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Explore Worldwide’s Learn To Ride Report

We look at people’s relationships with riding a bike, from the most typical learning ages and who teaches us, through to which countries around the world are most keen to learn to ride and where cyclists are most keen to explore on a bike tour this year.

 
We love the sense of freedom you get from a cycling holiday. Exploring on two wheels allows us to discover miles more beautiful unspoiled landscapes, and truly immerse ourselves in local environments. But not feeling confident on a bike can hold people back from the joys of a cycling adventure. 

In our new Learn to Ride Report we look at people’s relationships with riding a bike, from the most typical learning ages and who teaches us, through to which countries around the world are most keen to learn to ride and where cyclists are most keen to explore on a bike tour this year. 

We‘ve also teamed up with The Bikeability Trust, a charitable organization whose mission it is to give everyone the cycling skills and confidence to enjoy bike riding for life. The experts at Bikeability have shared their tips on how to grow your bike-confidence, and how to instill a love of cycling in the next generation.
 

Explore's Learn to Ride Report Contents

1. Learning to ride & Bike confidence
2. Why is knowing how to ride a bike important?
3. How to teach someone to ride a bike
4. Which nationalities are most keen to learn to ride?
5. 2023's trending bike tour destinations 
6. Where to go for your first cycling tour

Learning to Ride & Bike Confidence

We conducted a nationally representative survey to establish when and how people typically learn to ride a bike around the world, as well as to establish how confident the majority of bike riders actually feel when cycling.
 
Our survey showed that whilst a fantastic majority (83%) of adults say they can ride a bike, only 46% of bike riders say they can ‘very confidently’ ride a bike, which means over half of the adult bike riding population do not feel super confident when riding on two wheels – so Bikeability have shared their tips on improving your bike confidence.

Bikeability’s tips for improving bike confidence


1.    Getting the basics: Getting cycle training from experts is the best way to improve your knowledge, skills and confidence. They will teach you techniques to help you more safely cycle, whether that’s on roads or cycle paths. At Bikeability we offer training for children and adults, you can find out what cycle training is available in your area here.

2.    Set a goal: Having something to aim for is a great way to focus your mind and get you out on your bike more often. It might be something simple like replacing a few journeys a week with a cycle, or covering a certain number of kilometres in a month. You could even sign up for a charity cycle ride, or perhaps plan a holiday with some cycling involved. There are cycling apps you can download to help monitor your progress and compete about other cyclists in your area. 

3.    Practice your routes: If you would like to cycle a particular route, such as going to work or school, it’s worth trying your planned route out beforehand, ideally when it isn’t busy so you can take your time. Trying a route first will help you identify if there are any parts that might be harder than you expect, like a steep hill, or any bits you don’t feel comfortable with yet, like busy roads. Knowing what and where the challenges are will help improve your confidence on the route.

4.    Find someone to cycle with: Cycling is much more fun with other people – you can share favourite routes, revel in the scenery together, plus you have someone to chat to! If you have a friend who likes cycling they’ll probably be more than happy to go out on a leisurely bike ride with you on the weekend. There are lots of social groups out there that are aimed at people who want to learn a few routes, meet other people and just enjoy a cycle. Try British Cycling’s group finder Let's Ride - Homepage (letsride.co.uk) to find a group near you. 

One in six adults (17%) admit that they do not know how to ride a bike at all. Some reasons for being unable to ride a bike include never having had access to a bike (16%), never being taught (13%) and fear of falling or a bike-related phobia (8%). 

The average age we learn to ride a bike is 7 years old, with only 13% of people learning to ride under 5 years old. The survey showed that children are most likely to be taught by their fathers to ride a bike, followed by self-learning, their mum and then their friends.

Our research also revealed that one in six adults who can’t ride a bike admit that they feel embarrassed or ashamed about the fact.
 

Why Is Knowing How To Ride A Bike Important?

Riding a bike opens up a whole world of adventure and opportunities. In day-to-day life, knowing how to ride a bike can help you stay active and fit, whether it’s a leisurely cycle exploring your local landscapes, or helping you reduce carbon emissions on a daily work commute. Riding a bike can take you places quicker than your feet can and show you more in less time. 

