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  1. #1
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    What are good skills to teach hard riding kids?

    My 5yr old LOVES mountain biking. Rain, mud, whatever... he just wants to ride the big fun stuff as often as possible. . He is a big athletic kid riding blue single track and the jump tracks etc. I'm not a great biker and hence I'm not sure exactly the critical skills to be helping him with as a young guy. Any advice on how to foster his growth?

  2. #2
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    I always just viewed it the same as with an adult .... it's just some skills might be taught differently and you get a chance to progress as well ...

    My track stands have progressed massively... in fact we now set a 10 minute limit.. but I'd probably have struggled to do a minute a few years ago....Its a pretty useful and easy to practice skill and helps a lot when climbing technical trails... so he can be stopped dead by a root but not have to put a foot down and stop... and this can be done in the garden with no preparation ...

    Manuals are just everything for technical riding... without being able to unweight the front wheel everything is stuffed... but I found this much harder...
    Something like a track stand you can start off with 2 seconds... then 3 then 10.... and they are demonstrably progressing .. you can set the goal of lets try 15 sec's then minute etc. but a full manual is a bit binary.. you do or don't and a few don't quickly become boring to kids.

    We are still struggling on this .. he's much better but he tends to revert...
    One day he had unweighting and just progressed to quickly... he pumped off a series of very fast jumps getting more and more air/speed until he hit a good 20' gap between singles and cased the next one... front wheel onto the lip of the next jump .. it didn't end well.(full face and knee pads kept him out of hospital combined with being thrown into a bramble bush that hough a bit painful and ripping his clothing to bits stopped him better than hitting a tree) .. but as a result he lost his confidence and we are back to him squashing jumps or trying to roll drop offs...

  3. #3
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    Easy and very important...


    Body position on the bike. Keep centered and low. When things get sketchy kids have a natural tendency to stand upright.

    Look ahead to where you want to go. Don't look where you don't want to go.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miker J View Post
    Easy and very important...


    Body position on the bike. Keep centered and low. When things get sketchy kids have a natural tendency to stand upright.

    Look ahead to where you want to go. Don't look where you don't want to go.
    Right along with that, the ability to articulate the body around the bike (getting your hips behind the seat, moving your center of gravity left or right of the bike's centerline, keeping the arms fluid when you hit bumps) and bunny hopping. As he gets older and stronger, learning to climb stairs helps with technical climbing you'll find in some off-road situations.
    The most expensive bike in the world is still cheaper than the cheapest open heart surgery.

  5. #5
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    It’s a great subject. Around here, mountain biking is shaping the culture in a big way. There are over 50 kids on the high school mountain biking team, and there are tons of clinics and skills programs locally, and they all tend to start out by emphasizing body position and weight management.

    The local trail system built a kids’ skills track that just opened last week. I took my 3 year-old grand-daughter over there with her strider bike. First time she’d ever been anywhere outside of the driveway with it. Jeez, that track is brilliant. We couldn’t get her off the thing until she noticed the lower section of a blue trail called Switchback that came out next to the skills track. Next thing we know, she’s running that strider bike up the trail a couple of hundred yards and rode the switchbacks, complete with berms, all the way down squealing the whole way. So yeah, we started working on turns, and interestingly enough, she actually seems to grasp the concept of body position. Kids and mountain bikes. What a hoot!


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  6. #6
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    Look at some of the skills courses for kids in BMX racing - jumping, manualing and bunny/j-hopping, balancing (slow races). I think it's also important for kids to learn on flat pedals (a plague until recently in BMX under 2015 rule changes).

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    Wow Cuyuna .. I wish some of that would be exported

    I feel like where we are in the UK (and a 30ish minute drive) there is almost nothing for kids and what there is tends to be either boring for them or even possibly bad...

    There is stuff wider afield and the bad stuff is not meant to be bad....
    We have 3 local kids clubs but as far as I can tell they spend more time riding round cones in a parking lot and similar.... not that that is intrinsically bad .. it's just you can only do it for so long before they do some REAL riding...then I think they lack "qualified" people to take them out onto he trails.

    We have a local trail centre with miles of trails but no skills area and no kids activities... there are loads of adult ones... I can drive 2 hours and go somewhere with skills courses etc. but I can't do that after school every week.... the local trails don't even really have specific features... i.e. I spent ages looking for places with jumps that can be messed up without serious injury ... when we ride the circuit we have one drop off about 2' high which isn't a problem... but it would be nicer to learn on without the trees in the landing... and it would be better if it wasn't 10' after the 1' drop-off...

    Effectively you can't do the first drop off without committing to the second... and the second involves hitting a tree in mid air at speed if messed up... and after clearing that its another 15' (usually through mud hiding roots and scattered with broken helmet pieces) to the table top....

