Teaching Young Adventurers

For Brenna and Bill Warburton—two of the co-founders of Bend Endurance Academy (BEA)—adventuring started at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, as Bill ran the cycling club and Brenna was involved in ski racing and running. A semester in East Africa solidified their shared love of hiking, camping and sailing. As part of the nonprofit BEA, they promote healthy living through active, outdoor experiences in Central Oregon. Follow their advice for enjoying mountain biking and outdoor adventures with young people.

1. Scheduling. Keep the adventures short and sweet to leave the kids wanting to try it again soon. Aim for 30 minutes for toddlers, a little over an hour for preschoolers, and 90 minutes for elementary and middle school kids. Redirect after riding for 10 or 20 minutes by searching for bugs, chasing fairies or simply playing in the dirt.

2. Stay Social. Meet up with friends of the same age and ability. Join a team to meet new people. Always use the process of good trail etiquette by saying “hello” to everyone you meet on the trail—you may see someone you know!

3. Nutrition and Hydration. It’s really all about the snacks! Pack good, high protein treats and plenty of fluids. Stick to water or add a touch of fruit juice for flavor, but avoid high-sugar sports drinks. Stop about halfway through your activity and enjoy your treat together. Prepare for meltdowns with a secret stash of lollipops.

4. Know Your Equipment. Carry a hex key, pump, tire iron, chain tool, tube—one for you and one for all of your kids’ bikes. Make sure to have an adjustable wrench to get the back wheel off of your kid’s bike in case they have a flat.

5. Safety First. Items like band-aids, baby wipes and eye drops are a must for all adventurers. Always apply sunblock! If the kids don’t like it, try applying it with a paintbrush to make it more fun.

6. Dress the Part. Always wear gloves to avoid digging splinters, dirt and gravel out of little palms and knees. Wear pants or capris when biking. Give the kids their own tiny backpacks, hydration or waist packs. Tuck in or sew down those pesky long straps and avoid lace up shoes as they both could get caught in the spokes. Helmets are 100% required for kids and adults at all times!

7. Try a Shuttle. Take a shuttle starting at a higher elevation trailhead and ride trails that are mostly downhill with a net elevation loss.

8. Focus on Respect. Young riders may be hungry, tired, hot, cold, frustrated or all of the above. This is normal. Try again another day. Let them learn at their own pace. Teach them to respect the trails and riding etiquette. Teach them to say “hello” or “rider on your right” and let passing riders know how many are in your group.