The World

Not Confident

An old green bike with solid disc wheels coloured red which makes the bike color scheme resemble a water melon

Our hats off to you!

Do you feel nervous about riding a bike? That's OK! Riding a bike isn’t fun when you feel uncomfortable or worried. For some roads that’s a sign that it’s not a great place to ride, but for others, you can have a better experience by empowering yourself with a bit of knowledge and some practice.

Feeling confident in how and where to ride won’t solve every obnoxious intersection or bad road design, but it will greatly boost where you can ride safely and pleasantly. Here are the core lessons to boost your confidence on a bike.

1. Be in the Right Place

  • Start with a quieter neighborhood street with lower traffic speeds to get the hang of things.
  • Generally, avoid the sidewalk - it seems counterintuitive at first, but it's actually a lot more dangerous and often illegal to ride on the sidewalk.
  • Don't hug the curb - hugging the curb means other vehicles might be tempted to overtake you when they shouldn't and puts you in the path of potholes, drains, and all the nasty debris that ends up at the side of the road. It’s usually safest to ride at least 2 feet from the edge of the road.

2. Have the Skills and Techniques to Thrive

There are a couple of skills and tricks that can make you feel a lot more comfortable on a bike:

  • Scanning - Obviously being attentive is important when riding a bike, and headphones and the like are discouraged. But you can go one better and practice gently turning your hips and shoulders outward to give you a better view of vehicles approaching from behind you. This will make it easier to change lanes, signal, and wave to your friends!
  • Signaling - Make sure your intentions are crystal clear to other road users: signal early and decisively. A quick hand out to the left or right will do wonders to help you effectively communicate your intentions and ride safely. Not comfortable taking a hand off the handlebars yet? All good - practice a little bit at a time.
Image split in three panes with a person putting their arm to the left, right or up to signal which direction they want to turn in or if they are stopping
  • Learn the skills of the Bike Ninja. Ok, it's not martial arts, but learning things like the rock dodge, quick stop, and other more advanced skills can make you really feel like a master of your bike! The best place to gain this is by reaching out to your local advocacy organization and asking about safe cycling classes in the area.

3. Practice!

There’s really no substitute for practicing a skill, and the more you ride (and in new situations) the more comfortable and confident you’ll get. Start with something easy, and slowly build your confidence in more challenging environments. If a road is too intimidating for you, that's ok - see if you can find another route (and if there isn't another route, tell your city or county that you want a Complete Street!).

Key skills to practice:

Note: Please always practice the below in a safe and comfortable environment (the park, quiet streets, etc)

  1. Riding with one hand - essential for being able to signal.
      1. Start off with just taking one hand slightly off the handlebars, so you can easily grab it again if needed. Get good at doing this with both hands.
      2. Next, try riding with one hand controlling the bike, and one hand by your side.
      3. Next, practice signally, with your arm fully extended in the intended direction of travel. Practice with both arms.
    • Looking over your shoulder - when you’re starting to ride and you hear a vehicle coming up behind you, your mind can trick you into thinking there’s a giant truck right behind you! That’s why getting the skill to confidently look behind you whenever you want to is so important.
      1. First look ahead and map in your mind where the bike will be going for the brief moment that you’re looking behind you.
      2. Turn your head to look behind you. You can start off practicing with small turns, before building up to a more full rotation.
      3. It can be easier sometimes to take your hand off the handlebar first of the side you want to look back over. This opens up that side of the body more so your head doesn’t need to rotate as far and you can get both your eyes looking back

    4. You Don’t Have to Go It Alone!

    Remember, there are MILLIONS of bicyclists across the country (and an estimated 3 million people commuting by bicycle every day). There's always someone to ask questions, share your experiences with, or ride with - you just have to find them. If you're not sure where to start, visit your nearest bike shop. Also, you can also always reach out to us, we're happy to help or connect you with other resources!

    Picture of hundreds of people on bikes standing together on road with arms in the air looking cheerful

    This is Slow Roll in Detroit, MI - just one ride! There are more people on bicycles out there than you might believe!

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    The World All time stats

    • 40,823 Workplaces
    • 669,210 People
    • 155,050 New riders
    • 934,470,983 Km
    • 42,517,000 Rides
    • 30,614,785 kg CO2
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