11/13/2010 9:10:58 PM
Adding trail riding/mountain biking to the list of things to do when you travel together as a family, or just to knock around some afternoon together, adds a new dimension, and new opportunity for fun and adventure to you and yours. Below is a quicker, easier to read list of ideas based upon recent experience with my kids.
Take care, and good riding.
- Pick a trail park that has a kids playground nearby. This gives kids additional rewards after a challenging ride to let loose with other kids.
- If possible, start out on dual tracks. Let the kids get use to softer terrain and the extra effort and balance that is required for the surface. They won't have felt this before riding in the neighborhood.
- Keep focused on being outdoors together, stop and explore the surroundings and interesting features. Encourage the kids and do not criticize their performance or technique. Be positive and help them with obstacles by explaining specific techniques to overcome them. Depending on age and experience level, what is a minor challenge to you is a mountain to them. Try to view things from a kids point of view.
- Remember, the ride with the family is not a race, take your time, be patient. Allow the child to build both strength and confidence.
- Allow the kids the chance to lead on familiar trails, allow them the opportunity to be independent. The sense of freedom can be exhilerating (for all of us).
- Prior to hitting a trail with switch backs, kids need to learn to turn tightly and stay upright. I have played with my kids in an open parking lot chasing each other like squadrons of fighers, twisting, turning, accelerating, braking.
- Make an afternoon of it, or a day, take a picnic, ride to the picnic site, ride the trails, then hit the playground. For young kids, there has to be something more than just the ride. As they get older, their focus will be more in tune spending time with you, the trail and its own challenges.
- For beginners, plan short rides, pick the trail and plan the route based on the capabilities of your kids, not yours, allow the kids to help plan the ride to aid in anticipation for it.
- Kids need engagement and activity before the ride. Let them help assemble the bike (if front wheel removed), reset the brake caliper and inspect the condition and function of the bike for trail readiness.
- Kids, at least mine, really like having their own seat bag with tools, a pump, and first aid kit. This gives them investment in the ride, builds a sense of ownership and independence. They can be just like you!
- Taking friends on the trail can be a real booster for your kids, and introduces new riders to the sport. Also, it allows other kids an opportunity to do something that they may not ever have the opportunity to do without being invited to do so. A side benefit, your child will learn leadership as they help their friends negotiate the trail and show them how to prepare for the ride. You will actually watch your child grow in the process and take responsibility for the safety of their friends, and have a blast the whole time while riding the twisties.
- Finally (big list), remember, the goal is giving your time and focus on them and sharing an enduring experience together they will likely never forget. It will likely not be a good cardio workout for you, but what is strengthened instead, and more importantly, is a closer relationship with you that is built upon trust and your commitment to their development. It's not the quality of time you spend together (kids do not score your efforts), but the quantity of time you invest that they will remember. Mountain biking can be a family activity that you can share together over a good number of years and continue to reap the benefit.