    If someone designed this as a place for photographers to get some great crashes it's perfect (and I think they did) ... but as a place to learn it's "sub-optimal"...

  8. #8
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    Ever consider building a jump/pump/skills spot in your neighborhood for the local kids?

    If you want something done...
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  9. #9
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    Agree with the above. But there are some more items, most hopefully obvious but worth stating.

    Mandatory helmet wearing, and any other safety gear. Don't try to force that on them later, or only when riding tougher trails. Develop the habit early and it will stick for life.

    Braking. Good braking is actually a skill that needs to be developed. Good control, f/r balance, feathering etc. Takes time, but it's not to be treated as an on/off switch.

    Taking care of the bike itself and equipment. No tossing on the ground. Helping with loading and unloading. Helping clean and lube etc. All good skills to learn. They don't have to be instant pros or bike mechanics but getting them involved in this aspect of the sport is important.

    Falling. Yes, there are good and bad ways to fall. They will learn. But even the fact that this is part of biking and it's ok is worthwhile experience.

    But if there is one skill, I'd choose body position. There is a lot that goes with that, but in simple terms a neutral stance and the fact that this neutral stance position is different when going up vs down, cornering etc. In other words, moving around on the bike, not locked as 1 to it. But stance also means weighting up the pedals. Don't want the kid sitting in the saddle with feet waving in the air. It happens. All the more technical stuff will build from that, get the foundation right.

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  10. #10
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    In addition to the new kids' skills track, we also have a very nice pump track for a little more advanced training. Clinics there every couple of weeks.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miker J View Post
    Easy and very important...


    Body position on the bike. Keep centered and low. When things get sketchy kids have a natural tendency to stand upright.

    Look ahead to where you want to go. Don't look where you don't want to go.
    ^ This. I repeat this constantly to my girls when we're riding. In an attempt to get them to look forward for a good line. Along with simply not riding off the trail or into an obstacle they are trying to avoid.

    We have a HUGE local High School MTB scene here in NorCal. With several teams based here in Sacramento. However the hotbed for their practice areas are 30min away. So we hit the pump tracks and tinker until they get tired.

  12. #12
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    In addition to the above, try riding some skinnies. Take a 2x4 or 2x6, lay it flat on the grass. Front wheel loft for some of the older kids, really helpful.

  13. #13
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    If you have a local bmx club bmx racing is a great way to build basic skills - not just manualling and jumping but cornering, balancing, body position and leg speed.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by svinyard View Post
    Any advice on how to foster his growth?
    Stay out of his way! ;0)

    If you're not a skilled rider, what can you teach him? He'll discover more from just riding than you could teach him. Let him watch YouTube skills videos maybe but if he loves riding he'll get awesome all on his own.

  15. #15
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    My kids was ready to go fast but, I had to stop him to make sure he doesn't eat it first time out.
    The first thing was pedal and foot placement while turning, very basic. Leaning back and modulating the brakes on loose down slopes. I made sure he knew what those rubber things were on the tires, and why they are shaped and stick out.
    It's tough to hold myself back from teaching him the good stuff. i wanted him to ride like me but, had to start with the small stuff first. I figured all the radness will come out once he can feel the bike.

  16. #16
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    keep your kid on a BMX bike, until he can jump, bunnyhop, etc.. progression will be faster IMO. Once there able to do that, transition them to mt bike.

  17. #17
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    Also a huge fan of BMX for skill building.

    The more time a kid spends riding standing instead of sitting, the better when it comes to learning how to handle a bike.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Ever consider building a jump/pump/skills spot in your neighborhood for the local kids?

    If you want something done...
    Not so simple sadly.
    If you did it officially you'd run into health and safety legislation and unofficially and you'd be in front of a judge.

    Unfortunately we have a national organisation that has government funding who's main aim seems to be to control and legislate everything.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Ever consider building a jump/pump/skills spot in your neighborhood for the local kids?

    If you want something done...
    It will be labeled an “attractive nuisance” in the lawsuit that’s filed by the parents of the first kid to break his wrist on it.

  20. #20
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    Glad I don't live wherever it is you guys live; I would lose my mind if I wasn't able to build trails.

    My town hit us up a few years back to build something specifically for the kids to ride. We got to pick the spot and they pay for nice dirt to be trucked in on demand.
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  21. #21
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    We have a privately owned bike park but it's an hour and half drive... it's not commercial but you have to pay for insurance ... the guy runs it own a plant hire company and as far as I know operates the club on a loss (or provides the dirt and diggers for free) ... membership barely covers insurance ... and the whole place has to be locked and secured to prevent uninsured use and public liability...