Modern cycling has been around for around 130 years, and bikes keep evolving as our needs change and technology advances. Due to climate change it’s imperative we use green transport where we can, and with modern life involving a more sedentary lifestyle, it’s more important than ever to get outside and use your body – and riding a bike conquers all three of these points!

As well as limiting your fitness, travel and adventure opportunities, not being able to ride a bike could even limit your love life; our survey found that 18% of adults claim that they would find it unattractive if a potential partner could not ride a bike!

James Adkin, Explore Worldwide’s very own Cycling Programme Manager shares his thoughts about why cycling is such an important skill to have: “Travelling by bike is good for nature and good for your own health. Riding a bike is an environmentally friendly way to travel that is positive for your health and your local community. So many short journeys can be made by bike and so many short car journeys are therefore avoidable. Once learnt you never forget how to ride a bike and it enables you to have so much freedom to explore your local area, make low impact journeys and enjoy yourself.

How To Teach Someone To Ride A Bike

Our survey study revealed that 30% of people admit they wouldn’t feel confident about teaching someone else to ride a bike, and so the coaches at Bikeability have shared their excellent expert tips and tricks for helping you help a new rider: 

Bikeability’s tips for teaching young children to ride and be more cycle confident

1.    Forget stabilizers: Stabilizing wheels used to be the go-to for teaching children how to ride, and it’s easy to see why – they effectively turn a two wheeled bicycle into a trike – so there’s no chance of falling off. This can take the anxiety out of it – especially for parents! However, stabilizers don’t actually help children, or anyone for that matter, learn how to ride a bicycle.

2.    Try a balance bike instead: Rather than getting a child used to cycling with stabilizers and then taking them away, start them off with a balance bike instead. These are bikes without pedals, so the rider uses their legs to push forward – scooting themselves along. As the name suggests, balance bikes help children learn how to balance, and will allow them to transition to a cycle with pedals much more easily. Two or three years old is the usual age for introducing a balance bike, although some children may start younger or older, depending on their ability and of course desire to ride!

3.    Progressing to pedals: Once they have mastered a balance bike, the transition to pedal will be a lot easier than you might think. You will know they’re ready to move on when they start asking for a pedal bike and they can do things like moving around obstacles, balancing on their bike for a long way without putting their feet down, travelling distances of a mile or so on their balance bike, making a sharp turn, and steering to stop themselves falling off. Basically if they’re doing well on a balance bike and they ask for a pedal bike, it’s a good time to make the switch.

Bikeability’s tips for teaching adults to learn to cycle

1.    Remove the pedals, and lower the saddle: Adults can learn to cycle in a similar way to children – take the pedals off a full-sized bike and voila, you have an adult balance bike! You’ll also need to lower the saddle a little so the learner can comfortably reach the ground with their feet to scoot themselves around.

2.    Basic balancing: It’s very hard to teach balancing – it's an instinct that has to be felt by the rider. The main difference between teaching adults and children to cycle is fear – children are generally much less afraid to fall off. Find somewhere quiet and ideally with soft ground so it won’t matter too much if they fall. The great thing about cycling without the pedals is that the cyclist’s feet will generally be on or near the ground, so it’s easier for them to stop themselves coming off completely.

3.    Cycle fast but take it slow: Once your adult beginner can balance, it’s time to put the pedals back on and try pedaling. The faster they cycle, the more stable they will be, but this isn’t easy if they’re not feeling confident or worrying too much about falling. The key is to be patient and let them try to get going and to pedal as many times as they need. Remember, it’s easier to learn things as a child as you’re not so used to doing things a certain way!

To install confidence in adult riders, James Adkin, Explore Worldwide’s Cycling Programme Manager, advises to: “Practice as much as possible, go out in the evening and on weekends to build up experience. 

Study the Highway Code so you’re aware of the laws of the road for cyclists and follow the advice given. Always try to keep yourself in your position on the road and in relation to other cyclists and traffic – always signal your intentions clearly so other road users are aware of what you are planning to do – don’t assume, and be visible. 

