Being a cross-country/trail rider, there is no question in my mind that the 29er is the superior choice for a wheel size. The unfortunate side effect of the 29er is that good 26er’s are getting hard to find. 26 is a great size for the pre-teen kid. Last year, a fellow Dad on Dirt was upgrading his ride and wanted to get rid of his small full-suspension 26er. Even though it was a few years old, this would be a perfect upgrade for my oldest son from his Trek MT-220 24”. So we got it and he absolutely loves it. I’ve always noticed large increases in my boys’ abilities whenever they’ve bumped up to the next wheel size. And going from 24” to 26” was pretty significant.
But there’s a problem ….
Younger brother is now at the age and height where HIS Trek MT-220 is too small. And guess who ALSO wants a full-suspension bike? Well … it’s only fair right?
Yes, there are some new bikes that are custom built for kids. Trek has a version of the Fuel in the 26 for kids. I think it’s great that there are some good quality builds for kids bikes, but where did all of the used bikes go? In an effort to spend the same amount that we did for the other bike, new is out of the question.
When I was debating 26 for my boys I thought it would be simple to find 26 stuff. I’d love to upgrade the fork on my older boy’s bike from coil spring to air … but there doesn’t seem to be used stuff out there. I really expected to find more.
In the end, I posted up a topic on the MMBA (Michigan Mountain Bike Association) forum that I was looking for a bike. I was contacted by a guy looking to get rid of a Specialized Camber FSR in a small. It was a bit more than I wanted to spend, but was a really good deal and had everything I was looking for in a bike for my son. It’s funny how once you start spending money on bikes, it gets easier and easier to spend more and more!
With this addition to stable, the whole family is now on full suspension bikes. Looks like my off season will be spent doing fork and shock maintenance.
So for the time being, we should be good on bikes for a while. Well … unless we start doing family winter rides … then we’ll need fat bikes. Or the boys want to dirt jump, or cyclocross, or road, or downhill …..
I started mountain biking in 2012 at the ripe old age of 38. I won’t claim to be a know-it-all by any means, but here are my top 10 things I wish I knew before I started mountain biking (in no particular order).
Even though you could ride a bike as a kid, doesn’t mean that you can ride as an adult. When you go on your first ride, don’t go all crazy fast right out of the gate. You’ll be out of breath VERY soon and wanting to puke your just-eaten hamburger on the side of the trail in front of your new friend (true story).
You will need to learn how to eat to ride. Both on and off the bike. Nutrition is so important to any athlete. And it’s different for every person. What works for your buddy may not work for you.This is a huge challenge to me with my gut problems, and it even changes as the riding season progresses.
If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Strength is hard to build, but easy to lose. Stay active. You’ll notice the difference at the beginning of the season if you put in the work over the winter.
Suspension gimmicks are no replacement for a actual bike suspension. Bouncy seat posts and other weird things exist. Some will like them. But if you are wanting a smooth ride, go full suspension. A good fork is WAY better than a cheap fork. Not only is an air fork lighter, but they work better. But don’t let a cheap fork stop you from riding (see #8).
Yes, full suspension bikes are expensive, heavier and require more maintenance … but it is worth it. Ride longer and don’t feel so beat up. Your 40 year old back will thank you.
Fat bikes are fun. Don’t over-think it. Get one for those weird days where you just want to ride and NOT go fast. They are great for riding with the kids.
Just go clipless. It’s really not that scary. Even when you get used to it, you still will fall over randomly. Good stiff shoes make a difference.
You don’t need an expensive bike to start mountain biking. Just start. Upgrade when the bug hits you. A shop once told me that I needed to spend a minimum of $1,500 on a bike to start. I walked out. Spent about $500 on a entry level bike. Rode the crap out of it and upgraded bits as I went. I learned how to adjust everything, and through upgrading, learned how to work on my bike.
You’ll always want a new bike. – or you’ll be looking at ways to make your bike better. When you start, you have no idea what works or what doesn’t for you and your style of riding. Plus new and better equipment gets released. Do your research, ask questions, buy what seems right.
Not only are there great physical benefits to riding, but there are also mental benefits. You’ll feel better. You’ll learn about yourself and your limits. You’ll get outside more. You’ll meet cool people.
So those are the big ones for me. I really wish I had started earlier, but looking back, it was the right time for me. Now get yourself on a bike. Find a trail. And ride.
Let’s share the love of parenting while trying to keep ourselves from getting broken while riding mountain bikes!
I’m Greg. Father of two boys, 9 & 11. Fell in love with mountain biking about 2012. My boys have been following in dad’s footsteps. They are competing in the local school-age racing league here on Michigan called MiSCA. The blog will be a place where fellow dads can come together and bond over the experience of riding alone, AND with our kids.
I recently became a brand ambassador for a local bike shop: D & D bikes. They are a great family owned shop in the area that is supporting MiSCA to get more kids on bikes. This site idea came from a conversation I had with one of the owners, Felicia. She talked about creating a ride group for Dads. Since my boys are a little older, it’s a bit easier to get out for a ride. But for parents of small kids, taking time for yourself can be difficult – mentally and physically.
My goal is to document my riding, and also talk with fellow Dads to get their take on challenges of raising active kids.