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  1. #1
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    Suggestions for motivating 11 y.o. to Mt. Bike.

    Hi all

    I'm looking for suggestions on how to motivate my 11 year old to "want" to ride on longer mountain bike adventures.

    He has excellent bike handling skills, and is sufficiently fit and athletic (water polo, 5k runs, etc.), but only wants to ride his BMX bike in circles around a BMX track or skate park.

    Any trail rides over a mile or two, especially those where we need to go uphill before enjoying the downhill, results in very frequent "rest" stops, and complaints that he wants to go home. He has a good fitting 24" Marin mountain bike, and certainly is capable of going on more extended rides if he chose to.

    I don't want to push him too hard, for fear he'll just learn to hate trail rides, but at the same time, I don't know how to get him to appreceate the satisfaction in overcoming hills and a little fatigue.

  2. #2
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    My 9 year old is the same - he'll downhill or BMX all day long, but can't stand XC rides.
    The reason, as near as I can figure, is we're old and they're not. I wouldn't have been interested in trail riding as a kid either - I would have considered it way too little fun for the effort.

    My solution - bought myself a sweet BMX bike and started playing in his world. Great investment and we have a lot of good times at it. Couple years in now, and I can get around a park pretty well, and he's working on teaching me how to improve my jumping. I figure there's plenty of time for XC riding when he gets older; for now, though, our trail adventures usually involve something with a throttle.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by chad1376 View Post
    Hi all

    I'm looking for suggestions on how to motivate my 11 year old to "want" to ride on longer mountain bike adventures.

    He has excellent bike handling skills, and is sufficiently fit and athletic (water polo, 5k runs, etc.), but only wants to ride his BMX bike in circles around a BMX track or skate park.

    Any trail rides over a mile or two, especially those where we need to go uphill before enjoying the downhill, results in very frequent "rest" stops, and complaints that he wants to go home. He has a good fitting 24" Marin mountain bike, and certainly is capable of going on more extended rides if he chose to.

    I don't want to push him too hard, for fear he'll just learn to hate trail rides, but at the same time, I don't know how to get him to appreceate the satisfaction in overcoming hills and a little fatigue.
    Hi, I normally hang around the night riding section in this forum. The title of this thread caught my eye. I have 15yo boy who's interest in basketball. He'd spend a whole day practicing his moves. My passion on the other hand is of course mtb. We do night rides every now but not to the frequency I would like. Like you, I am hoping we'd do more.

    As a company, we sponsor endurance racing riders with our mtb light products. 2 guys in their 40s and a 15 year rider. We saw serious potential in Guy a few months back and went all out to sponsor him with lights for night races. We had no doubt he'd an elite rider one day (why isn't this my son??). Transitioning from motorX to XC racing is a big change. I'm still in awe with his meteoric rise. His Wordpress blog is here. Guy and his teammate Jayden has just taken out the Elite Men Pairs in the Shimano Rocky Trail Series 4 out of 5 races. This 15 and 16yo Jayden creamed the field consisting of pro guys in their 20s to 30s. I feel embarrassed for the older guys standing next to them on those makeshift podiums. Have a read of his entire journey. If this doesn't inspire anybody, I don't know what will.
    Leonard - All things Xeccon + Beyond
    mtbRevolution.com

  4. #4
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    What kind of trails are you trying to encourage him to ride.
    Are they natural or man made
    MTB: Stumpy, Enduro, Hotrock, Commencal Supreme
    ROAD: Jamis Zenith, Pinarello Dogma

  5. #5
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    I've done the BMX/park thing, but I'm just the "dorky old dad" taking up space and getting in everyone's way. I never was good at stunts when I was younger, and probably wouldn't make too many advancements at this point, short of bleeding.

    For the trails, we have a lot of desert single track available. My kids do well and enjoy the ride when "mom" hauls everyone to the top in the truck, and we get to coast back down. That will eventually old with her though.

