Answered: Learn how to ride a bike in Portland


You’ll be riding in no time.
(Photo © J. Maus)

I’ve really enjoyed all the helpful advice shared in response to our new Ask BikePortland column. Several people said they’d like to read a follow-up post with the most popular answers summarized, so here goes…

This week’s question was from a reader who said she never learned to ride a bike as a kid, but wants to learn. Where/how can an adult learn to ride a bike in Portland? Below are some of the top answers.

By far the most popular bit of advice was to check out the classes offered by Gracie’s Wrench, a local company that teaches people how to fix and ride their bikes. Reader “Tess” said, “Especially for women nascent riders, a female instructor can be more comfortable. And Tori [owner of Gracie’s Wrench] is way awesome.”

Several people said that whatever you do, bring a friend along for support (both moral and physical).

I loved the suggestion of learning like many kids do — by scooting around on a bike with a low seat and without pedals to master your balance. Reader “Laura” had this great story to share:

“I watched a 50+ year-old woman in our SE neighborhood learn to ride last summer. She had a Breezer, had lowered the seat and removed the pedals, and was using it like a Skuut. After a week or so of Skuuting around, she was pedaling with the seat at a correct height, and grinning like the rest of the riders on Clinton St.”

If you’re feeling wobbly, another tip was to take your bike to a running track where the soft surface will keep your speed down and absorb your body if you fall.

One reader recommended a City of Portland run program called Women on Bikes targeted at women new to biking.

Another excellent resource to check out are the courses offered by Northeast Portland-based BIKEmpowered, a business started by Brian Lacy, the man who founded the Community Cycling Center.

Stephanie Reynolds, who works with the City of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement also chimed in with a suggestion. She pointed out that the police often hold “bike rodeos” for kids and she was “surprised” when a recent survey revealed, “multiple requests for bike rodeos for adults.” Perhaps there’s a possibility for a City-funded adult biking program?

These are just some of the tips and advice offered by our stellar community of readers. Thanks! For the full rundown, check out the comment thread on the original story.

Stay tuned for next week’s Ask BikePortland column. If you have a question, let us know.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Anne Hawley
14 years ago

the soft surface will keep your speed down and absorb your body if you fall.

There’s an image for you.

Great inspiration–and I didn’t know about Gracie’s Wrench. Thanks for the tip!

14 years ago

This makes my heart sing. I spent 20 years being embarrassed about not knowing how to ride a bike. As a girl scout I stood in line for the bicycle obstacle course (to earn my bike badge) and couldn’t muster the guts to say I didn’t know how to ride until it was my turn. Hearing the phrase “it’s as easy as riding a bike” always made me cringe. Then I met my BF who had the patience and desire to teach me to ride. Now I’m a year-round bike commuter. woot!

btw, they gave me the bike badge anyway…and now I wear it proudly on my pack 🙂

14 years ago

It’s certainly nothing to be embarrassed about. Not everyone can swim, or even read, but fortunately as humans we have brains which enable us to learn. Cycling has the additional advantage of being impossible to forget once learned, making it well worth the effort of doing so. If the city were to sponsor an “adult bike rodeo” (please give it a better name!) hopefully they would do some marketing to encourage participants to step forward.

I wonder if there is way we can measure “cycling literacy” rates among the population in general. I’m rather curious how today’s numbers would compare to the past, and more importantly, the future. I hope this information at least will help some people find the joy that is riding a bike.

14 years ago

Bike New York has an excellent learn to ride program that can be easily replicated in Portland.