I recently started taking my 13 year old son mountain biking. I have had him on two wheels (our 4) since he was old enough to talk and he is taking to trail riding like a fish to water. We have been spending most of our time on beginner trails and he is starting to ask about more technical and challenging rides. I guess my question to this community is, would you/do you take your kiddos on intermediate or advanced trails when you ride? If so, how long were they mountain biking before you did this? Obviously, my concern is his safety and I'd hate for him to get hurt because I pushed him too quickly into the "fun stuff". Thanks for any feedback.
Our kid is far from old enough yet, but if he's interested in the harder trails I'd say yeah, take him in! If something seems too intimidating, there's no shame in walking it.
I can't help you with the best way to transition a kid to more technical trail riding, but as a long-time rider in an area popular with families, I would respectfully request that biking parents teach trail courtesy and safety along with the technical aspects of riding. A common trail ROE (rules of engagement) I see violated is UROW: uphill right of way, ie the rider that is descending should yield the trail to the rider who is climbing. As mountain biking becomes more popular and the trails more crowded, it is essential that everyone follow the trail rules, and it is a good idea to start the youngsters out right.
We'd love to check in and see how your son is taking to mountain biking! It's been a while so perhaps you have some advice to share of things that worked well, or maybe some things you would do differently. We appreciate the perspective that @Partagas brought; it is never too early to teach your kids how to share the trails, whether they're hiking or biking.
On a personal note, my daughter is 8 and my son is 5 and they really want to tag along with dad when I go mountain biking. While it has been super fun to experience riding with my kids, it has also changed the way I approach riding. At the end of the day the most important thing is that they enjoy themselves and come away with a positive experience. Some days that means we lap a familiar trail until they get bored, and some days that means we try something totally new and we walk our bikes a lot. I always try to remember that this is a long game and if I want them to love cycling as much as I do they need to discover it at their own pace. That also means that some days they're just not into it and I get some solitary time on the trails. Those days are pretty great as well!
We have raised two young men. My oldest son started mountain around 8 years old and my youngest at 6. Both were riding serious cross country trails early on and very quickly progressed to downhill at whistler.
While I have been riding mountain bikes for decades, I enrolled my boys in mountain bike camps in Whistler. The programs were excellent and they learned how to ride properly. Children listen to "pros" more than they listen to parents.
If I were to do it again, I would do the same thing. Hook them up with a professional learn to ride program or an advanced riding program. There are many around. BTW my boys loved WORCA the best and it was reasonably priced.
These are the programs I tapped into