Everyone’s talking about 2023 being the year we’re all going back outside and adopting a more earthy approach to reconnect with the world around us. It’s a great goal. For woom, this can only mean one thing: more family mountain bike rides. From where to go, what to take, how to pace it, and even how much sunscreen to apply, we thought of our best advice to make your next MTB ride with your woom OFF or woom OFF AIR even better. Here are six tips that put the “fun” in functional:
1. Be prepared for anything
If there’s any sport that’s open to the elements, it’s mountain biking. Fierce winds and strong sunshine can all join the party uninvited. But the good thing about mountain biking is that maneuvering your bike over rough ground makes your upper body work just as much as your legs on the pedals, so kids will always work up a sweat. This means hydration is really important at all times of the year, so make sure you’ve got fluids and have a backup plan to stop at a cafe or gas station if needed.
Our top tip here is to check a couple of weather apps when planning, remembering that altitude and mountains are places where the weather changes rapidly.
If you’re riding in winter, take care not to swaddle your kid up too much just because you feel the cold. Instead, go for layers. Start them in a base layer (such as FLARE Reflective Vest) that won’t restrict their movement, and pack an extra jacket that they can throw on when you stop. If the terrain is particularly rough or you’re in a bike park, our NEEBOWS Knee and Elbow Pads are a worthy bit of gear to soften impacts and put your mind at ease. On sunny days, sweat-proof sunscreen is a smart idea, but we’d also recommend staying in the shade when you can (this is why mountain biking in the woods is great!). It’s also helpful to wear long sleeves (e.g. the OFF Longsleeve Jersey) – this won’t just add sun coverage but also protects your kid’s skin from wayward branches on the trail.
Another essential for any mountain bike ride is a packable, emergency first aid kit. Scraped elbows and knees are commonplace in mountain biking. Don’t be afraid because that is all part of the fun. So making sure you have something to clean cuts and grazes on the trail is a wise addition to any backpack.
Last but not least, being prepared for mechanical issues is a must. The more time you spend mountain biking with kids, the more trailside repairs you’ll probably have to do. Instead of grumbling, embrace it as an opportunity to learn new skills for you and your kids. Do a practice run at home by taking the front wheel out and changing the tube. This way, if you are unlucky enough to flat while out on the trails despite having our puncture-resistant Schwalbe tires, you’ll know exactly what to do. No doubt you’ll be riding prepared with a spare tube or two, a multi-tool, and tire levers in your backpack. To brush up on your skills, here’s our comprehensive guide on home bike maintenance.
2. Make the outing fun
Think that racking up serious miles is the way to your child’s heart? Think again. While every mountain bike ride is an adventure, kids won’t want to put the pedal to the metal every day, so don’t expect them to do so. At the center of every ride needs to be fun. Make everything a game, play on the ride, and – assuming they’ve got a capable, confidence-inspiring bike like the woom OFF, OFF AIR, or woom UP – it will be fun regardless of distance or destination.
Knowing what gets your kids excited is crucial so you can go ahead and plan a route that’ll please everyone. Can you loop in a river path and greet the ducks or bring some of their buddies and a frisbee along for the ride? Why not pack a picnic and enjoy it with a good view?
3. Prioritize rideability for your kids (not your ego)
We all want to ride the coolest trails and get to the highest peaks for the photo op, but you may have to scout out (and, ideally, even pre-ride) some more family-friendly mountain bike routes and accessible wild places for the days when you’re hitting the trails with kids. After all, you don’t want them to ride off a cliff or into a lake. However, nature is everywhere so there’s likely no shortage of kid-appropriate terrain in your area.
To get inspired, we suggest checking the navigation app komoot, having a scan of Strava heatmaps to discover the most frequently-ridden routes (these tend to be more mellow), or going to AllTrails to find where your local community rides most. If you’ve got a nearby bike park, we’d bet good money on there being a dedicated flow trail that’s been expertly built for child-sized grins. And remember that if your kids are having a blast, then you will too.
4. Stay on top of trail riding technique
Part-technique, part-confidence, mountain biking is the most rewarding discipline of cycling once your kid has got the hang of how to handle their bike. Give them a helping hand by practicing skills and drills beforehand, and if there is something that they are struggling with during the ride, go back to basics to coach them through it.
As a basis, these two positions will come in really useful:
5. Riding the right bike
We’ll keep this one short but really it merits the biggest time investment. There are quite a few considerations when it comes to buying the right kind of kids’ mountain bike. You’ll want to factor in your child’s weight, riding skill, and where they are likely to ride most often when deciding whether you should get them a kids’ mountain bike with front suspension or not.
If you’ve got the woom OFF AIR, it’s worth taking the time to correctly set up their suspension fork, as this will impact the ride quality and their stoke levels. For riders on the woom UP, here’s a special guide for your next pedal-assisted adventure.
6. Slow down, seriously
You probably didn’t expect us to talk about patience, support, and flexibility, but these are critical when it comes to mountain biking with kids. They will be constantly giving you verbal and non-verbal cues about their level of motivation, blood sugar, and confidence. Tune into these and react accordingly. If they’re feeling hungry, tired, or nervous, don’t expect them to ride full-gas. Instead, think about stopping for a snack and debriefing. It might mean putting the bikes down and enjoying an extended break to admire bugs. If you’re anything like the Reber family, don’t be surprised if your kids want to stop every two minutes to look at roly-polies.
Last but not least, be prepared to cut things short and turn back early if you need to. Sure, you may have had a destination and rough time schedule in mind, but that is not the goal of a fun ride with kids. On a day like this, turning back is not the same as quitting. It’s more like an invitation to come back another time and explore further.