HOW TO TAKE YOUR FAMILY ON A MOUNTAIN BIKE ADVENTURE
Mixing your love for mountain biking with the love you have for your family isn’t always easy. There is no guarantee that they will like it. Then you have the issue of managing three or four people’s gear as well as your own. But it doesn’t have to be a struggle. Mountain biking as a family can be great; you just need to keep these key things in mind.
If you are planning long bike rides each day, be aware that a child might not manage it. You have several choices. The first, and easiest, is to manage your expectations in line with your child’s abilities. This means no long rides. You can still shred up the trails but only on very easy single-tracks for a couple of hours at a time.
Or, you could pre-ride the trails. On family biking holidays, I would get up early, pre-ride the trails and report back to my wife and the rest of the family how they were. This lets me do a faster ride before everyone else joined me, then I still had the ride with the family to enjoy. It meant I felt I was getting a full day of riding in at least.
The third option, which I have also explored, is hauling the kids and their bikes on yours when they get tired. When my son and daughter were very small, this wasn’t an issue. We strapped the small bike to our backpack and put the child on a front-mounted seat on my wife’s bike. This was also ideal because we could cycle as much as we wanted, even when the child became tired.
You can use balance bikes but exercise caution. You need something more substantial than you would use on the road. Not many balance bikes are up for the task of riding on singletrack as they don’t have pneumatic, air-filled tyres. Look for the better quality balance bikes if you want to go this way. But in my experience, even a three-year-old can manage a short ride on a mountain bike. It is worth training children to get used to riding for themselves at an early age. That way, by the time they are 12, they will be able to do everything you can on the trails.
DOUBLE THE TIMING
If this is your first time with the family, a good rule of thumb is to double the time you think it will take. Start off with a gentle 5-mile ride. Our 5-mile rides with the kids take around an hour and a half, a great deal longer than it would ever take on my own. Allowing plenty of time for stops and breaks means you won’t be so anxious and can relax more.
You want a location that offers plenty of activities outside of cycling. When we were mountain biking in Europe, we found a doubletrack trail that ended at a dinosaur museum. That was a highlight, I can tell you.
Routes that revolve around a central campground are also good, that way anyone that gets too tired can stop and get back to camp easily.
YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY SNACKS
Snacks will buy you time. If your kids are getting tired, grumpy, bored, or just miserable, a snack is a quick pick-me-up that will buy you valuable time to get back to the campsite before the crying starts. Bring lots of them.
PUT A BELL ON THEIR BIKE
It might irritate you but will provide hours of entertainment for young kids. Seriously, sometimes I thought they only got on the bike to play with the bell.
Mountain biking with kids is certainly more work than with your guy/girlfriends. But it is also incredibly rewarding. Combining my love of mountain biking and my love for my family is one of the best things I ever did. Now that my kids are in their late teens and will soon be fleeing the nest, it is these memories I made shredding up the trails as kids that I seem to return to over and over again in my mind.
Do you have any other tips for taking your family on a mountain bike trip? Leave them in the comments section below.