Less screen time, more trail time! Now days, kids are spending more and more time inside than ever before thanks to the invasion of touch-screen everything. Share your passion of love for the outdoors and get your kids (or a child in your community) out mountain biking.
Here are a few tips on creating a safe and welcoming, family-friendly environment to introduce our next generation to mountain biking. And don't forget to check out Seth from Seth's Bike Hacks video on taking kids mountain biking below!
1) THE TALK.
No, I'm not talking about the birds and the bees. Have open communication and make sure your little one is comfortable riding on flat, easy terrain before wheelin' straight to the dirt trails. Size can make a huge difference, so make sure you have an appropriate bike that fits your child's body type and height. Riding on a bike either too large or too small can be detrimental to learning proper mountain biking skills and it can also compromise the child's safety.
Finding a bike that properly fits your child is key to assuring they have a good time on the trails. Make sure your child(s) test ride various makes and models of bikes and then ask them what they liked and didn't like on each one. While adults will use the frame size as a point of reference for bike sizing, it is more common to choose a bike size based on the wheel size for our little ones.
Wheel Size 12" ---> Age 2 -3 ---> Height 2'10 - 3'4
Wheel Size 14" ---> Age 3 -4 ---> Height 3'1 - 3'7'
Wheel Size 16" ---> Age 4-5 ---> Height 3'7 - 4'0 '
Wheel Size 20' ---> Age 5-8 ---> Height 4'0 - 4'5'
Wheel Size 24' ---> Age 8-11 ---> Height 4'5 - 4'9
Wheel Size 26' ---> Age 11+ ---> Height 4'9
Wanting to start your little one extra early? Start them off on a Strider Balance Bike and training wheels will be a thing in the past.
3) START SIMPLE
No need to take the bull by the horns. Your child's career on a bike may best be started at your local bike park. Bike parks are a great place for kids to practice going over obstacles in a controlled environment. Not only that, but they can easily repeat specific obstacles over and over until they feel confident and comfortable. This will help grow their confidence for when they do hit the trails. Try to hit up a bike park a few times a week and allow your child to practice on their own terms while you stay on the sidelines cheering them on and offering helpful tips- only when they need it.
4) DON'T BE NAIVE
Children are often fearless! No doubt you'll be surprised at some of the obstacles and challenges your little one will overcome on the trail. While they may seem fearless, it is important to slowly increase the level of difficulty. By doing so, you will help grow their confidence while not forcing them out of their (unknown) comfort zone. MAKE IT FUN! Always try to keep in mind that mountain biking is supposed to be fun- not competitive (--at least not for this age group).
5) THERE WILL BE TEARS.
Bumps and bruises will happened! But guess what, THAT'S OK! Although no one enjoys falling or getting hurt, it's all part of the learning process and helps build character. Part of being a mountain biker is the ability to get back up after a fall with a positive attitude. If your child feels ashamed from falling, assure them that it happens to the best of us (and that they best get used to it!)