Many of us have childhood motorcycling memories. For me, as a kid, I used to love bikes tearing up and down the roading heading to bike nights and rubbernecking out the window of the car to see bikes come past with the windows down. A fascination of bike magazines as a teenager, reading the old fast bikes, performance bikes and T.W.O. I mainly looked at the pictures because I can’t read, and they were less boring than the words.
If your teens were anything like mine, there will be plenty of memories. Rocking trials bikes around local fields, and falling off a PW50 after getting the speed wobbles (honest). These gave me scars, memories, and knowledge which modern kids are missing out on.
Gameboys and Walkman
Nowadays kids are too busy playing on their game boys, to be bothered by the bikes coming past. Surely we should be doing more to get kids into bikes at an early age. Remember the kids riding now, will be buying superbikes (if they even exist) in 25 years time.
Getting kids starting on two wheels, is getting easier, than years ago. Advances in technology see more and more bikes available for smaller riders, in most domains of riding. From track riding to motocross and trials riding, all avenues open.
Children’s minibike racing
Youngsters can start racing with the British Minibikes from the age of 7 in the Junior SM90 or Mini GP90 classes up to the age of 10. The specification of bikes in these beginner classes are firm to keep costs down and the racing competitive. Engines are 90cc using either automatic or manual gearboxes and can’t be tuned highly modified. To keep costs to minimum regulations state a maximum price for parts which can be changed. This brings the skill to riders and keeps a fair and level playing field.
The brand new Peter Hickman supported Ohvale 110 cup ranges from 8-12 years and is a single model with little modifications allowed. The Ohvale is a perfect junior bike purpose-built for racing, weighing 65kg and with 11hp. Equipped with slick tyres and a 4-speed manual box it’s a great start for young racers. It’s not cheap though, prices for the 110cc 4speed start at £3.5k+ VAT just for the bike. Factoring in 10 weekends racing, plus spares and consumables can make a large hole in the wallet. But if it makes the kids happy right…
Can I take my child pillion?
Why not? Legally speaking with permission from a parent/guardian, properly fitting riding gear, and the ability to reach the passenger footpegs there are no issues. This means that more than likely footpegs will have to be adjusted and repositioned, which kits are available.
It’s worth starting small and slow and building up gradually, obviously, if they don’t like it on the first ride it’s easy to get back home. If it is more comfortable grab handles which wrap around the rider are commonly available.
Chances are if they have been bugging you for months after the first trip they will have a huge beaming grin, and be asking when the next ride is!
Arguably one of simplest motorsports there is. Find an obstacle, get over or around it, without falling off or putting a foot down. Not limited to age, trials riding can benefit any rider of any discipline but why not start off early? Trials riding can be done with a minimal amount of space, and with modern electric machinery, you won’t have to worry about the neighbours moaning. Explaining the tyre tracks in the lawn to the wife might be harder though.
Electric trials bike manufacturer Oset make bikes suitable for riders from the age of 3. The bikes feature no hot parts and run virtually silent. The perks of electric running allow for cheap running costs, and parents can vary the speed and response of the bike from a slow walking pace upwards. The smallest Oseet comes in at under a grand, and resale values are great.
Moving upwards through the ages Oset makes up to a youth/adult size which even won the ACU youth trials championship in 2019. Take that petrol!
How do I start trials riding?
Starting off involves joining a club, which will incur a yearly membership fee, and then events will normally have a signing on fee. This can vary from club to club and event to event but sample ones I’ve looked at include £20 a year membership and then £15 signing on fee for adults and £10 for juniors.
Trials riding can be one for the whole family, as the sport revolves around observers, which is often a paid role by the club. Some clubs will run a reduced ride rate for members who help set up the courses.
Dirtbiking for kids
Motocross is great for kids, and when big-name superstar racers come from a dirt background and often say it gave them much-needed skills before transferring to the tarmac. Riding crossers is great for learning both the basics and more advanced techniques from everything to throttle control, steering feel and of course getting used to the bike feeling loose.
With many different disciplines to riding on dirt, from motocross, to enduro, speedway, flat tracking and even just riding trails for fun. All of these can teach more skills than just on the bike too, fitness and social skills will also develop.
Check for Facebook Motocross groups!
Quite often as a parent, it’s wise to get help from other parents, and searching Facebook there are lots of groups based on each discipline. This can give tips and advice on where to ride, and a good starter bike could be. Websites such as Motocross tracks UK can give your nearest tracks from a postcode too. Failing that a friend of a friend might have some private land to practice on. It is generally not a good idea to use any public open space though. People will moan, and this can lead to trouble, so it’s best to avoid that route!
As with trials bikes, both electric and petrol versions are available. The Oset range starts at 4 years and petrol alternative would be along the lines of a Yamaha PW50.
Overall while getting into motorsport can be expensive, can you really put a price tag on your child’s happiness? You don’t have to go silly to start with; the main thing is the kids are there to have fun, and hopefully that will plant the addiction that follows them for the rest of their life. Think in 20 years when they want to come for a ride with you!
How about Junior Speedway?
Much like all other bikes, speedway bikes come in different shapes and engine sizes. 80, 125 and 250cc bikes are available, up until turning professional at the age of 15. Turing pro allows access to the 500cc machinery used at all levels. Starting on the 80cc models at 7, for an early bird, speedway is a great start for young riders. Multiple world champion Tai Woffinden started speedway at age 12!
Will it ever get back to how it used to be?
Well, hopefully, but whilst you can sit in front of a computer and pretend to ride a motorcycle this does not give the same feeling. It does hurt less when you fall off though! Gone are the days of being able to get away with what we used to as kids, and even what our parents used to get away with, but hopefully and as an industry we need more kids getting hooked on two wheels!