Teaching a Kid to Mountain Bike: Short Steep Hills

by Sean Hess, Team Rider and Manager for Strackacobra. Visit me on Google+ and Facebook.

I don’t remember how I learned to climb hills when I was a kid. It was probably just me and my buddies charging the random hill to see if we could get to the top of it.

We were a motley collection of bikes: Huffy bmx’s with mag wheels, junk bikes, and Schwinn Varsity 10-speeds. Getting up a hill was a lot of trial and error, it was not a sure thing, and most likely we went until we got hurt or were exhausted (but still stoked with the adrenaline from making it up once or twice).

I took my 8-year old daughter to the Tsali trails near Bryson City, NC, recently with the goal of having her complete the children’s race course a few times. But I forgot what a simple ordeal it is learning to climb.

Gearing, pedal stroke, speed, and what the heck do you do when the bike starts to wander?

The children’s race course starts from the parking lot, climbs the gravel road to the traditional start at the horse parking area, takes a right up a small hill above the parking area then speeds down to the traditional finish area.

The small hill isn’t bad (though it seems an awful grind after you’ve put in 18 or 30 miles of racing), but my daughter and I spent about an hour working on it.

She did make it (see the video below), but it took awhile, and then we still had to get up to the ridge and go down.

I think the mistake I made was having her geared too low.

I thought that if she was in a really light gear she would be able to just scoot up the hill and focus on riding. But because the terrain was uneven and a little washed out, the bike wandered, she freaked out, lost her pedal stroke and fell over.

What I figured out is what all riders figure out eventually: a bigger gear and speed are your friends over the rough stuff.

I had her go up a chain ring, follow me around in a big loop then charge the hill at full speed. The bike still wandered, but she made it (with a tiny bit of help).

So if you are teaching you’re little one, go big first on the gear and speed when it comes to hills.

See Strackacobra’s mountain themed T’s at Strackacobra.com.

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