I enjoy freelance creative writing and being a Mum to my two awesome boys.
Published February 29th 2012
Motorcycle Riding for Kids
What a fun addition to childhood; the chance to be taught how to ride a motorcycle. Of course I would only practice or do this safely. So how do you provide your kids the opportunity to participate in this casual or competitive sport? Let's find out together.
When I was growing up, my Father didn't instinctively send me to the kitchen with Mum. He wanted me to learn a few things I could do myself without always asking the help of a man. Changing a bulb (or as my partner says, "it's technically a lamp"), using a screwdriver or hammer, changing a flat tyre on a car or checking the oil and the fun business of learning to ride a motorbike.
I wouldn't have changed my possibility to mature in this world, nor had it any other way. Quality time spent with your child doesn't have to mean being locked into compulsory activities because of our gender. Experimenting can be safe, you just have to know what to do.
Here are some of the basics to get you started. For more information, talk with a motorcycle professional.
Choosing the Right Bike
If you have a motorcycle shop local to your area, go in and ask for information. Don't be pushed into a hasty purchase. Try a few stores. Just let them know you're looking into it for the moment. Unless of course you know which brand of motorcycle you like already, then you're halfway there.
Going online for information is always a great place to start if you're completely new to the idea. Manufacturers, resources, reviews, you have the works available to help you make a decision. Make sure the website is reliable or well known. Where possible, try to avoid cheap, foreign imitations. These motorcycles can be hard to fix or get parts for in the future.
For arguments sake, we'll work with Honda Motorcycles for this session. Here is a range of Honda's off-road minibikes. The type of off-road bike you can get varies. If you'd like to read about the different types available, please read here. KTM and Yamaha also make 50cc and above motorcycles.
Without going into detail, 'cc' stands for cubic centimetres and relates to engine capacity; see 'engine displacement' for complete understanding or definition, if this is important to you. Basically, the higher the 'cc,' the more power the motorcycle will have.
Depending on your child's age, size, athletic and physical ability, also their level of maturity, determines whether they're ready to ride or not (see 'Ready to Ride?' section). After this, you should easily be able to work out what size 'cc' motorcycle is suitable for them to use.
A child should be able to:
• Sit in the correct position on the seat, with both feet flat or firmly to the ground.
• Hold the weight of the motorcycle.
• Comfortably grip the handle bars and work the throttle and front brake with ease. Operation of the foot brake is also a must.
If you have reasonable doubt as to your child's ability or size, then maybe he or she is not ready to ride yet.
Another consideration when choosing a motorcycle is whether to go for a four or two stroke. To clear up any debate or to find out the difference between them, 'dirt bike tips and pics' could be quite helpful. The number of strokes (4 or 2) refers to the strokes of the piston. Two stroke engines do not contain valves, which is one reason four strokes are heavier.
One obvious contrast between them is the high-pitched ting noise a two stroke makes. Some people find it quite loud and annoying, therefore making it enough of a reason to go for the more deep, low sounding four strokes. Four strokes are also said to be less damaging to the environment with no burning of oil, unlike the two strokes.
Learning to ride on a four stroke may be better for a very young child, as two strokes have quick get up and go. Four strokes feel held back in their power. This is also where the adjustable throttle or limiter screw comes in handy. One comes fitted to the Honda CRF50F four stroke motorcycles, making it easier to limit your youngster's speed.
Centrifugal clutches are advantageous in small motorcycles, as it prevents the engine from stalling when the bike is slowed or stopped and requires no use of a clutch lever. It doesn't require the rider to change gears if they don't want to, especially if they haven't mastered operation of the gear or shift lever yet.
Smaller motorcycles usually have lower load limits. The Honda CRF50F four stroke has a limit of 40kg in weight and they advise it should not be exceeded.
The Gear or Accessories
I think deciding on your accessories or the gear to wear is one of the easiest choices when purchasing a motorcycle. As long as you know sizes and personal preference, then it's just a matter of having the money and going in-store.
I would suggest there are many second hand options around and you only need keep an eye out in the classified section of newspapers, notices in motorcycle shops, charity or opportunity shops and online, to reduce your cost.
Having said that, motorcycle gear for young ones is not too expensive and when it comes to their safety, no amount of money is too much.
A helmet, goggles, chest plate, closed-in shoes and long riding pants should be considered compulsory. This gives as much protection as possible to the most important areas of the body. It doesn't make a child bullet-proof; therefore safe riding should never be compromised in any way.
To have more than adequate protection the helmet must be free from damage. The goggles should be proper motorcycle goggles, not simply a pair of swimming goggles from the cupboard. The chest plate or armour must also be free from cracks or damage and the shoes should be motorcycle riding boots.
Riding pants need to be long, not board shorts or anything a lot higher than the ankles. Proper motorcycle pants come with heat protection material on the inner legs to help stop burns, should the child's legs come in contact with the hot parts of the bike.
Again, teach your child simple rules in being safety conscious. Don't overload their brains so that they forget. Accidents can happen, but if they're aware of the hot components on the motorcycle, then they can help to prevent these accidents too.
