How to Help Your Kid Learn to Like Mountain Biking

bearclaw poppy, st george, UT

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How to Help Your Kid Learn to Like Mountain Biking – You love mountain biking!  You want to share the love with your kiddo, but it’s not always easy to do.  We reached out to mountain biking parents who have successfully raised kids who love mountain biking and asked for their tips and tricks.  Here are the best snippets of advice on the topic of how to help your kid learn to like mountain biking.

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:

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.

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.

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.)

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 …

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.

Keep your eye on the prize. 

The point of these rides is to encourage a lifelong love of physical activity in your kids. Ideally, you can help your kid learn to like mountain biking. 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

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