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Riding Offroad With Your Kid

July 22, 2020

Once your child is confident riding on paved surfaces and has their sense of balance dialled it's time to hit the trails. In the final part of our kids' series Michael is here to share his tips on getting them riding off-road with confidence, so grab your running shoes (more on that later) and jump on in!

What you'll need

  • A child that has mastered riding a pedal bike on paved surfaces
  • A pair of runners
  • An Ocky strap or bungee cord with a clip
  • Some snacks

Tip 1: Let the tyres down

Most people tend to put way too much pressure in their kids' tyres so then end up with a really harsh ride and hardly any grip. We need to consider the weight of the rider when setting the tyre pressure or they'll have a pretty rough ride. To put this into perspective, my gross riding weight (when kitted up) is about 82kg, my daughter's gross weight would be more like 24kg so our tyre pressures are going to be totally different.

Kids need really, really soft tyres so let a heap of air out and then watch the tyres as they ride. You can bump the pressure up a bit if they're deforming too much as they go around corners, and you'll need to creep it up over time as they start to hit things with more confidence.

Tip 2: Grab the Runners

Yeah I know, this is probably making a lot of you cringe but it's for the best...I promise!

The first reason I recommend this is that it's a good workout, so it'll be good for you. Think of it as cross-training if you have to.

Secondly, you'll end up super frustrated if you're on your own bike because your fitness, and skill level are going to be much higher than theirs and they'll struggle to keep up. Sooner or later one of you is going to spit the dummy, and the less gear you need to drag out the better.

The real benefit of you being on foot is that you can be right there to talk to them, support them, and help them the whole way so it'll be a much better experience for you both.

Tip 3 - The Tow Strap

If you've watched our other videos on teaching your kid how to ride you would have seen this before. This is just a stretchy strap with a closed loop on the end that you can get from any hardware store. This doubles as both a tow rope and a brake, and it's super easy to attach by looping it around behind the top of the fork and just below the headset cup to create a nice and secure connection. Another more purpose-built option is the Towwhee.

The great thing about the strap is that I can use it to help them up the tougher climbs and slow them down on the descents while still giving them the freedom to balance and steer the bike themselves which is great for their confidence.

Tip 4 - Snack Time

I like to take along a muesli bar or something similar that they'll enjoy and will give them some energy, but you don't want to take along something that's TOO nice. We want them to enjoy riding because it's fun, and not just because you bribe them with choccies each time.

Tip 5 - Ways to Push/Pull

Using the same tips you may have seen in our previous video about teaching your kid to ride a balance bike you'll be able to easily guide them up hills, over obstacles, and back down again with a couple of simple techniques.

The Push:

Position your hand so your fingers can hook around the base of the seat and your palm is just behind their butt or in the small of their back. This will help them up the hills and drive their front wheel over bumps while allowing them to steer the bike themselves.

The Pull:

On the way down I like to grab the back of their shirt rather than their shoulder. The reason for this is that using their shirt distributes the pressure over their whole torso and you can pretty much pull them straight back with a nice even pressure. I've found that grabbing their shoulder or their arm doesn't work so well as it tends to make them feel a bit more scared and you can accidentally end up pulling them sideways which isn't great when they're going down a hill.

The Guide:

You can gently guide their steering as needed while pushing or pulling them to help them pick their line.

The Dummy Spit

It might be your kid, or it might be you. No matter how hard you try, somebody is going to spit the dummy at some stage. Another advantage of being on foot is that it's super easy to pick up the pieces and haul on outta there!

Meet Michael!

Michael has always loved bikes, and began turning his passion into a career while still in high school, selling MTB parts from underneath his parent's house. Things have transformed since then and he's now co-owner of MTB Direct. His regular role is project management, especially around some rad new features for the site. When he's not out riding one of his many mountain bikes, he's looking after his two little girls and teaching them to ride!