I have always shared my passion of motorcycles with my kids. My intent early on was to expose them to my love for bikes, but then let them decide on their own if they wanted to pursue learning to ride. By proximity to dad, my son and daughter knew who Valentino Rossi was when they were just big enough to ride their little electric motorcycle in Germany. I successfully started them on skis when they were 6, then put them on electric motorcycles and go-karts at the same age, so the natural progression was then onto real motorcycles. They were excited to hear we were going to ride this summer, but under one condition - their numberplates had to be 46. My kids at 10 and 11 years old are just a little over 5-feet tall, so picking the right bike was going to be tough. Finding riding gear was my other worry, as they are both in that awkward growing zone between adult and children’s size clothes.
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What To Buy?
After moving back to the US I did my research on the different manufacturers and what they offered in the off-road motorcycle segment. I quickly realized buying a new or used bike sight unseen was not a good idea. It boiled down to actually getting the kids to sit on various motorcycles to find the correct size and see which made sense ergonomically.
I had my eye on a Yamaha TTR-110. I wanted the kids to be able to at least stand close to flat footed while straddling the bike. I also wanted an automatic clutch with a 4-stroke motor providing just enough power to be exciting, but not too much for them to handle. The Yamaha had all of the attributes I was looking for. The little 4-speed had plenty of power, and I could control the situation by setting the kids off in 3rd or 2nd gear where the bike was more than capable of motoring around without requiring shifting.
I realized that proper seat height is key when selecting a child’s motorcycle. Although small bikes can be easily ridden by taller kids, the trouble comes with a tall bike that is also more powerful than the child can handle. In hindsight I’m glad I didn’t go any bigger than the TTR-110. I opted for buying the right size bike for the moment, as growing into a larger bike is in my opinion not worth the risk. Fitted head to toe with riding gear, my kids got their first taste of rooster tails and sore legs over a 4-day weekend this summer in Virginia.
Explaining Basic Mechanics
It’s generally a good idea for new riders (regardless of age) to understand what machine is under their rump. With kids it’s even more important due to their lack of knowledge on mechanics and how motorcycles actually work. Locating the front brake, rear brake, choke and throttle are important and I started off having my kids recite the nomenclature of TTR-110 as they pointed to each part on the bike. I Covered how to pull the brake lever, turn the throttle, and use the foot controls while moving and from a stand still. I even explained in the simplest terms how the motorcycle’s engine, brakes, gears, and chain worked in comparison to their bicycles. Using the gear shift lever became a hurdle for the kids due to the size of their boots, but after some time they worked around the problem. Once I was happy with their grasp of motorcycle controls, it was off to a flat dirt track.
Teaching Basic Skills
I covered the main elements - looking through the corner, keeping your head up, correct body position, moving their body weight, keeping their elbows out, and the cornering process from beginning to end. “It’s like snowboarding but on the dirt”, my daughter giggled. Her enthusiasm was a good sign that she was catching on and becoming comfortable on the bike. At first the kids were not accustomed to the bike moving beneath them, but as they put in the laps I could see the light bulbs eventually turn on. To everyone’s delight, letting the rear tire spin to help steer them out of corners eventually became their favorite part of riding. At one point I heard my daughter scream, “This is more fun than riding horses!” Chalk up a win for dad.
For the most part my kids caught on to the basics very quickly, and within hours of riding on the dirt they both wanted more speed. With added speed they started to lose the front, spin out hard on the throttle, and ended up dropping the bike on occasion. This was good however, as it forced them pick up the bike, troubleshoot, find solutions, then get back on the bike and keep going. I helped them reason through each mistake they made and then how to learn from the experience. Fortunately, the dirt track we were all riding on was forgiving and easy enough to negotiate for beginners. Over the long riding weekend the kids shared time between the Yamaha TTR-110 and a smaller TTR-50E. Comparing both bikes, the larger TTR-110 was not only easier for them to ride, but provided just enough power to keep them entertained. Starting on an auto clutch was a good choice, but I can see that next year we will need taller bikes and an introduction to manual clutches.
I discovered that riding with my kids was very fulfilling, but nerve- wracking at the same time. Watching my little ones riding to the edge of their skill level kept me on my toes. At the same time the kids had a blast, learned valuable lessons, gained experience, and felt like they were right in the mix with dad and his crew of grown up motorcycle junkies.
Bottom line - If motorbikes are a way of life, then sharing it with your kids makes life that much better. #dadgoals
TTR-110 Quick Specifications
• Electric start
• 26.4-inch seat height
• 4 speed auto-clutch
• 159 lbs. wet weight
• 4- stroke single, cylinder motor
• MSRP: $2,400
Memories – A ‘kid’ looks back 40 years.
Carson Pickens shared this story about receiving his first bike.
My first real taste of freedom came on Christmas day 1978 in the form of an XR 75. There were countless places to ride right outside our backdoor and that's what I did practically every day. I have owned many motorcycles since then and feel confident nothing will ever be as exciting as that awesome first machine!
After looking for many years I finally found a 1974 XR just like the one I had, so I talked my father into riding with me to North Tennessee to pick it up. The bike sits in the corner of my storage shed every time I see it I'm reminded of so many great memories of riding with family and friends.
Justin Mendenhall (@DesmoHolic) is a fanatic of two-wheel transportation. Over the past few years, he has traveled, ridden and raced around Europe, taking photos along the way. He currently writes for Fast Bikes magazine in the U.K. and in the past has written for Road Racing World, Super Street Bike Magazine and RideApart.
Suggested vendor: Ryders Alley United
In Motos we trust
This isn’t a garage, its a community. Ryders Alley is primarily about building a community of people who share a passion for motorcycles. A haven for gear-heads with indoor access to a safe, clean workspace. A lounge with couches, a projector and movie screen host all Motorcycle races. We screen the distinguished MotoGP series and others. We get city folk out to the track, trails, ice and motocross. Ryders Alley is a dream come true. It has taken a lot of work and is a work in progress/evolution. I’ve had a lot help from friends. My inspiration came from NYC’s original RISING WOLF founded and owned by Michael & Nuri Wernick. Demian Neufeld founder/owner Ryders Alley