Dirt biking. It’s a sport I learned as an adult — but a sport I wish that I had learned as a child. Why? Because when we go ride at Horn Rapids Moto Complex in Richland, I am consistently passed (and lapped) by kids who are less than a third my age.
So you ask the question “why” again. Because just like many other sports, it takes a lot more time and progression days to learn how to ride a dirt bike confidently as an adult than it does to start out young, when fear and life responsibilities are less of a factor.
Take my husband for example: he started riding dirt bikes around 8 years old, and although we aren’t riding every weekend, he still goes out there on the track and on the trail and rides as fast and hits the same big jumps as people who are out there on a weekly basis.
So when do you start your kids riding dirt bikes? The answer is simple: Whenever you want. At 2 years old, we had our son riding on the front of Andy’s bike through the grass in our yard. Yes, he had a full face helmet on and Andy is an expert rider — so this was something we felt comfortable with. Should you do this with your toddler? Well, that’s up to you.
The smallest dirt bike that companies make is a 50cc, but there are also electric bikes that you can purchase that are smaller and easier to handle. These are the bikes that most toddlers start out on these days. The most popular of these bike companies is Stacyc.
Their smallest bikes (12eDRIVE) are best for kids age 3-5 (an inseam of 14-inches or greater is needed to adequately touch the ground) and teach the kids how to balance and how to use the throttle. They also have a larger bike (16eDRIVE) for kids who are 5-7 years old (or with at least an 18-inch inseam).
If you’ve worked with your kiddo on an electric bike or a strider bike and they are very interested in dirt biking, 4 years old is a good age to start them on a 50cc gas-powered bike with training wheels. This allows them to get a feel for a faster, more powerful bike without having to worry about balancing. Then, as with mountain biking, you take the training wheels off the bike when your child is physically and mentally ready.
Starting them out riding on grass is the safest and best bet. Then, slowly moving to dirt is the next. One thing to keep in mind is that although both riding at the track and riding on the trail are dangerous, track riding tends to result in more injuries than trail riding.
That’s because there are more jumps and people ride at a faster pace at the track. Honestly, just like other sports, there is danger involved. But if you take the steps to progress your kids slowly, just like any other activity, the risk is lowered significantly.
Being a parent is scary — believe me, I know! And releasing control enough to see them out there playing sports and getting hurt is one of the hardest things we will ever do. But at the end of the day, all we can do is give them the skills and knowledge they need to succeed and to make the best decisions that they possibly can — in every aspect of their life. As they say, letting go is the hardest part.