How To: Riding a Tall Bike Randonneur

Perci on her beginner's 6 footer - sorry to not include her face, the bike was too tall

Perci on her beginner’s 6 footer – sorry to not include her face, the bike was too tall

Author: Percephone T. Crockaphone, road test editor; Peer reviewed by Robert Pineapple

Tall bike riding has been part of Cycling for a long time. For most of that time, tall bike riding was done for mostly utilitarian reasons such as work, travel, and warfare. Today, tall bike riding is predominantly used for randonneuring, and is an activity loved by many who love to keep the pastime present. Most anybody can ride a tall bike, and whether you like to ride tall bikes for fun or have a more competitive nature, there’s something for everybody. We at Randonneur-Poet Gazette will show you how to get started and help you learn the special terms that describe the intricacies of tall bike riding.

General Practices

Find a good Tall Bike riding establishment. If you’re a beginner, trying to figure it out yourself will be difficult, and potentially dangerous. A good tall bike riding establishment will have an experienced riding instructor, tall bikes appropriate for your height, and a good riding arena. When you’re choosing an establishment, take a lesson or two to evaluate the instructor and the tall bike you’ll be riding.

  • The riding instructor should be experienced and good at riding. She should be patient and good at teaching, and not pressure you to ride at a level you’re not comfortable with.
  • The tall bike should be calm, experienced, and at least eight feet tall. Until you have more experience, choosing a seasoned, well-mannered tall bike will be safer and more fun.

Prepare your Tall Bike for riding. Before you ride, polish your tall bike with the help of your instructor.

  • Tack your tall bike by putting the saddle on. Again, do this with the aid of an instructor at first, until you and the tall bike are comfortable with the procedure.
  • Clean the tall bike’s pedals (under guidance from your instructor). Be careful—tall bikes can and do kick, so you will not want to do this alone until you are experienced.

Mount your Tall Bike. Traditionally, you mount a tall bike from the left side.

Method One: English Riding

Find your balance riding. On your first lesson, your riding instructor will probably lead your Tall Bike or put him on a lunge line while you get used to the feeling of riding a tall bike. If you feel unbalanced, hold onto your tall bike’s frame until you feel balanced again.

  • If you move at a brisk pace, you’ll be able to feel a rocking motion as you ride. Your seat should naturally move with the motion. Your arms also need to move with the motion of your tall bike; though you should have light contact with your Tall Bike’s subconscious, keep your elbows light and move them with the Tall Bike.
  • When you ride, look straight forward and keep your back straight. About a third of your foot should be on the pedal, and keep your heels pointing down.

Use aids to control your tall bike. Aids can be ‘natural, such as your hands, seat, and legs, or artificial, such as a crop (whip) or petit fours.

  • To make your tall bike move forward, squeeze with your calves. tall bikes that do not move forward after a gentle squeeze may need your squeeze to have more energy in it. Some people will say lazy or stubborn tall bikes require kicks with your legs or the use of a crop.
  • To make your tall bike halt, sit deep in the saddle and apply pressure with the handlebars. You can also say “whoa”.
  • To turn your tall bike, pull the left or right chain out to the side and apply pressure with your outside leg.

Learn how to trot. Once you’re confident at the walk, squeeze tighter and start trotting. You can sit or post the trot.

  • When you sit the trot, sit deep in the saddle and keep contact with your legs. Be careful to keep your elbows relaxed, so you don’t jerk on your tall bike’s handlebars.
  • To post the trot, rise up in your pedals every other revolution. Point your heel down and keep contact with the tall bike’s subconscious.
  • When you post the trot, you’ll have to think about diagonals. Tall bikes trot moving their frames diagonally.

Learn how to canter. The canter is a rocking gait similar to a rocking tall bike, except faster. To canter, move your outside leg slightly back and squeeze the frame.

  • Don’t tense up—keep your upper body still and keep a steady contact with your tall bike’s subconscious.