    I know it's just a maturity thing. The kids want instant satisfaction, without putting in much work - whereas I feel that the downhill is the reward for the effort in climbing to the top. Maybe the best thing is to keep doing the mom-lift-pass and downhill, and hopefully they'll start to apreciate the trails for what they are.

  6. #6
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    Maybe you can find some shorter segments that he will enjoy without all the work? If he enjoys getting on his bike and riding, I wouldn't worry too much beyond that. It's probably harder for him to get up the hills than for you...

  7. #7
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    Find other kids/families to ride with. Hang back and let the magic happen.
    Our kids take off like crazy and we'll see them at various regroups. Before I knew it, we were doing 25 mile loops.

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    You could do with finding a couple of routes with interesting features during the climb to add interest.
    Got to admit I hate the long grind to the top of some routes, but I know of some in the uk where there are some really fun challenges on the way up. Some of these have been man made including raised boardwalks, skinnies, logs. Most are just off the main route so arent visible unless you know about them. You could possibly suggest making your own and get them involved in a covert operation (adds to the thrill) to build.
    MTB: Stumpy, Enduro, Hotrock, Commencal Supreme
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by chad1376 View Post
    I've done the BMX/park thing, but I'm just the "dorky old dad" taking up space and getting in everyone's way. I never was good at stunts when I was younger, and probably wouldn't make too many advancements at this point, short of bleeding.
    Yeah, that sounds about like me. I did find after sticking to it for a few seasons, asking kids for pointers, and not being afraid to look stupid, that I've made some decent progress and have reached a point where I can get around pretty well (I'm still a joke when it comes to getting any sort of decent air). FWIW, I didn't start doing it 'til I was 44, so you're probably not the oldest or dorkiest dad out there. I get a lot of encouragement from the kids at the parks, and regularly hear how cool it is that I get out there and ride w/ my kid.

  10. #10
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    I recently went to a viewing of Single Track High it is a doccumentary put on by NICA of 6 northern california's high school racers season of xc racing. It was very insperational my daughter was on the fence about joining the leauge up here in washington but I think movie helped sway her.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by 9iron View Post
    Find other kids/families to ride with. Hang back and let the magic happen.
    Our kids take off like crazy and we'll see them at various regroups.
    This has worked for my son. Not to get him out riding, but to ride farther, have more fun and complain less. He gets competitive with the other kids, wants to lead or at least be out in front of the slower riders. They naturally find their spot in the group and keep a decent pace.
    Depending on the trail we may have an adult lead or let one of the more experienced kids do it. Usually a group of parents form at the back and we make a social ride out of it, maybe taking a pull at the front from time to time.

  12. #12
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    Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Many of my son's closest freinds are X-Box lard-butts with feable riding skills, but one of his freinds is a good candidate. His dad also recently got his first Mt. bike. I'll hit them up and see if we can arrange for an outing.

    I did find a route this weekend that was a good compromize on all fronts. 3-miles uphill on a paved bike trail. At the top is a BMX track for the kids to have fun on, then 3-miles downhill on single track (Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City if anyone is familiar with it.)

    My 8 year old and my wife also did the same loop, and everyone had fun, so all is not lost

  13. #13
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    I never liked XC riding until recently, probably in the last 4-5 years as I got older. And my bikes directly reflect that. I went from dirt jump bike to an all-mountain bike, now to my XC bike. Maybe the XC stuff is not exciting enough to keep his attention.

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    While my experience is in its infancy, I am noticing that my six year old would rather ride with kids his age at our BMX track's practice day than 'dear old dad'. Also, at his 1st MTB ride, he seemed to prefer riding trail (and to some extent competing as his bike experience thus far has been BMX racing) with kids form this weekends local 'Bring Your Kid Mountain biking' event.

    I am curious, besides riding with kids what type of riding would he be into? That might be a better starting point for him?

