Where to ride with your Little Riders?
Finding Bike Hot Spots for Little Riders
It’s official, Little Riders are taking over the world! It’s been so awesome to see our Little Rider Army reaching out across the globe. We’ve of course got our home base in the UK - dominating on those tracks! But we are seeing more and more riders across mainland Europe - France, Spain, Austria, Germany, yep, we’re there! And further afield with little riders in Israel, South Africa, America, and Australia. It’s a joy to see Little Riders representing all over the world!
In an earlier blog, we talked about how awesome it is to see our little riders shaping the sport for the future. And it really is a brilliant skill to help younger kids learn life-long skills, start engaging in their wider community, and build a genuine love for spending time outdoors.
But we got to thinking, our little riders (and let’s be honest, the bigger riders!) spend hours on their local trails, at their local parks and pump tracks. But do you ever travel further afield to find different routes and tracks to explore? If you don’t, you and your kids are missing out!
So we’re going to have a look at how you can find some new hot spots to explore. Whether it’s pumptracks, BMX, downhill, or mountain biking. We’ve done the hard work and research for you! All you need to do now is get out there.
Why Find New Tracks?
The challenge of riding somewhere different and giving your little riders the chance to explore somewhere new will provide your kids with pure enjoyment as well as the chance to improve technically.
I think we can all agree, it’s brilliant when you see your kids improving at their home track, surrounded by their home crew. But a huge part of riding - and getting kids into riding - is seeing them become part of the community. Somewhere they can find their people, feel comfortable and at home.
However, from our experience, that community feel extends far past your home track. There is nothing that bonds us more as little rider fams, than being huddled together supporting our kids performing seemingly endless laps around a track.
But seriously, heading somewhere different and meeting new riders will also provide your kids with a different type of confidence in themselves. Watching kids of different ages and backgrounds learning from one another - usually without the interference of their parents - is always a joy to see.
How to Find New Tracks?
So hopefully, we’ve convinced you to head somewhere new. But if it’s your first time moving away from your local spot, how do you go about finding new places? Perhaps you’re still looking for somewhere in your local area? Or maybe to go further afield? Or even heading abroad and wanting to take the bikes. How can you find good spaces and tracks where you are heading?
First things first, is what are you looking for? Do you want a BMX course, a mountain trail, a pumptrack, something indoor for if the weather is terrible? Sometimes the tracks are designed for specific skills or specific activities - BMX/skateboards/scooters, etc.
So it’s useful to know what you are looking for and why.
CREDIT: VELO SOLUTIONS
What is BMX?
Ok, firstly, let’s clarify what is BMX? Is it the same as mountain biking? In a word, no.
They often get lumped together. But whilst BMX and mountain biking can share some similarities, BMX - and BMX bikes are more focused on tricks and stunts, great for riders wanting to hang out in the park, trying new features. Mountain or downhill biking is more about riding rougher terrain and off-road trails. So yes, a lot of the same skills are needed, but quite different bike requirements. Have a look at our bike blog for more information on different bike styles.
CREDIT: Infographic BMX MTB A Summary © Red Bull
BMX has long been a fixture throughout the US, but has grown in international popularity over recent years and become a fan favourite at the X-Games. But it was thanks to its Olympic debut in Beijing 2008, where it exploded onto the global ‘mainstream’. Thanks to this, tracks and clubs have been seen popping up all over the globe.
If you’re looking for a BMX track, World of BMX is a pretty good resource for finding tracks all over the world. Search by country, but also really interestingly, see how active the BMX community is in each area - BMX riders per 1million population!
Because BMX is a competitive sport with international and national governing bodies, you can also find sites dedicated to each country’s BMX set up, so for example, in the USA you have USA BMX where you can search for tracks by zip code if you’re looking to race. It’s also a great spot for info on the history of BMX and famous riders.
The UK has British Cycling with a list of tracks or BMX clubs throughout the UK. Worth a mention at this point for our UK riders (or visitors) is the Olympic standard National BMX Centre in Manchester.
The same central bodies and online sites can be found in other countries.
What is MTB?
