Meet A Daughter-Father Mountain Biking Duo From Pisgah Forest

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Hannah mountain biking in the woods

Hannah Dickson used to pogo stick all the time. And according her father, Wes – owner of Sycamore Cycles in North Carolina, pogo sticking was a foray into his daughter’s love of mountain biking.

He recalls one day she was in the driveway for two hours on her pogo stick. He went go out and ask her if she was interested in going on a mountain bike ride with him. The balance and conditioning she had gained from being on her pogo stick really served her well for mountain biking. Wes says, “It made it fun for her to mountain bike with me because she was not struggling as much when it came to steep inclines and tougher trails.”

Now a teenager, Hannah and her dad have been riding together for several years now and have even done some races. Hannah explains, “I race to push myself and become better”.

When Hannah started out on a bike, Striders were not very popular. She started with training wheels and rode local trails and parks. The training wheels came off when she was offered ice cream if she could ride from one end of the local park to the other without them.

Another factor that made riding fun for Hannah was that she always got to pick where they would ride. Wes tells us, “It allowed her to take ownership of the ride and really enjoy it. She often chose the same trails and if there were parts she could not ride, she would walk her bike.”

The Bracken Mountain Preserve is a city park with a great mountain biking trail. When Hannah was just getting into mountain biking they were working on the trail and Hannah had opportunities to help out with parts of the project. There would be volunteer days and Hannah and Wes were able to go and help move brush and do turf work to get the trail ready.

They always say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and that appears to be true in the case of the Dickson family. Wes’s dad was also a bike enthusiast and Wes had started riding with him and also helping maintain trails when he was a teenager. To be able to now do these things with his daughter is an incredible journey that he is enjoying immensely. They are proud of giving back to the trail that gives to you and being able to do it as a family.

Hannah leads the way on a mountain bike ride with her father and others in North Carolina

Traveling Together And Sharing Great Times On The Mountain Bikes 

Wes and Hannah have taken daddy-daughter mountain biking trips together as well. Last year, they did a British Columbia trip that was 10 days in length and they were able to ride in different areas. They rode at Powell River and Squamish. The Powell River trip included trails call Death Rattle and Little Dipper. After two and a half days of mountain biking at Powell River they went to Squamish for a few days and When she was asked about her favorite trail in Squamish, Hannah quickly replied “Rupert! I though it was technically challenging but super fun.”

Hannah enjoyed the trip and was always ready for exploration and up for adventure – and up early at that. She would be up before 6am and ready to start the day. Hannah still chooses the trails a lot of the time and will ride the same trail over and over if it’s one she enjoys.

About Sycamore Cycles

Sycamore Cycles has two locations in North Carolina; one is in Pisgah Forest and the other in Hendersonville. The first one opened in 2000 and it is predominantly a mountain bike store.

The store carries a lot of riding gear and bikes for kids. Parents seem to be putting more money into good quality bikes for their children and the store makes it possible with a special program they run.

The store will buy back used bikes that were purchased there at half the retail value. That money goes toward the purchase of a new bike. So if you buy a 12 inch bike for $200 and your child outgrows it, you can upgrade to a 16 inch bike and receive $100 toward the purchase of the new bike.

Sycamore Cycles also supports Trip for Kids – a non-profit organization that provides mountain bike outings and environmental education for youth in the Transylvania, Henderson, and Buncombe counties.

The returned bikes may also be sold at a consignment store with the money going back into the Trip for Kids program. This is a great way for the shop to give back to the community so that children who may not otherwise be able to afford a bike are afforded the opportunity to ride.

Photo Of The Week – Kids At Sea Otter With Danny MacAskill

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One of the best things about mountain biking with kids is meeting the professional athletes. More often than not, kids’ real life heroes make themselves accessible to say hi and take a photo or two.

Here is Danny MacAskill hanging out at the 2017 Sea Otter Classic with a few young rippers.

Photo is courtesy of Jeremy VanSchoonhoven. Follow Jeremy on Instagram @jeremyvanschoonhoven.

Top 7 Tips for Mountain Biking with Kids

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getting-started

Your kid is finally old enough/big enough to start riding a real mountain bike with you. Welcome to the club! It has taken years for you to get here. We are excited for you and your family. Now what?

Be aware that getting your kids to like mountain biking and ride with you can be a big investment and a long, arduous process. If your kids dig it right-off-the-bat, congratulations. You’re a long way ahead of most families.

