We bought our kids balance bikes before they could walk, played bike videos on YouTube instead of cartoons, and moved them up a wheel size way too early because “they’ll grow into it”.
Why? Because as mountain biker parents it’s more than just teaching our kids a sport. We want to share our passion and usher them into a lifestyle that inspires confidence, connects with nature, and builds community, character, and health for their whole lives. Here are 8 tips to encourage you kids to make two wheels a part of their journey.
1. Encourage their strengths
Our daughter is all about the nature and the solitude that biking brings so we always take time to listen to the birds and look for animal tracks. Our son, on the other hand, is the “adrenaline junkie” so every ride needs a new rock to session, jump to hit, or hill to scream down. Whatever your little one enjoys, make that a part of the ride.
Artist? Bring paper and crayons to draw what you see on a break.
Lover of ball sports? Pack a ball to throw in a field mid-ride.
Video gamer? Remind them that they become the game as they zoom around each corner and avoid obstacles.
Many bike brands offer kids gear that makes for a much more enjoyable ride. After getting padded bike shorts, gloves, and jerseys, our kids feel equipped for the adventure and they want to ride longer. Check out Zoic’s Boy’s Ether Jr or Girl’s Rippette shorts with a padded liner.
3. Find community
Kids and adults feel the same way when it comes to riding with others. When you create a play date with friends on the trail there is joy in the shared experience. Bonus: kids complain less when they’re with other kids! Utilize your local mountain bike chapters, BMX tracks or meet-ups if you’re looking for friends to ride with. Many local race series have kids’ races before the main event – a great way to connect kids with other shredders.
4. Create ownership
Teach your child to be responsible for their own bike and gear. Before a ride have them check the air in their tires and add lube to the chain. After a ride, wash your bike alongside them and teach them about the different components. When a kid is knowledgeable and takes ownership of their gear it creates confidence and buy in.
5. Consistency is key
Kids love routine and they want to know what to expect. It can be a temporal consistency like “every Friday we ride as a family to the local pizza joint.” It could also be a consistent ritual that your child loves like eating the same special trail snack, a family chant or listening to the same song before each ride. For my squad, there’s a grove of trees where we play hide and seek every time we are on that trail. The kids get so excited and look forward to that part of the ride every time.
6. Cross training
You’ve heard it before: “it’s not when you fall, but how you fall.” Get them involved in other activities that encourage resilience and teach them that they can fall and keep on going. Activities that build balance and body awareness are great crossovers for the bike; tumbling, snowboarding, break dancing. We knew we couldn’t stop our son from pushing the limits of his body, but after the third broken bone by age of five we thought he needed to start falling the right way so… hello Parkour!
7. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks
Is there anything else to say….?
8. Teach them the right way
Stop bad habits before they start and teach them about staying safe and in control on their bike. Ninja now offers Kids Clinics in select locations for ages 8-12 (check out the schedule here). Through games, drills and trail riding, your kid will leave with a new level of confidence on their bike and more tools in their riding toolbox.
Don’t have a Kids Clinic in your area yet? Join us for a skills clinic of your own! We’ll show you the basics that all riders should have and you can pass them on to your mini-me.
Some days, it’s extra hard to give up your own adventure to ride with the little ones in your life, but it’s an investment worth making. Family ride by family ride, you’re instilling the love of dirt beneath the wheels and the yearning for adventure. And, just maybe, when we aren’t cool anymore, they’ll actually keep taking us out to play with them.
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have really enjoyed the increased confidence jumping my bike over obstacles. My muscle memory takes a while to kick in and Coach Richard and his crew of master Ninjas were really patient with me. I even got some bonus education on climbing faster during one of our warm-up laps! Even though I have been riding for years I learned something new with every skill taught. The clinic was worth every penny and I will be signing up for an advanced one this summer. ~Michael W.
Went to the beginner Ninja clinic at Alison. Richard and Kristen were awesome! We all got the opportunity to work...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
Went to the beginner Ninja clinic at Alison. Richard and Kristen were awesome! We all got the opportunity to work on improving our skills with their feedback. Next time I would definitely do the intermediate clinic or do a one-on-one session. Richard is super patient and provides great feedback and riding tips. ~ Lisa D.
My speed and confidence going down steep descents have been SIGNIFICANTLY improved!
I just had my first race (XC endurance) since I did the camp and both my speed and confidence going...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
I just had my first race (XC endurance) since I did the camp and both my speed and confidence going down steep descents have been SIGNIFICANTLY improved. I would not have attempted 50% of the drops and jumps on the course prior to participating in the clinic, and my overall time would have been much slower. The first two hours of the class (int/adv Sedona) made the whole thing more than worth it, and the rest of the two days seemed like a bonus. Both Courtney and Richard were encouraging and patient, and both had that classic mountain biker charm and humor ready when the moment called for it. Overall a very enjoyable and valuable weekend. For reference, I participate in amateur XC endurance races (with no hope of ever coming close to winning anything) and have been riding for about two years. I was worried before taking the class that I would not be skilled enough, but the int/adv was appropriate for my skill level. If you're worried, just go for it anyway. There is a good mix of people and everyone was very friendly! ~Alana Bencivengo
The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it.
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It covered a wide breadth of skills, some of which I already felt aquatinted with and others I had little to no experience with. I found all of the material useful. I was able to improve skills I already had and was able to learn new skills. I also feel confident leaving the course that the instructors have provided all of the information for me to practice and improve outside of the course setting. The environment of Balboa Park was perfect for learning and sessioning the skills covered. The instructors were friendly, fun, and attentive to all of the participants. They spent more or less time on certain skills based on how the entire group was grasping them. They also gave individualized attention to participants that required more help with technique. The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it. ~Heather B.
We are a group of passionate, dirt-loving, community oriented, world-class mountain bike skills instructors committed to helping you reach your personal riding goals through clinics and camps. We are excited to work with riders of all ability levels and share the joy (STOKE) of mountain biking.