Many of us love cycling on the trails. Whether it’s to escape from it all, to blow off the cobwebs, or simply to get out there in nature, many of us return to them week after week. But as young children develop, and begin to show an interest in cycling, then why not consider introducing them to a hobby that has given you so much? Trail cycling with kids can be so much fun, and here we detail the process of introducing them to the skills and etiquette required for the discipline of trail cycling.
In a word, early! Try and involve them in some way even from a young age. If they are too young to cycle for themselves, then consider biking tandem with them.
Most kids will be ready for their first bike by around the time they are 4. It's best for them to learn on flat, safe and well-surfaced paths, but once they develop the basic skills and instincts, then transitioning across to dirt roads is advisable. Build it up slowly. Forest service roads are often very favourable surfaces for those beginning trail cycling with kids, before graduating to bike parks and then singletracks.
The skills kids will require on the trails are very different from those required on paved roads. Position is perhaps the most important concept for them to learn initially. Often termed the “attack position” its where they stand with the pedals level, elbows bent at 90 degrees with their weight evenly distributed over the bike. It’s important they remain relaxed and in full control in what will be the most common position when they graduate to the more challenging trails.
Another important aspect of technique to stress is that of trusting in their senses. Their gaze should always be planted firmly ahead rather than on the obstacles directly in front of their wheel. By practicing this at lower speed on safe terrain, they gradually begin to trust in their senses as opposed to relying only on their eyesight.
You don’t need to spend a fortune, nor should you. Kids are constantly growing and what fits today, will soon become too small. There are however several areas you should never skimp on, one of them being a helmet.
The helmet you choose should be the perfect fit and offer protection that’s appropriate to the discipline they’re engaged in. Any kids partaking in daring downhill riding require a full-face helmet, while those riding the flat forest trails will be just fine with a standard certified helmet.
The bike is also important, especially when it comes to frame size and gearing. The second-hand market is usually the best place to shop during those years where kids are constantly growing. With a bike that fits well, you could then look into upgrading specific components individually.
Cycling on the trails becomes a more enjoyable experience if we all abide by the same rules. When it comes to cycling etiquette on the trails, there are a few things that we should all make an effort to demonstrate to our kids, by first embodying them ourselves.
- When cycling off-road, we should always stick to the marked trails. It’s important to remember that we often share these areas of extreme natural beauty with abundant wildlife.
- We should always respect other trail users and yield to hikers and horseback riders. A cyclist hurtling down a singletrack can be an intimidating sight for others who avail of the trail. As cyclists, we should yield to those in a more vulnerable situation.
- When out on the trails, be sure to plan ahead. Accidents and mechanicals can happen, and it’s important to be prepared. Along with tools, you should also bring the appropriate clothing in case of unexpected changes in the weather.
- Leave no trace. The trails are a special place for many people and it’s only by treasuring their pristine and unspoilt nature that we can preserve them for future generations. Lead by example and take all your litter home.
- We share the trails and surrounding areas with wildlife, and it’s important not to spook them. With many endangered species across the globe, it’s crucial that kids learn to live with those in their own local area.
A child who is too exuberant can find trouble just as quickly as one who is overly nervous. It’s best to teach over-confident kids by way of example, and allow them to explore their competitive side on safer stretches. Fearful children can be helped along by being encouraged on easier trails on flat ground, where consistency is the key.
If you have a passion for cycling, there can be no better way to bond with your kids than to help them find their way on the trails. By leading by example and being there when they need you, you’ll nurture a strong bond while providing them with the skills they need to one day master the terrain for themselves. And as for us at Decathlon, we’re here too, every step of the way. With a wide selection of kids cycling clothing, you’ll be sure to meet the ever-changing needs of those growing kids!