How to Learn to Ride a Bike as an Adult

Janine Pham has always wanted to ride a bike. After 23 years, Pham’s determination paid off as she finally learned how to ride a bike with her sister and best friend at her side.

Janine Pham has always wanted to ride a bike. The desire had always been at the back of her mind.

She remembers watching her parents teach her older sister to ride, but by the time her turn arrived, they had started a restaurant and work commitments left little time to spend with her and her younger brother. It wasn’t until Pham was 23 years old that her desire to ride was rekindled. She was walking across campus, when, suddenly: “There was an entire Quidditch team, like from Harry Potter, on bikes. I remember watching and thinking, ‘Wow! That looks like so much fun! I would give anything to join in. If only I could ride a bike!’”

Inspiration struck again when Pham picked up a copy of Momentum Mag issue 28, with Vancouver’s Little Woo featured on the cover: “There was a photo of her dressed as a pirate, with a three-cornered hat. She talked about learning how to ride a bike in her 20s; and she used the metaphor of feeling like a sea captain on her own little ship. That article totally inspired me.”

Inspiration and determination came together in summer 2011 when Pham spent an entire day learning to ride, with her sister and friend at her side. She started slowly, learning to glide first and then starting to pedal: “I was absolutely determined to do it. I was wobbly. I couldn’t stay up on the bike and pedal very far until about two in the afternoon. Once I was able to get up, things got so much easier and fast; and it was easier to control.

“It was hard. When you’re younger, you’re much more driven by your motor skills. You don’t have so many thoughts or doubts. I remember trying to stand up over the bike just felt so unnatural. Once I was able to just cruise on the bike, it was great.”

Pham now goes on recreational rides, where she challenges herself to improve her skills. Her younger brother has yet to learn, but she knows that he’ll pick it up quickly once he tries.

She also looks forward to being part of what she calls the “beautiful people bike stuff” this summer, doing things such as riding along Vancouver, BC’s, Stanley Park seawall: “It’s so fun. You totally gain that new sense of freedom and mobility. It’s such a visceral experience.”

1 Comment

  • Lance

    Sometimes guidance from an experienced Learn to Ride instructor can make the experience more efficient – not to mention more dignified – compared to trying it on your own. Even friends who are good riders may not appreciate the challenges an adult faces when the first try to get on a bike and pedal away. Do a search for “Learn to Ride Instructor for Adults” in your area. The League of American Bicyclists ( lists certified instructors all over the country.
    In New York City, Bike New York offers free group classes. For private Learn to Ride lessons, visit

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