How To: Getting Your Kids and Spouse to Mountain Bike

How To Kids

Food and Snacks – Carry all their favorite food and drink and take many breaks. Make sure they eat a lot when needed. Kids have high metabolism and their energy comes in bursts. Take breaks often and make them a fun treat.

Sign them up for training or events – Women’s bike camp or Kids training camps will teach them valuable lessons and allow them to be with their peers. Sign your wife up for a metric century or the kids in a race or kiddie triathlon. Nothing motivates like a looming event.

Find the local pump tracks and bike parks – If you’re lucky enough to have access to these, go to them regularly. Build up the skills and the comfort level with bikes. Support all activities to get pump tracks and bike parks opened in your neighborhood.

Turn off the distractions - If you kids would rather play the Wii for 4 hours on a Saturday, you’re screwed. It’s hard to compete against that. So you have to limit the easy/lazy activity so they will go out of the house and achieve.

Be Patient and Listen – Guide them but adjust to what works for them. Some folks need to build confidence before taking risks while others take risks and build confidence. What works for you may not be the same thing that works for our wives, husbands or kids. Kids like to be around other kids. Just some time at a park with another kid or two on bikes will get them seat time. You can build skills just on little trails. Little curbs, rocks and things are all over the place that the kids will start going over. Adjust towards the different personalities of your kids as well as some of them may be risk takers while others may be fearful of anything new.

The goal is to start the cycling fire in them. So you have to be diligent and consistent until they fall in love with it and start looking for it themselves.

Here are extreme cases of success. Malcolm is a 4-year old who is so stoked on riding. Notice how the dad acts like the ride is no big deal. He holds back his enthusiasm and lets Malcom’s independence flourish.  He respects what Malcolm suggest and follows Malcolm’s orders to go first and to keep going as soon as Malcolm arrives. When Malcolm falls to the ground on minute marker 4:08, dad does not come rushing in to help. Finally, we’re able to infer from this video that dad has built a training course at home. This course has prepared Malcolm for this ride.

And this is 8-year old Finn Finestone who grew up in Whistler, British Columbia. Finn is the son of the great Brian Finestone who is the park manager at Whistler Mountain Bike park.  Brian has prepared Finn well by letting him take the lift trails down at age 3. Then he enrolled Finn in many of the kids training camps at Whistler Mountain Bike Park.

And What has worked for you?

Mtbr has a thriving Families and Riding With Kids forum here.

About the Author:

The author of this article is Francis Cebedo, founder of A short bio and history of the site can be found here Francis has a 12-year old son and a 9-year old daughter who ride with him every week now. His wife now rides 3 times a week too. Next year, their family plans to go Bend, OR and Whistler, BC to visit the family mountain bike meccas of the world.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.

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  • Ben says:

    My son started on the Strider at 1… Now he’s riding a 12 inch pedal bike with no training wheels at 3. Balance bike are awesome for learning.

  • phil says:

    Great advice…I have two daughters that I am gently pushing toward biking. I bought my now 8 year old a 13″ Specialized Myka for her birthday last summer. She really likes the bike but her main complaint is that it weighs a million pounds. The bike is half her weight? It is like me riding a bike that weighs 100 pounds? I think this outlines a problem with getting kids into mountain biking. Kid oriented MTBs are generally horribly spec’d so you end up with a bike that is horrible when any up hill is involved. Unfortunately, the marketing department generally determined that low weight = high cost, so unless you are willing to drop a minimum of $1500 on a bike for your kid you’ll likely end up with a load of pot metal. Most of the entry level adult and kid oriented MTBs at the LBS barely rise above department store status. Its too bad since the big three could easily build high functioning, profitable bikes for $500. They won’t of course since if you can spend $500, whats another $500 to $1500 for an actual bike. On that note, I changed out the bar on my daughters bike with carbon bar. The stock bar was seriously on the order of 1000 grams. This is from the company that makes the Tarmac? I would never let that kind or junk represent the brand if that were my company.

    • Adrian says:

      Agree Phil. My kid’s Giant MTX 225 looks great, but weighs about the same as my Reign. It has an aluminium frame & rims, but lots of steel in hard-to-notice (painted) places like axles/cassette/spokes/bar/stem/post/chain-guide/derailleurs etc.

