How we became a mountain biking family in just one year

This is the tale of how, in the space of a year, we went from being a cycling family to a mountain biking family, enjoying incredible rides in some stunning locations. I hope that when the time is right for your family, this article gives you inspiration to give mountain biking a try with your kids.

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Some background on our mountain biking and family cycling history

Chris and I used to do mountain biking before the boys were born. We bought ourselves matching Specialized Rockhopper Comps and had 5 years of regular weekend jaunts before my pregnancy put a stop to it.

We were self-taught and always rode bridleways, usually in the Peak or Lake District (trail centres and digital cameras didn’t really exist way back then, so there’s no photographic evidence I can share – we are really quite old!).

Over a decade of family cycling followed the birth of our two boys, and the Rockhoppers became our workhorses, pulling trailers and tagalongs (or riding alongside balance bikes!)

Those fabulous remote mountain bike rides seemed a lifetime away. I did not dare contemplate when we’d be able to get out and ride to the middle of nowhere again.

Cycling 2 kids to school with tagalong and front seat on my Specialized Rockhopper Comp

Suddenly though, our boys were growing up, and we were offered the chance to review a Creig 24 mountain bike by Islabikes.

Our youngest, T, was 7 when the Creig 24 arrived. Up until then he’d been riding 20” wheel hybrid bikes.

Whilst he was a very proficient young cyclist and we rode most weekends, we’d always been constrained by the distance and speed we could go. His little legs span round so quickly and he had to work twice as hard as the rest of us to keep up.

We had enjoyed a decade of cycling as a family along forest trails, disused railways and flat, traffic-free paths, but still the open fells and dales seemed a long way off in the distance.

Family bike ride at Alwen Reservoir

Becoming a mountain biking family

The moment the Creig 24 arrived for T (with the matching Creig 26 for his older brother), there was a feeling of excitement that we could finally get out on rougher terrain.

We headed off to our local trail centres and started out on some of the easier Blue routes, which got us used to climbing and riding single track.

Riding the blue MTB route with our kids at Kirroughtree, Dumries, Scotland

We quickly grew to love trail centres with small training areas, where the boys were able to practise their skills before going out.

Our favourites quickly became Gisburn in Lancashire, Whinlatter in Cumbria and Kirroughtree in Dumfries.

All three have great little areas where you can get some practise time in before heading off on some fast and fun blue routes.

Over time we started to venture onto some of the red routes. Because they were riding lightweight mountain bikes it meant they could be picked up and carried if the trail got a bit too technical.

Riding the red MTB route at Gisburn Forest, Lancashire

To reduce the travel time and facilitate the riding we bought a tiny 4 person tent and developed a love of going camping near trail centres.

We discovered that if you visit Scotland outside the school holidays you can have the campsite virtually to yourselves!!!

Camping at Balloch O Dee campsite near Kirroughtree, Dumfries

After a while we’d gained confidence at the trail centres, and we learnt that there was a short stretch of bridleway within riding distance of our house, so we got togged up and out we headed.

There was a moment of realisation that we were doing what I’d term “proper” mountain biking, albeit only over a short stretch of bridleway.

Our first cross country mountain bike ride

And guess what? As the hours in the saddle increased, it was me, old mum, who was struggling.

As the main breadwinner in a family of 4, it’s hard not to have thoughts of weeks laid up at home in bed with broken limbs.

A number of times I got the “fear” and had to be helped over it by the boys. There was no way I was going to ride down this – however much encouragement I got!

Part of the red route at Gisburn Forest MTB trails

At this point I had a choice – stay at home or do something about it.

I didn’t want to miss out on the action, so decided to take some lessons with our local mountain bike instructor.

He diagnosed too many years riding nothing but a road bike as my affliction, and prescribed me some drills that involved unsticking my bum from the saddle and shifting my weight around.

At the same time, the boys also did a course of mountain bike lessons at our local Go-Ride club. Suffice to say within a couple of weeks they developed far better technique than I can ever hope to have.

So, equipped with varying degrees of skill we headed off on our summer holidays to Vancouver and the mountain biking mecca that is British Columbia.

Our family cycling holiday

There’s too much to put into this post, so I’m just going to say we spent weeks travelling round camping and riding the most amazing trails. Definitely the holiday of a lifetime.

Our Mountain biking Holiday in British Columbia
Sadly, the holiday had to end and we returned to the UK.

The boys were delighted to be reunited with their own mountain bikes (despite having ridden some awesome hire bikes over in Canada).

We managed a couple of days back home before feeling the need to get back out on the trails, and we found ourselves in our tent close to Kirroughtree and Glentrool.

This was the point at which I realised that mountain biking had become an integral part of our lives.

Family mountain biking on the Islabikes Creig 24 at Glentrool, Scotland

When T declared that he didn’t want an 8th birthday party, but wanted to do the family cycling training day at Whinlatter instead, I knew mountain biking had been etched into his psyche too!!

At the start of the blue MTB loop at Whinlatter Forest with our boys

T also tried riding his mountain bike at a cyclocross race, but didn’t enjoy this form of cycling as much as mountain biking, so we returned to the trails.

