What is youth Mountain Biking?
Mountain biking comes in all shapes, sizes and age ranges. Cross-country is a great place for light youth riders to start, it requires good endurance and technical ability. Cross-country races often use parkland, woodland and forestry sites, with the terrain chosen to incorporate climbs, descents and technical features. Looped courses are designed and built specifically for events by skilled course designers.
Away from racing, recreational mountain biking is huge. The UK’s network of bridleways and other legal rights of way extends for many miles. There are also a number of mountain bike trail centres within close driving distance (Rendlesham, Thetford, Tunstall and Bedgbury Forest to mention just a few). They have marked, graded routes, in forestry land, with good amenities such as bike hire, bike shop, cafe and changing facilities etc.
Our nearest local Forest course is Halstead Woods on Halstead Road, Colchester, at the back of Holmwood House School. The owners are slowly making it into a dedicated MTB site.
What you’ll need to get started
Obviously your child will need a specific bike with off road tyres. But there’s no need to rush out and spend a lot of money on suspension straightaway. Lighter riders can get away with specific youth built bikes like those available from Islabikes and Frog bikes. These bikes come with rigid forks which are all young riders need to start with; this has the advantage of keeping the cost down. When your child gets serious then it’s time to invest in a lightweight Cross-country bike with front suspension, strong brakes and a wide range of gears to cope with mixed terrain.
Cross-country races vary in length depending upon the category of rider, usually from around 30 minutes for youth riders to 1.5 to 2 hours for seniors and elites. Races are run on multiple laps. Cross-country is a mass start race with large fields, so getting a good grid position and a good start is vital. In the race, unlike road racing, riders must be self-sufficient and can only get mechanical assistance in a dedicated technical zone. Again, unlike road racing, large groups seldom form due to the nature of the courses, with riders often battling alone or in small groups of three or four.
The mountain bike racing season extends throughout the year, with the main racing season running from spring to autumn while various winter series ensure there’s racing for all seasons. There is racing for all age groups and a range of abilities. Our local race series is Mud Sweat and Gears (MSG), this race series also has coached sessions for youth riders.
Mountain bike racing has categories for all ages and abilities, from fun races to mountain bike marathons to elite competition at world and Olympic level.
Youth racing categories can vary and don’t always follow the British Cycling standard as shown on our other pages, so it’s always best to check with the event organizer.
Below are the Mud Sweat and Gears (MSG) categories…
Under 9s – Coached Session
Under 12 – Coached Session and Race
Juvenile – 13 to 14 years
Youth – 15 to 16 yrs
Junior – 17 to 18 yrs
Go-Ride clubs throughout the country run mountain bike skills sessions to help young riders get into the sport, teaching them the essential techniques of off-road riding. British Cycling also provides training for mountain bike leaders, equipping people with the skills to lead groups of riders in an off-road environment. Some trail centres also run skills sessions where your child can learn the basics of off-road riding in a fun, friendly and risk managed environment.
We would recommend joining the Colchester Rovers Youth page on Facebook. This is often the best and easiest place to get up-to-the-minute information on what’s going on. You can also email David Triggs, the club coach or the Youth Mountain Bike Coordinator for more information on youth mountain bike coaching and coaching events.