Our son and daughters just love biking, just like me and they’re getting quite competitive with it. If you’re a mountain biker yourself you’ll know the buzz of navigating a track, whipping through ruff terrain with boulders and trees.
We found the best age to develop to mountain bike terrain and riding for our kids was between 6-8 years old.
Kids love mountain biking and all the aspects of the sport. What isn’t to love? Outdoors, building confidence and fitness.
Most of the gear your kid will need to seriously get into mountain biking starts from around the 6-8-year range. However, I myself started taking my kids out way before this.
My kids had all learnt through our teaching method (not always in the same order) and had been on balance bikes and four wheeled bikes as soon as they could walk.
My son would join me on a bike ride on his balance bike and if I went longer distances I’d take him with me in a trailer or child seat.
Taking them with me in these early years really got them use to the tracks and being outside and their love for it was clear.
Teach mountain bike techniques
If your kids have only ever biked on paved roads or sidewalks, they will need to learn some correct mountain bike techniques before tackling the tracks.
You can teach your kids what we call ‘the attack position’ or ‘default position’:
- Keep your eyes forward looking in the direction you want to go.
- Stand with your pedals level, with your weight on the pedals.
- Bend your elbows, open legs slightly. Don’t squeeze the frame with your knees.
- Don’t squeeze the handlebars stiffly. You need to remain relaxed.
- Don’t lean back; keep weight slightly forward with a flat back
No matter what terrain they’re on this position will serve them well. Whether it be steep inclines, rocky paths or a technical bit. They need to keep their eyes focused on the trail ahead of them. Try not to stare at the obstacles you are trying to avoid as this will just encourage you to hit them.
Encourage your kids to practice often. At home you can still practice using grass, dirt, curbs, gutters and stairs. All will help you for the trails when ready.
You’ll Need the Right Mountain Bike Gear
You don’t necessarily need the most expensive gear out there to go mountain biking, but it is essential to kit your kid out with a good quality mountain bike and helmet. We have reviews on our product recommendations pages for bikes you could look at for your kid depending on their age range.
When you’re ready take note of the following:
- How old is the child?
- How tall is your kid?
- What size is their current bike (if they have one)?
- Your kid’s inseam measurement.
With this information you can now use the sizing chart to be able to correctly size your child to a mountain bike.
Have in mind your budget you are willing to spend and tick off the following items listed below.
- Hydration Equipment
I’ve linked the above to the items I recommend getting started with on Amazon.
If you don’t use the links please make sure your kid has a cycling helmet not a skateboarding helmet. They’ll need the correct ones with ventilation and coverage over their forehead. It also needs to stay snug when ridding.
We’ve written an article on the importance of a helmet and how to measure correctly previously. You can read the article here.
Padded clothing is best for kids to wear. You can find the g-form outfit I got my son here. G-form make bike shorts and shirts with built in padding. They are a top-quality essential item but can be difficult to source for younger kids.
If you can’t find your sizing or need to leave this purchase for a later date you can simply use athletic shorts and a t-shirt just fine.
I would also recommend looking at knee and elbow pads for younger kids. They are not essential but will help prevent grazes if they do have a mis-hap and fall.
Where to go to Find Tracks
Whilst your local you can contact local biking shops who’ll have a list of the best places to go for your age group. Alternatively, you visit the website for your local national forest service. You’ll find that many of the hiking trails are also suitable for mountain biking. Just be sure to check for the pedestrian only trails so you can stay clear of these.
You’ll find local biking clubs on social media pages or you can even join IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association), they host many take a kid mountain biking’ days and events. They also have specific events designed for kids on the trails.
If you’re ever away on vacation, you could consider taking your mountain bikes with you. If required, look here at the bike rack I used for our first trip away taking the bikes with us.
If you’re staying near any national parks you could ask the rangers for the best access trails in the areas. Most of them will be able to give you a map of all the routes that are bike friendly.
We headed over to a ski resort in the summer and they had loads of bike trails and access was cheap as it was off peak. We would get a lift to the top of some routes each morning with our bikes and then biked down. They have lots of various routes you can take. Some expert and some family friendly.
Remember when you take your kid on any mountain bike ride you need to be sure to teach them to:
- Stay on the trails
- Take care of the environment
- Try not to spook any wildlife
- Yield to Hikers and horse bike riders
- Always plan ahead, make sure you’ve enough water and the right equipment.
Mountain biking for kids
For some children mountain biking can be scary and an intimidating sport. Others will be quite the opposite and completely fearless. You need to remember that both these approaches to mountain biking can result in injury.
If your kid is too hesitant, they may not be able to navigate the trails as quickly as required and could lose balance maneuvering around objects.
If your kid is too confident, they may take the trails too quickly and hit terrain at high speed resulting in slipping.
My advice would be to help all your kids by asking them to practice at home on flat ground first. With any kind of bike riding, not just introducing them into mountain bike riding, confidence is key. For the less confident, repetition will help build confidence and for the overconfident teach them when they should display more caution.
Never push kids onto any terrain or trails that they don’t feel comfortable with it and try to keep them in a group of the same ability.
Make sure the equipment is correctly fitted to them and they will usually flourish in no time at all. Most kids once they get the hang of it grasp the sweet spot of mountain biking and enjoy every minute of it. All kids must remember the etiquette discussed above and eat healthy balanced diets and they’ll become great mountain bikers.