Munchy Trail Riders~Why Nutrition is Important for Kids on the Trail

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             Our kids are our most prized beings in our lives and if you’re anything like me you wonder how best to keep your children healthy. I’ve struggled with the balance of vegetables ( you can just hide them in their mac n cheese, right?) and the occasional, “Mom, pleeeese can I have an ice-cream???” all the while wanting to please and care for my children at the same time. The end result often times is a finicky eater and if we struggle with getting our kids to eat healthy at home, what in the world do we feed them on the trail?

                 Mountain biking is an endurance/aerobic sport that when performed regularly makes the heart and lungs stronger. Aerobic exercise is an excellent way to keep our kids healthy and strong. According to, kids who exercise have many health benefits, “ Kids who are active will:

Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit sleep better. They're also better able to handle physical and emotional challenges — from running to catch a bus to studying for a test.” Knowing that mountain biking is a strenuous sport and one that requires considerable activity for up to two hours at a time, I wondered, how do I make sure my child is eating healthy and enough food to sustain him/her throughout the ride?

              When I started mountain biking with my two boys I quickly realized that I needed a lot of food in order to keep their energy up (take it from me, the ride can end in a lot of crying if you don’t bring more than you think you should). Since the sport is taxing to the body it needs to be replenished before we ask more of ourselves and our kids. Foods that I bring along for my kids include:

  • Shock Blocks-I call this ‘trail candy.’ My boys love them and are similar to a gummy bear in texture. They are good for a quick energy boost. I get strawberry flavor and be sure to get the non-caffeinated

  • Snack bars-Kind bars are a favorite in my household with less sugar and a variety of flavors. Make sure to bring several per child.

  • Pancakes- Did I just say pancakes? Yes, I did! I make Kodiak superfood pancakes (you can find in any grocery store) which is full of whole grains, quality protein, and without GMOS and artificial ingredients. These pack well in their backpacks and provide a lot of sustainable energy.

  • Dried Fruit-I like mangos and strawberries but you should bring what you know your child will like. Dried fruit gives a boost of sugar which is vital for restocking muscle-glycogen stores and it stays nicely in a baggie.

  • Small bag of salted nuts-Sodium is lost from our bodies when we sweat and your child will be seating while mountain biking. Low sodium can cause various issues while exercising such as dehydration and muscle cramps. Eating a bag of salty nuts will help your child keep their electrolytes up and in turn happy and healthy on the trail. Snack size bags can be found at any grocery store.

  • Water-Water is the best drink for your little shredder. We are told that sports drinks are a great way to get electrolytes when we exercise but truly water is the best (also never put sports drinks into a hydropack, it is extremely hard to wash out and will end up ruining it).

              Kids on the trail will get hungry often so be prepared to stop and take a break to eat every 30 minutes (even a couple bites of something will help maintain energy) for optimal results. You can set a timer to remind yourself to stop because waiting until it’s too late will end in your child ‘bonking’ ( "hitting the wall" ~for endurance athletes it is a sudden and overwhelming feeling of running out of energy) on the trail. With all your food and patience prepared ahead of time you are bound to have a great time teaching your child how to be healthy physically and nutritionally while mountain biking. Now it’s time to shred!!

Proper Mountain Bike Shoes

When riding you bike keeping your feet planted on the pedals and foot position are just as important as gripping the handle bars.  Having the right shoes can help your feet stay connected to your pedals which can help you corner better, descend with confidence and minimize those dreaded shin scrapes from pedal slips.  

There are numerous manufactures making mountain bike specific shoes for flat pedals including Five Ten, Giro, Specialized, Shimano, and Bontrager just name a few.  They all use similar technology and designs which include softer rubber on the soles to allow better grip, stiff midsoles to help transfer power to the pedals, synthetic upper material for quick drying, reinforced toe caps for impacts and durability, and cool looking designs so you can wear them out on the town after your ride.

Riding flats vs clipped pedals allows you to get off the bike easier, move your feet around on the pedal to help balance and conquer tough trail features without the fear of being connected to the bike in case of a fall (In a future article we will talk more about riding flats vs clipped).  You might be wondering why you should buy a mountain bike specific shoe when you can just wear some tennies.  Just like any other sport specific shoe, the MTb shoe’s design is based on the unique characteristics of the sport.  All it takes is just one ride with a MTb specific shoe and you will notice the difference immediately.  The grip on the pedals, the stiffness of the sole and the protection of the upper material instill confidence.  There are only a few points of contact in which to control your bike and having your feet planted firmly and securely on the bike will help you improve your skills and/or just ride better overall since you will feel more connected to the bike and can concentrate on the task at hand…having fun.