A long sleeve shirt is a great idea. It helps with minor scratches or cuts if they come off the bike. Gloves could also be considered optional, but if you can, get your child a pair. It helps to prevent blisters from holding on tight and would protect fingers better in the event of a fall, rather than nothing at all.
Tools for the Job
A small tool kit containing the right type and size of screwdriver and a spark plug tool comes in handy; as does a spare spark plug when the bike gets older. The screwdriver can be used to adjust the throttle limiter switch for decreasing or increasing speed on the motorcycle.
Chain lube is necessary for maintaining the condition of the chain. These are just the basics. Your child's bike is no different to any other. It is a fully operational machine that requires checks and maintenance on a regular basis.
Don't forget to keep up with the bike's wear and tear, as you could be jeopardising your child's safety. Tyre pressure and condition, as well as any other points in the Instruction Manual should be followed and carried out carefully when required.
If you're uneasy about doing your own checks, then book the bike in for a service at your chosen motorcycle dealer; especially if it's in need of repair.
Finding a suitable venue for your child to ride their motorcycle can be like trying to find a rabbit in a warren. It can be hard to know where you can ride, unless you have private land available to you by approval.
Whether it's your own land or a friend's; if you can easily access a good size parcel of land that's got mostly hard, level ground then you're in luck.
For anyone that's having a problem locating a provisional riding venue, then trial and error is possible, but you could find yourself having an unarranged chat with the local ranger or police.
Unless you have an authorised land holder's consent for riding on their private land, then you may be in trouble if a motorcycle is ridden anywhere without permission. Fines or penalties can be imposed in certain circumstances, so beware.
To state the obvious, your off-road minibike should never be ridden on-road. If you want to find authorised places or clubs to ride at, contact the Department of Transport in your state or lookup official motorcycle riding venues for your surrounding area, such as the Recreational Trailbike Riders' Association WA website.
Areas for riding in Western Australia can be found here, if you don't own or have consent to ride on private land.
While you may or may not have your riding venue figured out, getting your bike to and from a destination is another consideration; especially if it's further away. A utility or suitable trailer will usually be required, including straps or tie downs to stop your motorcycle from falling over on the journey.
This is the big question. Is your child ready to ride? Many aspects decide the answer to this. Age, size, maturity, athletic and physical ability, as mentioned earlier, they all come into play.
If your child is too young or small to sit on the motorcycle correctly, then it is definitely not time to start. Another major factor is their maturity or mental ability. Are they able to judge a situation with the best response?
Remember, at speed, decisions can be made in a panic and people can instantly clam up or make an undesirable choice.
Do they ride a push bike safely? If bad judgement or risky play on a normal bicycle is cause for concern, then this also means they are not ready to ride a motorcycle. Are they able to listen to instructions and follow the rules? If they are, good; if not, this is bad.
Can they hold a motorcycle up on their own? This includes mount and dismount. If they do not have the strength to do this, they are not ready. Sometimes kick starting the motorcycle in the initial stages of learning requires assistance, but this should really be the only limitation in terms of physical ability.
Have you observed your child regularly riding a bicycle? Do they watch out for other people or objects around them? Do they balance and turn well? Can they ride without training wheels? If they are no good at balancing on a bike, then they are not ready to ride a motorcycle.
If they fall a distance away from you and the motorcycle lands on their leg, are they able to push the bike up or get out from under it? Can they grip on and handle the movement of the motorcycle as they ride on slightly varying ground?
There are, as you can see, many different factors when ascertaining their readiness to ride. You as a parent usually know your child better than anyone else. Never ignore your better judgement or logical thought process.
How to Ride Safely?
Having a First Aid Kit on hand would be a wise decision. Courses in CPR or Senior First Aid could also prove beneficial; not that you want your child to have an accident. Being prepared or ready for any situation that may arise is smart and saves time. You could also carry a mobile phone with you.
Teach your child proper use of the motorcycle before they begin their first ride and also during stops on every ride. Repetitive learning and assessment of their abilities will help pinpoint in what areas they need more help.
You want your child to enjoy themselves. We don't want to lose sight of one of the reasons they are riding the motorcycle. They need to be prepared for some boring instructions, even if you make it fun, as it is important to their safety on the motorbike.
Show them correct use of the footbrake, front brake lever, the throttle; and the gears when they are ready to advance. The motorcycle can be left in first gear while they are in the first stages of learning. Show them how to find neutral on the gear lever.
Keep their speed at a rate they are comfortable with by adjusting the throttle limiter screw. The free play of the throttle can be increased as they get better.
The engine stop switch or kill switch, as it is otherwise known, I think is important to show your child. If you know your child won't be accessing it every ride just because they get frightened and don't know what to do, then it's good for their safety too.
If they need to suddenly cut or stop the engine from running if faced with a dire circumstance with no other option, then they have this available.
Instruct your child on avoiding trees or any other objects that are dead stops. Ride in an open area at all possible times. Stay away from other riders and even give them a cool hand signal you devise, to show them at a distance if you want them to pull over, because of another big rider or potential hazard.
