Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Encouraging kids and teens to be active from a young age sets good habits early on and helps them develop the skills they need to stay active throughout their lives.
We asked Pedal 2 Pedal MTB coach, Hannah Attenburrow and Ride Lines MTB Coach Andy Weir for their top tips on teaching your child to ride off road and the benefits of getting involved with this fantastic sport.
ANDY leads kids MTB camps at Glentress, Peebles during half terms and main school holidays, this year they have 10 whole weeks of dedicated Kids Camps! For every individual or group of aspiring riders he sees he likes to get the following skills drilled in before they hit the trails together:
STANDING UP on the bike starts the journey to separate them from it. If a rider is sitting down all the time, every bit of trail vibration is going straight through the bike and into the body. Bigger bumps can “buck” the rider around too! This can cause fatigue and make them tired really quickly. If you can get them standing up, allowing the bike to move separately underneath them, they will be far happier (and safer).
BRAKING: Let them know the consequences of braking hard with each brake. Like skidding and going over the front of the bike.
Get them to use both brakes at the same time and cover them all the time, ideally with at least one finger. (make sure there’s plenty of fingers left to grip the bars!)
Some levers are adjustable, so make sure the wee one can reach the lever effectively and pull it with enough force to actually make it work!
GEARS: Bikes these days can be complex. Though the new range of Frog MTBs have only one chainring up front, so there’s no front gear shifter to worry about. Either be sure the young rider knows how to use both shifters and perhaps even
limit them to only the rear gears to start when riding off-road? This isn’t a ‘skill’ as such but worrying about gears is the number one distraction we see from kids riding bikes with lots of them!
LOOK WHERE YOU’RE GOING!
Whether being distracted by looking down at their gears, chatting about the latest Fortnite skin or just sugar rushing from the Haribo you’re feeding them, kids can’t stop ‘doing stuff’. You need to find a way to help them concentrate on what’s ahead. All kids are different, so it’s really down to the individual to convince them that it’s a good idea. If you catch them staring at their front wheel, give them a holler to look up!
PUT IT ALL TOGETHER… If they are standing up with their brakes covered and looking ahead, they can see what’s coming and decide what to do. If it’s an obstacle they are confident with, then what will be, will be! Using the skills above, they have the very best chance of success. But If it’s something that they don’t want to do, with these ski
lls they can make an early call to stop safely, put their foot down and see what comes next. If they have a good understanding of how their gears work, they can then set off with confidence too. We wish the best of luck to everyone who gets their kids out on mountain bikes. It can be scary stuff, but if you ease them in with some simple skills for safety and to enhance their enjoyment they will never look back!
Riding off road takes their skills to a new level – increasing concentration levels, attention span, spatial awareness and of course the ability to dust yourself off and go again when things don’t go to plan!
HANNAH runs mountain bike camps through the school holidays giving children aged 4+ the opportunity to try mountain biking, a sport that she feels, unless they have cycling parents they probably will not experience.
The many benefits of Mountain biking include;
Keeping children interested is different for every child and will depend on what they are driven by. As a coach Hannah makes sure in every session each child has the opportunity to get some feedback and one to one attention to ensure that even in a group setting no child gets forgotten.
“I pick out the positive points from each session to give them a sense of achievement, so they leave feeling positive and excited about the next session.
I also like to set little challenges for the time between each session; this keeps them on their bikes during the week until our next session. As children need an hours exercise a day if they have a goal to reach for the next week, they are far more likely to get up of their own accord and go ride round their garden or ask if they can go biking at the weekend”.
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