As we said above, mountain biking - or MTB - is all about off-road, rough, downhill trails. Often incorporating natural features like tree roots and rocks with made-made features - bridges, drop-offs etc.
Whilst MTB doesn’t have quite the mainstream following of BMX - mainly because you need a mountain and trails to participate! - it is growing in popularity. With international competitions, world cups and companies like RedBull throwing their weight behind it - perhaps it also needs a feature in the Olympics to burst into the spotlight?
If you’re looking for MTB trails, again head online and search sites like :
UK - MBUK
France - Ultimate France
USA - MTB Project
We are seeing more and more ski resorts around the world acknowledging MTB and opening up their chair lifts and building MTB trails for the summer seasons. So if you fancy getting the kids into MTB, heading to a ski resort in the summer is a great option. There is minimal walking, public transport or uplifts needed, just let the chairs do all the work for you! Ski resorts like Tignes in France have dedicated kids MTB clubs, practice routes and discounted rates for little rider passes (free for under 6 years old)
What are Pumptracks?
Going back only five years, pumptracks weren’t that well heard of, but their popularity has shot up. Championed by Velosolutions who were the first to begin building tarmac tracks, they have quickly become focal points for the local riding community - little riders and big riders.
Pumptracks - sometimes called ‘skills tracks’ evolved out of the classic BMX tracks, where a rider ‘drops in’ and gains speed heading downhill, hitting different obstacles and features. Pumptracks have simply taken a lot of the features of a BMX course and turned them into a continuous loop making them much more accessible to riders of all disciplines and ages. So, you can imagine, repeating circular laps is much easier than getting back to the top of an MTB trail or a BMX course!
However, apart from their easier access, one of the big reasons why pumptracks have become so popular is because of their design. The whole point of a pumptrack is that the ‘pump’ movement of riding around the track helps you build momentum, balance, and speed. As riders get more experienced, they can continuously ‘pump’ around the track using their momentum from each of the features they hit, needing to pedal or exert less manual effort to keep moving.
The flow of pumptracks means that riders of different disciplines - like MTB or BMX, can practice and hone their skills in the same space. Plus, riders of all ages have something to learn from the tracks. A pumptrack feature that a beginner or kid will roll through can be a gap jump for a more experienced rider. And if your little riders are anything like mine, watching more experienced and older riders brings them on in a way that my support from the sidelines just cannot!
The absolute best resource to find new tracks is pumptrack.com. On here you can search by locations, but also by different track types - pumptracks, skateparks, BMX tracks, and wheelchair-accessible tracks. You can also check out whether the track is kid-friendly, dirt or tarmac, indoor or outdoor, etc so you know exactly what equipment to take with you.
Pumptrack.com is regularly updated with tracks from all over the world, and to help the effort, you can always head onto the site and register your local track if it isn’t already listed there.
Top tip! If your local track isn’t listed, head online and does it now. We registered for our local track today and it takes less than 5 mins.
However, because not all the tracks are listed, if you look and there isn’t a track listed near you, make sure to have a search online as well - you could use Google or head to Ecosia to search and plant a tree with your search!
Talk to the Locals
Finally, regardless of what sort of riding you’re looking for. If you’re still coming up short and can’t find a track online, talk to the locals. Quite often there are tracks, routes and practice spaces that are really well established within the local community, but relatively unheard of in the outside world.
So, when you arrive somewhere new, head to the nearest bike stores when you arrive and speak to the local riders. Often, these guys will be able to clue you into some hidden gems.
Try also asking on social media, either from your own account or try dedicated groups. Post a shout-out and ask around - if your kids are anything like my kids, they are always desperate for more riding friends! And meeting new people from different places only opens up their eyes to how big and supportive the riding community can be.
To sign off, we’d be crazy if we didn’t send you to the Little Rider Co Army on Facebook. It’s an awesome space, full of little riders - with their support crew. If you are looking to build your support network or find new tracks and trails, this is definitely the place.
Want to connect with other Little Rider families?
The Little Rider Co Army will be more than happy to help – Jump into the Facebook group today and ask for recommendations, the community is here to help.