Since most mountain bike shoes share the same technology and are designed specifically for mountain biking, pick the one you think matches your style.  Have fun and keep it up on two wheels… 

Head Up & Eyes Up


Mastering the fundamentals is important in both learning how to ride a mountain bike properly and continuing to improve your skills. Keeping your head up and eyes looking down the trail is a key fundamental for all aspects of riding including corning, conquering technical terrain and descending.


Out on the trail most of us tend to want to look straight down at our front tire to see what we are going to ride through, go over or miss all together.  The problem with looking down at the trail and tire is that you won’t be able to anticipate obstacles or read the trail in order to get into the right body position, break properly, and/or shift correctly because you will have already gone over the obstacle, hit the corner or started to go up hill or descend. 

Keeping your head up and eyes looking down the trail will allow you to anticipate what is coming next and give you enough time to prepare your body and/or bike, especially at high speeds.  A good general technique is to always be looking about 50 yards down the trail (even further depending the terrain and your speed) and constantly scanning the terrain.  This technique will allow you to anticipate, choose the proper gear if climbing or descending, look for your entrance and exit when cornering, and get into the proper body position for the trail feature.

Your eyes go where you look.  This can be good and bad.  This is good when looking down the trail to identify your exit out of a corner, pick your line through a rock garden and spot your landing on a drop off.  This can be bad if you focus on areas you don’t want to go because that focus will steer your bike in the direction of the hazard; these can be deep ruts, large roots, a small drop off, large rocks, etc.

At times out on the trail I even find myself hypnotized by the spinning of my front wheel and still have to remind myself “head up & eyes down trail”.  By continuing to work on the fundamentals of mountain biking you will be continually build on your skills, become a better rider and have more fun.  And that’s what it is all about…


Mastering the Fundamentals - Elbow Position


Mastering the fundamentals is important in both learning how to ride a mountain bike properly and continuing to improve your skills.  Elbow position is one of the keys to help control your bike in all aspects of riding including corning, conquering technical terrain and descending.  Let's talk about the correct elbow position versus the incorrect position.


Actually, having correct elbow position happens almost automatically if you have good body position on the bike.  Once out of the saddle get into a proper neutral position by making sure your knees are slightly bent, head up, eyes forward, heels slightly down and elbows away from your side.  Once in this position it is really difficult to have your elbows in the wrong position unless you purposely move them. 

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Moving your elbows to in toward your sides or moving them up and forward in an exaggerated position puts your arms in a weak position and does not allow you to engage all the core muscles needed in order to maintain control of your bike. 


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Having your elbows in a neutral or middle position once out of the saddle puts you in a strong dynamic stance that allows you to exert the push and pull forces on the handle bars for correct cornering and allows you to maintain control when the trail gets rough. 


You can easily make sure you are in the correct position by having someone take a picture of you riding around.  Take multiple pictures from different angles including the front, rear and side.  Once you are sure you have the correct position, practice it over and over until it comes natural so you won’t have to think about it when out on the trail.

Now keep learning and practicing your core mountain bike skills and we will see you out on the trails. 

Bikes, Kids, and Confidence


Teaching my boys how to ride their bikes was an important step in their childhood. Watching them take their feet off the ground and pedal until they found their balance was as exciting for me as it was for them. What is it about a bike that makes a child feel independent like an adult and conversely make an adult feel like a giddy little kid? It's the bike that can take each of us to a different place. A place where one feels free and independent.


A child puts their fingers on the handlebars and takes off. Away from mom and dad they find an independence they didn't know before, one where they have complete control. Mom and Dad get on their bikes and forget the bills, the pressures of their jobs, the illusion of perfection and they are free.

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So what about the years in between those first pedal strokes and the moment an adult straps on a helmet and decides to give a bike another try? Is there still a place in children’s lives for bikes when more often than not, bikes are abandoned for more traditional team sports.


If you drive by a park in the fall you’ll see hundreds of kids playing soccer or a school gymnasium in the winter to see a crowd of kids getting ready for a basketball game, but where are the kids on bikes? Team sports have many benefits like teamwork and comradery but put a kid on a bike and they learn what they can accomplish all on their own. After all, doesn’t true confidence come from knowing what you can handle and accomplish within your own power?


Melissa Davidson from Singletracks magazine says about kids on bikes versus other sports, “Every student on the team gets to race at every event, if they want to. There’s no sitting on the bench if you’re not as good as someone else. You are not trying to “beat them out” for a starting position on the team. There’s no waiting for the offense or defense to get off the field so you can have your chance to play.”  Riding bikes is a sport any child can enjoy and build confidence without being the” best” one on the team.



Building confidence can come from racing or riding trails in the mountains with your family.  Get on a bike and no matter what adventure takes place, the opportunities to build skill and talent will emerge. The bicycle riding gap in life’s middle years doesn’t have to happen as riding bikes can be an alternative to team sports, one that can bring health, independence and confidence throughout a lifetime.



