Ten helpful hints about mountain biking with kids and how to plant the seed of a passion that will last them for life.

Ten helpful hints about mountain biking with kids and how to plant the seed of a passion that will last them for life.

Read more: Best kids bikes: balance bikes and pedal bikes

Words by Dan Trent

Quality bikes help kids have fun and hold their value well

1. Buying a bike

The used market for kids’ bikes is strong, meaning you may as well buy new. Heli tape the frame, look after it properly and you’ll likely make most of your money back when it’s time to trade up.

2. Not buying a bike

Fixed-cost rental schemes like the Hope Academy take the stress out of bike buying and mean you can upsize at the right time, not one dictated by family budgets and hand-me-downs from older siblings.

Fox gloves are perfect for the budding shredder but don’t come cheap

3. Set-up

Islabikes is the best at kid-friendly geometry and components, though the specific parts limit upgrade potential and frame clearances can be tight for proper off-road tyres. Frog bikes and Early Rider use standard seatpost, bars and stems, so are easily upgraded from your own parts bin. Adult shifters can be a struggle for small hands and even properly adjusted brakes can be a stretch, so shop (or ask) around for bits that work.

4. Brakes

V-brake style cantilevers offer plenty of stopping power for kids, so long as they’re in tip-top condition. Cable discs look fancy but the return springs are often too stiff for little fingers to operate; hydraulics are great for more serious riding. And skids.

Wellgo offer proper scaled-down flats

5. Pedals

The slippy plastic pedals on most kids’ bikes are shin-friendly but useless when trails get bumpy. DX-style plastics with moulded studs offer a bigger foot platform and are cheap, but proper, metal- bodied flatties offer both climbing power and downhill confidence – Wellgo KC003s are a popular choice and widely available online.

Elbow pads can be repurposed to protect kids’ knees

6. Protection

If you’ve invested in proper pedals, shinpads are a good idea, though hard to find in kids’ sizes. Pro tip – adult elbow pads are often based on the same designs as knees, just downsized. Slim-fitting Bliss ARG Minimalist elbows are our pick and available in various sizes.

7. Helmets

Kids crash a lot, so make sure they have a proper lid and it’s fitted securely. Moulded peaks on toddler helmets offer some face protection, youth-sized options have proper adjusters and full-faces are sensible for BMX tracks and bike parks. The Bell Sidetrack is an affordable all-rounder, comes in tons of colours and is a good starting point.

8. Tyres

Tyre choices can be limited, only really getting to serious off-road options by the time you get to 24in bikes. Fatter tyres offer a little more cushioning and going tubeless means you can run lower pressures. After some experimentation we run 12psi front/14psi rear for Oswald’s Whyte on tubeless 24×2.35in Schwalbes.

9. Suspension

Manitou is among those doing proper forks for small wheels, but most set-ups aren’t worth the extra weight. By the time they reach 24in wheels, RST and Suntour have air-sprung forks for reasonable money, but travel can be limited and damping crude. Proper tyres, good set-up and decent geometry are worth far more.

Junior Five Tens let little feet grip hard and are a joy to behold

10. Clothing

Options for kids can be pretty limited but are getting better; brands like Madison have a decent selection of shorts, jerseys and gloves at reasonable prices while Fox does great youth kit, albeit at a price. And, yes, you can get kids’ Five Tens and, yes, they look adorable.

Words by Dan Trent