By David Janeson
Mountain biking is a great activity that combines a love of nature and the benefits of physical activity. If you’ve been thinking about introducing your kids to mountain biking, also called off-road biking, now’s the time.
Teaching and working with your kids gives you a unique opportunity to form a special bond. Mountain biking also builds confidence, teaches decision-making skills and gives kids a way to commune with nature. With the right equipment and practice, you and your family can look forward to a lot of fun mountain biking adventures in the years to come.
Talk the Talk
If the subject of mountain biking hasn’t come up before, talk to your kids and get their thoughts about it. If they don’t know much about mountain biking, give them a brief description and test the waters. If they already love to ride their bikes and enjoy the outdoors, you’re more than halfway there.
Getting the Bike Right
The right mountain bike is the bike that fits your child’s body, height and capabilities. Include the kids in the buying process. Let them sit on the bike, ride it if permissible and listen to their opinions. Guide their choices, of course, but make sure they feel part of the process.
Purchase the highest quality mountain bike you can afford. If you’re on a budget, go for a solid frame and upgrade components as your child’s skills improve.
If you’re not ready to buy, look into renting a bike first.
Don’t skimp when it comes to safety. Falls are bound to happen anytime kids learn a new physical skill. Make sure the kids have helmets that fit properly. Gloves and elbow and knee pads are also recommended.
Start Slow and Smooth
Slow and smooth — that’s the way to start. If you have a lawn, have the kids practice riding over the bumps and grassy areas to get used to riding off-road surfaces.
“As your kids learn to ride off-road and build strength in their legs, add obstacles such as small logs and rocks, to give them experience in riding over what they’re likely to encounter on the trail.” — David Janeson
Head to a park with rolling hills to give kids the experience of biking up and down.
Take the time to let kids master maneuvers and build muscles. Expert mountain bikers don’t happen overnight.
The Next Level
Easy does it. Find a wide and relatively smooth jeep trail or similar off-road spur. Let the kids lead so you can keep an eye on what’s going on. Rest when someone begins to struggle.
Most of all, make it fun. Bring snacks, take breaks and enjoy one another’s company before moving on.
Be the Grown Up
Kids have parents for a reason. They often feel invincible and try things before they’re ready. It’s your job to see that doesn’t happen. Teach technique and make sure your kids master the skills they need to try more difficult trails. Never push them before they’re ready either physically or mentally.
With lots of practice and a little patience, it won’t be long before the entire family can look forward to hitting the trail together.
David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba