When we make the effort and take the time to go mountain biking with kids we want it to be a fun and enjoyable experience. To have a ‘great day’ on the bike there are simple things to think about, plan and do.
In this story I am going to introduce you to the idea of spending a ‘great day’ mountain biking with kids. In this particular case at the Craters of the Moon Mountain Bike Park, Taupo.
Craters of the Moon, Taupo Mountain Bike Park – A ‘great day’ mountain biking with kids.
Before riding in the mountain bike park you must be a Bike Taupo member, annual and visitor passes are available from Taupo cycling shops (Top Gear Cycles, Avantiplus Taupo), The Hub Kitchen Cafe, or online from Bike Taupo (see previous link). If you need to hire bikes see Avantiplus Taupo, Tread Routes, Top Gear Cycles or Pack & Pedal.
The ride needs to be doable for you and any riders you are biking with.
The length of this ride is entirely at your discretion you have approximately 50km of grade 2 to grade 5 single track to choose from. Most tracks are short and the carpark can be accessed fairly quickly with some good route planning. As the mountain bike park is located 10kms out of Taupo most people drive to the carpark, 500m off Wairakei Drive up Karapiti Road, and start their riding from there (see the Bike Taupo link above for a detailed map).
You can ride along the Waikato River trails and access the park in a couple of places (I rode track 2, Rotary Ride which is a green = beginner/easy, but please note it is a mountain bike track not a cruise along a river bank. Once I had rode it I decided it was too far and too difficult for my two children (7 & 10yr of age) because of the constant sharp up & down and loose gravel surface. Track 1, River Side may be a better option). As we were riding with the kids we drove to the carpark and rode in the easier, forested section next to the carpark for an hour. We then had lunch and rode in the area across the road, again for approximately an hour. Once we had returned to the carpark and had a chat with the chairman of Bike Taupo – a chance encounter as he collected donations from the box – we spent a further 30 mins on the bike skills track (see below for more details).
How much time do you have and how far should you go? Answer these questions then work out your start and end point – is it doable?
The beauty of most mountain bike parks is that they are well designed. So you will find that the beginner tracks are often short and loop you back close to the carpark so time and distance shouldn’t be an issue. Basic mountain biking skills will be needed but again the easiest tracks are well designed for beginners just be aware of other track users. The biking surface in mountain bike parks is varied but mainly compact dirt with a few gravel or pine needle sections and some tree roots to contend with. Taupo’s mountain bike park has a bike skills section which includes see saws, raised wooden structures, drop offs… is it doable?
We were on holiday so wanted to make the most of our limited time. This is why we made the decision to spend quite some time at the park. Our kids are also experienced riders. Our morning ride was predominantly flat with a few short rises. After lunch we climbed on an easy track to access the other side of the park, which has mixed level riding. Where you ride is totally dependant on your families or your skill level as long as you understand the signs/terminology (green tracks = beginner/easy, blue tracks = intermediate)… is it doable?
Remember the weather on the day will effect your ride. Most of this ride is in a covered forest but there are some exposed climbing sections so sun screen is recommended on hot days, jackets in rain/wind – is it doable?
It doesn’t matter what ride you are doing or where you are going, you want to feel comfortable. Check out the goRide guide How to have a “great day” on the bike for general information on how to make sure you are comfortable on the bike. As you expect the kids to ride greater distances or over multiple days you need to think about their comfort on their seat. Padded Bike Underwear – goUnders – provides protection and allows them to wear their favourite riding clothes – shorts, leggings etc – anything that stretches and allows movement.
Water – you will need enough to last the day, there is no access to water – camel packs for adults and/or waterbottles for kids. Also note that there are toilets at the carpark.
As you or the kids learn to mountain bike there is a chance for accidents – bike gloves, covered arms, covered legs, good helmets. Carry a basic first aid kit in your car incase patch ups are required.
