Katie Seipp Deblock has been riding at legendary Minnesota mountain biking destination Cuyuna Lakes since 2012. She’s been riding the trails with her two young daughters nearly as long. Here, she offers up five tips for riding off-road with youngsters.
Those who have had the pleasure of staining their mountain bike tires with the rusty red dirt of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System will tell you that I’m lucky to live here. I’m lucky, indeed, that my home is roughly one mile from trail access in Ironton, MN, and that I can proudly refer to this incredible, world class trail system as my “backyard.”
I was hooked after that first ride in the spring of 2012, and couldn’t wait to introduce my adventurous young daughters to the trails. They, too, were instantly enamored. Now eight and nine-years-old, my daughters (affectionately nicknamed the “mountain bike minis”), are excitedly entering their third season of “shredding the red.”
Mountain biking not only provides physical activity for the girls, it also helps build confidence and a sense of accomplishment as they master new skills and grow in their riding abilities. Here are some of the basics to keep in mind when mountain biking with kids:
1. Start small. Start safe:
When introducing kids to mountain biking, smaller really is better. Initially spending time on beginner trails is not only safer, but will also foster confidence, skill-building, and help prevent unnecessary diggers that can be scary.
2. Make sure equipment is appropriate:
A bike helmet is a MUST, for both yourself and your child. Don’t even think of mountain biking without one. The bike itself should be the appropriate size for your child, and the tires should be properly inflated. Your local bike shop can help you with both of these.
3. Apparel matters:
When it comes to apparel, more coverage equals more protection. Long pants and/or long sleeves (if the weather permits) provide more skin coverage and protection in the event of a tip-over. Bike gloves will protect sensitive little palms from getting scraped up during a fall and also from blisters and callouses. And just because I can fit it into this category, too, a helmet is a MUST.
4. Little bodies need fuel and hydration, too:
You wouldn’t head out on a ride without hydration; your mini mountain biker shouldn’t either. Be sure to pack extra water, whether in the form of an extra water bottle or by providing your child with her own hydration pack. Encourage her to stay hydrated during the ride. Throw in a nutritious snack or two.
5. Be prepared with the necessary accessories:
Whether you carry them on you in your Camelbak or have them accessible in your glove compartment before the ride, make sure you have sunblock, bug spray, bike tools, and band aids on hand.
*All photos courtesy of Aaron Hautala