Getting children outside to enjoy the natural world is increasingly difficult in a society that is characterized by excessive screen times and urban livelihoods. With the child obesity crisis continuing to affect millions of children around the country, exercise is becoming a national priority. Instead of simply signing your children up for a youth soccer team, however, making an effort to get outside of the city limits and into the natural world is also important for a number of psychological reasons.
In this short article, we offer five tips for taking your kids mountain biking, a great summer vacation activity.
Tip #1: Make Sure Your Child is Bike Ready
Without the right preparation and training, that first mountain biking trip with your child could turn into a disaster. Mountain biking is obviously much different than riding on the flat pavement of your driveway. Once your child has mastered driveway biking, try to get him or her to ride on the grass in the backyard. Getting used to riding on different terrains is a must
before hitting the rough terrain of a difficult mountain biking path. A gradual transition from the grass in the backyard to more difficult double track dirt trails is a good way to prepare your child.
Tip #2: Find the Right Bike
One of the biggest frustrations that turn children away from the adventure of mountain biking is not having the right kind of bike. Trying to control a bike that is too big and heavy while maneuvering over tree roots and rocky paths are difficult, to say the least, and will most likely lead to a few wipe-outs. When shopping for a kid’s mountain bike, make sure that your child “test rides” several different makes and models until he or she feels comfortable with one.
Furthermore, do not focus on the size of the frame of the bike as this is a minor consideration for children’s mountain bikes. Rather, search for bikes with the correct wheel size for their age. As a general rule of thumb, 12 inch wheels are great for 2-3- year-old kids and every two-inch increase in wheel size corresponds to 1-2 years in a child’s growth. Thus, 24-inch wheels are usually adequate for 8-10-year-olds.
Tip #3: Make the Bike Safe and Look Cool
While serious adult mountain bikers care about the performance and function of a mountain bike, younger riders will want their bike to look good so that their friends will stare in awe when they drive by at the bike park. Instead of worrying about incorporating better grips, a dropper seat post, and new drive train components, children will most likely be more interested in killer decals, a cool helmet, and other ways to spice up their bike. However, along with the coolness factor bike safety is also important. Some essential accessories are required to safeguard your children when taking your kids mountain biking.
Tip #4: Accept Reasonable Risk
Once you get your child out onto a mountain biking path on a bike that they love, chances are that you will be the one who will be trying to keep up with them. Children are natural daredevils and will surprise how quickly they seemingly master the bike and overcome the challenges of a difficult path. It is important to continually remind yourself to make mountain biking fun for your child. Instead of continuously cautioning them to go slower, or to stay on the path, allow yourself to accept a reasonable amount of risk. If your child has a good helmet and some knee and elbow pads and you´re not taking them on a level 5 difficulty path with 100-foot precipice drop-offs, chances are that a small wreck won’t be of much consequence. If your little mountain biker is wary or hesitant of certain obstacles on the path, offer to demonstrate for them how to bike over or around the obstacle. Remember, that you´re a coach as well, but not a drill master.
Tip #5: Take Your Whole Family
One of the best parts of mountain biking with your child is that this sport requires them to forget their Facebook account, video games, and earphones. Biking requires detailed attention to the path and to the world around us. Thus, mountain biking is a great excuse to spend some quality family time together. Consider mapping out a route where you can end up at a great picnic spot where you can sit together as a family and enjoy the world around you without the endless distractions that characterize everyday life.
Guest post: Jessica is a traveler by heart. Along with frequently penning down her thoughts related to travel experiences, she is an avid biker and an expert reviewer of motorcycle adventure products too.
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