Teaching Your Kids to Ride with Eric Porter
Tips from Eric Porter, professional dad
A “rad dad” refers to a father who, despite getting older, continues to go out and get rad. We have plenty of rad parents who read RBA every month. If you have kids, then you’re likely one of them. Each month these parents send us killer photos from around the world of adventures they have had while riding with their kids. Many of these kids who are introduced to mountain biking at a young age grow up to be phenomenal riders, even possible champions, and tend to have a boosted level of confidence throughout their lives. The real treat, however, is being able to bond with your family through mountain biking. This is an amazing feeling that neither child nor parent is likely to forget. So, how do you get your kids into mountain biking, and what is the best way to teach them to ride off-road? Well, we decided to reach out to one of the raddest dads we know, professional mountain biker Eric Porter, to find out how he has been getting his two young boys stoked on mountain biking.
RBA: How can an avid mountain biker get their kids involved in the sport they love? At what age are kids ready to hit the trails, and what skill sets should they develop beforehand?
Eric Porter: I think the best way to get kids into mountain biking is by keeping it fun and always making it an adventure, something they want to do. Maybe have a goal like riding back to a lake where you can throw rocks or finding a good tree to climb, something that makes it more than just a ride, giving them a reason to ride. As far as age goes, I got a push bike for my kids at about 6 months old, so it’s always been a part of their lives, even just as a toy to spin the wheels on before they could stand up. Then, when they were learning to walk, the push bike was actually something they could stand over and use to help them walk. When they were confident on the push bike, I took them to simple flat trails and went for small adventures and they loved it. It has naturally progressed from there, as they got on pedal bikes and started riding more trails. I always make sure to set them up for success with water and snacks, riding when they have lots of energy, stopping when they are tired and not pushing too hard. As they get older, I give them bigger goals to make for themselves, like telling them that they can ride a certain bigger trail if they can do this smaller one with no problem and helping them push themselves instead of me pushing them.
RBA: You have two boys; how do you teach your kids to be better mountain bikers? Do you have them play bike games, ride through obstacles courses or do you just let them ride for fun?
EP: I do have two boys, ages 5 and 7. We don’t go practice skills; we just go ride. However, I am always riding on curbs, jumping stuff, riding wheelies and that sort of thing, which makes them want to do the same because it’s fun. When they want to try something, then we work on it. I give them tips, but keep it light and fun and try not to drill it in.
RBA: How do you balance letting your kids ride for fun and sitting them down to teach new skills? What goals can parents help their kids set to making riding more rewarding?
EP: I really think that the process can be quite natural. At some point they will want to ride harder trails, bigger obstacles, that sort of thing, so it will be self-motivating for them. The older boy wants to ride like me, and the younger brother just wants to keep up with his older brother! When they are telling me they want to ride harder trails, I ask them if they want to learn how to corner better or get over a log or up a curb or something like that, and then we have fun with practicing. When they get frustrated or bored, we do one more try, then move on to just fun riding.
RBA: It’s no secret mountain biking can be an expensive sport. What type of equipment and bike should a young shredder use? Have you done any modifications to your kids’ mountain bikes to make them more trail-worthy? What riding gear should parents spend more money on, and how can they save money?
EP: I put a lot of thought into this for my own kids’ gear, because there are so many options right now. It’s definitely a good time to be a kid mountain biker from a gear perspective, because there’s more good stuff now than ever before. Both my kids are on stock bikes. I could make them a bit lighter and better, but they are pretty good. I think it’s important to be on something light and solid, but I also don’t think it’s necessary to be on something super expensive. That being said, the most important things to look for are disc brakes so the kids have control, a 1x drivetrain with clutch derailleur and decent tires, ideally set up tubeless so they can run less pressure safely and get less flats. As the kids get better, it makes more sense to get nicer bikes. Keeping them as light as possible helps a lot as well. The Diamondback Sync’r 24 is such a great deal at around $799 with SRAM’s 11-speed drivetrain, so they can climb anything and won’t drop a chain, has good specs all around and is about 26 pounds stock. This is what Milo is on, and we do 10–15-mile XC rides at 7 years old, as well as hitting jumps and riding bike-park trails at Deer Valley. Another important thing is to not get rid of bikes when they get bigger ones, because they can still have a blast on the push bike, 16-inch BMX bike, and 24-inch mountain bike. It’s all about fun in the end!
RBA:How can parents find trails that challenge their kids without throwing them into the deep end? What are some signs that your child is ready for a more advanced trail, and how can parents make sure their young shredders are prepared for them.
EP: With my kids, they ask for something harder when they are ready. It’s easy to scare the kids into not riding, so take it easy. Remember that most of us adults didn’t even start riding trails until we were teenagers. There’s no rush—just keep it fun, because we’re planting the seeds for a lifelong love for bikes here!
RBA: What other advice would you give to parents who want to shred with their kids?
EP: Be patient and keep it super fun! Also, be the one that says no riding till homework is done or the room is clean, so it’s a privilege, not something you make them do. Make them think it’s their idea to ride, because hopefully it will be! Let them start choosing the adventures, and mix it up so you aren’t always riding the same spots. Maybe leave a cinder block and piece of plywood on the side of the driveway in case they want to build a jump! Let them crash, but help them shake it off and learn from it, and set themselves up for success!
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