How to Take A Kid Mountain Biking

The Marin Bikes' guide to taking a kid mountain biking, with our friends at Kids Ride Shotgun.

Father and son ride mountain bike with Kids Ride Shotgun Childs Bike Seat

Little Rippers

For your kid’s first intro to mountain biking, the advice is to start small, keep it local and increase the adventure levels as you and your young gun’s confidence grow. Start in your back yard, graduate to your local park and then move on up to your local trails, starting on the quieter and more family-focussed ones.

“Start with balance bikes” Kids Ride Shotgun Founder Dan told us. “They’re great for getting them used to off-road riding and they’ll feel like they’re riding a proper bike. Kids tend to hop on those from about 18 months old and they’re a great place to begin, especially on fairly flat mountain bike trails”.

The Kids Ride Shotgun Shotgun Child Bike Seat, is worthy of mention here. It mounts on your bike’s top tube and allows your young shredder to ride along with you, experiencing the trail as if they were riding. They get their own handlebars to hold on to and are placed front and centre on the action.

“Start on the Shotgun seat around your neighbourhood - if your kid is enjoying it and asking for more then you’ll know you’re safe to move on to bigger adventures” Dan says. “A nice trick is to use a balance bike and Shotgun seat together. They can ride their own bike till they’re tired and then jump on your bike when they run out of steam. Just avoid nap times so they don’t fall asleep!”.

Don't Forget to Keep it Fun!

Dan’s advice is that fun is the secret to taking your kid mountain biking. If you and your kid are stoked, you’re both much more likely to want to go again. Easier said than done though, of course.

“My big advice is to adjust your expectations. If you make it to the woods for five minutes and everyone has a good time then you’ve won. Epic rides won’t happen overnight!”.

“Snacks and drinks are key. You might like to build a reward into it too, like ice cream at the end or a particular destination you know they’ll love. Maybe you’ll stop halfway to throw some stones in a pond, feed some ducks or splash in a stream. For younger kids, you might even like to pack some of their favourite toys so you can stop for a play break on the way around.”

“It can be great to involve them in the route too” Dan tells us. “Get them to help decide where you’ll ride that day and make decisions on the trail so they really feel involved”.

Most of all, Dan explains, it’s just about what you’d normally do anywhere else with your kid. Offer lots of praise, lots of encouragement, lots of opportunities for rewards and watch for those telltale signs of stoke or tantrums.

Father and son riding a mountain bike
Kids Ride Shotgun handlebars and Kids Troy Lee Designs Helmet

My First Mountain Biking Gear

Mountain biking clothing and equipment for kids is awesome these days and there are almost as many options for young shredders as big ones. Dan’s advice is to treat their first bike helmet as a milestone and a great opportunity to build up some stoke.

“Ask your kid to clip your helmet onto your head and under your chin to see how scary it is!” Try and make that first memory of picking a helmet positive rather than unpleasant. Get them to help choose one that they’ll love and want to wear.

According to Dan, the best helmet is one that fits well, has room to grow and is one they’ll really buy into. Don’t be afraid to let them customise their helmet (and any other kit) with stickers so they can really make it their own. Top tip - Stickers are a parent’s best friend when dealing with kit that gets handed down from older kids to younger ones.

As for any other gear, the same applies. The basics should include some gloves, a jacket to keep them warm and some waterproof layers for the wet. Their own drinks bottle and a pack for snacks add a sense of freedom they might not usually have day to day. Many parents will buy knee and elbow pads for their kids, which is a personal choice, just make sure they fit well and don’t slide out of place on the trails.

Add Confidence, Add Adventure!

Many kids catch the mountain biking bug early and you’ll be surprised how quickly they’re crying out for more.

Dan’s advice is that pump tracks are a great place to go, teaching them everything from the basics up to more advanced skills like pumping and jumping. They’re also usually very family-friendly and allow them to ride lap after lap, quickly building up their experience. If you don’t have a pump track in your neighbourhood, there’s always the good old ‘drop off a kerb’ or ‘bricks and a plank’ approach in your local park that we all know and love.

As your kids get a bit more confident, they’ll be begging for bigger rides and more challenging trails. “Just start gently” Dan says “you’d feel a lot of regret if they had a dumb crash and put them off mountain biking forever”. His advice is to just build up their experience bit by bit and use your judgement to be as progressive as you feel comfortable.

As you graduate to bigger rides the Kids Ride Shotgun Towrope adds capacity to little legs. The Towrope allows kids to ride under their own steam and get a tow up the hills from mom and pops. That means no more tantrums when a nasty hill pops up mid-ride... from the kids at least!
Father and son ride mountain bike with Kids Ride Shotgun TowRope
Red Marin Bikes San Quentin jumping at 417 Project

And For Bigger Kids

You’ll soon reach a point where your kids are tearing down your local hill, eager to send jumps and rail berms. It’s at this point that bike choice becomes really important, after all nothing keeps kids off the trails and in front of screens like broken bikes.

For the younger shredders, Marin’s Hidden Canyon is a great value 20” that’s stacked with quality parts, whilst the San Quentin 20 is a ‘proper’ mountain bike for little people, with disk brakes, a suspension fork and trail-worthy tyres and gears.

When it’s time to really step up to proper trails, we believe that kids shouldn’t be short-changed. We’ve designed three badass, mini-mountain bikes that will be every bit as capable as mom and dad’s, just in smaller sizes.

The Marin San Quentin 24 is every kid’s dream hardcore hardtail and the scaled-down version of what freeride superstar Matt Jones rides. The Marin Rift Zone Jr and Rift Zone 26 are both full-suspension bike and the wild child rippers you never had when you were growing up. All of Marin’s mountain bikes are built to be super fun to ride and as capable on your first trail as your first race.

Once you’ve chosen your kid's bike, we’d always recommend getting them some skills coaching. There are qualified coaches throughout the world and many that specialise in teaching kids. Book a session and your kids will gain knowledge that will last a lifetime.

And Remember, Mountain Biking is Awesome

Last but not least, Dan was really keen that we don’t forget why we’re trying to take our kids mountain biking. “Mountain biking is awesome” he beamed. “it’s exercise, it’s time away from screens and it’s an adventure”.

“It’s about getting together in the outdoors and spending quality time together that we don’t always time for. It’s a great form of escapism, which is super important in today’s urban life. Get your kids into mountain biking from a young age and you’ll have the best chance of them sticking with it forever!”.
Young boy smiling in yellow Troy Lee Designs helmet on kids mountain bike

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