Our family has already gone through the tough stuff with getting our kids started on mountain bikes. We’re not experts and it was not always easy. We have made many, many mistakes. There have been buckets of tears and a few total melt-downs – mostly but not solely from the kids.

Some of the things we’ve learned the hard way as our family has gained experience mountain biking are contained in the articles below. Click a link to read the ups and downs.

1. Set The Foundation And Ride Often
2. Have The Right Mountain Bike And Gear
3. Prepare To Ensure Success
4. Don’t Get Hangry
5. Choose Trails Wisely
6. Recognize Hard Work
7. Enjoy The Journey

How to Help Your Kid Learn to Like Mountain Biking

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bearclaw poppy, st george, UT

Let’s start with a little thought experiment: Imagine you’re on a ride with someone you admire and are anxious to impress. This person (let’s call him Bob) has years more riding experience than you and is much more fit. The ride is split between climbs that are too hard for you to complete despite pushing yourself to the brink, and ridiculously technical, sketchy descents that are definitely outside your comfort zone. Bob waits for you occasionally, but can barely stifle a sigh when you finally catch up. Bob asks you to “please hurry” and then leaves before you have a chance to catch your breath. You are physically and mentally exhausted – and emotionally demoralized before you reach the halfway point. Are you having fun yet? Want to do this again next weekend? This is what its like for your kids to ride with you when you make it your ride.

Here are some tips to help you get mentally ready make mountain biking with your kid(s) enjoyable for everyone:

  1. Take care of yourself first! Head out early for a hard 10-miles, go for a run, or get a solid ride on the trainer prior to heading out with the kids. If you are a little tired or sore you’ll be less likely to feel the need to change the planned 3-mile ride into the 9-mile loop. When our kids were smaller, we would spend much of our family rides hiking the uphills while pushing the adult bike with one hand and pushing the kid riding his bike with the other. This allows the kid to ride more of the trail and has the added bonus of being surprisingly difficult for the adult doing the pushing. If you spend a few miles pushing a kid on a bike while wheeling your own, you’ll definitely get your cardio for the day.
  2. The key to happiness is low expectations. Unrealistic expectations always lead to disappointment. Make sure you have realistic expectations for yourself AND for the kid(s). Be clear about what you think the trail will be like, and what the destination is. An important part of realistic expectations is to know your kid. Some children are naturally more careful/nervous. Try not to compare your kids to the other kids on the trail (or the kids on you-tube). No matter what the difficulty of the trail is, your kid is doing better than those kids sitting on the couch and playing video games.
  3. Proper pacing is critical. In our family, it often works best to let the kids set the pace. When possible, we try to let the kids go first. That way, you know they are riding in their comfort zone. It can be fun to roll behind your kid and yell “hey – slow down, you’re going too fast for your old mom to keep up!” If used sparingly, this always seems to encourage them to try to leave you in the dust! It is definitely more fun to be chased than to chase. (This is also an excellent opportunity to work on your deep breathing relaxation techniques and your balance.  Sometimes, when I want to scream “For the love, could you go any slower?!?” I take some deep breaths and try to feel grateful about this excellent opportunity to improve my patience and track standing ability.)
  4. Be flexible. Even well planned mountain bike rides have to be altered from time to time. Be ready and willing to alter your plans when circumstances necessitate it. Weather, trail conditions, or how your child is feeling that day can be good reasons to make alterations to your plan.  Which leads us to …
  5. Know when to quit. Weather, energy levels or mood can change a good family ride into an awful one. Having led our kids on some perceived death marches (and enduring the accompanying whining and sniveling), this one comes from hard won experience. It can be hard to throw in the towel, but it is usually better to call it off early than prolong the suffering.

Finally, Keep your eye on the prize. The point of these rides is to encourage a lifelong love of physical activity in your kids. Each ride adds to your child’s fitness level, skills and confidence. Sometimes going slowly and spending all day on a 4-mile ride is painful, but remember, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. As with many other parts of parenting – mountain biking with kids often means putting your kid’s needs ahead of your own. On the bright side: if you do this right, you just might end up with kids who love the sport and can ride circles around you!