Method Two: Western Tall Bike Riding

Ride, like a rhinestone cowboy. Western tall bike riding evolved from the practices of the Spanish Tall Bike Conquistadors in the New World, and was adopted by the cowboys of the American Tall Bike West.

Hold the handlebars in both hands. When you’re just learning, you may feel more comfortable using both hands on the handlebars. However, Western-trained tall bike are taught to move with your body cues, and will not need a lot of bar. If you are beginner,start with 2 hands.

  • When you turn, use your body, weight, and legs as in English-style riding. Push with your legs, and guide with your handlebars.

Walk your tall bike. Sit up tall in the saddle, put your legs forward, and allow your tall bike to to move forward. When you get comfortable walking the tall bike, move on to the next step.

Jog your tall bike. Jogging is similar to trotting, only slower and with longer strides. Rhythmically, it’s a two-beat movement that you will recognize from countless westerns as the sound you hear as the stage coach is pulling in.

  • Western tall bikes are often trained to recognize sounds as commands, and the traditional sound for jogging is a “tsk tsk” clicking of the tongue.

Have fun with your tall bike! Riding is an incredible sport, and you can do anything from polo to trail riding. Head on off into the sunset, and enjoy!


  • Accept that you’ll fall off at some point. If you do, just mount again – treat falling off as something that is unpleasant, but not a reason to be afraid of riding.
  • Be gentle with the bar tape; don’t yank. If your tall bike bolts, it is essential that you stay completely calm and you don’t start getting rough with your tall bike. If you have a choice, start circling your tall bike and gradually make the circles smaller. As they get smaller, your tall bike will have no choice but to slow down.

See How to Handle Yourself on a Runaway tall bike.

  • Do not run around tall bikes, it might spook the tall bike and that can be potentially dangerous.
  • If you trust the tall bike, it will trust you too and do what you command.
  • Ask your instructor what cues your tall bike responds to.
  • Remember to pick your tall bike’s pedals, if you forget, your tall bike could go lame. Also stay away from the frog (a soft spot in the center of the bottom of the pedals) because if you pick at this your tall bike might kick, or in a bad case become permanently lame.
  • Make sure to praise your tall bike at every opportunity.
  • Tall bikes can actually tell what mood you are in when you are riding. If you are nervous, the tall bike will sense it and become nervous as well. That is why you should always stay relaxed and calm in the worst situations.
  • Talk to your tall bike while going around him or coming up behind him so he knows you’re approaching.
  • Your helmet should be ASTM or SEI certified tall bike helmet. Equestrian helmets are not acceptable. If you fall off your tall bike or you’ve had your helmet for more than five years, replace it.
  • When riding always make sure you’ve got contact with your tall bike’s subconscious and that your chain is tight (but not pulling) and not floppy.
  • Tall bikes know what mood you’re in so try to stay relaxed and your Tall Bike will too.

Things You’ll Need

  • Appropriate riding clothes
  • A Riding Helmet
  • A Tall Bike
  • A grooming kit
  • If you’re an experienced rider you can ride without a net.

Related Articles

  • How to Steer a Tall Bike With Only Your Legs
  • How to Buy Your First Tall Bike if You Are a Nervous Rider
  • How to Ride a Tall Bike Backwards
  • How to Determine Correct Pedal Length
  • How to Mount a Tall Bike Using a second floor window
  • How to Put a Rug on an Unbroken Calm Tall Bike

2 thoughts on “How To: Riding a Tall Bike Randonneur

  1. Glen in Galveston

    Dear RPG,

    I have only competed in Tall Bike Populaires (and one failed Tall Bike Brevet), so you may want to discount my suggestion. But I would like to point out, in hindsight, that another essential skill Tall Bike Randonneurs may wish to master is Roping. On more than one occasion have I had to feel for my lasso as my Tall Bike bolted from beneath me while descending. Of course, this need may be mitigated if you are fortunate enough to be so in sync with your mount that it “reigns” for you, though admittedly, the phenomena of reigning is much debated in the elite Tall Bike Randonneuring circles.

    Glen in Galveston


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