Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Teaching Your Kid How To Ride A Motorcycle

     Following in the tire track left from my review of the Kuberg Start, I started to think that maybe some folks might stumble onto here searching for information after having their kid tell them that he wants to ride motocross.  I say 'he', but girls are just as capable at riding so don't feel like you should have bought more dolls when your daughter expresses an interest.  Now I only have one kid and he's 3, so some of this is geared toward a really young rider, but a lot will apply to any age child.  So here's a few tips that I've learned so far:

    How old can my kid start riding motorcycles?  It depends on the kid to be honest.  Mine is intrigued by all things with wheels so we got him a Strider balance bike when he turned 2.  A balance bike is one of those things that you say, "now why didn't I think of that?"  Its really nothing more than a stripped down bike - no brakes, no pedals.  Just 2 wheels, a seat, and a handlebar.  I'll admit I thought the whole idea was a bit gimmicky but when we saw a display at a motorcycle show, my son jumped out of my arms and onto guessed it - PINK Strider!  They had a little obstacle course set up and he spent the next 30 minutes navigating the ramps and turns.  He was pretty clumsy and we had to help him a lot, but I could see this was something he enjoyed.  We bought one and took it around the neighborhood on our daily walks.  Within a few months of owning a balance bike he was already coasting down hills with his feet up.  We graduated to the dirt hills around our house and he would bomb down stuff with an ear to ear grin while dad was chasing behind with a nervous grimace.  So in answer to the question, if your kid is pretty comfortable on a bike and is big enough to reach the controls, give it a shot!  Worst case it sits in the garage for a few months until he feels ready to try it.  Your kid will want to ride it if both you and the bike don't scare him, so therefore a few general rules apply: 

1) Keep it light - a heavier bike is harder to control so they'll fall more and its harder to pick back up. 
2) They will be more confident if they can touch the ground with both feet.
3) Give them a positive reason to ride.  Don't say "if you don't ride it we're going to sell it".  Instead try "Lets go for a ride. I'll take my bike, you take your motorcycle and lets see how it runs".  Figure out what works with your kid and go from there.  With mine its usually "lets go ride your momo and find some sweet jumps!"  -Mind you my kid has never had even one wheel off the ground but he still calls it jumping, and therefore so do I.

     Which brings me to the most important part of this post.  If you take nothing else away from this read, remember this:


     I've been riding moto's for 23 years, and of course I've been picturing myself exploring the trails with my child since before he was born.  Its tempting to try to "train" them how to ride so you can get to the good stuff.  Don't!  Remember that you started riding because it was fun.  If you take that aspect away, your kid isn't going to want to ride anymore.

     So how do you keep it fun but teach him at the same time?  I try to let him go at his own pace.  Error on the side of expecting less from your kid and it will be more fun for everyone.  We don't go out to practice.  Instead we ride his momo (as he calls it) to the local park.  I bring toys in a backpack so when we get to the park he plays on the swings and throws Hot Wheels down the slides.  There's a big dirt lot on the way so we ride across that as part of our trip to the park.  Sometimes he wants to go explore the dirt hills and other times he just wants to ride to the park - with maybe a few doughnuts on the way.  I let him pick the path and I'll just ask things along the way: "Do you wanna go down the hills?" "Want to go off that jump?"  I bought a cheap BMX bike so I can ride along with him and lead by example.  This has been by far the best method in getting him to try new things.  When I say "Watch daddy!" I know he's gonna be right on my tail.  When we go out to the desert we follow the same routine.  His bike is there when he wants to ride it and we let him explore on it - with me or mom following.  When he wants to play in the dirt with his cars, that's fine too. 

     This brings up one of the best reasons to get an electric motorcycle: Ride time.  Nothing is going to make your child improve their confidence and abilities on a motorcycle more than riding a motorcycle.  My son is a pretty good rider because he rides nearly every day - and this is in a highly developed urban area!  He's not even allowed to drive a Power Wheels car around our neighborhood, but nobody complains about his Kuberg.  He gets as much time riding in 2 weeks as most desert family kids in Southern California get in a year.  Even if your kid has a 50 that he rides in the desert, I'd highly encourage parents to get an e-bike for around home.

     Keeping them safe:  Gear is readily available for ages 5+, but not-so-much for a barely 3 year old.  Most online guides will tell you to make sure a helmet is DOT and SNELL approved - I actually think that weight is a more important factor.  I've seen plenty of kids that ride their motorcycle whichever way their helmet is leaning - I'm not sure why their parents can't see it.  You're better off putting your kid in a good bicycle helmet than a heavy MX helmet.  They'll crash less and have more fun.  We found an off-brand helmet (THH) on Amazon that's pretty light and its full-faced.  Even better, it is DOT approved.  Boots and gloves are the next big thing you want.  Fox makes a pee-wee line of gear, which includes boots for kids size 10 and up, but they discontinued their gloves.  We bought XX-Small youth gloves and he MIGHT be able to wear them in another year.  If he grows a lot.  I mean a lot!  I'm still on the hunt for some tiny gloves so if anyone has a suggestion let me know and I'll add it.

     The extra stuff:  Just like everything else you do with your kid, there's more stuff to bring.  At 3, mine doesn't venture far from home or camp, but I still bring a few supplies.  Snacks, some water, and maybe a juice box can make the difference between riding back and carrying a kid while pushing a motorcycle back to camp.  Also, a couple cars and a plastic shovel can add some extra fun to a ride.  Remember us adults usually ride to a destination.  We might ride 50 miles to get to a burned out house just so we have a destination.  Your kid is wired the same way.   You'd be surprised at how much more your kid will ask to ride when he gets to build a mound of sand 150' from camp and call it a "jump".  Better yet, get him to help you build a race track in camp and watch him wear the knobs off.  Make it just large enough that you can try it too and he'll be beaming as he goes around "just like daddy!"

     Which brings me to my last bit of advice: Encouragement.  You're going to hear "Dad watch this!" about 54 million times over the next few years.  Watch.  Every. Time.  And don't follow it up with a canned "good job buddy".  Pull one from Crush and get into it: "DUDE YOU TOTALLY ROCKED THAT!!"  And pay attention to him while he's riding - 2 reasons for this.  Motorcycles have moving (and hot) parts that can actually injure your kid so you need to actually be a parent when he's on it.  And then when he rides down a 6" tall hill and looks at you grinning, take a knee and give him 5 - congratulations you just made that kid's day.

1 comment:

  1. How old can my kid start riding motorcycles? It depends on the kid to be honest. Mine is intrigued by all things with wheels so we got him a ...