    This video that I stumbled upon is pretty motivating (6 year old DH'ing in the Alps), I am showing the 'young gun' this vid later:

    Milan does La Roue Libre Video - Pinkbike
    ELEVATE CYCLES | FTW FACTORY RACING | ODI | NEMA | 661| AZONIC | SPY

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Yeah, that sounds about like me. I did find after sticking to it for a few seasons, asking kids for pointers, and not being afraid to look stupid, that I've made some decent progress and have reached a point where I can get around pretty well (I'm still a joke when it comes to getting any sort of decent air). FWIW, I didn't start doing it 'til I was 44, so you're probably not the oldest or dorkiest dad out there. I get a lot of encouragement from the kids at the parks, and regularly hear how cool it is that I get out there and ride w/ my kid.
    This. You can't/won't get your kid involved in something they are not interested in. Get on that BMX bike and do things that make it interesting for you. You WILL be surprised what comes out of it.

    Also, be careful with longer rides for kids below 18YO. Most don't have the body to do half what an adult can do. I know there are exceptions, but most kids cannot possibly enjoy a 2 hour ride unless there are lifts to the top of the hill, then things go better. Even then, the bike has to be set up for riders 50Kg or less, which 99% of the time are not and cannot.

  16. #16
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    The question you need to ask yourself is are the types of ride you take him on stimulating him.
    If not then you need to find something that works for you both.

    The fact that he likes the bmx track suggests that he likes the speed and the humps and bumps. Its all in a confined space and there no hour of slogging up the hillside to get 10mins of what he can get at the bmx. Equally there is no gripping on for death beacuse the run your on is so long and technical.

    It also sounds like hes a little competitive. Use this to your advantage with easy games/races and technical challenges. Let him win most of the time

    My suggestion would be see if you can find pump track, this will give him the bumps and jumps and also allow technique to be taught.

    Find a good trail with an easy ride to the top that can be sessioned
    Your profile says you like free ride so see if some of the trails you use are suitable.

    Show him you're not an old man and have some skills but make it realistic for him.

    Finally don't take him all the time as hell get bored with it. Once a month unless he asks for more.

    Finally dont forget theres other things as well.
    You could turn it into a weekend camping with a ride some fishing and a camp fire.
    Above all make it FUN FUN FUN
    MTB: Stumpy, Enduro, Hotrock, Commencal Supreme
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  17. #17
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    Most races have shorter courses for younger riders, including cyclocross in the fall, and lots of kids race cyclocross on mountain bikes. If there's any near you, maybe going to one and riding around to watch would spike his interest and he'd ask you to sign him up for a race?
    We were at a cx race last fall, my kids (8 and 5 at that time) had done a 'little kids' race the previous weekend and were planning to do the same, we found out that there was a group for the 6-9s that did a full lap of the real course (about 10 min for a lap for the better racers) and my son expressed that he wanted to do the bigger race, we had about 5 minutes to get him signed up and pin a number on him, he had a good time and kept racing. This year he and I joined a local shop team, I had hoped there would be more kids to train/ride/race with, that has not happened yet, but having the team jersey and races to look forward to has been a good motivator for my son. Cyclocross is a fall sport.

  18. #18
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    My wife wrote an article on this subject not long ago :
    When Your Child Refuses to Ride | Velo Mom
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by asphalt_jesus View Post
    This. You can't/won't get your kid involved in something they are not interested in. Get on that BMX bike and do things that make it interesting for you. You WILL be surprised what comes out of it.

    Also, be careful with longer rides for kids below 18YO. Most don't have the body to do half what an adult can do. I know there are exceptions, but most kids cannot possibly enjoy a 2 hour ride unless there are lifts to the top of the hill, then things go better. Even then, the bike has to be set up for riders 50Kg or less, which 99% of the time are not and cannot.
    I kind of agree, and kind of disagree. In general, a kid who doesn't want to do something obviously isn't going to just do it without any encouragement. However, i think you can set easy attainable goals and build on those

    I'm also curious about why you think anyone under the age of 18 is only good for shuttle runs? My strategy is to not let them know that is an option, let my son lead the way/set the pace, start with flatter terrain and gradually introduce the hills and descents that come along with them... His more athletic 8yo friend on a POS bike jumped right into a bigger ride and I don't see either of them as atypical kids (my son is borderline lazy).