Food – we not only carried food but had a picnic lunch packed in the car. The closest food option is Huka Falls Cafe or you may want to visit The Hub Kitchen Cafe before or after your ride as they are a supporter of Bike Taupo. If you’re not stopping for lunch it can be a good idea to have some food for the kids in the car, to start to replenish some energy or a plan to find the nearest ice cream shop once you’re finished riding!
It doesn’t matter what ride you are doing or where you are going, you want to feel safe. Check out the goRide guide How to have a “great day” on the bike for general information on how to make sure you are safe on the bike.
Maps – There is a map board at the carpark and but it’s always a good idea to carry a map the first few time you ride in a new environment. Forests can be very confusing to ride through and if there are lots of junctions you will soon get lost. Maps are available for $5 at local cycle shops, The Hub Kitchen Cafe or online. The Bike Skills section is not marked on the maps. You will find it on Track 31…SH Fun. Check over the board in the carpark as there are some route suggestions you may want to consider.
You – Am I safe to goRide? A checklist to complete that ensures you are safe to goRide.
Bike – goRide pre-ride bike safety check – is it safe? A simple checklist to complete pre-ride so that you know your bike is in working order.
If you have worked through the points above then you will be more likely to enjoy and have fun on your ride.
There is so much fun to be had on a bike – the pace you go, your closeness and connectedness with nature, your ease to detour from the trail…. I wonder what is around this corner, and your ability to stop and get off your bike means you get to discover all sorts of things along the way. Sometimes you will know about and plan to enjoy things and then there are those wonderful surprise discoveries.
Some things you could plan to discover at The Craters of the Moon Mountain Bike Park
- Bike Skills track (SH Fun – Track 31) behind carpark. The kids had a blast on this well thought out track (so did Dad). They rode over and off things that initially looked scary to them – what a great confidence boost. These types of bike skill obstacles create great learning environments – testing balance and decision making skills. The whole idea is to play around and get used to the feel of your bike and body moving together. Also to try things several times and watch what other people do.
- Let the kids read the map. Let them find the beginner tracks and work out what signs and names they should look for along the way. The signs in this mountain bike park are really well done so are perfect for those new to map reading and navigating through a forest – which can be very disorientating – every tree looks the same!Map Signs. Taupo. goRide
- Huka Falls…across Wairakei Drive… can be ridden to from the mountain bike park via an underpass…on Track 18, Tunnel Track.
- A picnic lunch under the cover of the trees. We found a spot off to the side of a track and munched on our lunch. The kids discovered what great water glasses oranges make…
Don’t just ‘do’ the ride, ‘be’ in the ride and I wonder what you will discover. (see Chi Riding – Tip 3 – Engaging the Senses)
Does the ride ‘fit’ with what you want to achieve? Mountain Biking in a safe, well maintained, purpose built area with up to 50kms of tracks. Excellent beginner level tracks aimed at kids and those new to off road riding. We had a really great day on our bikes as the kids enjoyed the sensation of zooming through the trees. The highlight for the kids was the challenge of the bike skills track. We also enjoyed all those good things you get from a bike ride, sunshine, fresh air, feeling healthier, feelings of achievement – you did it!
Here is the link to Bike Taupo where you will find the map and info outlining Craters of the Moon, Wairakei Forest.
Have you ridden at The Craters of the Moon – Taupo? Did you have a ‘great day’ on the bike?
What went well, what could you work on for next time? It’s all about taking steps and small gains… oh the places you’ll go, the things you will see.
Look out for the series A ‘great day’ on the Bike for some ideas of where you might choose to ride your bike, things to discover along the way, and riding snack options. We would love to hear about your ‘great day’ on the bike, so tell us where you went and why it was fun.
Thanks for reading. Used together our stories and resources support you to achieve and develop as a rider.
goRide is a shared journey, so we would like you to assist in guiding it along the way. Contact goRide. Your thoughts, comments or feedback are welcome. Thank you for being a part of the goRide way.