Parents love to share their hobbies with their children— though children certainly don’t always feel the same. It’s natural for you to want to share mountain biking with your child; it’s not just what you love but also a part of who you are. However, forcing them to love it the same way you do could be the very thing that turns them off the sport. Here are some ideas to help you cultivate a genuine love of mountain biking in your child.
Make it about spending time together
You don’t want your child to feel like you are out on a ride and had to drag them along. The priority here shouldn’t be turning your child into a mountain bike fanatic. The important thing to remember is spending time together. Going on a ride with your child should feel exciting and special— for both of you. Being out on the trails is a great place to connect and bond, so at first try to keep it low key. Be cautious you don’t overwhelm your child or throw too much at them too fast.
Let them pick out their own equipment
Mountain bikers need much more than two tough wheels to have a good ride. Your child will need a helmet, hydration, spare tubes, body protection, fix kit, light and gloves. It’s important they get a say in the feel, size, shape and color of their equipment. If your child or teen gets to help choose, they will feel more invested in using these items properly. If they feel comfortable in how they look, they will feel more comfortable as they ride. Plus, if your child enjoys shopping, going to pick out equipment just for them can help them feel special and included.
Balance instruction with free play
If you are constantly instructing your child neither of you are going to have a lot of fun out on a ride. Plus, if riding with you feels like school, your child may not be very excited to spend a Saturday morning on the trails. Breakdown the fundamentals into lessons. Try to keep instruction brief and at the beginning of a ride, providing occasional positive feedback to encourage them to stay focused on the lesson. Give ample time for free play— just letting your kid explore the bike and the terrain with little interjection or interference from you.
Build up to more rugged terrain
When you are just starting out should go easy on the terrain and then build up to more complex rides. While this may seem boring to you if you are an advanced mountain biker, it’s important you don’t rush your child into something they are not physically or mentally ready for. Have them help you map out a ride ahead of time so you can talk about the trails and what to expect. Let them have a choice between two courses, one slightly more rugged than the other, so they don’t feel pressured to go too far beyond their comfort zone.
Encourage your child to watch you bike, whether on a casual ride or during a race. Have them watch you maintain your bike. Let them observe your hobby first and ask questions before you invite them to join you on a ride. And remember in the beginning they are going to make a lot of mistakes and need a lot of encouragement. Try not to get too frustrated or irritated—and you will give your child’s interest in mountain biking plenty of room to grow.