The days of quarantine will hopefully be over soon, the sun will be shining and all of our favorite mountain biking trails will be open again.
There are few feelings in the world as rewarding as sharing an activity that you love with your kids. There’s something magical about watching them fall for something you really enjoy, and mountain biking is no exception. What parent doesn’t want to share new trails, the thrill of descents, and the rewards of long climbs with their offspring?
But, for the unprepared, mountain biking with kids can present a whole set of unanticipated problems that can really affect your kid’s perception of the sport. When they’re just getting started, it’s imperative to make sure you’re not forcing something that’s too challenging on them. So we’ve partnered with evo to put together this list of tips for mountain biking with kids to help you, and them, have the best experience possible.
Check their bike before you’re at the trailhead
This one might seem obvious, but it’s really important to make sure kids’ bikes fit well, and are running smoothly, before you start riding. Just because they’ve been riding it around the neighborhood without any problems doesn’t mean it’s ready to take on trail riding. Take their bike into a reputable bike repair shop, and have them do a quick check. They’ll let you know if there are any problems you need to address, or any quick ways to make it perform better. Having a good bike shop check your kid’s bike every few rides won’t just improve the riding experience for them, it will also make sure it’s safe to ride.
While you’re there, talk to someone at the bike shop about dialing in the bike’s fit for your child. Because kids grow so quickly, the touchpoints of the bike (the pedals, handlebars, and seat) need to be adjusted often to make sure they’re comfortable. This goes for other gear like helmets, too. Fit isn’t something your child will be able to intuitively point out, so it’s a good idea to have someone who has experience with youth bikes take a look at their fit. They can also adjust brakes and shifters to be easier to reach for small hands.
Consider renting a bike
If your kid doesn’t own a dedicated mountain bike, or if their bike is too small, consider renting. It might be tempting to buy, but a mountain bike rental is a great way to make sure they have a good experience riding and will stick with it before committing financially. Of course, if they’ve got a capable bike that they’re comfortable with, a rental is unnecessary, but for riders just getting into the sport, it’s a great idea.
Take them to a skills park
It’s tempting to take your kid on one of your favorite rides and let them figure it out. What adults often forget is that it takes smaller people a lot longer to get places on a bike, and longer singletrack rides can get really boring for kids who feel like they’re just pedaling the whole time. Instead, kids’ brains are programmed to want to try many new things, and experiment while they learn. This makes a mountain bike skills park the perfect place to start out. Small obstacles, and a pump track give them a place to experiment, build skills, and gain confidence, without having to ride very far. It’s like a playground for bikes. If you don’t have a skills park handy, consider just sessioning a very short section of trail to practice rolling over roots, and braking before corners.
Always ride uphill first
If you’re taking your kids on a longer ride, it’s best to get the bulk of the climbing out of the way right at the beginning when they have the most energy. One of the hardest things about riding with kids is gauging their limits, figuring out how long they can have fun, before they get too tired and become cranky. If you choose rides that start with a climb, you can reward them with snacks at the top, and even if you don’t make it all the way to your goal, you can coast back to the car. For small people, rides that end with a downhill leave them excited to come back for more descending next time, not angry about the slog back to the car.
Keep the focus on (their) fun
This is the most obvious, but also one of the hardest tips to put into practice. As adults, we have preconceived notions of what makes a fun bike ride. We want to clean climbs and charge down descents, we want to feel tired and accomplished. For kids, their priorities can be really different, and if they’re not having fun, you’re wasting your time. Don’t focus on riding a certain trail, or being on the bike for a specific amount of time. Be flexible, if they want to look for pollywogs in the creek, instead of riding that last hill, let them. Look for natural breaks, pick some berries, learn about birds, don’t just focus on the ride. Their young minds want to wander, facilitate that, in the context of riding, and they’ll come to enjoy the whole experience, and will become life long riding partners.
evo’s bike rental is open with precautions in place to get you out mountain biking with your kids.
We are evo Portland – a ski, snowboard, mountain bike, surf, wake, skate, camp, and lifestyle retailer.
evo explores the collaboration between culture and sport by seamlessly joining art, music, streetwear, skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking, and wakeboarding. Our aim is to bring all things relevant to the urban, action sports lifestyle into one creative space. Whether it is on the website, on the phone or in our stores, our aim is to make all who come into contact with evo feel welcome and excited about their experience.