Mountain biking is a dynamic sport that can teach lots of important lessons that can be applied to real life. As our kids grow up, we often use mountain biking as a metaphor to talk about the things they are experiencing in their non-mountain biking life – from homework to social issues. We think that mountain biking can help kids build the character and skills to help them deal with whatever life throws at them. Here is our list of ways that we feel that mountain biking helps kids be successful in life.
Here Are 10 Life Lessons That Mountain Biking Has Helped To Teach Our Kids:
1. Planning And Preparation Is Important
Getting out on the trails for a day of biking helps to build skills to prepare for the unexpected. Now that our kids are older, we let them pack their supplies. What do you think you might need? Snacks, water, maybe a rain coat? Sometimes, forgetting to bring what you need is the best way to remember next time. This skill can definitely transfer to preparing for a school day, camping trip or college.
2. You Can Do Hard Things
You’ll hear the word “grit” to describe kids that know how to persevere through challenges. Mountain biking provides so many opportunities to practice digging deep and developing grit- from climbing hills to riding longer distances. On one memorable ride, we were at the mid-way point on the Slickrock trail in Moab when our youngest crashed his bike and rolled right into a cactus. After we removed as many of those tiny spikes as we could, our kid had no choice but to pedal the 6 miles back to the trail head. It took a very long time, but we made it back to the car, and our kid often talks about how he rode 6 miles with cactus in his leg with a proud smile on his face.
3. Look Ahead, Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
When your kid first starts riding a bike on trails, it is natural for them to notice and avoid all the rocks, roots and bumps in the trail. Seasoned mountain bikers know that looking at every little obstacle is a great way to get hung up and potentially crash. As your kid spends more time on the trail they’ll learn to see the small obstacles, but look ahead to where they want to go. There are so many ways that this lesson applies to real life!
4. Things Don’t Always Go Your Way
In the last year, our oldest has had two races derailed by mechanical issues with his bike. One of them may have been prevented by checking tire pressure before a race (see lesson 1), but the other seemed to be a random occurrence. Each DNF felt awful to him. After each he spent a bit feeling upset and then started to look for the good in the situations and moved on.
5. View Obstacles As Challenges
What would mountain biking be without rock gardens, roots and corners? BORING! Our goal is to try to teach our kids to view life obstacles in the same way they view mountain bike obstacles. Problems that can be solved and even enjoyed with creativity, practice, patience and persistence.
6. Be Brave, Seek “Healthy Risks”
Mountain biking can be scary. A large part of why I enjoy mountain biking more than trail running is that feeling of exhilaration from trying something that scares me. The more time they spend on the trails, the more our kids know their abilities and feel comfortable taking “healthy” risks. In mountain biking, as in life, many obstacles look worse than they are. Through mountain biking, kids can learn to trust themselves to try new things.
7. Failure Is The Way You Learn And Get Better
We’ll often stop during our rides to session a challenging part of the trail. Sometimes, you can get over the obstacle by just pedaling harder, sometimes, you need to attack it from a different angle and sometimes, even after several attempts, you have to be willing to let it go and try again next time you ride the trail.
8. Moving Outside Is Excellent For Mental And Physical Health
Several years ago, our youngest son would almost always start family rides with a bad attitude. He did NOT want to go on a mountain bike ride and his gloomy mood and frequent tears often made us question our will to get the family out. However, when we persevered, it would take less than 20 minutes for him to be riding along and singing or chatting up a storm. He has recently started to recognize the direct connection between mountain biking and his mood. Knowing how to take care of their own wellbeing is something we hope our kids learn from mountain biking.
9. Be Humble
Mountain biking can be extremely humbling. Just when you think things are going great, you strike a pedal on a rock and take a dive over the bars, or have a mechanical issue, or fall into a cactus. Mountain biking provides lots of chances to practice living with grace and humility.
10. Community Is Important, Find Your People
Mountain biking can create a strong connection between people. Our boys love to ride with family, but adding friends to the mix makes things even better. Building a network of mountain biking friends can be positive and meaningful for your kids. Good mountain biking friends are supportive, helpful and up for adventure.
Are you already riding with your kids? We’d love to hear what life lessons your family has gained from mountain biking. Share your lessons with us on our MTB with kids facebook page
Wanting to get your kids out on bikes with you? Visit our Tips for Mountain Biking with Kids articles to help you get started.