Some parents bond with their children through their education, taking an interest in their homework and love of a particular subject. Others will talk to their kids about conventional sports such as football, cricket or rugby. However, you may be able to get them into another sport if you, in particular, are a mountain biking fanatic. Mountain biking requires skill and offers adventure, so it is no surprise that you might be interested in teaching your children to learn to love the sport as much as you do. If you are looking to introduce your kids to the wonders of mountain biking, here are a few tips you might find useful.
If you are thinking of taking your children mountain biking, then it is pretty safe to assume that they already know how to ride a bike. However, there is a difference between knowing the basics, and being truly comfortable riding. You will need to make a slow transition from smooth, flat roads, to a slightly rougher terrain which includes a few more inclines than their usual routes. Plan short routes which you are familiar with, and make sure the level of difficulty of the trail is suitable for your child. This will allow them to truly get to grips with riding their bikes and will help to prevent events where they freeze up and forget to brake, or don’t use the appropriate gears for different terrains. Once you are confident your child is comfortable, then you can build up to more difficult dirt trails and steeper hills.
Most children will be ready for their first mountain bike at around 7 years old, but it all depends on your children’s abilities and confidence when riding. Of course, the earlier you can introduce them to the sport, the more comfortable they will become on different terrains over time. The important step to take is to teach your children the proper techniques for riding, and make sure that they stay relaxed on the bike. Children often have a tendency to watch their feet or get distracted by obstacles, rather than just keep their heads up and follow the trail path, so this is something you’ll likely have to work on with them. They’ll also need to learn the right times to switch up or go down in gears. Remember practice makes perfect, so riding regularly for short periods of time will really help them to pick up the right technique.
Once your kids are up to speed with the basics, you will want to get them all the right equipment they will need for hitting the more difficult trails, and that starts with finding the right bike. If they already have a bike then you could keep that one for commuting and general usage, and then get a more suitable mountain bike for off-road use only; or alternatively, you could replace their current bike and get a dual-usage model which is suitable for both on and off-road. There are lots of things you’ll need to take into consideration when choosing a bike, such as the number of gears, the reliability of the bike model, wheel size, weight distribution, and reach. Stead Cycles do a range of bikes which are suitable for different ages and purpose, so you’ll easily find something to match your specifications.
If your children are fairly young, then you’ll want to find a bike which can be adjusted as they grow. Also, it should be noted that the appearance of their bike will be very important to children, more so than the practicalities of the bike itself. Therefore, you might benefit from including your children in the bike choosing process, as that way they will be more likely to be happy with it in the end. On rough terrains, safety equipment is also important, especially for younger children. You’ll want to invest in proper protective headgear, as well as some added extras such as knee pads. You should also ensure that your kids are dressed appropriately for biking, as bad attire is a common contributor to accidents: it only takes one frayed pair of jeans, pants that are too long, or loose shoelace, to result in serious injury.
Make it fun
While you will need to teach your children proper technique, and take them through the importance of safety, try your best not to make the experience too much like a lesson. Biking is a great way to keep kids active, so try to make the experience as fun for them as possible: get them involved in planning routes, and introduce challenges to capture their attention. Be spontaneous: if the weather is good then set off on your bikes and hit a trail. This is a good reason to keep all of your biking gear organised and ready to go so that you can grab everything at a moments’ notice. Take snacks with you, and make a day of it, stopping somewhere along the trail to have a mini picnic.
Remember that encouragement is the best way to get children to improve and will also allow them to bond with you. There is a range of things you can give encouragement for, from climbing a steep hill, to tackling difficult obstacles, or even for managing to stand up while cycling downhill (this is an important technique to learn over time but will require practice). You can even give them praise when they crash or fall over because this is something which they will experience frequently when mountain biking and the more comfortable they are with the idea of this, the less upset they will be when they do eventually crash. Another way to make courses fun is through documenting their progress. You could gift them a go-pro once they have reached a certain skill level, which they can then use to film their best rides. Get your kids excited by showing them videos which have been created by other mountain bikers, from the mundane, to the most extreme videos! This will also give them some inspiration and a bigger end goal to work towards.
Children are always up for a new adventure, and mountain biking is a great activity for the whole family. Just remember to keep it fun and teach your kids to be safe!