Bikes provide kids with an unmatched freedom, allowing them to be the navigator as they cruise around town or up the side of a mountain. Bikes aren’t just fun for kids, they also offer a plethora of benefits. Bikes help fine tune motor skills, teach kids a thing or two about independence and keep them physically activity. For all of these reasons and more we offer a number of opportunities for our campers to embark on exciting bike excursions.
Mountain biking may seem extreme but it’s often the safer option for youthful bikers because there are no cars zooming through mountain trails unlike neighborhood streets.
Having fun is at the top of the list, but the most important thing is keeping kids safe and making sure they don’t embark on a bike ride that is too challenging for their skill set. Some kids feel comfortable on a bike by the time they are 5, while others are closer to 10 before they feel sturdy on the back of a bike. The following mountain bike trail safety tips for kids will help keep your child safe while enjoying all that nature and bikes have to offer.
1. Buy The Right Kid Bike
Making sure your child has a bike that fits them well and is suited to their capabilities is extremely important in regards to safety. One of the worst things you can do is purchase a bike that is too big for your kid so that they can ‘grow into it.’ Riding a bike that is too big is difficult, uncomfortable and presents a greater risk for injury. Your child should be able to stand over the bike without touching the frame.
Parents often assume their child needs a 21-speed mountain bike but more than likely your child doesn’t need anything nearly this fancy. Most 10-year-olds stop a fancy bike by running into something or putting their foot down, as opposed to messing with the confusing assortment of gears and breaks. A simple single speed bike is all a kid needs, elaborate gears are unnecessary until your child demonstrates superior skills using a single speed bike.
A bike with both handbrakes and coaster brakes is great because it gets kids used to using both kinds of braking systems. It also gives them options to pick what they are most comfortable using.
2. Know The Mountain Bike Trail Before Taking Your Child
Before you take your child on a mountain bike trail you want to be familiar with the terrain. This prevents you from getting into any unexpected situations where the terrain is much too difficult (and dangerous) for your child to navigate. Mountain bike trail safety has a lot to do with location and the difficulty of a trail. Trails that are safe for kids should be cleared of all debris with clearly marked paths and relatively flat riding areas.
3. Conduct Frequent Bike Check Ups
Before your child heads out on a mountain bike trail or just around the neighborhood it’s important to always check over their bike. Things to regularly check for include:
-The air pressure is good on the bike tires.
-The breaks are operating properly.
-The chain is in good condition and ready to go. (Reference)
4. Go On Bike Rides With Your Kids
Riding bikes with your kids is a great way to actively spend time together, plus it helps ensure their safety. During this time you can set a good example for your child by wearing a helmet, always stopping to look both ways before crossing the street, and choosing bike paths carefully.
5. Wear A Helmet No Matter What
The helmet is the most important bike gear your child can wear. The law requires all kids under 16-years-old to wear a bike helmet, and for good reason. The head is a sensitive part of the body that we use for every last little thing; a secure, well-fitted helmet will help protect your child from head injury.
Parents and older siblings should wear helmets too in order to set a good example for younger kids. You want your child to view wearing a helmet as the norm so they don’t take it off any chance you’re not looking.
Let your child pick out their own helmet so that they are more likely to want to wear it.
6. Make Sure Your Child Has The 4 Core Bike Riding Basics Down
Before your child starts riding their bike more independently they need to master the basics, including:
- Your child should be able to ride in a straight line without swerving.
- Your should be able to look back without swerving or getting off balance. This ensures they can look around for traffic and other obstacles while remaining steady.
- Your child should know how to stop their bike using their brakes.
- Your child should have good speed control; say for instance when they are going down a hill. (Reference)
7. Teach Kids To Plan Ahead
While out riding bikes it is easy to get carried away having a great time but kids should be aware of their surroundings at all times. Teach your kids to plan ahead, look where they are going and plan how they are going to maneuver through certain areas before embarking on it.
At Camp Live Oak campers have the opportunity to go on many mountain bike rides that are carefully supervised for safety and tons of fun! Our Miami Day Camp at Oleta River State Park has an amazing mountain bike program.