Go to: MTB with Kids Tip #4  Don’t get hangry

Don’t Get Hangry! Our Favorite MTB Snacks for Kids

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bring-food

Have you ever “hit the wall” on a mountain bike ride? If so, you know how you feel like you have no energy, that you cannot pedal any more – like a car running out of gas. This happens to kids, too – and it happens to kids earlier because they have less energy stores in their muscles. Your child will run out of energy more quickly than you, especially if you have a good level of fitness. Hitting the wall or bonking is a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which leads to sudden fatigue and loss of energy. In kids this can start with whining and quickly progress into a total meltdown. Proper nutritional timing is like putting gas into your tank. If you wait until the tank is empty, it is too late! The way to head this feeling off is to make sure to have enough snacks to sustain your kid’s glucose levels throughout the ride.

Healthy Snacks – We have learned (the hard way) to never leave for a mountain bike ride without kid friendly snacks. Fruit (fresh or dried), nuts, granola/energy bars and string cheese are healthier options. Break out the snacks at least once per hour. (Sooner if the trail is tough, or if you sense impending whining). Here are a few of our current favorites:

  • Trader Joes Dried Flattened Bananas – These look like peeled bananas that have been left out for too long. The first time I bought these, our kids were a bit put off by the looks. Once they braved a taste, the kids were hooked on these ultra sweet treats! The long banana slices peel apart relatively easily. Our kids enjoy rolling their own banana fruit roll ups when we hand out pieces on the trail.
  • Bare Natural Apple Chips – These yummy apple chips are thin, crunchy and flavorful. There are several varieties. Our kids loved them from the first bite. The only negative is that they are a bit pricey.
  • Stretch Island Fruit Leather – These fruit leathers are a family mountain bike staple. They are flat and packable with the added bonus of no artificial colors or flavoring. There are many flavor varieties, so kids can choose (although they taste relatively similar to me).

Treats – CANDY! Although we generally try to limit the amount of sugar and candy our kids eat, we often make an exception for mountain bike rides. There is a lesson to be learned from the power of the treats that are given out after every kids’ soccer game – leave the kids with a “sweet” memory of the experience. You may want to have certain fun foods that you only eat on mountain bike rides. This keeps them special. Even better, let your kids pick out their own special snack.

Picnic Lunch – For longer rides where there may not be an exciting “destination”, a picnic lunch can be just the ticket. Planning a mountain bike picnic lunch does not have to be difficult. A few sandwiches, fruit and a juice box and you have a destination right in your backpack.

Water – Anytime children mountain bike in warm/hot weather, you’ll want to make sure they do not get dehydrated. Your kid will be more susceptible to dehydration in especially hot and/or humid weather, if he/she is overweight or unused to vigorous activity or isn’t well rested. You can help your kids by encouraging them to drink plenty of fluids before and during rides, and taking regular beverage breaks — even if they aren’t thirsty.

Go to: MTB with Kids Tip #5  Choose Trails Wisely

Finding the Best Trails for Family MTB Rides

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choose trails wisely, little creek mesa

Think of your best mountain bike ride ride ever. You were most likely in a mental state called “Flow”. Flow is the feeling or mental state when a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Flow is most likely to occur when one is wholeheartedly performing a task or activity for intrinsic purposes.

Three conditions are needed to achieve a flow state:

  • The activity has clear set of goals and progress
  • The task has clear and immediate feedback
  • Perceived challenges of the task should balance perceived skills

If you can find a trail that produces a flow state for your kids, you’ll have a good start in getting them hooked on mountain biking. Know the your kid’s physical ability and level of comfort with risk. Aim for trails that are right around their comfort zone. This may mean that you ride the same trail – over and over and over again. The more you ride with your kid, the easier it will become to pick the right mtb trail for their ability. Here are some important considerations when choosing a trail for your family mountain bike ride:

Choose the right distance/time When you first start mountain biking it can be hard to determine the right distance and/or time on the trail for your kid. Our advice: less is more for beginners. You can always do another lap or extend the ride if you’re pleasantly surprised. Once you’ve found the sweet spot, increase slowly by no more that 10-20%.

Aim for the appropriate level of technical challenge  Start simple and fun! For many reasons, the technical level of a mountain bike trail is even more important that the distance. The more technical the trail, the more time you’ll spend walking/pushing your bikes. This can lead to frustration in the best-case scenario and in the worst-case scenario, you’ll end up with a crash and injury which can ruin the appeal of mountain biking for a long time.

