January 17, 2006

    Hello. The boyfriend surprised me this Christmas by buying me a sports bike. He had this perfect idea of us riding our bikes together with our group of friends.
    I have never ridden a bike before, let alone a mountain bike. Since receiving the bike, I have tried several times to practice riding it with no success. I do not know how to balance and I fall off. I have had bruises and scratches. I am getting frustrated and so is he. I guess an adult learning to ride a bike is not easy as when learning it at as a kid. As a kid we have no fear, we fall, we go back. As an adult, I fall and I have to psyche myself up to go back to the bike.
    Are there training wheels or guide wheels that can be attached to my sports bike and make it easier to learn how to ride? Thanks.

Jojet O.

    I’ve never even touched a rifle. So what if a gun-loving friend gave me one for Xmas? Someone would probably get hurt.
    OK, not too likely. But people do give their loved ones bikes they can’t use, and pain often ensues. (I’ve even devoted a set of interview questions to the subject.)
    Why? People who ride bikes see them as easy ways to have fun—so, naturally, they want to share that fun with a gift. But the gift user often has problems cuz the bike doesn’t fit right or doesn’t suit the kind of riding that the user does.
    You’ve got a different hurdle to jump. As you’ve guessed, learning to ride a bike as an adult doesn’t usually come easy. You probably won’t learn from your boyfriend, who means well but has never tried to teach this very challenging subject. Especially with the added pressure of having to perform like him and your friends.
    So what should you do? You could try training wheels. They’ll at least help you get comfortable with starting, stopping, pedaling, and steering. If you do, get ones made for 26-inch wheels (pictured at right) and you should not use them off-road.
    Training wheels won’t help you with the hard part: balance. (In fact, they might delay your learning of balance.) Luckily, many adults learn bike balance from a fairly simple method that you can read about here.
    Although I describe it for teaching kids, the method usually gets taught to adults. Folks in Chicago, Toronto, and elsewhere have taken a three-hour class using a specially-fitting bike in a wide-open space like a parking lot, taught by highly-trained and well-experienced bicycling instructors.
    According to your e-mail address you live in California, a place filthy with bike instructors. I suggest you search the League of American Bicyclists’ list of League-Certified Instructors and ask one to teach you using the method. If needed they could contact me for coaching.

Mr Bike

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