We bought our kids balance bikes before they could walk, played bike videos on YouTube instead of cartoons, and moved them up a wheel size way too early because “they’ll grow into it”.
Why? Because as mountain biker parents it’s more than just teaching our kids a sport. We want to share our passion and usher them into a lifestyle that inspires confidence, connects with nature, and builds community, character, and health for their whole lives. Here are 8 tips to encourage you kids to make two wheels a part of their journey.
1. Encourage their strengths
Our daughter is all about the nature and the solitude that biking brings so we always take time to listen to the birds and look for animal tracks. Our son, on the other hand, is the “adrenaline junkie” so every ride needs a new rock to session, jump to hit, or hill to scream down. Whatever your little one enjoys, make that a part of the ride.
Artist? Bring paper and crayons to draw what you see on a break.
Lover of ball sports? Pack a ball to throw in a field mid-ride.
Video gamer? Remind them that they become the game as they zoom around each corner and avoid obstacles.
Many bike brands offer kids gear that makes for a much more enjoyable ride. After getting padded bike shorts, gloves, and jerseys, our kids feel equipped for the adventure and they want to ride longer. Check out Zoic’s Boy’s Ether Jr or Girl’s Rippette shorts with a padded liner… they’re a Ninja fave!
3. Find community
Kids and adults feel the same way when it comes to riding with others. When you create a play date with friends on the trail there is joy in the shared experience. Bonus: kids complain less when they’re with other kids! Utilize your local mountain bike chapters, BMX tracks or meet-ups if you’re looking for friends to ride with. Many local race series have kids’ races before the main event – a great way to connect kids with other shredders.
4. Create ownership
Teach your child to be responsible for their own bike and gear. Before a ride have them check the air in their tires and add lube to the chain. After a ride, wash your bike alongside them and teach them about the different components. When a kid is knowledgeable and takes ownership of their gear it creates confidence and buy in.
5. Consistency is key
Kids love routine and they want to know what to expect. It can be a temporal consistency like “every Friday we ride as a family to the local pizza joint.” It could also be a consistent ritual that your child loves like eating the same special trail snack, a family chant or listening to the same song before each ride. For my squad, there’s a grove of trees where we play hide and seek every time we are on that trail. The kids get so excited and look forward to that part of the ride every time.
6. Cross training
You’ve heard it before: “it’s not when you fall, but how you fall.” Get them involved in other activities that encourage resilience and teach them that they can fall and keep on going. Activities that build balance and body awareness are great crossovers for the bike; tumbling, snowboarding, break dancing. We knew we couldn’t stop our son from pushing the limits of his body, but after the third broken bone by age of five we thought he needed to start falling the right way so… hello Parkour!
7. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks
Is there anything else to say….?
8. Teach them the right way
Stop bad habits before they start and teach them the right way to handle their bike. A little hesitant on how to teach skills? The best way to learn is by taking a skills clinic of your own. A Ninja clinic will show you the basics that all riders should have. It’s never too early to start adding tools to your kids tool box.
Some days, it’s extra hard to give up your own adventure to ride with the little ones in your life, but it’s an investment worth making. Family ride by family ride, you’re instilling the love of dirt beneath the wheels and the yearning for adventure. And, just maybe, when we aren’t cool anymore, they’ll actually keep taking us out to play with them.
Highly recommended! Essential riding skills are thoroughly broken down making them easy to understand and learn. Coach Richard and Kris...
Highly recommended! Essential riding skills are thoroughly broken down making them easy to understand and learn. Coach Richard and Kris are some of the most professional and pleasant coaches/cyclist/people I have come across. Looking forward to one of their future clinics. ~ Tom T.
This was awesome. Having someone dissect your riding into a few skills that you can focus on is a great...
This was awesome. Having someone dissect your riding into a few skills that you can focus on is a great starting point in order to make you faster. I’m sure everyone including myself experienced a positive feeling in how to improve from this point on. — Don’t expect to be a world champ after this clinic but to learn what and where and most importantly how to improve your trail riding from now on. Richard gives you the tools but you have to put in the work.” ~ Michael A.
I’ve immediately seen an improvement in my riding …
I took the skills camp at Mt Laguna last weekend – it was GREAT. Ok, so I was a bit...
I took the skills camp at Mt Laguna last weekend – it was GREAT. Ok, so I was a bit of a nervous wreck when I realized I was the least skilled in the group – but the instructors didn’t give up on me and gave me plenty of tips, positive reinforcement and new ways to think about my riding. At the end of the weekend, I felt that I had a better understanding how to ride better. I’ve immediately seen an improvement in my riding, am a lot less timid and am looking forward to taking another camp soon! ~Quan Campbell
The Ninja team (Richard & Aaron) were great instructors!
The Ninja team (Richard & Aaron) were great instructors! The training was in Soquel Demonstration Forest & being able take...
The Ninja team (Richard & Aaron) were great instructors! The training was in Soquel Demonstration Forest & being able take our time to session sections of Braille & Flow while having experts help fix any dysfunctions in our riding technique was priceless. I know I've always had to brake-check a lot before hitting the corners, but now I actually feel more planted while carrying more speed around the berms just w/ a slight change in hip position. I can't wait to actually hit Flow again at speed just to see how my time has improved. As for Braille, I know I need to session some of the jumps & drops a few more times before I hit them at speed (instead of bypassing around most of them as I have in the past) but now I should have the tools to know what I need to practice. Technical instruction aside, they also talked about efficient uphill pedaling, gearing choices as well as techniques to build up more mitochondria in your body... all stuff I'm interested in since I know I need to build up my climbing legs. ~Carlo F.
My wife started mountain biking recently and while she enjoyed it, she was lacking some confidence and needed some skills....
My wife started mountain biking recently and while she enjoyed it, she was lacking some confidence and needed some skills. I knew Richard La China from the cross country racing scene and felt confident that he and the ninja team could help out. I bought a woman's beginner clinic for my wife and she really enjoyed the challenge and experience. She is a better mountain biker now with much more confidence and new and improved skills. Mission accomplished! I highly recommend Richard LaChina and the ninja skills clinics for any level. I bought my wife a clinic gift card for Christmas which she will use to take the intermediate clinic. I plan on taking an advanced course to improve my cornering skills. ~ Mark T.
We are a group of passionate, dirt-loving, community oriented, world class mountain bike skills instructors committed to helping you reach your personal riding goals through clinics and camps. We are excited to work with riders of all ability levels and share the joy (STOKE) of mountain biking.