How to start your child in motocross | Get your kid riding

 

Motocross is a great way for children to start riding bikes, but it can also give them some very important life skills, help them socialise, build their confidence and keep fit. There’s a thriving scene in the UK for all ages and all abilities, and you never know… your son or daughter could be the next world champion!

But where do you start? Martin Varrand is a retired Motocross rider; in his junior years he raced against world-renowned athletes like Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac and Blake Wharton, and is a two-time World Junior Motocross Champion. Who better to present an essential FAQ to getting kids started in motocross?

 

How to start your child in motocross. Get your kid into riding with everything you need to know, from what age to start, what bike to buy and where to do it

Image by cmnaumann/Depositphotos.com

 

My kid's interested in motocross; what should I do?

It seems obvious, but have they actually been to a motocross track before? Have you? Get yourselves along to an event and see how you all like it. Motocross is an exciting, fast-paced, sport and there are warm, welcoming communities all over the UK. Get along and experience the atmosphere. You should also join online forums like the off-road section of The Rev Counter, and TotalMX, which are a great place to share in other people's experiences… and learn from their mistakes!

 

What are the different types of dirt bike riding for children?

The most popular type of riding for kids is motocross, which takes place on a prepared and controlled track. Each race is around 30 minutes, and there are multiple sessions in a day to cover all of the classes.

Your child might also want to try enduro, which is all about riding across more natural terrain like woodland or countryside. Enduro races are much longer (hence the name) than motocross events.

Trail riding is similar to enduro but is not a competitive sport. Trail riding is about riding in the countryside, in the sand dunes, or the woods but the challenge with trail riding is finding places where you can legally ride without issues as, unless you’re on private land with the owner’s permission, you must be a licensed rider on an insured and taxed road-legal motorcycle.

The final option, Trials riding, is about developing precision skills. Riders must negotiate obstacles without putting a foot down, or a foot wrong! Every time a foot touches the floor, points are lost. Trials are about balance and co-ordination rather than riding at speed.

 

How to start your child in motocross. Get your kid into riding with everything you need to know, from what age to start, what bike to buy and where to do it

Image by cmnaumann/Depositphotos.com

 

Where can my child ride their dirt bike?

There are a host of dedicated tracks right across the country where your children can practice, and there are events and competitions held throughout the year that they could enter if they wanted to Check out Motocrosstracksuk to find some near you, and Redbull’s website has some useful information.

Maybe they’re also lucky enough to have access to some private land somewhere, so they could set up their own track or obstacles?

 

What’s the best bike for my child to start riding on?

Buying the right motocross bike for your child is more about their particular level of strength and skill, rather than just their age. Which bike you choose will also depend on if they want to compete or not. Some kids’ bikes have two-stroke engines, which are lighter and less complex than four-strokes but don't be fooled, they can be just as powerful!

A great option, though often more expensive, particularly when buying used, are some of the high-quality electric bikes from Oset and Kuberg.

 

From what age can you race?

The age groups for competitive riding are as follows:

  • 4 to 6-year-olds would start with a 50cc Yamaha PW (often called a PeeWee) bike or similar
  • By around 8 years old they can ride a 65/80cc mini motocross machine
  • At age 10 or 11, kids can ride anything up to a 150cc 4 stroke, or 65/80cc two strokes.

When it comes to electric bikes, restrictions are based on power measured at the back wheel, as well as minimum and maximum weight stipulations:

  • Riders aged between 4 and 7 (on 1 January) race in the E4 class and can ride a bike with a maximum output of 1.5kW with ten-inch wheels front and rear. Weight restrictions are 30 to 40kg.
  • Riders aged 15 or over on 1 January compete in the Adult Solo class on a bike delivering up to 16kW at the back wheel. They can race alongside 120cc to 650cc two-strokes and 175cc to 650cc four-strokes.
  • In the automatic class, a rider may compete on an electric bike with no more than 8kW measured at the back wheel and the motorcycle must weigh between 30kg and 40kg.
    65cc Junior riders can use an electric bike with no more than 10kW measured at the back wheel and coming in between 50kg and 60kg.
  • MX2 riders can use an electric bike with no more than 16kW measured at the back wheel, which must weigh between 75kg and 120kg

Apart from the above restrictions, the maximum output of the power packs on electric bikes is limited to 500W nominal. For safety reasons, the electric motorcycle must have the ability to be freewheeled in the event of a power unit failure and there must be two emergency circuit breakers, accessible to both the rider and track marshals.

The ACU (the Auto Cycle Union, governing body of UK motorsport) recommends that the rider has a lanyard system that cuts the power in the event of them falling off the bike. Also, the bike should have a red warning light that flashes at half a second intervals when the power is on. This light should be visible from a distance of ten meters to the side and rear of the bike.

Finally, any electric bike must have a self-closing throttle that shuts down the moment the rider releases their grip on it.
 

What if my kid doesn’t want to race?