    The local trail centre has similar problems... there was an area built by pixies but they bulldozed it flat for liability reasons and they have an unusable set of big jumps that were built officially 2 years ago but are uninsurable and closed off..


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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve-XtC View Post
    We have a privately owned bike park but it's an hour and half drive... it's not commercial but you have to pay for insurance ... the guy runs it own a plant hire company and as far as I know operates the club on a loss (or provides the dirt and diggers for free) ... membership barely covers insurance ... and the whole place has to be locked and secured to prevent uninsured use and public liability...

    The local trail centre has similar problems... there was an area built by pixies but they bulldozed it flat for liability reasons and they have an unusable set of big jumps that were built officially 2 years ago but are uninsurable and closed off..


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    Wow. That's depressing.

    We've got riding spots coming out our ears here.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Glad I don't live wherever it is you guys live; I would lose my mind if I wasn't able to build trails.

    My town hit us up a few years back to build something specifically for the kids to ride. We got to pick the spot and they pay for nice dirt to be trucked in on demand.
    We have something similar. I was just out there last weekend with my 3 year-old granddaughter on her strider bike...a 2000-foot pump track sponsored by one of the local communities, designed by Lee McCormack, and built by the local mountain bike club. She had a blast despite it being a cold and windy fall day.


  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Wow. That's depressing.

    We've got riding spots coming out our ears here.
    Yep it sucks... on the other hand we don't have the land access issues people in the US do.

    The weird thing is there is no logic to it... it's all ticking boxes..
    I saw the other day that one of the trails had all the smaller and intermediate jumps bulldozed only leaving the big ones.

    The explanation I heard was that the small ones hadn't been certified...
    The upshot of this was that people were turning up unaware then having to try jumps above their skill level...

    The local trail centre I mentioned created some BIG jumps... but they were:
    a) Close to the centre/roads and ambulances...
    b) They cleared the landings and trees you would hit reducing the chance of a death

    There are still some jumps right at the far side where its impossible to get a bulldozer... (or even a 4WD) without a big helicopter .. these a right through trees and have some really dangerous landings if you get them wrong... it's only a matter of time before there is another fatality but even until that time it's just an accident waiting to happen and inaccessible to emergency services.

  25. #25
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    Thanks for the info guys, trying to implement a lot of that:

    1- Built a mt bike trail loop (WIP) around our house (about an acre) with a drop, table tops, rocky/chunky stuff, skinnies, some pumps and a couple of big berms to keep speed high going down. Also has a nice uphill to get back to the top and wear him out (ideally) and strength his legs a bit. This has been AWESOME as my oldest gets up and does about 5-10 laps in the AM and rides it later in the day too. Very cool. While we do have like 4 different parks and live on the back of a giant Mt. Bike trail system...we aren't on that every day.

    2- Watching Skills with Phil on Youtube. This actually has been good as both of us get something out of it and he is implementing the stuff. Doing the body position exercises and the techniques for stuff like the drops, berms, chunk, going down stairs, manuals etc.

    3- Loop riding. Riding the same trail has been good as my kid if getting to know it well enough to get more confident and work on technique. This (video) is a nice, fast, fun run that we've been lapping lately. Its about a mile down the road from our house and has a nice uphill climb (great practice...he climbs super well, hoping up on rocks and the harder lines) and is a blast coming down with all kinds of goodness. He is 5 now but I'm guessing in a year or so he's going to be hitting this hard. We get about 3 laps in and ride home.


    4- He's doing a lot of log rides and hits the bike SeeSaw alot at our skills track. I think those have been pretty helpful when riding slow and climbing.

    One question, is there an effective way of teaching kids how to manual?

    I also liked the BMX bike idea. I wish we had started off with that when he was little. We didn't need a Mountain Bike until he was 5 for sure as everything we did was mostly flat etc. Now it'd be nice to have both.

    FWIW, I slammed his seat a while ago and its paid big dividends. He never sits down and rides (its real low) plus it helps with jumps. I felt like that one thing made a pretty big difference.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by svinyard View Post
    FWIW, I slammed his seat a while ago and its paid big dividends. He never sits down and rides (its real low) plus it helps with jumps. I felt like that one thing made a pretty big difference.
    Easily one of the biggest things that helped by son develop great bike handling skiills.
    Seat slammed, ride standing, move around like a monkey on that thing.
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  27. #27
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    Lots of awesome ideas. I'm a fan of a bit of everything. BMX, MTB and trials. All have a lot of helpful crossover. We also do Moto trials and will probably do motox and Enduro (real Enduro when he gets a little bigger.

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