If you’re an avid mountain biker, then you obviously know the joys that come with navigating single tracks, banking sharp bends and pushing yourself even further as you whip past trees, boulders and mountain peaks. Unfortunately, it’s not like there’s a massive forest or mountain in London hidden behind Big Ben. As such, serious bikers often have to go deeper into the woods to catch the best trails.
Most recently, however, mountain biking has become immensely popular for kids in the UK. Children love bikes, and it’s literary the only thing that will get them out of the house and enjoying the great outdoors. Not to mention how it helps them become more fit and gain more confidence in themselves.
But the real question is, just when and how do you properly introduce your children to the sport? If you’ve been asking yourself the same question, then you’re definitely in the right place. Here’s the ultimate guide to mountain biking for kids in the UK.
Why You Need to Start Them Early
We’ve all heard of jokes about kids who could fight, run or even play ball before they could walk. While we would never suggest placing a toddler on a mountain bike, there is a certain age where they are ready for it.
Looking at most quality mountain bike manufacturers apparel, padding and other accessories, they are usually rated for 8 years and above. But does this mean that your younger children won’t get to enjoy the benefits of mountain biking?
Not at all! As soon as your kid is able to ride a bike safely, consider starting them off with toddler bikes before moving on to the big leagues. By introducing a biking culture to your kids when they’re young, you will be directly influencing their lifestyles for the better.
And in addition to helping them keep fit and showing them all that the great outdoors has to offer, you might also be training the next British National Mountain Biking Champion. But to bike safely and efficiently, your kids need all the relevant tools of the trade, biking accessories and other equipment which leads us to our next segment.
Mountain Biking for Kids: Getting the Right Gear and Equipment
As with all other activities related to your kids, it’s always best to involve the little ones in the decision-making process. However, it’s crucial that you make them understand that a good bike or helmet much more that a brightly coloured paint job.
If you’re short on cash, you could always buy your kids a used bike since other children outgrow theirs all the time. Fortunately, you won’t require anything expensive when it comes to clothing. There are just a few questions that you will have to answer to get the most suitable gear. These include:
- Is it a boy or a girl?
- How old, tall and heavy is your child?
- What are the child’s inseam measurements?
With this information, you will be able to get the best mountain bike for your kid. But before we get any further into the types of bikes, what exactly should your children wear when biking?
What to Wear
The most crucial aspect to mountain biking for kids is safety gear and protection. For starters, no one should be on a bike without a helmet strapped on as well as a pair of elbow and knee pads. Adding some shin guards will ensure minimum chance of injury in the event of a fall. Another must have for the clothing is a solid pair of kids biking gloves.
See, the jerky motions of the bike handles on uneven terrain can be really tough on the little one’s soft hands. Gloves will ensure that they don’t get blisters even after an entire day of adventuring. Apart from protective gear, you should also make sure you give them safety reflective vests so that other cyclists, drivers and pedestrian can see them from afar.
Last but not least, the right pair of shoes will make all the difference. Typically, a highly breathable sports shoe with an anti-slip outsole and decent impact absorption will work just fine.
Best Types of Mountain Bikes for Kids
There may be all sorts of mountain bikes in the UK, but the honest truth is that not all mountain bikes are made equal. You’ve got some that are as basic as they come while others include shocks, suspensions and plenty of other toys.
The cold hard reality of modern mountain biking is that even for children, there are as many bike types as there are riding disciplines. It’s not entirely uncommon for professional riders to own more than three different types of mountain bikes.
A: Types of Kids MTBs According to Suspension
When it comes to mountain bike suspensions, there are basically three distinct types. They include:
i) Hardtail Mountain Bikes
These types of MTBs have shock absorbers only at the front fork of the bike chassis. Front suspensions significantly reduce limb fatigue on uneven terrain and make steering that much easier.
ii) Full Suspension
These are the types of bikes you see with suspensions on both the front and rear fork. While full suspension MTBs make for the smoothest and most comfortable ride, they are quite heavy for kids. They are also some of the most expensive types of bikes on the planet. But if your kid is looking for a dedicated dirt and offroad bike, then this is it right here.
iii) Rigid MTBs
These are simply mountain bikes that don’t contain any suspension system whatsoever. They were almost seen as antiquated in the UK until quite recently when they’ve made quite the comeback. The newer rigid mountain bikes are incredibly light, super affordable and easy to pedal.
B: Types of MTBs According to Function
i) Cross Country Mountain Bikes
These are by far the most common type of MTB you will find anywhere. Generally, they tend to be light, expensive and built for hitting incredible speeds. However, these are not built for high impact jumping, tricks and landings.
- Enduro Mountain Bikes
Just like it says in the name, these types of bikes have stronger frames and are designed to help riders got through harder trails and technical obstacles. They are best suited for steep hills and more complicated pathways.
- Freeride Mountain Bikes
These are compact bikes made to help the rider achieve maximum manoeuvrability on tight trails. In addition to being light, they are also ideal for jumps, tricks and other technical stunts. However, the frame tubes are quite thick and o fun to push uphill.
Mountain Biking for Kids Safety Dos and Don’ts
Riding a bicycle is one of the best forms of outdoor exercise for your kids. However, it also comes with its own unique risks. That’s why we’ve compiled the following dos and don’ts for your kid’s mountain biking safety.
- Always make sure your children wear a helmet every time they get on the bike
- Always encourage your kids to be alert and watchful
- Do make your child as visible and as conspicuous as possible
- Always make sure your kids know the trail or biking route well enough
- Always have a number the kids can call if they get lost, hurt or stranded
- Do pack plenty of water as first aid kits
- Never let your kid go unsupervised in heavy traffic areas
- Do not let kids ride with dark coloured clothes
- Don’t let junior go on long trails without a full bike inspection, maintenance and repair
- Do not let your children switch bikes because wrong sized bikes can cause accidents
- Never force your kids to ride, they’ll end up hating it
There you have it; all the things you need to know about mountain biking for kids. You’ll find that there is the perfect bike for each child that will become their companion on the road, their partner in crime. Starting off your kids early will help them live happier, healthier and more active lives. Don’t forget to have fun in the process and turn biking into an enjoyable experience for the whole family.