If your child just wants to ride off-road, then there are no hard and fast rules, though personally I’d recommend sticking reasonably close to the competitive guidelines as often a kid will decide they want to race when they get more confident; you don't want to have to buy a new bike because their bike doesn't work for their age group.

Also, the classifications in Motocross allow for a child to get more comfortable with the right size of bike, developing critical skills for safe riding.

 

What helmet should I buy for my child?

There are plenty of great entry-level kids’ helmets available to fit every budget – here are some I’d recommend. While your budding champion might choose the helmet they think looks the coolest, as a parent, your priorities are comfort and protection.

Weight can play a big part in over-all comfort. A helmet that has a particular emphasis on racing rather than just every-day riding is likely to be more lightweight, so if you can balance their choices with the right lid for what they’ll be doing within your budget, then your child will ride with confidence. And that's when they start to really enjoy the experience.

You can find out all about the UK rules and regulations for junior MX at the ACU website, the official body that governs UK motorsport.

 

How do I choose my son or daughter the right gloves?

Gloves are vital for protection and safety, but you also need to look at things like weight, fitting and flexibility. Kids’ motocross gloves are available in a vast range of sizes, styles and colours, but make sure you choose a pair that gives your child the best grip and control. Remember to look at things like wrist-fastenings to prevent them pulling off the hands in a spill, silicone finger-grips and thumb-coverings, not just awesome graphics and colours!

 

How to start your child in motocross. Get your kid into riding with everything you need to know, from what age to start, what bike to buy and where to do it

Image by cmnaumann/Depositphotos.com

 

What boots should my child wear?

Most major dirt bike gear suppliers have scaled-down versions of adult boots, so kids can wear the same as mum or dad, or even their favourite motocross track star! Remember though, every boot has its own unique design and different riding styles have different kinds of boots, so choose wisely. Motocross boots will offer more support but be less flexible to walk and move around in. It’s important that they fit correctly, so go to a reputable dealer for sizing and ask for a selection to try based on where and how your child will be riding.

Many manufacturers price their range of boots sensibly as they know kids' feet grow fast, so fortunately there are plenty of entry-level options available that won't drain your bank balance too quickly.

 

What about goggles?

Dual-layered or triple-layered foam lining will affect ventilation and moisture-reduction around your child's face, while you might also look at tear-off or roll-off visor options so that they can see clearly as things get muddy! Buy from a reputable dealer, and remember that proper motocross goggles are designed to protect the eyes from stones that could be fired at very high speed from the rear wheel of a bike in front; add that speed to the speed your child is riding and you’ll understand why quality goggles are important.

 

What’s the difference between the trousers and jerseys I can buy?

Motocross tops and trousers are called ‘Gear Sets’. Kitting out your child from head to toe in new motocross gear is exciting, but the basic rule is to take your time and really explore the many performance options and design features that are available. Stick to recognised kids’ dirt bike gear brands and avoid cheap imports that can easily jeopardise safety. It might be a while until they ride like a champion, but they can look and feel like one right from the start! Here are some of my suggestions.

 

How do I transport my child’s bike?

If you don't have a van or bike trailer, then you will probably need to start with a hitch-carrier that can fit on to a tow bar on to the back of your car. There are plenty of safe and secure options available that are easy to use and cost-effective. You might want to prepare for getting some pretty muddy seats on the way home too!

 

How much will it cost to start my child in motocross?

You could reasonably hope to pick up a second-hand Yamaha PW for a few hundred, or mini motocross bike from around £700, though make sure it hasn't already been thrashed to within an inch of its life.

I’d recommend talking to a Motocross dealer, or a family who are already racing and are upgrading to bigger bikes. If you do, you will likely get a bike that has been looked after, and has quality aftermarket parts; they can advise you on how they got started too. It always helps to have friends in the pits.

If you prefer, brand new kids’ bikes can range from £1,599 for Yamaha PW50 to £4,099 for a Yamaha YZ65, for example.

Entry-level helmets start at not much more than £50.00, and boots usually come in around £70-£80.00. You should be able to buy a good-quality full set of goggles, gloves and gear all for under £100.00, while a used hitch carrier will cost about another £100.

 

How to start your child in motocross. Get your kid into riding with everything you need to know, from what age to start, what bike to buy and where to do it

Image by cmnaumann/Depositphotos.com

 

Is motocross safe for my child?

This is the question you really want the answer to, right? Motocross is no more dangerous than many other sports; go-karting, horse riding, ski-ing and so on. When it’s approached with the right attitude, the correct attention and discipline, then there’s no reason for any parent to worry.

The very things you want your child to learn in life are all part of developing good riding skills; respect for machinery and other people, discipline, balance, cognitive ability – these are all things your child will learn on the track. They may get a few bumps and bruises on the way, but there is no guarantee that they won’t get that falling off a skateboard. Get them started early and give them every chance to succeed.

Whatever style of dirt bike your kids are in to, have fun! That is what it’s all about.

 

Thanks to Martin Varrand of motocrossadvice.com for this article. Check out his website for more help on bikes, kit, accessories and more for motocross riders of all ages.

 

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