If you feel intimidated cycling in traffic, again building experience and following sound advice is important – I recommend these further tips from Cycling UK
”. 
 

Which Nationalities Are Most Keen To Learn To Ride?

To look at a more global picture, we undertook an extensive analysis of Google search data to reveal which nationalities are turning to the internet the most for advice on learning to ride a bike. By looking at how many times phrases such as how to ride a bike and learn to ride a bike are searched for online (allowing for all the local language translations) and cross-referencing those searches with a region’s population size, we have created a heat map of the world that shows which countries are most keen to learn to ride a bike: 
Map showing countries most eager to learn to ride a bike
Map showing US states most eager to learn to ride a bike
The top 50 countries most keen on learning to ride includes the likes of Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Australia and the UK

The most eager countries originate in North America, with the populations of The Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Grenada showing a real interest in learning to ride. Canada’s eagerness to learn to ride a bike meant it came 43rd in the world rankings, with USA following in 47th place. We took a deep dive into each US state’s Google search data to reveal Vermont, Wyoming and North Dakota are the American states that are most keen to learn to ride a bike. 

In Europe, Belgium comes out as one of the countries with the biggest appetite for learning to ride a bike, followed by the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. Whilst Belgium doesn’t have the highest population of cyclists*, it has a real enthusiasm for the sport, with a boom in cycle paths and incentives over the last few years, and passionate cycling sport fans. The infatuation Belgians have with cycling doesn’t seem to be waning, as the country comes out as one of Europe’s most eager places for learning to ride a bike with over 5,300 searches every year compared to an 11.6 million population size. The Netherlands (which have one of the largest percentages of cycling populations on the world) show no signs of slowing down their love affair with riding a bike, coming 8th in the European rankings (and 39th overall). The UK comes 28th in the world rankings, showing a real commitment to greener transport and outdoor exercise, along with Germany who rank 34th worldwide. 

Australia and New Zealand both land inside the top 50 countries in the world that are most keen to learn to ride a bike, coming 30th and 35th respectively. The latest statistics from the CWANZ** suggest whilst cycling participation boomed during the Covid years, it’s dropped in popularity more recently in Australia and New Zealand. 

2023’s Trending Bike Tour Destinations

Explore offers fantastic cycling tours in interesting destinations all over the world, from Italy and the UK to Cuba and India. However, we were curious to find out where in the world intrepid cyclists are keen to explore on two wheels. Using Google data, we looked at which destinations around the world have seen the biggest jump in interest for bike tours in the last 12 months. 

East Asian locations come out as the places cyclists want to explore the most, with Taipei, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Khao Lak, Shanghai and Hanoi all ranking in this year’s top ten trending bike tour destinations. 
Rank Location Interest increase, based on yearly Google search increases
1 Taipei, Taiwan 946%
2 Phnom Penh, Cambodia 816%
3 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 692%
4 Auckland, New Zealand 557%
5 Khao Lak, Thailand 533%
6 Shanghai, China 500%
7 Hanoi, Vietnam 480%
8 Taiwan, Asia 464%
9 Buenos Aires, Argentina 408%
10 Santiago, Chile 390%
11 Cologne, Germany 354%
12 Albania, Europe 311%
13 Chiang Mai, Thailand 281%
14 Samoa, Oceania 275%
15 Japan, Asia 270%
16 Bangkok, Thailand 250%
17 Wellington, New Zealand 247%
18 Beijing, China 234%
19 Zagreb, Croatia 224%
20 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 100%

Cambodia and Vietnam take second and third place respectively – with huge jumps in search interest for bike tours in Phnom Penh, Hochi Minh City and Hanoi. It’s easy to see why travellers are keener than ever to take bike tours of these fascinating cities, and the surrounding rural landscapes found in these countries. Our Cycle Vietnam & Cambodia tour is hugely popular thanks to its variety of quiet back roads that take in remote villages, orchards and paddy fields, through to jungle tracks that take you to hidden temples, as well as the Mekong Delta and its floating markets. 