How to Choose The Right Mountain Biking Helmet


There is no other thrill like riding your bike down some single track, carving turns, feeling the wind on your smiling face and experiencing the flow that gets the heart racing.  Things can happen fast at high speeds so being prepared in the event of a crash can be the difference between dusting yourself off versus weeks on the couch.  One of the most important pieces of safety equipment is your helmet. Let’s talk about some important information when looking for the right helmet. 

First get a quality Mtb specific helmet!  This is one piece of equipment you should not skimp on price.  Quality Mtb helmets can be expensive but there is good reason; they are made of durable and light materials, tested for fit, designed for breathability at low speed and crash tested based on possible impacts specific to the sport.  You can tell a MTb helmet from other helmets by their visors, multiple air vents, enhanced coverage at the rear of the head and secure fit when riding through rough terrain. 


Here is some additional information about Mtb helmet design:

Ventilation: Helmet vents enhance wind-flow over your head, keeping you cooler and more comfortable as you ride. The more vents you have, the lighter the helmet, too.

Visor:  Visors help shield the sun, are removable and have a break-away system in the event of a crash.  Plus the just loo cool!

Full-face protection: Some mountain bike helmets have a wraparound chin bar (removable or not) to provide face protection for downhill mountain biking, super sketchy single track and park riding.

Straps: The strap system should be comfortable and easy to buckle and unbuckle.

Hair port: Some helmets come with a strap design that accommodates ponytails.


When choosing a bike helmet looks matter (of course we want to look good out on the trail) but fit is the most important component when choosing a helmet.  Most helmets come in small, medium, large and when on should be tight to the point where you have to really force the helmet to move from side to side. 

 Most helmet manufactures will have a sizing chart on their website that is based on the circumference of your head.  To find your size wrap a flexible tape measure around the largest portion of your head (about 1 in. above your eyebrows) and compare that measurement to corresponding size chart. 

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Any helmet involved in an accident is likely to get damaged even if you can’t see it with the naked eye.  So replace the helmet after any significant impact, even if everything looks OK.  It is generally recommended to replace your helmet after 5 years as pollution, UV light and weathering can weaken its components over time.

Now go out and get a sweet helmet that looks cool, fits great and protects your dome for years to come.  See you out on the trails….


Mountain Biking is the Answer!!




Why Mountain Biking Is Good for Our Youth

By Jenny Corso
Updated April 21, 2017 


       With nearly two-thirds of kids in the US overweight, it is more important than ever for parents to instill good lifestyle habits in their children’s day-to-day routines.  Many people incorrectly assume chronic conditions are adult-only problems, yet insulin resistance and the development of arterial plaque starts in childhood, leading to diabetes and cardiovascular disease later on.

We discussed the plethora of heart-healthy benefits gained from pedaling some singletrack in a previous article, but there is way more to gain for your body and soul aside from a happy ticker. Not only does getting your little dudes and dudettes into bikes help promote great health, it provides a wealth of other benefits, too!

Mountain biking fights depression, builds confidence, and increases self-esteem.

Trail time prevents the onset of depression during adolescence and after high school. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 12.5% of kids between the ages of 12-17 are diagnosed with major depression each year – that’s 1 in 8 teenagers. Rates are higher among high school juniors and seniors (around 16%), and climb even further as our young adults gain independence as they enter college – nearly 30%.

Couple these data with the negative effects of bullying, the stresses of peer pressure, alcohol and drug use during adolescence, and dating – the results may be a deleterious tornado for self-esteem disaster. But this is where mountain biking can be a preventative. It allows for a healthy way to relieve stress, bond with and make new friends, as well as stay out of trouble. And there’s more…

Most scientists agree that exercise is an effective treatment for many mood disorders. A 2013 research review conducted by Dr. Gary M. Cooney of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Division of Psychiatry in Edinburgh, UK, analyzed 37 studies that checked out the effects of physical activity on individuals diagnosed with clinical depression. Their conclusion? Exercise is definitely more effective than no treatment, and is significantly as effective as most pharmaceutical and psychological interventions. Shred for your head!

Healthy challenges lead to improved focus and goal setting. Photo © Pia McDonell of McDonell Media

Group or family rides nurture socialization skills and build friendships.

Kids learn the importance of trail etiquette and how to be a part of a team. Courtesy and the appreciation of others are skills they can take away from the sport and apply throughout all facets of their lives – in the classroom, at home and in public.

They bond over and can develop an appreciation for friendly competition.  They’ll inherit the freedom associated with the acceptance of imperfection, making mistakes in front of others, learning how to stand up, accept small moments of defeat, dust off their shorts, and move forward. When riding with friends, they see their peers go through similar challenges and learn how to lend a helping hand.