Have a destination – Whenever possible, have a destination for your mtb ride. A mountain-top, waterfall or beautiful view make natural destinations. For shorter rides, even arriving back at the car can be a destination, especially if there is a treat at the car, or a trip to get a snow cone after the ride. Unfortunately, there are many mountain bike trails that might not provide an interesting destination. In this case, you can make a destination by bringing a special snack or a picnic for the half-way point.

Take time to stop and smell the roses We stop riding often to look at wild-flowers/bugs/rocks, take in the view and/or dig in the dirt. (Getting filthy is a fan favorite in our family). Look for rope swings. Build a fort in the woods. Take off your shoes and put your feet in the stream. Remember, this is supposed to be enjoyable for the kids.

*Secret weapon – End on a downhill! When at all possible, go uphill first. Ending on a long, smooth, flowy downhill can erase the memory of the hard climbing done to earn it. Always aim to leave them smiling!

Check out our reviewed trails at: https://mtbwithkids.com/mountain-bike-trails-for-kids/

Go to: MTB with Kids Tip #6  Recognize hard work

Parents Can Help Develop Kids’ Love of Mountain Biking

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recognize good work, old rampage site, virgin UT

Kids want to be recognized for their accomplishments and hard work – especially by their parents. In order to foster intrinsic enjoyment of mountain biking, it’s important to use the right language when praising our kids. Repeating a single phrase like “good job” is not effective and can backfire because repetitive praise can sound disingenuous. Here are some tips to show your kids that you noticed their mountain biking efforts and help them to recognize their improvement and accomplishments.

Praise The Process, Not The Person

Research shows that kids praised for their efforts rather than their abilities tend to choose tasks that are more challenging and are more interested in learning new ways to achieve success. Try to take note of what your kid does well on the trail and remark on the process.

Instead of “You are such a good climber”, say “You worked hard to get up that steep hill, nice climbing!”

Instead of “You are fast!” try “You’re riding faster around the corners today, you are gaining great bike control”

Emphasize Effort And Strategy While Your Kid Is Mountain Biking – Not The Outcome

Part of the fun of mountain biking is the effort and strategy involved. Each ride presents new challenges and kids have to figure out how to best handle them. If you can point out the ways that your kid is dealing with these mtb challenges, you can increase their confidence, which can encourage them to keep trying.

“I saw how you stood up to push to the top of that hard climb, good work!”

“You found a good way to steer around that root”

“I noticed that you’re getting off your bike to walk when you feel uncomfortable. Riding within your ability zone is very important – way to go!”

Non-Verbal Signs Of A Job Well Done

High fives and fist bumps demonstrate approval. You can even come up with your own special ways to celebrate successes – like a secret high five/knuckles combination that is only known by you and your kids.

Keep It Real

Don’t inflate praise – you kid will spot a false compliment a mile away. Recognition doesn’t need to be glowingly positive to work. You can completely leave out judgement on whether you think something is “good” and just let your kid know he/she has your attention. “I noticed” or “I see” are two ways to do this.

“I noticed that you are riding right in the middle of the trail.”

“I see that you’re riding in a middle gear”

“I saw you get your bike over that big rock”

Effective praise can help your child recognize his/her accomplishments and boost confidence on and off the bike!

Go to: MTB with Kids Tip #7  Enjoy the Journey

How to Choose the Right Kid’s Mountain Bike and Gear

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lost prospector, park city, UT,

We don’t believe that over-spending for a kids bike is the way to have a good experience. However, having a bike that works well, appropriate clothing for the weather and a helmet that fits properly are essential.

The Mountain Bike

Mountain bikes for kids have changed quite a lot over the last few years. For some sizes and builds, the options for your children’s bikes are almost as plentiful as bikes for mom and dad. Several manufacturers now make premium quality mountain bikes for kids that are full-suspension, lightweight, and feature top-of-the-line components.

  • Size –  Since kids are always growing, its hard to always keep them in the right bike size, but bike fit matters a lot when mountain biking. A comfortable stand-over and seat height is probably the most important for comfort and safety. If your kid can’t comfortable put his feet down when he/she needs to, it adds a level of fear to the ride that is unnecessary. When in doubt, err on a smaller bike. Remember that the larger the wheels the easier to roll over the bumps. Look for a bike with the biggest wheels available on a frame that will fit.
  • Weight – Kids bikes tend to be heavy. If your kids bike is half her weight, it will be understandably difficult to ride uphill. Can you even imagine riding a bike more than half your weight? When possible, choose a lighter bike with a good frame.
  • Components – Trigger shifters if possible. Grip shifters are difficult to twist while riding a dirt trail. Quick release skewers if possible. Disk brakes can make a huge difference.