Another popular destination for cyclists to explore this year is Thailand. Khao Lak has seen over 500 times more Google searches for bike tours compared to last year, with Chiang Mai and Bangkok both seeing a massive increase in search interest of over 250%. Getting on two wheels is a brilliant way to explore the stretches of quieter coastline on Thailand’s islands, away from the party beaches. Thailand bike tours are also a fantastic way to take in the country’s beautiful national parks, with their limestone hills, forests and tropical wildlife.

New Zealand’s Auckland has jumped up in interest (up 557%) with cycling explorers, as has Wellington (up 247%). New Zealand is particularly suited to mountain biking adventures, with a landscape that is famed for its rugged rural beauty. From the country’s pristine lakes, fringed with snowcapped mountains to fertile valleys brimming with pretty fauna and wildlife, cycling in New Zealand will provide travellers with opportunities to discover some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. 

Germany’s Cologne is the place in Europe that’s seen the biggest increase in cycling interest, with 354% more online searches in the last 12 months compared to the previous year. Cologne is brilliantly bike-friendly, with a swish network of cycling lanes, and bike tours that include taking a ferry boat on the Rhine to explore the fishing village of Zundorf, as well as exploring the historical buildings and landmarks of the city. Albania is Europe’s second trending cycling hotspot – with a 311% jump in bike tour interest. More and more people are keen to take on the challenge of Albania’s steep ascents, so they can be rewarded with incredible trails through black pine forests, around crystal clear glacial rivers and views of unspoiled gleaming coastlines. Croatia is the third and final European entry in the top 20 trending cycling destinations – with bike tours in Zagreb seeing a 224% jump in interest. The city has invested in its cycling infrastructure in recent years, making bike riding easier and more enjoyable for both its residents and its visitors. Croatia is a hugely popular destination for cyclists, with a variety of trails suited to all abilities that explore the golden sand beaches of the Dalmatian Coast, the pre-Romaneque architecture in Split and the dusty picturesque trails made by a disused railway line on the Parenzana Trail.  
 

Where To Go For Your First Cycling Tour

Our expert cycling manager James Adkin has shared his advice on trips and routes he would recommend for novice cyclists:  

"Our Leisurely grade trips (previously termed Easy grade) are all well suited to beginners, who feel that they maybe lack the fitness, experience or confidence to try our Challenging tours, but still want to explore a place on two wheels. These trips are all mostly on flat ground, and include less tricky terrains, and usually include just two to four hours’ cycling each day. Our Leisurely grade tours include places like Puglia in Italy, Kerala in India and the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico – see our full selection of easier cycling tours here

For nervous cyclists, for example, people who are worried about sharing the road with traffic, I’d recommend our Cycle Dolomites, Lake Garda and Venice tour; it’s mostly along dedicated cycle paths and is an ideal trip for beginners. 

E-bikes are also available on many of our trips and are vastly growing in popularity. With an E-bike you have the option to pedal under your own steam or to get a little additional boost for a hill or just at the end of a long day
.”

 

Sources & References

Censuswide Survey 

Our survey research was conducted by Censuswide with 1,000 nationally representative UK general respondents aged 18+ between 27.10.23 to 30.10.23. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles and are members of The British Polling Council.

Google Keyword Planner

For the trending bike tour destinations analysis, we downloaded ‘bike tours’ search volume data, using Google’s Keyword Planner for over 674 destinations, including 196 countries, 321 cities, 50 US states, and 107 regions. We summed the total annual searches for each ‘[destination] + [bike tours]’ keyword for the last 12 months and compared them to the previous 12 months’ search volumes (i.e., comparing total searches made between Oct 2021 – Sep 2022 and Oct 2022 – Sep 2023) to reveal which destinations have seen the biggest percentage increase in volumes year on year. Destinations with the highest percentage increase in search volume are ranked as top trending destinations. 

For our world heat map, we created a Bike Learning Eagerness Score based on region population size versus the combined search volume for the term 'learn to ride a bike' and similar keywords in that region for the last 12 months. Data allows for all languages. Data correct as of November 2023. 

References 
*https://www.thebulletin.be/ride-how-belgian-cycling-culture-booming 
**https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2023/sep/01/covid-cycling-boom-has-ended-with-just-one-third-of-australians-riding-in-2023