Taking the young kids out for a MTB ride can be a great experience for all. But if you’re not fully prepared, it can be a bit of a disaster. Michael covers all the gear you'll need, with a few extra tips and tricks to keep smiles on dials and tantrums to a minimum!
First things first...
The first thing you're gonna need is a kid! And I recommend not just any kid, but a kid that's got plenty of hours and confidence on the balance bike. Let the tyres down and they're ready to ride off-road on some really easy trails.
The gear you’ll need
Backpack: A backpack is an absolutely essential item, for more reasons than you might think! Of course it’s necessary for carrying all of the bits and pieces I’ll be going through below. However I also prefer a backpack that has straps on the side of it (they’re often used for carrying skateboards), so that if there's a full meltdown on the trail, you can strap the kids’ bike to it, put the kid on your shoulders and walk out. Meltdowns will happen, so best to be prepared!
Helmet: A quality kid's helmet is a no-brainer. There’s a huge range of kids helmets available, with plenty of colours to choose from and different safety features.
Jersey: A lightweight kids jersey is an ideal way to keep them happy, cool and comfortable. Because no one likes to sweat more than they need to, and this goes double for young children! It also makes the whole experience a bit more special if they have a special jersey just for mountain biking.
Knee Guards: I often use adult elbow guards as child knee guards; they work quite well. You can simply see if the spare pair of elbow guards you have in the garage will fit on their legs correctly, or if you need to buy a pair, measure up the kids knee and apply this to the elbow guard sizing charts to determine a suitable fit.
Trail snacks: At some stage, there will need to be a break and a snack stop. Try a muesli bar or something that’s not too much of a treat - the motivation to go mountain biking shouldn’t be about the mid-ride chocolate, but about the actual mountain biking! Remember to take frequent breaks to keep up the motivation and energy levels.
Shoes: A pair of proper kids bike shoes such as 5:10s or the Etnies Marana Kids Flat Shoes are pretty hard to beat. If you can't get your hands on these, a set of Vans or other skate shoes often will work pretty well too. Like for adults, having proper flat shoes works wonders with pedal grip!
Gloves: Not particularly essential for when they're just starting out; as they often don't have a lot of downwards speed, they aren't really gonna shred their hands. But once they start riding a bit faster, gloves can be a huge help on soft hands.
Bike Lock: A good bike lock can give you options if something unexpected happens. For example, if by chance your kid hurts themselves and you need to carry them out, you can lock their bike to a tree and come back for it later.
Front-Mounted Child Seat: Mix up the adventure a bit and have your kid sit up in the cockpit with you! These child seats can often fold up and fit in your backpack. It's great for getting a child to a specific area on the trails, or if there's nothing easy near the car park.
Tow Strap: A tow strap is useful for helping your kid to master their offroad skills, it’s also an ideal solution if energy levels get low and you need to tow them up the next hill or back out to the carpark.
First Aid: It's always useful to carry some kind of first aid kit for any type of ride, with kids or not! A bandage, band aids and alcohol swabs will deal with most bumps and scrapes, at least until you get back to the car or home. A bit of toilet paper can be handy too in case of an emergency toilet break.
Multi-tool: A multi-tool is essential for quick repairs or minor adjustments on the trail.
Mobile Phone: Pretty much an automatic item to carry on any ride these days, but especially so with a kid in tow - for the usual emergencies, but even just because rides with kids are prone to not going to schedule!
And last, but not least, carry plenty of water! This is one thing you definitely don’t want to run out of while you’re out, or spirits will be very low!
That sums up what I usually take on my kids mountain bike ride. Kids rides are one of those situations where being a little bit more prepared makes everything go a lot smoother! Be sure to check out our other videos and tips on how to get your kid riding off-road.