While many of us enjoy spending more time outside and getting active, it's no secret that our younger generations are far more interested in playing on a tablet or Xbox than in getting some fresh air. After months of being cooped up, this penchant for electronics has probably only increased.
Studies show that kids who spend more time outside are happier and less likely to develop psychiatric disorders in adulthood. Moreover, research supports that active children experience benefits in "mood, academic performance, brain function, and other aspects of physical and mental wellbeing."
So how can we encourage our children to get outside, and enjoy the time they spend there? One easy way: mountain biking.
Why Teach Your Kids How to Mountain Bike?
Teaching your child or children to mountain bike is a great way to get them excited about outdoor activity. Not only will they be learning a new and thrilling skill, but they'll also be spending time in nature and learning more about the world they live in.
Ultimately, getting your children out of their comfort zone and immersing them in a new environment will help them become more inquisitive, open-minded, and respectful of nature. They'll also enjoy more restful sleep, and improved fitness and health. On top of that studies have shown that cycling makes us happier.
When Can Kids Start Mountain Biking?
You can safely introduce your child to mountain biking between the ages of 5 and 8. Whenever the child is about 4 feet tall and able to ride a 20-inch wheel you'll start to see mountain bikes available in their size. Naturally, they'll need to master the basics of riding a bike without training wheels before they can graduate to mountain biking.
Once your child is comfortable on a bike, it's a good idea to start them out on a flat or paved road before moving on to technical trails. Easing your children into inclines and bumpy terrain by starting them on Jeep or Forest Service roads is one of the best ways to acclimate them to mountain biking. From there, get your kids onto an easy single-track trail, or a double-track trail so they can get used to riding in the dirt.
The best place to begin is encouraging a basic love of biking and activity before advancing your child to mountain biking. Keep in mind that there is no set age for teaching your kids to mountain bike; it all boils down to their willingness to learn, and whether you're comfortable teaching them at their age.
Getting Your Kids Interested In Mountain Biking
An interest—and eventual passion—for mountain biking requires two things: a love for biking, and a love for nature and landscape.
For your kids, the first of these depends on a love of physical activity, while the second depends on a learned appreciation of the world around them. These are both things they'll pick up from you as their parent! Your relationship to fitness and biking, as well as your interactions with nature, will have a positive impact on your children, encouraging them in these ways.
Your kids might not initially love the exertion that accompanies mountain biking, especially if they're not used to it. However, you can distract them by turning each outing into a family one (if you have the capability), bringing along a picnic lunch, and playing games on your ride, to name a few fun options! It won't be long before your kids begin to associate biking with fun, which is the end goal.
In addition to fun, some kids thrive with a bit of healthy competition and may enjoy either partaking in a junior beginner's race or spectating at one. Take your child down to a local track and let them experience the thrill of race day, the crowds, food stalls, and energy drink sponsorships left, right, and center. The whole atmosphere is fun to just take in! Try unlocking those extreme sport channels on your cable TV and watching some professional mountain bikers. They just might turn into future role models for your child to idolize, the same way Michael Jordan, Kobe Byrant, and LeBron James are influential when it comes to getting kids to shoot hoops.
As for nurturing your childrens' love of nature? They can't appreciate what they don't know! You can help them to appreciate their surroundings while mountain biking by making it a point to teach them about different trees, flowers, and shrubs. Not only will your kids develop a newfound understanding of their surroundings, but they'll also enjoy the benefits that accompany living in the moment and being attuned to their environment.
Make it a Group Outing!
Children are naturally social creatures, so why not consider making their mountain bike experiences group outings?
Of course, whether or not you can pull this off depends on whether the parents of your children's friends are comfortable with their kids learning to mountain bike. If necessary, you can also look into local youth biking programs and clubs that your kids can join. They may greatly enjoy the company of other kids their age while hitting the trails, so enrolling them in group mountain biking might be one easy way to grow their love of the activity and introduce them to new people at the same time!
Group mountain biking is an especially great way to be social yet safe in a pandemic. Studies show that it's less risky to socialize outdoors than it is to meet up in a small, indoor space with little ventilation. Ultimately, we could all do with some safe socialization after experiencing the isolation of the COVID-19 quarantine—your kids included.
If you want to get your kids into mountain biking and make it an activity they enjoy, hopefully the tips in this article have helped you formulate some ideas! Remember: even if your child doesn't love mountain biking at first, there's a good chance that they'll grow to appreciate it over time if they look forward to other aspects of activity, such as nature, competitions, quality time as a family, and group socialization. The key is to figure out what your child will value most from the activity, and focus on that as you introduce them to mountain biking.
Need some help finding good trails for you and your kids? Check out this guide to mountain biking trails across the U.K., sorted by mileage and ranked by difficulty. If you're based in the U.S., the same site offers a guide by state.