While it's all part of watching them grow up, there's just something about riding dirt bikes as a family that sets this sport apart from the rest. So when your little rider is ready to swing their leg over their first dirt bike, how do you teach them? What are the pitfalls to stay away from when they're learning? Let's take a look.....
THE RIGHT BIKE
First, make sure you get them the right bike. The Honda XR/CRF 50 (or similar 4-Stroke) is my recommendation for a youngster just starting out, but do some research and decide which bike is best for your kiddo.
DIRT BIKES FOR KIDS
Can't mention the right bike without mentioning the right GEAR. Make sure the little guys and gals are well protected.
DO SOME DRY WORK
This can be done at the track or trails before going out to ride or you can do it at home. Either way, spend some time with them going over the controls and how the bike works. Show them how to operate the throttle, rear brake, front brake, gears (if the bike has them), and the engine kill switch. Most kids have a short attention span, so sitting there going over these components and what they do, is going to bore the child pretty quick.
One thing kids have problems with is stopping and putting their foot down so they don't fall over. To get them used to this, you can push them up and down the street at home. Give them a good push, let them coast and then have them use the brake, come to a stop, and put their foot down to keep from falling. I did this with my younger son to get him used to clutch work when he transitioned from a CRF 50 to an RM 65. You may get a little tired, but I think it helps.
Give them an informative rundown and then start putting it into practical application. If you're out riding, then awesome! start the bike up, set the throttle stop (Governor Screw) where you want it and get the little ripper on the bike.
GET 'EM GOING
At this point they've done some dry work and they know how to control the bike. Now it's time to turn them loose! When teaching my kids, I would jog beside them as kind of a safety net. Doing this built their confidence and I was close by in case they fell and got stuck under the bike or anything. Of course, that didn't last too long. Once I put them on a set course, I just turned them loose on their own.
WORK WITH THEM ON STOPPING
Once the child gets the hang of riding the bike around, it's time to work with them on stopping the bike and putting their foot down and balancing the bike. If you did the dry work, this is going to be a lot easier. The trick is getting them to stop at a certain spot. This is a very important part of teaching a youngster to ride. They need to be able to stop the bike quick to avoid hazards and also so they don't run into stuff........like your nice new truck.
Let them know what hand signal you're going to use to tell them to stop and give them specific direction of what you want them to do.
PATIENCE AND POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
I always go back to this, but remember, you want this to be a fun experience for them. Do your best to remain patient and understand they are going to screw up....they're kids.
I've seen moto Dads lose their minds with youngsters and I'll admit, I've done it too.
Do everything you can to stay patient and give them positive reinforcement whenever and wherever you can. Every little thing they're doing on that bike is a big deal for them, so let them know they're doing great! This can make the difference between them loving dirt bikes or hating them.
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