“I didn’t ride a bicycle as a child.”

I said this, and I thought I was the only person who didn’t. But after I became a bike rider I discovered that many adults don’t know how to ride a bike. What I thought of as a universal rite of childhood isn’t. And especially in recent years as physical and outside activity became less common for children I’m meeting young adults who have never been on a bike. When I’ve mentioned they could take up bicycling as an adult, they seem surprised, but also reach for excuses about the difficulty of learning.

This series of posts, “Learning to Ride” is about breaking those excuses and getting it done. In 2005 I didn’t know how to ride a bike. I taught myself at the end of 2006. And I rode a century, a ride of one hundred miles in a day, ten months later. I’ll never claim I am a model cyclist, but I was determined, and ever since then I’ve studied how best to teach adults to ride. The material and methods in this series are based on my own experiences teaching myself and other adults, and other reading online and in printed literature. I’ve used photos of myself to illustrate the text at times. This isn’t because I’m a great cyclist, but because I’m not a great cyclist.

Now then, on to the objections….

“Its hard for an adult to learn to ride a bike.”

Nah, its only hard for an adult to overcome his objections. The actual learning is easy. Read the rest of these posts and find out.

“I’m too old to ride a bike.”

Tell that to my friend Beverly, who is 71 years young. She’s actively riding. As for being too old to learn to ride a bike, I’m glad no one told me that. I was 40 when I taught myself. I might have listened to them.

“I’m too fat or too out of shape to ride a bike.”

Bicycling is an activity that involves effort. But cycling is easier for the sedentary than many activities – swimming is more physically tiring, for instance, or at least I found it to be. As for being too fat, in most cases that isn’t true. I was 275 pounds when I learned to ride. When my weight ballooned after my knee replacement surgery I was over 340 pounds and riding. I know of many obese and super-obese men and women who ride bikes. Admittedly there are special considerations one should keep in mind when you are super-obese and taking on a physical activity, but the general rule is that if you can move, you can ride.

“I have bad knees/back/hearing/hand/foot, so I can’t ride a bike.”

I had bad knees before I had artificial ones. I also had, and have, a bad back and an impaired sense of
balance. Cycling is easy on the knees, and the rest of my problems were things I worked on with my bike shop. I’ve known deaf cyclists, people missing a hand, or a foot, or a leg…. in Philadelphia there is a club composed entirely of hand cyclists, using tricycles powered entirely by their arms. The photo to the right is of a hand cyclist riding the French Creek Iron Tour in 2010. He’d been climbing the hills of Chester County, PA, for miles, which explains why he looks tired. The bicycle, and tricycle, are extremely adaptable machines. There will be an adjustment to make the machine fit you.

“I’m going to have to wear those clothes that make me look like something from a comic book.”

One of the big excuses against learning to ride as an adult is the idea you need special clothing, and in particular clothing made of Lycra. This stretchy

fabric, and the prospect of wearing it, seems to frighten many people. Well, the secret is you don’t have to wear it if you don’t want to. There are many bike riders, including people who ride long distances, who never wear it. I do wear Lycra, for reasons I’ll discuss in another post, but my first bike rides were in jeans, sneakers, and a winter jacket. In the photo at the left I’m wearing shorts, a conventional looking shirt, and running shoes. Remove the helmet and bike and I look like many middle aged men on a summer day. You don’t need cycling specific clothing if you don’t want it, and there’s no need for it now.

“I’m going to have to wear a helmet.”

In the above photo I’m wearing a helmet. No law says you have to. I think you should. But you don’t have to. I should mention that helmet-wearing is a hot topic among cyclists, and if you want you can spend hours of your time arguing about it. I won’t.

“Bike riding is an expensive hobby.”

It CAN be. I’ve seen high end bikes cost more than I paid for a car. It doesn’t have to be. I know a man who rides a bike he salvaged from a dumpster. I once owned a bike I paid five dollars for, purchased at a yard sale. My friend Paul started riding on a Huffy he got from Wal-mart. Bikes are in all price points. And while there will be money spent in upkeep, you’ll only spend it if you want to keep the hobby.

“I’m going to look silly and people are going to laugh at me.”

You won’t look silly. People are not going to laugh at you. In the seven years I’ve been an average bike rider I’ve not been laughed at once. Even when I wore Lycra into a Target in Easton, MD I wasn’t laughed at. I am the poster child for low self-esteem, so trust me when I tell you that no one will think you are silly for learning to ride a bike. They will think this objection is silly, so if you are thinking it, keep it to yourself.

So much for objections. Now, lets learn to ride. Time for the next post…..