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.
They’ve helped build my confidence and competence!
Coming from a triathlon background I had spent most of my time on the road, though I did have a...
Coming from a triathlon background I had spent most of my time on the road, though I did have a few seasons of cyclocross under my belt. I was a novice mountain biker with just enough confidence to get myself into trouble on the trails. I started by attending the free Tuesday night mountain bike workouts at Balboa Park, led by Coach Richard. While these are primarily geared toward building fitness, we learned some skills tips and I met some cool folks. Since then I've taken the intermediate and advanced skills clinics, as well as raced a couple times. Coaches Richard and Kris are great at instruction, which is not easy. Most great riders cannot teach others to do the same, but these two are exceptional at it. They've helped build my confidence and competence. In fact they have taken time during weekday and weekend rides to help give me pointers! I joined Team Ninja to train and race with this fun crew and would highly advise you check them out! ~Henry H.
All in all, you couldn’t get more for your money than this clinic.
This clinic was PERFECT for me…as a very experienced roadie but pure beginner on MTBs, Richard’s instruction was clear, detailed,...
This clinic was PERFECT for me…as a very experienced roadie but pure beginner on MTBs, Richard’s instruction was clear, detailed, and specific, so that I could start to get the feel of how to work effectively on trails instead of asphalt. Jeff (a former elite cyclocross racer) also joined us and added some solid hints and comments. All in all, you couldn’t get more for your money than this clinic. ~ Mike Sofen
I highly recommend their skills camps, and plan on attending more …
I've been a recreational mountain bike rider for a few years, and have been riding on single track, but never...
I've been a recreational mountain bike rider for a few years, and have been riding on single track, but never had any formal training. I just finished the weekend skills course in Irvine, CA with Richard, Randy and Daniel as the instructors. They are excellent instructors breaking every fundamental skill down, demonstrating the skill and then evaluating your practice runs with constructive criticism before applying the skills on the trails. Even though I have been riding single track for a few years, I quickly found out that I have been doing many things if not everything wrong, which means the people I ride with are doing it wrong too. Richard, Randy and Daniel are very patient and professional encouraging every student no matter what the age or gender (our class had males and females from late 20s to late 50s). They went over everything from bike set up, basic position, turning, high speed cornering, wheels lifts to you name it. If you have a desire to improve your skill then Ninja Mountain Bike Performance are the team to go to! I highly recommend their skills camps, and plan on attending more of their camps in the future. ~Kyle Kimm
Just finished the Intermediate/Advanced course. I had previously taken the Beginning course about a year ago. I was not disappointed....
Just finished the Intermediate/Advanced course. I had previously taken the Beginning course about a year ago. I was not disappointed. The preparation and lesson planning is great. Instructors seem to be everywhere providing input and excellent advice. Both groups had a wide range of skilled riders, but the team made everyone welcome and everyone learned important new skills. This training makes everyday more fun on my bike. DAY 2: Just rode one of my "regular" morning workout routes. 2 PR's - and I thought I was just cruising. I was making no effort to ride fast... just smooth like I was taught. ~Peter O.
….and I thought I already knew how to corner (ha, ha!)!
Congrats to Richard, Hannah, Bernadette, Cory, Shana and company for a great clinic covering many skills, all practical, in a...
Congrats to Richard, Hannah, Bernadette, Cory, Shana and company for a great clinic covering many skills, all practical, in a great environment for learning . Your professionalism, skill and experience in teaching, choice of terrain to teach in, and enthusiasm all made this a totally worthwhile experience. I would do it again and again as you never stop learning. ....and I thought I already knew how to corner (ha, ha!)! ~James Crawford
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.