First, check your equipment. You need a good front brake. It should be strong enough to lock the wheel if you pull it with two fingers, so you can hold the handlebar firmly in the rest of your hand as you brake. Put your seat down, so you don't get kicked by it.
As for pedals, BMX (platform) pedals allow you to jump over the bar if you have to. Also, people always think you need clipless pedals to lift with your feet, but you actually do the opposite. You push your feet down, back and up in one dynamic motion, so clipless pedals aren't really needed.
Now, find a spot on a smooth road with no gravel, or some dry grass. Ride at a walking pace, standing on the pedals, with your crankarms horizontal. Find the braking point where your front wheel finally locks.
Put your weight slightly forward so the rear wheel will come up, then immediately shift your weight to the rear again. If it seems like you're going to fall, let the brake go or be ready to jump over the bar with spread legs. To get a feel for it, have a friend pull you up from the side by lifting the saddle.
Check in tomorrow to learn how to do wheelies - Hans Rey
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