A friend and sometimes commenter here recently sent a note asking for help and encouragement. She never learned to ride a bike as a kid and wants to learn how now, but she’s getting frustrated. I have a few thoughts, but this is outside our own experience, so I’m hoping some of our readers who either learned or struggled to re-learn how to ride as adults can offer her some advice and encouragement.
“I don’t know how to ride a bike. I was given a (mountain?) bike (with a detachable shopping basket!) by a friend. I am disheartened/discouraged after a couple tries riding. Also, my (forgive me) vulva hurts – even now, two days after riding last.
The friend who gave me the bike and the friend whose long, slightly sloped driveway I am practicing on have talked about my poor girl parts and are speculating on a “cruiser” seat. Is that worth while? In all honesty, it is uncomfortable enough right now that I cringe just thinking about it. Like if I sit wrong, right now on the couch, it hurts. Not like anyone is dying, but enough to make me wince. I don’t think I am a total wimp…am I broken?
Anyway, do you have ideas? For ease of learning to ride? For what to do about the seat issue? For some magic spell? I spend all this time telling parents from my school that there is no silver bullet with regard to dealing with children — they just have to do the work. And here I find myself grasping at straws, trying to find the One Thing that will make me a bike rider without any work….
Which is all to say, I know that I have to keep on keeping on. But maybe it doesn’t have to hurt so much while I do?”
My thoughts for starhillgirl were the following:
1) How is your seat set? You want it set very very low, just like little kids need when they start to ride. You want to be able to put your feet firmly on the ground.
2) Working on a sloped driveway is great, as long as it’s not so steep you go too fast and get scared. Don’t think about pedaling, just try lifting your feet and putting them down to stop, and work on balancing down the driveway.
3) Work on starting and stopping as an independent skill. Particularly stopping — pushing off for a short distance, lifting your feet, and then firmly planting both feet on the ground. If you know you can stop without hurting yourself, you’ll have the confidence to take more risks, the risks you need to take in order to learn to ride.
4) Regarding the seat, I wish I had a specific seat to recommend. Women generally need wider seats, and most seats are sized for men’s skinny butts. There are seats that have a cutout for your vulva. This is a really common question, so hopefully a friendly bike shop, or perhaps one of our readers, may have a specific recommendation.
5) Learning to ride a bike will actually take work. But it’s worth it!
6) Check out this post over at lovely bicycle. She may not offer an exact solution to your pain issues, but at least you’ll know you aren’t alone.
7) This bike riding school is near us, in Davis Square, Somerville MA. We see Susan, the teacher, out with her determined adult students on the bike path, and they always make me smile. Susan can’t help starhillgirl, who lives far away, but she might be able to help some local readers in a similar situation.
And now it’s your turn. Have any of you learned or relearned to ride in adulthood? Can you offer encouragement or suggestions? An approach that worked for you when learning to ride? Recommend a low-cost comfy (or at least less torturous) saddle?