      I’d rather Giant dispensed with the utterly useless suspension fork (which isn’t sprung for a kids weight), 2-roller chain-guide, dirt-jump style seat & stem and put a little effort into weight reduction instead for the $500 RRP.

      Simple, light bikes are way more fun for a kid to learn on, but no-one makes them.

  • eb1888 says:

    I’d offer a bike with components I would ride. For a HT 29 a Reba or Manitou Pro fork and light wheels and tires and SLX brakes. These might have to come off my bike for awhile and go on a frame her size, probably a used Marlin or Sette or Hardrock. I’d ride the Suntour fork and heavy wheels to even things out. If it didn’t take the bike could go back on CL.

  • Ben says:

    I do have to say that Strider bikes are very light. My 1 year old can easily lift the whole thing off the ground. My 5 year old struggles a bit just to pull his bike from laying down to up on the wheels (it’s a 14 incher). The Strider just goes to show that it is possible to make a light bike for kids.

  • Francis says:

    Yes Ben, these new balance bikes are made of lighter materials so they’re not an anchor for a child. We’ve been using Glide bikes and they’re all aluminum with lightweight tires. I think it weighs 9 lbs when a normal kid bike is 20 lbs.

  • Mark Klement says:

    Both my kids learned how to ride using training wheels, my daughter was two wheeling by age 3 and my son by age 4. I didn’t find it to be a big deal.

    It is dificult to find good bikes for kids that do not weigh a ton. I have yet to see a useful suspension component on any kids bike that includes a Giant and a Specialized model. It’s the same problem with all the womens mtn bikes out there. The manufacturers make a big deal about women specific frames and components but the bikes are all heavyweights except in the extreme price range.

  • Corey says:

    I think that each type of bike has its place. My son loves his strider bike but he can’t ride it long distances, about a mile and longer, in which case he prefers his bike with training wheels. I didn’t realize that training wheels were so evil. Does it matter as long as the child gets out and rides regardless if they use the latest trend or the “old” version.

  • Nick 1210 says:

    Got my son a Specialized Hardrock when he was six-then his mum took him to Oz-nother story-but I went over there to see him, we went mountain biking, his mum sent me a thing he did for show and tell where he said his favourite thing in the whole wide world was screaming down a dirt track with his dad:) Still get a little lump in my throat:)

  • LB412 says:

    My nine yr old is on a Kona Fire Mountain 26″. 6 yr old was given a Marin 20″ tonight (birthday). I hooked the oldest by shuttling her to the top and taking the fire roads back to the house. she is now up to 7 miles and roughly 600′ elevation gain. 6 yr old made it 5 miles through a relatively flat canyon ride on a 16″ princess bike.

    both are girls…cant wait for the day when they beat daduo the 1000′ inititial climb.

  • Dead Sailor says:

    IMHO, I don’t think training wheels are necessarily a bad thing, you just can’t let them ride on them for very long. I’d say as soon as you see your kid is able to comfortably pedal and use the brakes, TAKE THE TRAINING WHEELS OFF!. The danger is that if they ride on them for too long they become dependent on them and develop bad riding habits that counter what skills are required to ride on two wheels. My friends 7 year old has been riding training wheels for 2 years, but just can’t figure out how to ride with out them, He always leans to his left side because his training wheels always leaned to the right when they where elevated a bit. My approach was to find a grassy field that had very slight slope to it. Then gently push my son slowly. If he would fall over he’d be going slow enough to where it wouldn’t hurt and we would just laugh about it. I even fell on purpose on my bike to show him how funny it was to fall on the grass. Little by little he would go farther with just my hand on his back. Then he learned he could keep from falling by catching with his feet, and he became more confident.Then I’d push and go faster, eventually letting go. He would go about 20ft. Little by little he would go farther. I then found a little steeper slope so he could learn to start getting himself started. This was just a month ago. This past weekend he road 3 miles on a relatively flat paved path.

  • Whitewater says:

    So awesome… I put my eldst (4 YO) daughter on a bike with training wheels and am now working to get her on 2. Got the 2 YO the coaster bike and she hasn’t taken to it yet but it will all work out in th elong run, jet getting out to ride around is the key. Doubt they’ll ever be crushing it like the kids in those vids but as long as they have fun and nurture their bodies I’m a happy papa.

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