There is also an increase in parent-child bonding – what parent doesn’t want to share in their kid’s joy the first time they climb a hill by themselves or corner a tricky turn. Smiles all around 

What better way to celebrate a birthday than a fun family ride at Brown’s Ranch in northern Scottsdale, AZ. The trail network is part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and consists of more than 50 miles of easy to technical double and singletrack. Smiles all around!

Children that ride can develop skills associated with decision making, risk, and safety.

Mountain biking teaches kids how to deal with challenges. Remember your first time on a mountain bike? Getting familiar with the feel of the bike, how and when to shift, brake, where to look down the trail – all the important “first steps” integral to building an enjoyable experience.

Now for the conceptual application: how to choose a good line (and the repercussions of a poor choice), maneuvering in all the gear – kneepads, helmet, gloves – experiencing the first flat, the inaugural OTB, gnarly, pebble-laden scrapes, bruises… “Don’t stare at the big hole in the trail – you’ll go where you look,” you explain.

Children learn how to focus on what’s essential as their surroundings whiz by, an indispensable skill not only in mountain biking, but in school, too.

It keeps them out of trouble.

Here’s a simple question: How do you want your youngsters to spend their free time? A number of kid-oriented organizations have provided worthy options as answers, and here are two great examples!

Since December of 2009, Butte County Junior Cycling, a Chico, CA based non-profit bicycle loan program, has offered disadvantaged kids the opportunity to get into the sport of cycling.

“The program has grown to over 30 available bikes of different sizes due to donations alone,” said Jeff Ochs, founder of the program. Through BCJC, more than 50 kids have been introduced to the sport and have grown as cyclists with the help of the program. They have the option to participate in team and club sports, as well as events in the community and at school. “We believe that cycling is a lifelong activity that is beneficial to the mind, body, and soul.” It doesn’t get much better than that!

Petaluma, CA is home to the NorCal High School Cycling League, whose mission is to “provide quality mountain biking programs for students in grades 9 to 12.” They offer educational and athletic opportunities through skills clinics, NICA-sponsored races, and more! For those that live in Cali, check out their 2017 list of events, here.

For those that live in one of the other 49 states, be sure to check out the options available in your region! For starters, here is a link to NICA’s mountain bike leagues.

They can put their energy to use and do better in school.

Participating in physical activity (PA) has been shown to boost academic performance. In 1999, researchers investigated the affects of a 2-year physical education (PE) interventionon standardized academic test scores in 759 elementary school children. They found significant improvements in language, reading, and basic battery scores when compared to children that did not receive the intervention.

Fast-forward to a 2011 study that conducted an analysis of existing research on the same topic – the effects of PA on academic performance. After reviewing 251 associative analyses, they determined that 50.1% of the studies found positive correlations between PA and kids’ performance in school, and the other half showed no significant effect. Cool!!

What better way to bond with your kid than to mountain bike some sweet desert singletrack in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve? Enjoy every moment!

Mountain biking will instill kids with a healthy sense of adventure. Immerse them among the trees and mountains. Let them feel the wind and experience things they can’t get from video games and television. Currently, we are looking toward a future where the status of our promised lands, parks, and natural environment is in question. What better way to pay it forward than to raise your children with an appreciation for the outdoors – nurture those who will inevitably nurture nature?



5 Benefits of Youth Mountain Biking Programs

By Melissa Davidson



Cooney, G. M., Dwan, K., Greig, C. A., Lawlor, D. A., Rimer, J., Waugh, F. R., … & Mead, G. E. (2013). Exercise for depression. The cochrane library.

Kerr, J. H., & Mackenzie, S. H. (2012). Multiple motives for participating in adventure sports. Psychology of sport and exercise13(5), 649-657.

National Institutes of Mental Health (2012). Depression and college students. NIH Publication No.12–4266. Retrieved from

Rasberry, C. N., Lee, S. M., Robin, L., Laris, B. A., Russell, L. A., Coyle, K. K., & Nihiser, A. J. (2011). The association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance: a systematic review of the literature. Preventive medicine52, S10-S20.

Sallis, J. F., McKenzie, T. L., Kolody, B., Lewis, M., Marshall, S., & Rosengard, P. (1999). Effects of health-related physical education on academic achievement: Project SPARK. Research quarterly for exercise and sport70(2), 127-134.








Freedom Riders Summer Camp is Almost Here!

I am so excited to start our first session this summer!  The Granite Bay Trails look more beautiful than ever with all the rain we got this past season.  The dirt is perfect for gripping those tires and the wild life is out there in full out for caterpillars crossing the trail every where!  Let's get out on the trail and experience the fun and beauty that Granite Bay offers!

Summer Session 1- July 10-14, Session 2- July 17-21, Session 3- July 24-28, and session 4-July 31- August 4

Check out this awesome article about how mountain biking is great for our youth. A lot of great reasons to get our kids on bikes! Why Mountain Biking is Good for Our Youth