His older brother had a proper cyclocross bike and enjoyed the experience far more.

Enjoying the U8 cyclocross

Then, we hit lucky with the boys.

Our regional British Cycling coach arranged a holiday club during the October half-term, involving two full days of tuition out on the trails for kids aged 8 to 16.

Biritish Cycling Mountain Biking kids skills session at Grizedale Forest

The upside was this gave Chris and I two days to ride together. The downside was the boys skills just continued to improve and they were now SO much more skilled than me (and it would cost me a small fortune in private lessons to get anywhere near their level!)

With their newly equipped skills we had a few days away where we tried out our first UK bike park.

Practising front wheel lifts on an Islabikes Creig 24 at The Track Bike Park, Portreath, Redruth, Cornwall

We also spent a day riding the Cornish coast to coast route (we’d done part of it a few years back, when T was in a rear bike seat!)

And then a pattern emerged for the autumn and winter months.

Check the weekend weather forecast.

If it’s not torrential rain get out to one of the three trail centres close to us – Grizedale, Whinlatter or Gisburn.

The blue route at Whinlatter is great for all the family to give mountain biking a go

In an attempt to keep up with the boys and to find some new routes near our house, I went on my first ever Breeze Ride.

This was a mountain bike ride along various bridleways and lanes in the area, but I’ll be damned if I could ever recreate the route (these were the days before we’d invested in a Garmin or signed up for Strava!). But I survived, and kept up with the other riders!!

On the topic of survival, we only had one big off all year – T went over the handlebars during the Christmas holiday when going far too fast over some rollers.

Thankfully he was fine, but the bike needed a bit of TLC to get it back in action. This shot was taken on the Red route at Whinlatter about 2 minutes before!

Family cycling during the winter at Whinlater Forest, CumbriaIt’s surprising how many decent weekends there were during the winter months, if you make the effort to wrap up warm and get out the house.

If we didn’t have enough time to get to a trail centre, then we’d head out to the local bridleway for a short, sharp spin and a bit of mud!

Mountain biking with kids can be an all year round adventure

Come the spring another British Cycling course for the boys took place during 3 days over the Easter holidays, and Chris started doing his British Cycling Mountain Bike Leaders course.

Any lingering doubts that we weren’t totally hooked on MTBing had totally vanished.

Then came my birthday in mid-April and the day I’d dreamed about for over a decade, but hadn’t expected to see for many more years, became a reality.

It was a glorious spring day and we decided to go and do an old fashioned mountain bike ride in the Kentmere Valley, just riding what nature and local farmers provided, instead of the man-made trails we’d been riding thus far.

Cross country mountain biking with kids in the Lake District, CumbriaAll those dreams of one day riding the Lake District classics with my boys had materialised much quicker that I’d anticipated.

It really was the best birthday present I could have had.

Family MTB ride in Kentmere Valley, Lake District, Cumbria

And guess what?

The boys agreed with me that whilst the MTB trail centres may offer easily accessible fun and adrenaline, getting out for the day and not seeing another soul can’t be beaten.

Thus, a couple of weeks later we had an epic ride near Askrigg in the Yorkshire Dales where we rode, quite literally, into the middle of nowhere without seeing another soul for hours.

Views from the top of the world - riding the Islabikes Creig MTB

At this point, I had thought I’d reached the pinnacle of our year of mountain biking.

We’d definitely put the boys and their bikes through their paces, and it was time to start writing the review.

However, our mountain biking year wasn’t quite over…..

We got invited for a family cycling holiday in the Southern French Alps during the Whitsun half term, and spent three days exploring some amazing trails.

Our family cycling holiday in the French Alps

The hire bikes the boys were on weren’t quite up to the specification of the Creig, but none the less my little boy, who a year before was on a 20” wheel bike and riding flat trails, did the 33km descent from Col du Lautaret to Briançon in the French Alps (obviously far faster and with far more skill than I did).

Family Cycling in the French Alps - the top of Col du Lautaret

So, our year-long test of the Creig’s transformed us from a family that enjoys cycling into a family that LOVES mountain biking, wanting to get out on the trail at any opportunity (apart from those days when we’re riding our road bikes – but that’s a tale for another day……)

I do hope this has inspired you to continue to cycle with your kids no matter what age they are.

I’m sure it was the years spent riding with them when they were little which has helped shape them into the great young riders they are today.  We’ve got a number of other articles on mountain biking which may help you, and we’ll be writing more all the time, so why not follow  Cycle Sprog on Facebook and Instagram, or sign up for our newsletter.

Sadly Islabikes Creigs are no longer available to buy new, but you can find links to our pick of the best kids mountain bikes below. 

Other posts you may find useful:

This post was first published on 1st August 2017, and updated in January 2024 to refresh some out of date links.



so many fantastic bike routes here to look over – looks such good family fun I am going to have to look into this for my boys! Thanks for the post – I found you via the tots100 #livinglinky 🙂


Hi – thanks for getting in touch. It’s always great to connect with other bloggers – love Tots100 for that. Your boys look as if they’re enjoying their bikes – it’s such a great way to keep them active. Keep in touch! Karen

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