How to Take A Kid Mountain Biking
Looking to take your kid out for their first mountain biking adventure? We've teamed up with the experts at Kids Ride Shotgun to give you everything you need to know.
How To Start Mountain Biking With Your Kid
For your kid’s first intro to mountain biking, the advice is to start small, keep it local and increase the adventure levels as you and your young gun’s confidence grow. Start in your backyard, graduate to your local park and then move on up to your local trails, starting on the quieter and more family-focussed ones.
“Start with balance bikes when you're mountain biking with kids” Kids Ride Shotgun Founder Dan told us. “They’re great for getting them used to off-road riding and they’ll feel like they’re riding a proper bike. Kids tend to hop on those from about 18 months old and they’re a great place to begin, especially on fairly flat mountain bike trails”.
The Kids Ride Shotgun Child Bike Seat, is worthy of mention here and is perfect for taking a kid mountain biking. It mounts on your bike’s top tube and allows your young shredder to ride along with you, experiencing the trail as if they were riding. They get their own handlebars to hold on to and are placed front and centre on the action, whilst also being safely between mum or dad's arms.
“Start on the Kids Ride Shotgun Seat around your neighbourhood - if your kid is enjoying it and asking for more then you’ll know you’re safe to move on to bigger adventures” Dan says. “A nice trick is to use a balance bike and Shotgun seat together. They can ride their own bike till they’re tired and then jump on your bike when they run out of steam. Just avoid nap times so they don’t fall asleep!”.
Don't Forget, Mountain Biking With Kids Is Fun!
Dan’s advice is that fun is the answer to that 'how to mountain bike with a young child' question. If you and your kid are stoked, you’re both much more likely to want to go again. Easier said than done though, of course.
“My big advice is to adjust your expectations. If you make it to the woods for five minutes and everyone has a good time then you’ve won. Mountain biking with kids takes patience and epic rides won’t happen overnight!”.
“Snacks and drinks are key. You might like to build a reward into it too, like ice cream at the end or a particular destination you know they’ll love. Maybe you’ll stop halfway to throw some stones in a pond, feed some ducks or splash in a stream. If you're hoping to go mountain biking with young kids, you might like to pack some of their favourite toys so you can stop for a play break on the way around.”
“It can be great to involve them in the route too” Dan tells us. “Get them to help decide where you’ll ride that day and make decisions on the trail so they really feel involved”.
Most of all, Dan explains, it’s just about what you’d normally do anywhere else with your kid. Offer lots of praise, lots of encouragement, lots of opportunities for rewards and watch for those telltale signs of stoke or tantrums.
Kid's Mountain Biking Helmets And Gear
Mountain biking clothing and equipment for kids is awesome these days and there are almost as many options for young shredders as big ones. Dan’s advice is to treat your kid's first mountain bike helmet as a milestone and a great opportunity to build up some stoke.
“Ask your kid to clip your helmet onto your head and under your chin to see how scary it is!” Try and make that first memory of picking a helmet positive rather than unpleasant. Get them to help choose one that they’ll love and want to wear.
According to Dan, the best kid's mountain biking helmet is one that fits well, has room to grow and is one they’ll really buy into. Don’t be afraid to let them customise their helmet (and any other kit) with stickers so they can really make it their own. Top tip - Stickers are a parent’s best friend when dealing with kit that gets handed down from older kids to younger ones.
As for any other gear, the same applies. The basics should include some gloves, a jacket to keep them warm and some waterproof layers for the wet. Their own drinks bottle and a pack for snacks add a sense of freedom they might not usually have day to day. Many parents will buy knee and elbow pads for their kids, which is a personal choice, just make sure they fit well and don’t slide out of place on the trails.
And what's the best mountain bike for a kid..? We'll come back to that in a second.
Take Your Kid To The PumpTrack (And Beyond!)
Many kids catch the mountain biking bug early and you’ll be surprised how quickly they’re crying out for more.
Dan’s advice is that pump tracks are a great place to start your kid's mountain biking journey, teaching them everything from the basics up to more advanced skills like pumping and jumping. They’re also usually very family-friendly and allow them to ride lap after lap, quickly building up their experience. If you don’t have a pump track in your neighbourhood, there’s always the good old ‘drop off a kerb’ or ‘bricks and a plank’ approach in your local park that we all know and love.
As your kids get a bit more confident, they’ll be begging for bigger rides and more challenging trails. “Just start gently,” Dan says “you’d feel a lot of regret if they had a dumb crash and put them off mountain biking forever”. His advice is to just build up their experience bit by bit and use your judgement to be as progressive as you feel comfortable.
As you graduate to bigger rides the Kids Ride Shotgun Tow Rope adds capacity to little legs. The Towrope allows kids to ride under their own steam and get a tow up the hills from mom and pops. That means no more tantrums when a nasty hill pops up mid-ride... from the kids at least!
And How About Mountain Biking With Older Kids?
You’ll soon reach a point where your kids are tearing down your local hill, eager to send jumps and rail berms. It’s at this point that bike choice becomes really important, after all nothing keeps kids off the trails and in front of screens like broken bikes. This is where you need to know where to find the best mountain bikes for kids.
For the younger shredders, Marin’s Hidden Canyon is a great value 20” that’s stacked with quality parts, whilst the San Quentin 20 is a ‘proper’ mountain bike for little people, with disk brakes, a suspension fork and trail-worthy tyres and gears. Both are great children's mountain bikes and are perfect to kickstart their MTB adventure.
When it’s time to really step up to proper trails, we believe that kids shouldn’t be short-changed. We’ve designed three badass, mini-mountain bikes that will be every bit as capable as mom and dad’s, just in smaller sizes.
The Marin San Quentin 24 is every kid’s dream hardcore hardtail and the scaled-down version of what freeride superstar Matt Jones rides. The Marin Rift Zone Jr and Rift Zone 26 are both full-suspension bike and the wild child rippers you never had when you were growing up. All of Marin’s mountain bikes are built to be super fun to ride and as capable on your first trail as your first race.
Once you’ve chosen your kid's mountain bike, we’d always recommend getting them some kid's mountain bike skills coaching. There are qualified coaches throughout the world and many that specialize in teaching kids how to mountain bike. Book a session and your kids will gain knowledge that will last a lifetime. Google 'Mountain Bike Skills Coaching For Kids' to get started.
And Remember, Mountain Biking is Awesome
Last but not least, Dan was really keen that we don’t forget why we want to start mountain biking with kids. “Mountain biking is awesome” he beamed. “it’s exercise, it’s time away from screens and it’s an adventure”.
“It’s about getting together in the outdoors and spending quality time together that we don’t always time for. It’s a great form of escapism, which is super important in today’s urban life. Get your kids into mountain biking from a young age and you’ll have the best chance of them sticking with it forever!”.
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