tim Potter

Sustainable Transportation Manager, MSU Bikes Service Center; member of the All University Traffic & Transportation Committee (http://auttc.msu.edu); founding member of MSU Bike Advisory Committee (https://msubikes.wordpress.com/volunteer-donate/msu-bac/); advocate for local & regional non-motorized transportation issues thru the Tri-Co. Bike Assn. Advocacy Committee (http://groups.google.com/group/tcatc); board member of the Ride of Silence (http://www.rideofsilence.org); year-round bicyclist of all sorts; photographer; soccer player; father of 3; married 30 yrs. to Hiromi, Japanese national (daughter of former Natl. Keirin Champion, Seiichi Nishiji); Christ follower.

1 thought on “Learn to Ride a Bike!”

  1. Here’s a story of the latest success story of using this method to help a young child quickly learn how to ride:
    Once in a while we get to witness & participate in some special moments at the MSU Bikes Service Center. Today we rented bikes to this family who were visiting campus for the day. Their son had been trying to learn how to ride a bike for some time. When I discovered that he was trying to learn how to ride I encouraged the father to consider the ‘balance bike’ method of learning. He and his son were both open to it so we setup the little red bike as a balance bike in a few minutes and after about 20 min. his son mastered balancing on the grassy slope outside our shop and was ready to get his pedals reinstalled and seat raised! And off they went as a family on an afternoon of riding bikes around campus!
    Here’s a pic:

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