I love mountain biking, and so does my son, Benji. I try to take him whenever I can, and as he gets older and progresses in his skill, strength, and stamina it gets even more fun. I started with him when he was too young to even ride a two-wheeler, toting him around on the back of my bike on an Adams Trail-a-Bike. Obviously, I didn’t take him on anything too difficult, but I did actually take him on some singletrack. Even after he could ride a bicycle, I often took him on the Trail-a-Bike on longer rides.
We had some fun, and funny, moments, that’s for sure! Like the time I took him to Vance’s cove with a few friends of mine. As we’re riding up the fireroad, I suddenly hear his little voice, “Daddy, wait for me!” He had slipped off the seat and was running after me to catch back up! Later on the same ride I hear him making some funny sounds, but he’s not saying anything is wrong. I ask my friend beside me, “Is he ok, do I need to stop?” At first he says he’s ok, no wait, something isn’t right. The seat had come loose and was flopped back and my son was alternatively standing and almost sitting on the tire!
Benji learned to ride two wheels just as he turned 5, so it wasn’t long before I got him started riding single track on his own. Take it easy at first, gentle trails. We began at places like Laurell Hills in Lorton. Or the lower trails at Andy Guest. Some of the trails at Sherando Park are great for kids to start learning on, too. Don’t push them to try things too fast before they’re ready. Benji was a bit older before I started teaching him log hops, etc.
As Benji got older, I taught him more advanced maneuvers. A couple summers, I led a mountain bike camp for a few weeks for a boy’s summer camp. I set up a small skills area with a few features, mainly various logs to learn riding over logs. Benji was timid at first about going over the small log, 4″-6″ in diameter. I finally coaxed him over the next log, about 12″ that we had built up with smaller sticks to create a ramp log-over. His face totally lit up when he made it over! After that, the small log became nothing, as his confidence skyrocketed.
Now Benji is going on 15 and can nearly keep up with me. Our latest ride took us down to Sherando Lake outside Waynesboro. Some great trails with a challenging switchback climb and fast descents. And he wants to do the Shenandoah 100 mountain bike race this year, so I’ve registered him for it and he’s gonna start training. If you are interested in getting your kid into mountain biking, but not sure where to start, give us a shout. We’ll point you toward good places to go, equipment you’ll need, and even clinics and pointers on riding. Keep an eye on our Facebook page, because we list events there and we do sometimes lead clinics and trail rides geared toward younger riders and beginners.
My daughter will hopefully be riding two wheels this summer, so I’m excited about getting another young one into the sport I love so much!
We have all the elements for your next great adventure!