Today’s guest post is from Sophie Elise at bestbikesforwomen.com
If you’re a mountain biking parent, you might be thinking of introducing your kids to mountain biking. It’s a great activity to boost confidence, connect with the great outdoors and create a special relationship with your child. When introducing children to any sport or activity, a thousand questions riddle our minds; how do we introduce our kids to mountain biking in a welcoming environment? How do we ensure their safety and manage elements of risk? What if they aren’t interested or can’t stand the thought of having their parents teach them a new skill? To help you along the process of introducing your child to mountain biking, I’ve put together a list of seven helpful tips to ensure success.
1. TALK TO THEM.
It might seem obvious and easy, but it’s important to talk to your child. Find out what interests them and if any of their friends might like to try mountain biking with them. It might make it a little easier to have a buddy their own age learn with them. If they don’t show an initial interest, don’t push it on them. Plant the seed by talking about all the fantastic things you enjoy about mountain biking; the thrill, the adventure and get them excited. Offer to take them on their first ride, and see if they would prefer a one on one experience or a group bike session with friends.
2. FIND A SUITABLE BIKE.
Buying a bike that fits your child’s height and body structure is of utmost importance, as it will allow them to have more control over the bike. They will be able to enjoy each ride to the fullest and take their riding skills to the next level. Riding a bike that doesn’t fit properly can also be a safety concern, as it’s harder to practice proper body positioning and create good habits from the start. Visit your local bike shop and have them test ride a variety of different bikes from different manufacturers. Review sizing charts and make sure your child feels comfortable. I would also suggest that you include your kid in the buying process as it will make them feel more involved. If you’re unsure if your child will enjoy mountain biking, think about renting a bike before committing to a big purchase. Ensure that you have a mountain bike helmet that fits properly and that it offers maximum protection. You may also wish to have other protective equipment such as knee pads, elbow pads, and gloves.
3. GET STARTED (BUT SLOWLY).
The thrill, the rush of adrenaline and immense joy that we get from mountain biking is difficult to describe in words, and yes, we also want our kids to experience the same thing, and they’ll get there eventually. Don’t get them in over their head right off the bat. Practice body positioning, stance and balance exercises on simple, flat terrain. Practice on your lawn, or take them to a local park. Grab small objects to use as obstacles (small logs, flat rocks etc.) so they can practice biking over them. Let them ride at their own pace. Get them used to tight turns by using cones (or any object) to create a steering course in the parking lot.
Look up mountain bike youth development programs in your community, they might be interested in doing an afternoon introductory lesson with a coach, as opposed to learning from their parent 😉
4. START RIDING OFF-ROAD.
Start with easy trails and keep the rough stuff for later. Broad jeep trails or paved trails in the neighborhood would be ideal for your kid to start their mountain biking career! Moreover, you should let your kid take the lead, if they get tired, take a break. But don’t push them too hard. It’s all about having fun… sooner or later, they’ll most likely by out-biking you!
5. GO EASY ON THEM.
If you want to mountain bike with your child (or any child), patience is key! Offer them encouragement, constructive feedback and celebrate milestones. Instead of finding faults with your child’s riding, solve obstacles together. Riding with them will strengthen your bond and make it a memorable experience for both of you.
6. FACING DIFFICULT TRAILS.
Don’t underestimate their abilities, but ensure you manage elements of risk. Kids are usually pretty fearless and fast learners. It is imperative that you allow them the freedom to make their own decisions and let them find solutions. Don’t get mad if they decide to walk a section of trail and ask if they want to see you ride a section first that they are nervous about riding. If needed, get off your bike and walk with them, talk them through difficult obstacles provide a slow progression of more difficult trails.
7. TECHNICAL RIDING.
Once they have strong bike handling skills and feel confident on beginner and intermediate trails, it’s time to teach them some more advanced skills and recognize that you might not be the best teacher! technical climbing, rolls downs, small jumps and drop need to be taught in a progression. Start small, practice (a lot!) and session sections of the trail. at this point, you’ll have a good idea how interested your child is in mountain biking and if they’d like to continue recreationally, try racing or join a skills clinic. which brings us back to #1… talk to them! it’s important to know where they’re at throughout the entire learning process, and what they hope to get out of their biking experience.
Mountain biking is a great family activity. It offers a great way to explore the natural world, practice a healthy lifestyle and create a healthy challenge for all family members. Just remember, the end goal is for everyone to have fun!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sophie Elise is a passionate cyclist, author, and blogger. She is very passionate about writing on different types of women’s bikes, accessories, health, fitness and more. She regularly writes on bestbikesforwomen.com