As a parent, navigating the activities that you desire your children to be passionate about can be tricky. We often find ourselves tip-toeing a precarious line between allowing our kids to discover their passions and pushing them toward our own. Baseball, dance, football, tennis, basketball—if you’re a parent, I’m sure you are familiar with the list.
As I continued to venture down the parenting journey, I realized that I really want my kids to ride mountain bikes. And while I don’t want them to hit the trails just because dad does, I have some pretty good reasons why I want my children to find themselves on a mountain bike.
Whether it’s because of the people around us when we mountain bike or the confidence it brings, the sport is a force for good. Here are five reasons I want my kids to mountain bike too.
Never in my life have I had a regular exercise regimen, especially one that I would wake up at 6:00 a.m. for. Mountain biking changed that, and I now find myself on the climb as the sun comes up five or so days a week.
Not only am I riding almost every day, but I am also thinking about ways to progress. Which weight lifting routine would help? How does my diet need to change? These are changes that also came with mountain biking.
You don’t need me to tell you the benefits of a healthy exercise routine. As a dad who is now in his mid-30s, mountain biking is the only way I am accidentally getting exercise. I want my kids to find themselves forming those habits at an early age. As they form those habits, I hope they enjoy exercise rather than viewing it as a chore.
There is nothing that I love more than finding myself alone in the wilderness. Those times when you make it up that final switchback, rolling to the top to be greeted with awe-inspiring mountain views. Dropping into high-alpine meadows, decorated with wildflowers. Listening to pine and fir trees sway back and forth in the breeze as they tower over your head.
We are fortunate enough to live in Bend, Oregon, where we can feel like we’re “really getting out there” just 20 minutes from our doorstep. But there is something extra special that happens when I experience solitude in nature. It usually involves finding a trail that seems to be just a little further out and exploring it.
Often the reason these trails are less popular is because they’re harder to get to, lack flow, have a poor climb-to-descend ratio, etc. But on those trails I find myself appreciating the stillness and connection to the woods more than the adrenaline associated with riding the bike. It is here that my head is clear, I am appreciative, and I can’t help but think: “I want my kids to know this.”
We all remember the feeling of cleaning “that one” climb for the first time. The feeling of getting faster and faster through a particular descent or finally sending that double you’ve been eyeing.
For me, it was a particularly long but gradual climb. Initially, I had three rest stops on that climb. One by one, the rest stops began to disappear. My lungs still burned, and my legs nearly cramped, but I remember that first day when I made it to the top with no stops.
I had made progress.
This realization had me setting goals for perhaps the first time in my life. I sought progression; becoming a better rider. I think there is a metaphor for life in there somewhere. I want my kids to tackle challenges with the same tenacity that I have learned from mountain biking. Maybe they will find that tenacity from mountain biking, too.
Mountain biking has seen tremendous growth over the years, becoming a go-to outdoor activity for many. As the industry grows, we see all different types of people hitting the trails on two wheels. That is something I want my kids to experience.
All ages, races, sizes, genders, and ability levels can be found at a trailhead, unloading mountain bikes. I want my kids to be part of a community with people who don’t look exactly like them. A community that fosters the encouragement of fellow riders, despite how skilled you are on the bike. We all remember our “first,” whether that is finally hitting that 30ft double, or cleaning your first climb. Mountain bikers are stoked for one another and I want my kids to find a community like this too.
As a teenager, I was always frustrated when my dirt jumps and trails that I spent days, maybe even weeks building, were torn down and destroyed. At that time I had no idea if I was building on private land, public land, or anything in between.
I recently wrote an article on trail-building where I chatted with different folks involved in the process. It was an eye-opener. I had no idea the hoops that trail organizations jumped through, the paperwork and planning, and the years, that went into creating a new trail.
For the most part, these local trail advocacy groups are fairly small non-profits with monstrous tasks: working with the federal government and navigating land management beauracracy. This is why it is so important to become a member. Or support multiple. This is why it is important to follow trail etiquette, know when to ride and when conditions are bad, clear debris, pick up trash, etc.
The average trail user typically doesn’t know of all the specialists that consult on trails. Biologists, hydrologists, and other “-ologist” are reviewing plans and exploring the proposed area. The impact on wildlife and plants and where the eagles are nesting are just a few things being considered. This is how we maintain a healthy balance while we use these lands. I want my children to be exposed to this at an earlier age than I was, in hopes that they care about the forest we love more than their entertainment.
If I am totally leveling with you, these five, somewhat virtuous examples aren’t the only reasons I want my kids to mountain bike. I have been falling back in love with mountain biking, and I simply want to share this passion with my kids. I want them to experience the community, set goals and achieve them, and care about and find themselves in nature.
Whatever they choose, I hope they find as much joy in it as I do in mountain biking. Hopefully, it is being a good parent and not acting selfishly, but I’m going to do my best to gently nudge them in the direction of the trails.