Mountain Biking for Kids

MTB for Kids

Mountain Biking offers young people the freedom, to explore the outdoors be it on simple trails or more challenging as their Kids MTBskills progress. Bikes aren’t just fun for kids; they also offer huge benefits.

  • Riding helps fine tune motor skills
  • Tutors kids about independence
  • Keeps them physically active

While it may seem extreme, Mountain biking is a safe option for young people because unlike the streets around town, there are no cars to worry about on mountain trails.

A balance of having fun and keeping kids safe is at the top of the list, as is making sure they don’t embark on a ride that’s too challenging for their skill set. Some kids feel comfortable on a bike by the time they are 5, while others are closer to 10 before they feel confident.

The Dark Stuff

I’m sure you’ve heard the line, “we can’t protect our kids from everything” and while that may be true there is plenty we can do to minimize risk and injury.

Risk and injury go with the territory of mountain biking and we need to understand that children are more prone to injury than adults. Child injuries can be more serious too because unlike adults, children still have growth plates (soft cartilage near the ends of the longer bones that are responsible for bone growth). Parents are often surprised to discover their child has a fracture because they assume they have rubber bones that don’t easily break. This is not true.

“Growth spurts can make some children more awkward as growing can throw off balance and coordination, even when the child has been previously agile. Growing can also cause decreased flexibility for periods of time. Bones, as they grow, cause the muscles to become tighter than normal during growth spurts. In other words, as bones grow, they pull the muscles, which respond by constantly stretching until the muscle accommodates to the new bone length.

Young athletes are particularly vulnerable to injuries because the decrease in flexibility increases the risk of muscle imbalance problems. Training that overemphasizes one muscle group may also expose the growing athlete to injury. Every child needs to exercise regularly to ensure normal physical growth and development. Youngsters who spend their free time watching TV or engaging in other sedentary pursuits may have impaired bone growth. Recent studies have shown that when weight-bearing physical activity is increased, bones become progressively denser and stronger. Children who take part in weight-bearing physical activity also have denser and stronger bones when they reach adulthood”.

(Dr. William MacIntyre, Ottawa’s Children’s Hospital)

Common injuries

A recent study in The UK shared some data but note that this covers children and adults.

  • Head injuries. 13% of all sport related head injuries in emergency departments are from cycling incidents. Helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 39% and facial bone fracture by 28%.
  • Upper limb injury. These occur as riders attempt to stop a fall with an outstretched arm. Typically, bikers damage the collar bone, shoulder or wrist.
  • Abdominal injury. A blow to the abdomen can result in spleen damage (49% of cases), the liver (15% of cases) or the small intestine (13% of cases).
  • Lower limbs. Lower leg injuries often result from failure to release a quick release pedal fast enough to prevent falling off. Resulting injury can vary from skin being caught in the chain wheel and lacerations to sprained, strained fractured or dislocated ankles.
  • Cuts. These are normally light scratches but may cause bleeding. Dirt in the wound can cause infection. For cuts and abrasions in the outdoors a tetanus is required if the injured person is not already protected.

Concussion

In the USA, approximately 500,000 children visit emergency services every year for treatment of traumatic brain injuries; the single largest cause of emergency room visits for adolescents. Of course, not all of these are mountain bike related but what is essential to know is that diagnosis of concussion in children is more complicated than adult diagnosis. If in doubt, check it out and be vigilant for unusual behavior.

Young children are more susceptible to concussion than adults because they are more likely to be active and involved in sports and, because their brains are not fully developed, they are more vulnerable to injury.

There is good news, however. Children who sustain a concussion almost always recover completely in a relatively short period. The best way to achieve a good outcome is to ensure that a child is evaluated and assessed by medical experts as quickly as possible.

It’s Not All ScaryGirl MTB

Mountain biking has many benefits and so long as kids have the right equipment and are properly instructed in the basic skills, many will catch this beautiful bug and never want to let it go. My 13-year old daughter doesn’t much like riding uphill but she is completely addicted to downhill riding after I introduced her to MTB and taught her the basics.

The Right Bike

You know the phrase, “they will grow into it”, right? Well this is something that must be disregarded when choosing the right bike for a young person. If they can’t stand with their feet on the ground and the top bar beneath their crotch, the bike is too big and will present a greater risk of injury and a difficult ride that will offer little development of confidence.

Dozens of Gears

How many gears you should be looking for depends on their age and what they can process. A simple guide is the younger they are, the fewer gears they will need until they can demonstrate skill and confidence at a basic level. It’s about knowing your child too; some will get it faster than others.

If the best deal is a bike with 3 front chain rings, you could always fix the chain on the second ring and disable the front derailleur until they progress.

While riding with my daughter (I don’t need to do it now), I would call out the best gear for the approaching terrain. It didn’t take her long to get the idea and make me redundant.

Bike Checks

This is an excellent habit for all riders. Before every ride, check that the bike is properly set-up and maintained. It’s a wonderful opportunity to instruct kids too.

  • Are the brakes working properly?
  • Is the tire pressure correct?
  • Are the chain and gears working properly?
  • Is the saddle firmly in position?
  • Does anything need tightening?

Helmets

A decent quality and perfectly fitted helmet are essential. Please be aware that remarkable offers in superstores may not offer the protection your child will need even though most countries have strict safety standards.

Gloves

Help with grip, keep out the cold and offer protection in the case of a crash or minor collision with a tree-trunk or thorn bush.

