RAIS­ING A RIP­PER

We’ve all seen them on the ski slopes: 3 year olds shred­ding black di­a­monds with the par­ents chas­ing be­hind. But where are th­ese lit­tle shred­ders when the snow melts and sin­gle­track ap­pears across the moun­tain

Mountain Bike for Her - - Content - By Jen Char­rette

With the in­ven­tion of bal­ance bikes, bike parks, and light­weight pedal bikes there is no rea­son your child can’t start learn­ing to shred sin­gle­track this sum­mer. Start with th­ese five tips and watch your lit­tle one rip.

TIP 1: START THEM ON A BAL­ANCE BIKE

Learn­ing to bal­ance, lean and get your feet down when you’re in trou­ble are im­por­tant skills to learn early. And noth­ing does that bet­ter than a bal­ance bike. You can in­tro­duce a bal­ance bike into your child’s life around the age of 18 months. Bal­ance bikes elim­i­nate the need for train­ing wheels, teach bal­ance, and most mod­els are light­weight. And, as your child pro­gresses bal­ance bikes are still a great al­ter­na­tive to heavy 12 inch pedal bikes. They al­low lit­tle ones to not only ma­neu­ver it eas­ily, but they are also able to lift and carry the bike them­selves as well – some­thing they sim­ply can­not do with a pedal bike that weighs more than 60% of their body weight. As Strider’s Mar­ket­ing Manager Kyla Wright says, “This is com­pa­ra­ble to ask­ing a 168 pound adult to ride a bike that weighs over 100 pounds!” There are a num­ber of bal­ance bikes on the mar­ket. Look for one that is within your bud­get, weights less than 7 pounds, and has a plat­form for kids to rest their legs. A bonus for older kids is a hand brake.

TIP 2: TAKE THEM ON AD­VEN­TURES

Even a two year old can start down the sin­gle­track with you for ½ mile or play on the start of the trail. While it may seem hard to load up the en­tire fam­ily, it’s worth the ex­tra ef­fort for the ex­po­sure and ex­pe­ri­ence. Max, fa­ther of two and owner of Spawn Cy­cles states, “My kids aren’t big enough to ride longer trails with me, so I’ll go for a shorter spin with them on a trail or ride with them at the skatepark or pump track. When my kids get a lit­tle big­ger I will spend as much time as I can with them on the trail be­cause as we both age one thing is for sure – they will get bet­ter and I will get worse. Right now, and I imag­ine for a limited num­ber of years in the fu­ture, they love rid­ing with me. I can help them im­prove their skills and we can share a lot of fun times. They won’t want

to ride with me for­ever so I want to en­joy it and help them de­velop as much as I can while I have the chance. I also find that it has the added ben­e­fit of get­ting me out rid­ing more of­ten than I had in the past few years.”

TIP 3: THINK BIKE PARKS AND BMX

If you have a chance, get your kids in­volved in BMX or visit a lo­cal bike park. They are a great way to build bike skills in a fam­ily friendly en­vi­ron­ment. A lot of great moun­tain bik­ers have roots in BMX. It helps kids pick a line, han­dle a bike in tight quar­ters, and move their body weight around a bike to weight and un­weight the bike. Jump­ing, bunny hop­ping, and man­u­als are great skills that trans­fer read­ily onto a moun­tain bike and can be a lot eas­ier to mas­ter on a smaller BMX bike. Any type of ex­po­sure to pump tracks and tri­als type fea­tures at a young age is also great, be it skin­nies, teeter tot­ters or any other num­ber of fun things for kids to ride. Many BMX parks are also of­fer­ing bal­ance bike cour­ses, races, and skills clin­ics.

TIP 4: QUAL­ITY MAT­TERS

While you shouldn’t break the bank out­fit­ting your child to ride, a qual­ity pedal bike will go a long way to in­still­ing a love of moun­tain bik­ing and en­hanc­ing their

ex­pe­ri­ence. Once they have grad­u­ated from the bal­ance bike, make sure their first pedal bike is ap­pro­pri­ate for their size and weight. “We hear tons of par­ents wor­ried about the price of light­weight, high qual­ity kids’ bikes,” says Max. “But think noth­ing of drop­ping hun­dreds on ti­ta­nium parts or drop­per posts for their own rides. I know from my own ex­pe­ri­ence, my kids have a lot more time to ride than I do, and the benefits of a pound off of one of their bikes means a lot more to them than it does to me.” It’s true that you don’t see many kids pro­gress­ing or rid­ing a lot when they have overly heavy or cum­ber­stome bikes. It’s just not fun to deal with faulty brakes, shifters that don’t shift, frames that don’t re­spond, and shocks that don’t work. Also, a qual­ity used kids bike has good re­sale value while the typ­i­cal depart­ment store bike is prob­a­bly headed for the trash mak­ing the net costs sim­i­lar.

TIP 5: AL­LOW PRO­GRES­SION

Re­mem­ber your first few years of moun­tain bik­ing? I bet as you pro­gressed along the rather steep learn­ing curve you took your fair share of tum­bles. And while your kids prob­a­bly have bet­ter bal­ance than you, they are also go­ing to tum­ble as they im­prove. Don’t put la­bels on where they should be based on their age. Some kids will be ready for in­ter­me­di­ate and ad­vanced trails well be­fore you think, while oth­ers may need ad­di­tional time on the kid’s loop. “Guar­an­teed, kids will take their share of spills and wipe outs while learn­ing to ride on both bal­ance bikes and pedal bikes. Try to keep a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude, bring lots of snacks, and dress for the falls. We had a rule in our house against wear­ing shorts for rid­ing, and when­ever pos­si­ble I put my son in a long sleeved shirt, bike gloves, and socks. Any­thing to cover up skin and pro­tect it from the spills,” ex­plains Tanya, an avid out­door mom and blog­ger from Cal­gary. And once you’ve cov­ered the safety is­sues, push your kids to progress, while keep­ing things within their abil­ity lev­els. Push­ing the en­ve­lope is im­por­tant, but scar­ing kids with big­ger fea­tures they’re un­com­fort­able with, or tak­ing them on long gru­el­ing rides. aren’t likely to mo­ti­vate them. When in doubt, err on the side of cau­tion when you’re try­ing harder fea­tures or longer, tougher rides for the first time. Bot­tom line – Make it chal­leng­ing yet fun and get them out reg­u­larly to build skills and a life­long love of rid­ing.

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