We often get inquiries from parents with middle school aged kids. While we’d love to be able to cater to everyone, the rate kids grow a this age makes it very difficult to mix the different abilities, both in physical fitness and technical skills. Currently the NorCal Mtn Bike league does not have races for middle school kids and that makes it a little less fun for them when the racing starts in March. Kids develop at different speeds and we do have the occasional grade 8 kid. They can race at the early season practice races we do in February, so nothing is absolute.
As an alternative, I have been encouraging a group of middle school kids and their parents to self-organize. They have been riding (pre covid) at 9am on Sundays at Waterdog in Belmont. The group uses GroupMe, a group chat platform, to sync up on rides. If interested, please fill in the form below I would be happy to add you to the group and make an introduction.
My experience with small kids started when my two boys were in grades 7 & 6. My older one was good at recruiting friends and we’d get 6-8 people (kids & parents) biking there from San Carlos. The roads were quiet in the Sunday mornings so it was also good opportunity to teach them skills for riding on the road. We’d ride up the Lake Trail to the lake and then they’d get off and run around, just being kids. After a bit we’d get them to ride around the lake, usually going both ways. Initially, many couldn’t navigate the sharp right turn down to the bridge in the clockwise direction, walking their bikes instead. But eventually they did and the smiles when they did were priceless.
We’d ride up the Berry trail to Chapperal and then lower Rambler, with an exist from Waterdog to the hills behind Carlmont High School. Carlmont has some big features (jumps) be we didn’t do those. It also has a few short steep section with safe run outs which we used to build up confidence. Again, there would be many times a kid would ride up and then stop. But they eventually overcame their fear and the rule was they had to do it 3 more times to really get over it. The skill improvements were phenomenal.
After riding down the Carlmont hills we’d stop off at the Baskin and Robbins at The Carlmont Village Shopping Center for an ice cream. The kids laughed and told stories about their adventures and the parents had their conversations. We’d then ride home in time for lunch.
I sometimes see a kid and parent riding at Waterdog. While this can work, kids have more fun together and are more likely to want to come out again and again if there’s a group. And for the parents? I found the same applies, you get to have adult conversations, ride a bike and have fun with your kids.
The key is, make it fun, encourage them, don’t make it a chore. If they are still keen when they get to high school then you can think about training. Till then, let them play!
Please fill in this form if you’d like to be added to the Kids at Waterdog Groupme chat.