Ride a right sized bike
Kids learn to ride with greater ease, have more control of the bike and have a lot more fun if they have a bike that fits their size. Choosing the right kids’ mountain bike will ensure that their learning experience is enjoyable and they have the opportunity to really take their riding skills to the next level. Let the child be a part of the decision process. They’re more likely to enjoy the bike if they helped to pick it out. But that means you need to do a little prep work, so the little one is ready to recognize that a good bike is more than a bright-colored paint job. Get solid quality. If your budget is limited, consider a good frame with cheaper components. When he or she is good enough to need better parts, upgrade the components.
Don’t push too hard
You need to spend some time getting them ready. For a not-so-tough kid that means general physical conditioning first. Make it fun. Kids hate the “death-march” type of getting-in-shape activities adults go for.
Get your kid comfortable with the “attack position”; the stand with their pedals leveled, elbows bent and weight centered over the bike. This should be their default position on the bike, when riding anything more technical. They need to remain fluid and relaxed; no death-grip on the bars! This go-to position allows the bike to move around underneath them – without fighting the bike – and leaves them poised to tackle the terrain ahead.
Explore your neighborhood
You often learn the most valuable skills right outside your own house. Spend some time riding on the lawn. A nearby park with grass hills is perfect for getting used to that “off-road” feel. Go to a free parking lot and set up a steering course using bottles or backpacks as cones, so they can practice tight turns. Ride off the curb in front of the house. Have them practice the off-seat, butt-back position as they roll over the curb. When they’re ready, try rolling down two or three steps.
Try the pump track
These places are great and there are more and more popping up around both cities and mountain resorts. Kids will find the local pump track a safe place to start, taking things at their own pace. They’ll start to ride up and down little hills and as they get some speed, they might start to actually use the skills. Even balance bikers can play at the pump track and this means they learn good skills early, which will benefit them hugely later on. The great advantage is that you can ride together, so your child can follow you as an example.
Find new friends
Join some other like-minded young mountain bikers or get training. Get involved in the local mountain bike club – just google one in your area or check out a list of registered clubs. It’s always bigger joy to share experiences together. If there’s no club around, ask in the local bike shop for some common activities. At least the guys can recommend you appropriate trails and spots.
When you start riding off-road pick easy trails at first. Let your new biker learn at his/hers own pace. Often, it’s best to let the child lead out, especially on the uphill part of the ride. When it looks like they’re tired, take a break. Never belittle his abilities, and never push him to take dangerous slopes. Let him find his own solutions, and make it clear you don’t mind if he/she gets off and walks the rough or steep sections. In fact, maybe you should get off and walk with him.