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.
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher!...
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher! I would encourage everyone to stay away from the mind trap that buying a more expensive mountain bike is what you need to ride better. Spend the money on lessons instead, and I know you will be happier (and safer) in the long run. I can't say enough positive things about the Bike Skills clinics. ~ Chris G.
Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence!
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much...
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much we learned. I’ve been riding for over 10 years but with all self taught skills. We wanted to learn fundamentals the right way and Richard took us through all of that (along with critical bike setup) and the intermediate stuff that they teach in one day plus he spent an extra hour at the end to teach us jumping which I had always been nervous about. Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence, we even learned to move the bike in the air on a crossed take off and landing. I think my favorite part though was riding fast on the very gnarly technical descent. We will be booking up more private lessons during the summer at Big Bear. Thanks Richard you are a very good teacher! ~John U.
I took a Fundamental Skill clinic last weekend and learned so much! I've been riding for a few years and...
I took a Fundamental Skill clinic last weekend and learned so much! I've been riding for a few years and felt stuck and was not improving at all. Aaron was a great instructor! Very patient and broke down everything step by step and we repeated the skills until we felt comfortable. I look forward to mastering the skills I learned and taking another clinic in the spring. ~Jody Hachenberger-Amend
Special thanks to Santa Fe Fat Tire Society for bringing you in!
My wife and I had the privilege of attending the skills 2 day camp in Santa Fe New Mexico August...
My wife and I had the privilege of attending the skills 2 day camp in Santa Fe New Mexico August 20th and 21st. Richard and Aaron and Catherine where fantastic trainers and teachers they brought new light into basic skills of riding each person in the group was able to excel in what we were doing before we moved on to some other awesome skill or task individual attention was felt by all in the group and visible Improvement was seen in all Riders when we have you back next year you should plan on doubling or tripling the number of riders thanks for a super fun weekend and special thanks to Santa Fe Fat Tire Society for bringing you in and of course thanks to Richard and Aaron and Kathryn. ~Bruce Hamby
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly...
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly for the workout. After racing in an Xterra, I realized that a new bike was in my future. ( I could tell a huge story about the process of purchasing a new MB and the massive amount of miss information you can obtain from bike shops. Especially when you know nothing about bikes. ) Not long after I purchased the new MB, I had my first over the handle bars wreck. I still cannot remember the actual crash. I can see the rut that I am about to hit on the downhill, and then I remember waking up on the trail barely able to breath. The crash gave me some time to catch up on email. One of those emails was a beginners MB clinic hosted by Richard and the Ride Like a Ninja crew. I swallowed my pride and signed up. To date I have done everything I was taught. I made every adjustment to my bike that was recommended. I then had the bike fitted. The skills taught that day are priceless to me. For the first time I understand what position my body needs to be in for each type of terrain. I am not perfect by any means, but in my mind I am shouting the word NINJA to remind myself. I practice the techniques ever time I ride. ~ Hal N.
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.