    Just curious...

    For me, strava was helpful because I was able to quantify how far, how fast, and how high we went. Each ride, we could compare, and then he could brag about how he went 8 miles, then 12 miles, then 15 miles... It is slow, but he'll do it. We only ride maybe a couple times a month, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GMF View Post
    I kind of agree, and kind of disagree. In general, a kid who doesn't want to do something obviously isn't going to just do it without any encouragement. However, i think you can set easy attainable goals and build on those
    Look at it another way, do you want to spend your limited time/energy dragging a half-willing riding partner around? I realize you become the half-willing riding partner at the BMX track, but you are the adult. You will be surprised at what comes from doing things around his interests.

    Quote Originally Posted by GMF View Post
    I'm also curious about why you think anyone under the age of 18 is only good for shuttle runs?
    I didn't write that. MOST kids simply will not take to the climbing immediately. Many more kids will enjoy descending with some pedaling bits thrown in. Some kids do not enjoy descending either. I've taken some of those out too. It's the rare kid who takes to the suffering immediately.


    Quote Originally Posted by GMF View Post
    We only ride maybe a couple times a month, though.
    Is he asking to go for a ride or you telling him you two are going for a ride?

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    it's also the rare grownup that 'takes to the suffering' (of climbing), - ever.
    That's the hard question; how do you make climbing tolerable?, and hopefully eventually fun? My kid is doing ok with climbing, but it takes a lot of encouragement, he was doing great on one local hard climb but one crash can be (and was) a major setback. I think we're building back up to try it again.
    Starting with some basic fitness makes the climbing much more tolerable, and that's from riding a couple of times a week. I think it would be a mistake to try to take anybody on a hard climb if they didn't have any 'legs' yet.
    My son (age 9) was racing yesterday at a local cyclocross race, was leading about 1/4 of the way through, hit a hole on a descent and did a perfect endo, got the wind knocked out of him, got passed by almost everybody and was very upset. It was a slow hard finish, but with lots of encouragement (he wanted to dnf and walk out), he finished in not-quite last. My daughter raced in the little kids race, crashed and needed a bandaid on her hand, she went from joy to tears in an instant. Yesterday after the race and today, I've told them repeatedly that keeping at it and finishing after a setback is what makes a racer tough, and that it is not easy for a racer to become tough. All the fastest racers have been through disappointments and setbacks, but they kept trying their best. -Good life lessons through racing.

    I think the regular positive encouragement is the only answer; who doesn't like/need lots of verbal encouragement and praise? Most people NEVER like the suffering of climbing, of all the bike riders you know, how many really like to find the upper range of their heart rate on a climb?, maybe it's just a 'special' type of person. My wife will never like hard climbing, but with enough encouragement my kids might, -my daughter will need a lot of treats too.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by asphalt_jesus View Post
    Is he asking to go for a ride or you telling him you two are going for a ride?
    A combination of both. Fact is, when we ride, it ends up being between 12 and 15 miles and at around 4mph average speed, it takes the better part of a day. After soccer games, swim meets, other things, chores, etc.... yeah, we don't get to spend as much time riding as either of us would like.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by GMF View Post
    ... After soccer games, swim meets, other things, chores, etc..
    How is this a borderline lazy kid as posted up-thread?

    Kids get enough of adults trying to motivate them to work harder on something they may like, but not like that much in school. You don't need to add mountain biking to that category.

    I'm going to leave this thread here: my energy was focused on keeping their interests in mind while outside doing whatever we were doing. Look at that bug! A deer! And we'd just stop and hang for a while. My kid had fun because I connected with her interests. It didn't always work, but on average it was very good. The fact that bikes might have been ridden was secondary.

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