Human nature dictates that we want our children to succeed and be the best they can be at whatever it is they love. But, if you’re a biker, there’s always going to be a bit of you that wants your kids to love riding as much as you do. UK editor Jim has been racing and riding for years but will riding with his kids be the biggest cycling achievement he’s ever racked up?

Sharing the riding stoke with your kids is every parent's dream. This is Jim and Tod Buchanans story!
Sharing the riding stoke with your kids is every parent’s dream. This is Jim and Tod Buchanans story!

To be a parent, a regular rider and a competitive racer is a lot like juggling puppies, you’re desperate to keep them all in the air because there will be tears if you don’t (and not just from the kids). I am the first to admit that in order to ride regularly and train enough to stay fit and competitive, you do need to be pretty selfish at times. Since my kids, Tod, 9 and Perdy, 7, were born, I’ve lived with the constant guilt of riding with my mates when I should have been with the family. As soon as they were old enough, I started taking them out but I started gently, taking them to pump tracks on cheap-ass bikes and bribing them with treats.

Try as I might, they were never really into it. Perdy especially has no current inclination to ride any type of bikes anywhere. In my heart, I still held a beacon of hope and lo, around a year ago Tod started to come with me on an odd day and he seemed to be actually enjoying it. He complained a bit about a bad back when riding and he was fast outgrowing his little 20” wheeled Ridgeback and needed a new steed. I needed to start saving for something decent, but it was going to take a while, plus I wasn’t sure if he’d stick with it.

The Bike – it’s all about the engine except when it’s not

The real boost to father/son time on the trails came with the Trek Fuel EX Jr which we got in the ENDURO test fleet. This is a serious bit of kit and the boy was mega excited; his excitement got me excited too; maybe he (like me) will become a mountain biker? Ever since he was really young and was out messing about on balance bikes, I had this dream that he would eventually want to ride and we could go out ripping the trails together, him eventually becoming my best riding buddy. As a kid, I had never had any real sporting role models and none of my family were into any sports, let alone bikes, I didn’t want to be that kind of parent to my kids.

The Trek Fuel EX Jr has supercharged Tod's confidence.
The Trek Fuel EX Jr has supercharged Tod’s confidence.

Tod was over the moon with it and in the whole four months of testing the Trek we have been out pretty much every weekend. I wanted to break him in gently to my world of mountain bike riding but we were both so excited about getting out together. At first, the climbs were a bit too much and the descents a bit fast and scary for him, but a nine-year-old kid’s learning curve is highly impressive.

There is nothing better than bringing on the next generation.
There is nothing better than bringing on the next generation.

Preparation – the key to success

All kids are different for sure, some will spit their dummy out at the start of any steep hill or would rather go off and play with a football. Fortunately, one of the things I learnt about Tod from the start is that (like his dad) he ain’t a team sports kind of player, he is highly determined and (unlike his dad!) never complains about how steep a climb is. I am happy to admit that, whilst out riding with my new riding buddy, there were some emotional moments, my dreams were coming true – I was going to be the dad of a cyclist. But I’m no fool, there is plenty of time for Tod to realise that playing computer games is a warmer and easier way to spend his weekends. To keep these dreams alive I have to keep our biking fun and to do that I have to have the kids prepped, they don’t act like adults out on the trail!

Firstly (as Tod has cut his teeth during a UK winter) you need to make sure they are well wrapped. Kids have different metabolic rates than big folk and they aren’t just little versions of adults. This means very warm gloves and socks and a decent proper waterproof jacket, also, remember nice warm under-tops. Kids don’t sweat like us oldies, but they do get very cold if you stop for any reason. Sleep is a biggy too, if they’ve had a late night and are in need of sleep, their performance and motivation will really be properly hampered. Also, remember they need drinks and trail snacks, without fuel during a ride a young kid can stop like a car out of petrol. I thought about getting him a hydration system to use and carry, but when you’re only 28.5kg an extra 2kg (2lts) of fluid is just unnecessary weight, so daddy does the hydro carrying, especially as I am just ticking over at his pace.

Kids need constant fuel, make sure to keep them charged up!
Kids need constant fuel, make sure to keep them charged up!

Mind Games

It’s worth getting some riding behaviour sorted from the start for everyone’s safety. Just simple ones like never leaving his bike on a busy trail, always being polite to other riders, plus we always have a bit of a laugh together at the idiots without helmets, he will always wear a helmet, even if on his micro-scooter or Rocker BMX in the street.

YES! Tod's skills are growing everyday!
YES! Tod’s skills are growing everyday!

It’s not just Tods behaviour I need to keep an eye on out there. I’ve seen a lot of ‘motocross dads’ over the years. You know, the type of twat who’s by the side of the track screaming at their kid to ride faster even if they didn’t want to. This, to me, is the quickest way to put your child off riding. Myself, I like to use a mixture of encouragement and reverse psychology on Tod. I’m always telling him how well he’s going, how impressed I am with his riding and how proud of him I am. When it comes to a big climb, I use the “listen, dude, this is a big hill, I’m not sure if you can get up it, but if you can I’ll be seriously impressed” tactic. As a determined little bugger who really wants to make his dad proud (slight tear brewing), he usually gives it every ounce of beans to get to the top!

If he has crashed, we always go back, look and workout how it happened and he will do that bit again to show it was just rider error, it’s amazing how quick they learn. In my opinion, it’s really important to keep asking him if he still enjoys it and still wants to do it, he’s got to choose to be there – no one wants a riding buddy who’d rather be elsewhere.

If the weather is terrible, ensure to keep your kids warm!
If the weather is terrible, ensure to keep your kids warm!

Getting Stronger

These are my own rules to keep my kid keen and happy, but like I say, every child is different. We all know when our kids are having fun and if he’s happy, I’m happy. His advancement through his riding in the form of skill, technique, fitness and strength is unbelievable and a pleasure to be a part of. He has gone from struggling up the shortest climbs to powering up the hills putting some adults to shame (mental high five Tod). Where he was a strictly ‘keep the wheels on the ground’ type of rider at first, I can now see him constantly hucking off every lip or mound available. When the ride gets steeper, he’s embracing his fear of speed and descending faster and faster every ride. On his last ride on an old school rooty DH trail, he had three crashes and what did he do? he got up every time laughing, now that really is just like his dad!

So if you have any kids, give it a go, get them out, because I have to admit it is the most fantastic feeling in the world. I’m so proud as I watch my little man progress and enjoy himself, partly down to my encouragement, occasional on-trail tuition and also down to his love of his new steed. It has given me a new lease of life in the MTB world and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for my little fella on two wheels.

As for the girl, well I have a plan, she ain’t bothered about MTB tracks just yet, but come summer, Tod and I will hit up the pump tracks, Perdy will have to come along, as mummy will be at the gym, of course, there will be an extra bike there too for her to ride, so let’s see what happens, fingers crossed!

Another future shredder is born!
Another future shredder is born!

Fancy spending more time with your kids on the bikes? Don’t miss our Buyer’s Guide for Kids Mountainbikes

Words: Jim Buchanan Photos: Isac Paddock

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