It can be very hard for them to hear you with their helmet on and if they're further away. Finding an area that has minimal riders or distractions is the best idea.
Tell them to avoid holes, soft or boggy ground and objects lying on the ground that may flick up. I'm sure there are cases where older riders don't do this, but we're trying to teach young children good safe habits.
Don't have pillion passengers or other people doubling on the seat of the motorcycle. Lower 'cc' is built for one and will only endanger their lives if given extra risks. For those older kids such as teenagers, naughty enough to be drinking, don't do it and then ride a motorcycle.
Check Owner's Manual after purchase for complete instructions. There are many checks to complete before your first and every ride. Make sure you carry out the checks to the specifications in the manual. Otherwise it could put your child at risk of an accident. Tyre pressure, brakes, throttle etcetera. Check no parts are loose or wearing.
Teaching and supervision is paramount to a young child's riding experience. Never leave them unattended and when they are riding around make sure you are firm about a simple set of rules, such as 'no riding off out of sight.'
If they break these rules, then normal consequences should take effect, like any other situation that could arise with them. You want your child to stay safe. Having them understand some basic safety, where there is no negotiation on rules, helps to ensure they are not in danger of death or injury.
Never ride a motorcycle or dirt bike at night if it is not fitted with the appropriate headlights. Young children should only ride during daylight hours.
Make sure you keep the key separate to the motorcycle out of reach of any children when stored away or not in use. Do not leave it in the ignition. This will only tempt fate after your youngster begins to learn how to ride and builds his or her confidence.
If they have friends come to play, the sound of a motorcycle starting without you nearby could cause unnecessary stress to you or injury to them if not done properly and with adequate supervision.
Laws and Insurance
At the age of, say between five and sixteen, you'll be looking at off-road or motocross motorcycles only. These can be ridden without a licence off-road, as your child is obviously not at an age to legally or responsibly ride on the road.
Licences are generally not available for people under sixteen years of age, depending upon the state, territory or country you reside in.
Requirements to Register your motorcycle are more than likely different in each area. The best idea is to check with your local or national Department of Transport in Australia, or lookup online for other countries.
If you look up Motorcycle Rules and Regulations on the Department of Transport website, under section '5.2 Licensing Recreational Motorcycles (Quad Bikes and Trail Motorcycles)' paragraph two states; 'All off-road vehicles which are used in the areas covered by the "Control of Vehicles (Off-road Areas) Act 1978," other than on private land with the consent of the owner, must be registered at a Department of Transport Licensing Centre or regional Licensing Agent.'
The registration of motorcycles in the case of off-road is supposed to be for ownership reasons only. Even though it is not registered for road use, the Department of Transport says they want to know whose bike is whose.
I would say initially the best bet is to keep your receipt. Check out the laws for power to have a fine or penalty imposed on you for not paying to register your motorcycle.
Certain dual motorcycles or 'cc' can be ridden on and off-road, so check out the laws first. If your child is not old enough to ride on the ride, then this is a no brainer anyway. All minibikes are not permitted on-road.
Basically, if a motorcycle cannot be registered on-road it is uninsurable. In some cases if the rider is not able to hold a licence, it is also deemed uninsurable.
For more information on insurance for off-road vehicles or minibikes, please contact your own insurance provider or an insurance professional. Further assistance may be sought in Australia from the Financial Ombudsman on 1300 780 808.
Clubs or Competition
Joining a club requires more effort and time. If this would interest you and your child, then look into it. Find one online, ask around in your community or peruse your local newspaper. In Western Australia there are various clubs to be part of.
Is your child getting serious about motorcycle riding or showing potential they are very adept at riding? Maybe you'd both like to get into events or different types of competition riding.
This is a personal choice for everyone. It's fairly easy to take your child motorbike riding alone, but definitely more time consuming for competition. Search the internet for different clubs' events.
You might be very happy to have a keen, skilful motorcycle rider on your hands and feel the future could be very bright for them in this area. It would take a good deal of commitment to become very competitive at a higher level.
Consider the benefits and the downside you may encounter. They can also do non-competitive racing if it suits you both better.
Additional websites and Summary
Here are some more websites and information that may be of interest:
In America: Motocross; some information on motocross. Ride for Kids; a great charitable organisation that is also helping children with illness.
Remember, it's not possible for me to list every detail here without boring you senseless. Talk with a professional or two for further advice.
Now you have almost finished reading, are you still unsure or uneasy about allowing your child to ride a motorcycle? No? That's great. Yes? At least you have taken the time to find out. Don't be disheartened. Introducing a motorcycle into a child's life is a big deal and not one to be taken lightly.
Enjoy looking for other activities to entertain and enhance the life skills of your child. They are numerous. You just have to be proactive about finding the right ones to suit your child's or family's needs.
we have a 4 year old who is very athletic and has been riding a bicycle since he's been 21/2 years old and he only begs for a motor bike. Which would be the safest option? I did purchase the razor but when it came I realized it was not really safe for his age.