How to Get Back on a Bicycle As an Adult

If you last rode a bike when you were a kid or a college student, you're missing out on a great way to get around town, get some exercise, and have fun. Bicycles can be the fastest way to get around in a crowded downtown area, and they save parking and fuel costs, too. So what are you waiting for? Dust off your old bike and see where it can take you.


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    Consult a friend. If you're nervous or uncertain about being back on a bike, an experienced rider can help get you comfortable again. If none of your friends or colleagues ride, ask around in your community to see if there's a bike organization that can help. A local bike shop or bike co-op may be able to point you in the right direction. A friend can help motivate you to get going and provide personalized advice.
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    Get a bike. If you already have a bike that fits and suits you, you can skip this step. If you need a bike,
    • Consider renting or borrowing a bike at first. This is an especially good option if you don't already know how to ride one, or if you're not sure yet whether a bike is right for you.
    • Get a used bike. Garage sales and thrift stores often have bikes. Some bike co-ops and similar programs fix up donated bikes to sell to raise funds. Craigslist can also be a good source, but be very careful of scams and stolen bikes.
    • Don't get a low-end new bike. One way to avoid this is to visit a real bike shop—one that only sells bikes, not toothpaste or wrapping paper. If you don't have much to spend, you're probably better off getting a decent used bike and fixing it up. Department store bikes often exhibit problems with maintenance and durability.
    • Whatever bike you get, test it out before you buy it. Make sure it works well and fits you.
    • Get a bike that fits well and something that's comfortable. You don't need to look or dress like a bicycle racer to get across town for groceries, commute, or ride for fun, so don't be afraid to get something with a more upright, comfortable riding position, if that feels right to you.
    • Try waiting to get a good bike until you have ridden a borrowed or inexpensive used bike enough to know your needs and habits.
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    Fix up your old bike. At the very least, put air in the tires and oil the chain.
    • If the tubes don't hold air or the tires are old enough to be cracked, they may need to be replaced. You can do that job yourself or get help.
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    • If anything is loose, stuck, or the chain is rusted, take your bike to a shop or get help from a bike co-op to do the repairs.
    • If you hear squeaking, grinding, or clunking beyond a minimum of chain noise, repair your bike or have it checked.
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    Adjust your bike to fit you. It will help to start with the right size frame.
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    Practice riding where you're not in traffic. If you've ridden before, even a long time ago, you probably remember how. Still, it's a good idea to practice a little, without the stress and traffic of cars.
    • Choose a day when you have some free time, with mild weather, ideally not rainy or windy, and not an extreme temperature.
    • Choose a quiet side street, paved bike trail, or parking lot.
    • Go a short, comfortable distance, around the block, or up and down the street.
    • Even an adult can learn to ride a bicycle. In the U.S., the League of American Bicyclists trains and certifies cycling instructors.
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    Ride short distances at first. There's no need to exhaust yourself. Pick a level route with low or moderate traffic on familiar streets. Go a mile or two, and come back. If you want, pick out a nearby library, shop or restaurant you'd like to visit, and make that your destination. Have fun!
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    Gradually increase the distance, frequency and intensity of your rides. If you rode two miles this weekend, try riding three or four next weekend. If you ride to work one day this week, try riding two days next week. If your intended rides involve hills or traffic, work up to those, too.
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    Dust off your cycling gear if you have it, or get it if you need it.
    • Carry a good bike lock so you can lock up your bike while you visit a destination.
    • Wear a helmet. A well-fitting helmet properly adjusted is best both for safety and for comfort.
    • Get good front and rear lights and reflectors if you will be riding after dark.
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    • Carry a water bottle for longer trips. Most bike frames include a pair of screws where you can mount a water bottle cage.
    • Carry a bike emergency kit, with a patch kit, pump, tire levers, an adjustable wrench if you need one, and a phone and some cash.
    • Learn to carry cargo on a bike. A bike can carry a lot more than just its rider. You can carry a change of clothes for bike commuting, your weekly groceries, or treasures you found at a garage sale along your way.
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    • You don't need special apparel to ride, especially for short, casual rides. Just wear clothing that allows you to move and is comfortable for the weather. You may need to roll up your right pant leg, wrap a strap or rubber band around the cuff, or pull your sock up over it, to keep it out of the chain.
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    Scout your route. If you intend to commute to work or run errands on a bike, you may find that your best route is not the same as your usual driving route. You can look for your commute route on a map, and then try it, either on a weekday when you have extra time or on a weekend, when you can afford to explore side streets and various alternatives.
    • Many mapping websites now have tools to try to find bike routes.
    • Some cities publish bike maps. Look for them online, or ask at the library, city hall, bike to work day, and other public events and places.
    • Some of the best bike routes don't have bike lanes. Explore residential side streets with low speed limits and little traffic.
    • Try out your route when you have time to spare, in case it takes you longer than you expected, or a street is busier than you intended.
    • Talk to a bike shop or a friend who is an experienced rider in your neighborhood. They may have insights that mapping programs don't.
    • Refine your route. Especially if you go to a particular destination frequently, you'll have lots of opportunities to try different side streets and alternatives.
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    Enjoy your ride, and keep it up. Riding a bike can be a lot of fun.


  • Ride safely. Your local bike shop or organization can help you understand how to ride safely, even in traffic.
  • Don't be too hung up on getting a bike, or getting an old bike cleaned and working. Get hold of a bike you can ride, get it rideable, and ride it. You can upgrade or make repairs when you know your bike riding habits better, and as you come to use it more.
  • Check your tire pressure frequently, especially when you first begin to ride an old bike again. Low tire pressure makes riding much harder than it needs to be, and it's important to know if your tires are not holding air.
  • You don't need to dress like you're training for the Olympics to ride a bicycle, and you don't need to ride like you're training for the Olympics. Wear ordinary clothes, as long as you can move in them, and ride at a comfortable pace. You shouldn't need a shower just because you went a mile or two on a bike.

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Categories: Bicycles