Our kids mountain bike database allows you to filter kids’ mountain bikes by wheel size, manufacturer, cost, brake type, suspension options, standover height, shifter type, and other variants.

Mountain Biking Helmets

The helmet should fit well and be comfortable. Like kid specific mountain bikes, kid’s bike helmets have improved and increased in number over the past few years. We recommend trying on several helmets to find one that  your kid will want to wear.  Check out our Bell Super 2R review.

Appropriate Clothing

First Aid Kit

Check to make sure your first aid kit is kid friendly. Some insect repellents and sunscreens in first aid kits are too harsh for children’s skin. Supplement your kit with these items for kids:

  • Sunscreen
  • Children’s Tylenol and/or ibuprofen (ask your physician for sample packs)
  • Liquid antihistamine
  • A lot of adhesive bandages (many different sizes and colors)
  • Plenty of Anti-bacterial wipes
  • Epipen if your child has allergies

Accessories

Wow, is it nice to have your kid be able to carry some of their own supplies.

Go to: MTB with Kids Tip #3  Prepare to ensure success

Mountain Biking with Kids is a Journey, Not a Destination

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If you had to drive to get to your mountain bike ride, the ride home is still part of the ride in your kid’s mind. Taking a few steps to make the ride home enjoyable can make the memory of a bad ride better and a good ride, great!

Re-Fuel Bring a cooler with cold drinks for the ride home. Chilled fruit and veggies are great for the way home. You know that food tastes great after hard, physical work. Take advantage of this opportunity and try to balance the junk you fed them on the trail with some healthy, delicious food.

Connect Take the time to chat with your kid about things that he/she did especially well or really enjoyed on the mtb ride. If the ride was challenging for your child, acknowledge them for there perseverance. Don’t forget to mention that you really enjoyed your time together.

Get comfortable Bring extra clothes and socks for the ride home. If it’s late, they can change into their pajamas and cover up with blankets for the ride home. Our kids like to change into their slippers in the car!

Relax Sometimes, it’s just nice to chill. Play some good music or listen to a book on tape. We listen to a LOT of books on tape while traveling to and from mountain biking rides. Here are some links to information about some of out favorites:

Audio Books We Like, Volume 01

Audio Books We Like, Volume 02

Getting Kids Ready to Mountain Bike

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bmx,

You’ll probably have much better luck introducing your kids to trail riding if they are comfortable on their bikes. Take advantage of opportunities to get on the bike. Whenever possible – ride your bikes to the park, friends’ houses, or around the block. The earlier you can start this the better! Trailer bikes can be fun for little kids (and will give you a great workout). Balance bikes are amazing!

  • Go to a skate-park or pump track and let them roll the hills
  • Try BMX
  • Ride bikes around the neighborhood

Teach skills they will need on the trails before you hit the dirt –

Practice Braking

The way kids use their brakes riding around the neighborhood is different than the way they will need to use their brakes on a trail. On a descent, we use our brakes to control our speed – not just stop. This is a different skill and should be practiced. Find an easy slope and have your kid practice controlling the speed. You can make it a game similar to red light, green light – but add yellow to slow/control speed.

Stand Up On The Mountain Bike’s Pedals

Practice standing on the pedals while coasting and pedaling. And, keep the pedals level.

Turning And Steering The Bike

Practice riding around cones. Riding in a circle can be tricky. Can your biker ride the same circle clockwise and counter-clockwise? Set up an obstacle course to work on steering. Teach them to keep their head-up, and look ahead (not under the front tire). The bike will go where your kid is looking. Looking at a rock, tree, or trail edge, will probably ensure your kid hits it.

Start From A Stop

Mountain biking involves a lot of starts and stops. There is often a need to be able to start riding on a sight uphill. Ask you kid to straddle her bike. With the pedals in an upright position, have her step on the top pedal to start motion ands then get the other foot on the pedal to start riding. Start practicing on a flat or slight downhill and then move to a hill.

Begin To Take On The Bumps

Curbs might be the first experience with an obstacle. Practice riding down curbs first, then you can start riding up.

 

Go to: MTB with Kids Tip #2 Have the right bike and gear