Special Class Teaches Adults How To Ride Bikes

This particular class, just a short pedal from the White House, was full with people ranging from their 20s to their 50s. So why didn't they ever learn to ride a bike?

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This time of year when bikers appear on the streets of many American cities, particularly those that are bike-friendly, like Washington, D.C. Here at NPR, the bike room is full. Cyclists seem to be everywhere on the streets, many of them on red-painted bicycles from a bike share program. They're pedaling their way through newly painted bike lanes.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So, what if you're a grown-up and you never got the chance to learn how to ride a bike? Well, there happens to be a class for that.

DAN HOAGLAND: Anybody nervous? You don't have to be.

GREENE: That's Dan Hoagland. He's with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. One of our producers joined Hoagland at a recent Adult Learn to Ride class, taking place on a sidewalk just a short pedal from the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF A BIKE BELL)

INSKEEP: The class was full, about 20 people - the youngest in their 20s, the oldest in their 50s, which raises a question: Why didn't they ever learn how to ride a bike?

ARI RODENSTEIN: No good reason. I think I was a stubborn little kid.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Deprived childhood?

(LAUGHTER)

JEANETTE GAIDA: I just never got around to it.

GHIM-LAY YEO: When I was six and my dad tried to teach me to ride a bike, I fell off and scraped my knee and had a fit, and they never tried again.

INSKEEP: Some common replies there from Jeanette Gaida, Ghim-Lay Yeo and Ari Rodenstein. Another student, Holly Park, heard about this class from a friend.

HOLLY PARK: And my five-year-old, who we don't think she's understanding what we're talking about, says: Yeah, momma, you can do it. And then I had to do it.

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Shamed. Shamed by your kid.

GREENE: Indeed, I remember my father telling me I could do it.

Well, this class starts with Dan Hoagland pointing out something strange about the bike.

HOAGLAND: You'll all notice you don't have pedals on your bicycles.

GREENE: No training wheels either. Students anchor themselves with their feet.

HOAGLAND: With both feet at the same time, you're going to kick like a frog and push the bike.

INSKEEP: Kick like a frog. Some riders learn to glide right away - and others, not so much.

HOAGLAND: That's totally OK. Everybody finds their balance point at a different time.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Is everyone breathing? I see a lot of people holding their breath.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: You did it. Oh, my God, you glided.

INSKEEP: Next, one of the six instructors helps to attach one pedal per bike.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: And you're going to put your pedal at the two o'clock position. That will give you the most power when you're taking off.

GREENE: Soon, most students have both pedals attached and they're doing laps around the instructors, looking like any other group of two-wheeled tourists in the area.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: That's how you get balance

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You're riding a bike.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: That's how you get balance, so let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. Don't even stop. Take it down over to that Pennsylvania Avenue

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Alright, keep it up on that pedal and pedal. Pedal. Pedal. Pedal-redal.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Pedal, pedal, ride on. This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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