For the last 20 years, I was blessed to call Oregon's High Desert home. The Central Oregon region is considered one of the premier mountain biking capitals of the US with over 300 miles of trails crisscrossing around the city of Bend and an additional 700 miles of riding adventure in the surrounding area. With so many mountain biking options available, is there any doubt that the place is a rider's Mecca?
I'm proud to say that I have personally explored many of those trails around Central Oregon on my mountain bike. Mountain biking is an adrenaline junkie's drug of choice, but it's also a wilderness lover's heart and soul. I have spent many long days in vast expanses of pine-laden forestland and sagebrush shrouded desert. In those moments in time, I have truly felt one with the Earth and Mother Nature.
After the birth of my children, I couldn't wait to start riding again, but I also knew the rugged trail adventures would have to wait. It was time to hook up the bike trailer and take to the miles of maintained trails -- the so-called 'baby' trails. However, I knew that as soon as my kids were old enough, I would have them out mountain bike riding across challenging singletrack. I wanted them to share my love for the sport and the great outdoors. For me, mountain biking is more than a simple hobby; it's a lifestyle.
When my children hit three years old, it was time to do away with the bike trailer and get them riding their own bikes. At this point, my children had put in many miles sitting in the bike trailer, so they were ready for the next chapter in biking adventure. The kids and I hit the sidewalks, park paths, singletrack, and pumptracks to give them a taste of the sport. I was ecstatic because they loved it.
During our first rides, I would always try to focus on the destination. Children have notoriously short attention spans and they like to have something fun to do at the end of the workout. Luckily, most of the trails in Central Oregon are near streams, rivers, and waterfalls, so there were always fun areas to stop along the way to play, picnic or fish.
Mountain biking has become a fun family event that we participate in together.
By five years old, my children could easily ride five or six miles on backcountry trails. As a family, we would always look forward to the weekends when we could go mountain biking. Even wintertime didn't stop us. During the winter months, it was time to bundle up, get out the fat bikes and enjoy Oregon's winter wonderland. Many times we stopped in the middle of a pine-shrouded forest to build a snowman or listen to the snow falling from the spruce tree branches.
Exposing my children to a variety of trail terrain has enhanced their confidence and expanded their riding ability far beyond that of other kids who simply street ride their bikes. I never pushed my children to ride a trail they felt uncomfortable on, and I always let them be the judge of their own skill levels because I wanted them to feel confident enough to take on the challenge.
Want to instill a love of mountain biking in your children? Start by making sure they have a sturdy mountain bike, appropriate riding apparel, and safety gear. View our sunglasses to find the right styles for your family before you hit the trails.
Kimberly Sharpe is an outdoor sports and travel writer who spent years exploring the trail system around Bend, Oregon on her Diamondback Sorrento. These days she’s riding the trails of Florida, including the Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve and the Santos.
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