Full Range of Safety Gear

It may not be necessary at the start, but it is possible to cover most of the body with protective gear. If you feel anything is necessary from the outset, consider knee and elbow pads but make sure they fit properly and are comfortable.

Check Out The Trails

This is necessary if you’re taking any child or new rider out on the trails. Will their level and age enable them to cope? The last thing you want is to scare them away because the trail was too difficult and full of unexpected challenges or too technical trail features.

The Basics

While you’re out with kids on easy trails, it’s a perfect time to take advantage of the time to teach some of the basics.

  • Do they know the basic body position?
  • Can they ride in a straight line while keeping their eyes on the trail?
  • Are they able to see far enough ahead to see what’s coming?
  • Can they slow down or stop when they must without using their feet?
  • Is it possible for them to control their speed on descents?

It’s easy to get carried away when they and you are having an exciting time but teaching the basics will return even better rides very quickly.

Starting Out

Like with many sports that require equipment, getting started isn’t going to be cheap but taking advantage of offers like those found on Black Friday deals will potentially save a fortune.

Both banners below are of no exception. They have some outstanding offers wherever you are in the world. Please know that if you decide to buy from these, I will receive a small commission but the price you pay will never be affected. You can read more about this by clicking on “Affiliate Links” on the main menu.

 

 

Comments and Questions

Whether you need help or support or just want to leave a comment about this post, please do so below. I am here to help if you need it and guarantee a prompt response.

Just Ride Hard, Ride Fair, Nobody Hurt

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12 thoughts on “Mountain Biking for Kids

  1. I just love how balanced your post is about mountain biking for kids. You take a good look at both sides of skill, safety, and the benefits.

    As a former teacher, I really noticed how important it is for children to develop at their own pace, and you address that nicely with choosing the right equipment and level of activity for the individual child.

    Our son was very cautious and took a long time to become comfortable on his bike, while his cousin was a complete daredevil from the age of 3 on up.

    This is a great overview of an excellent way to get kids out and active, which is so important these days!

    Stella 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comments Stella, they are very much appreciated. A quote from a friend of years ago always sticks in my mind where children are concerned, “they are the leaders of tomorrow, we have to nurture them and guide”. It’s great to see young people out on the trails and I agree that out and active is so important.

      Best regards

      Steve

  2. Hi, Steve.
    Thanks for sharing the information on mountain biking for kids.
    The points you suggested in Bike Checks, information on common injuries, a simple guide for gears and the basics which every kid knows before starting the adventure. Overall an awesome article and I am bookmarking this page which I will gift my daughter along with her new cycle on her birthday.
    Warm Regards,
    Gaurav Gaur

    1. Thank you Gaurav. I hope your daughter enjoys her birthday bike. If either of you have any questions later, always ask. I’m only a message away. Best regards, Steve 

  3. I love taking my kids biking…The views are amazing & bonding experience…

     This is article also touches my heart. My daughter was born with CP, when she turn 2 doctors told me she may never learn to ride a bike…

    3 years later, she proved them wrong…And we enjoy every moment of it..

    so this was a good read! Keep up the great work!!

    1. Hi Genia, thank you for your comments and particularly sharing about your daughter. I love the 3 years later line. YES! 

  4. Hello Steve,
    Very valuable article with very certain advice about mountain biking for children. 

    I stopped being a child a long time ago I am 61 years old. Always and especially in my youth I practiced many sports I also did some cycling.  

    Thinking that looking at your images the mountain would have been a challenge for me.

    Logically the boys must protect their body since they can suffer significant injuries. 

    Parents should give an example to our children accompanying them on their journeys. 

    Thank you and take care!

    Claudio

    1. Thank you for your comments, Claudio, they are much appreciated. Yes, I think parents should set an example by accompanying them on the trails or getting somebody the children know to go with them. There are also a few ride schools about where children get to learn with others under expert supervision.

      Best regards

      Steve

  5. Hi Steve

    I am a great supporter of exercise for children and mountain biking is one way they can get it. I really liked this article as you have covered everything that a worried parent will have concern for and addressed each and every one. You want your child to have fun but not come to harm at the same time. You want them to have the right personal protection equipment but you still worry that they may not use them, or that the rough terrain may cause them to slip. Injury is part and parcel of growing up and I am afraid we are smothering are children. 

    What are you to do if your child keeps falling and gets discouraged?

    Thanks

    Antonio

    1. Hi Antonio. Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post. If a child keeps falling and gets discouraged, I would take them to a “soft” area where falls wouldn’t hurt so much and encourage them to pedal a few strokes and stop and repeat, all the time celebrating their achievements. Eventually get them to extend the number of pedal strokes. Some children naturally take longer to learn so if it still doesn’t go well, let them know that it doesn’t have to be now and they can give it another go when they are ready. Hope this helps, best regards, Steve

  6. I remembered the first time that I rode my bicycle, it was such a great experience that my parents had to take me apart from it. I want my nephews to experience it. You are absolutely right that it is safer to be riding in the mountains there is no car around and that can be a good activity that I can join with my nephews and my super hyper dog. 
    I feel that falling down is just a part of growing up, you just cannot baby them all the time. You just have to let them fall and they will learn from it. The holiday season is coming, this will be a perfect gift for my rascals. Thanks again for the reviews.

    1. Hi Nutanee, thank you for your great comments. If you need help with some specific bike suggestions, drop me a message, I will be glad to help out. There’s a lot of choice out there. I too remember that first bike ride, wow, it was awesome. Sometimes falling goes with the territory, all we can do is our best to minimize risk. Best regards, Steve

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