Learning To Ride A Bicycle: Adult Bicycle Training Wheels

Adults who are learning to ride a bicycle or have difficulties with balance may want to invest in adult training wheels.

Many of us consider riding a bicycle to be a skill learned once as a child and never forgotten as an adult. But anyone who has tried to climb onto a ten-speed bike or a rented mountain bike at age 30 can dispel that myth quickly. Adults who never learned to ride a bike in their youth or have difficulties with balance and coordination may find learning to ride a bike very challenging. Unfortunately, there is also a social stigma attached to not acquiring a skill thought to be so elementary and self-explanatory. Children learning to ride their bicycles usually have a supportive adult to guide them and training wheels to keep the bicycles level and stable as they pedal. These learning aids are not always available to adults wanting to enjoy a biking trip with their families.

But all is not lost for adults wanting to learn (or re-learn) how to ride all types of bicycles. No longer are adult riders limited to expensive and bulky tricycles or elaborate recumbent bikes. Now there are training wheels available that can accommodate coaster bikes, ten-speeds and even off-road mountain bikes. These wheels behave much like the training wheels of youth, but with some notable differences.

First of all, adult training wheels do not attach to the rear tire area like the version designed for children's bikes. The gears of a ten-speed or mountain bike would be affected if an adult-sized training wheel were attached to the rear axle. Instead, adult training wheels are attached directly to the frame behind the seat and extend out further than a child's version. They are still set 1/2 to 3/4 inch above the level of the back tire, so the rider is not fully supported while riding, only stabilized. Adult training wheels can usually accommodate riders up to 200 pounds or more. The tires are usually 6 inches in diameter and are solid. The rider should not be aware of the wheels unless the bike begins to wobble and lose momentum. Beginning riders should keep in mind that training wheels are meant to be TEMPORARY. As the rider begins to become more comfortable, the wheels should play less and less of a direct role in stabilization. As soon as a rider can mount the bicycle with confidence and ride in a straight line without wobbling to the left or right, he or she may be ready to remove the training wheels entirely.

Some manufacturers of adult training wheels make a distinction between 'training wheels' and 'stabilizers'. Training wheels are meant to be temporary, and are set slightly above the level of the bike's tires. Stabilizers are heavier and sturdier than training wheels, and are intended for permanent use by those riders who have inherent balance or muscular control difficulties. These stabilizers are attached exactly like training wheels, but are set directly in line with the level of the tires. Some brands of stabilizers could double as training wheels if the proper adjustments are made, but training wheels may not be suitable as permanent stabilizers. Stabilizers intended for mountain or trail bikes may have large pneumatic tires and are referred to as 'fat wheels' in the industry. Both children and adults may benefit from the addition of fat wheels when first learning to ride on uneven terrain.

Many adult riders who purchase training wheels or stabilizers do so because of certain medical conditions. Those who suffer from Parkinson's Disease or similar disorders may find that a regular bicycle is too difficult to manage. Other adult beginners may have inner ear conditions which can affect their sense of balance. Older riders also may feel a need for extra stability while riding for exercise or daily transportation. Even those who mastered the skill of bike riding in their youth may discover that additional pounds and lack of conditioning have made biking much more difficult.

Finding adult training wheels may not be easy, but they are advertised on the internet and in specialized bicycling magazines. A professional bicycle shop may have some in stock or have the ordering information available. Orthopedic supply outlets may also offer stabilizers that can double as training wheels. Most companies which specialize in adult training wheels make them on an individual basis and may have backlogs. If you believe you may benefit from adult training wheels, order early and be prepared to wait. Standard training wheels for children are not a workable alternative, because they are not rated for the additional weight and are designed for bicycles under 20 inches.

© High Speed Ventures 2011