Father of a keen young cyclist needs advice

Sep 21, 2009
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My son is 11 and is a very keen cyclist. He has taken part in a number of 15k MTB races, placing very well for his age. Last week we took part in a 30k MTB race for the first time. It didn't have any serious climbs and wasn't very technical. He finished better than halfway in the field with a time of 1h41. Yesterday we did a 900m, 12 km climb near our home, which he managed without any fuss. He always rides in front, so he can set the pace and I follow. I never tell him to ride faster, I mostly end up telling him to pace himself.

My son is now keen to get a road bike and start joining my club rides, in fact after watching the TdF this year, he has decided he wants to be professional rider. I have tried to put it off for a few years, but both him and his mother think that I am holding him back for no good reason.

I know that he could finish a 100k road race already, but for me that's not the point. When he eventually rides 100ks I would like him to do very well. Even if that means doing shorter races till he turns 16.

My questions are, at 11 how far is too far? How much training should an 11 year old do anyway?( he plays rugby or cricket 3 times a week at school already)

Any other valid advice for a very enthusiastic young rider?
 
Aug 13, 2009
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Pegasus said:
My son is 11 and is a very keen cyclist. He has taken part in a number of 15k MTB races, placing very well for his age. Last week we took part in a 30k MTB race for the first time. It didn't have any serious climbs and wasn't very technical. He finished better than halfway in the field with a time of 1h41. Yesterday we did a 900m, 12 km climb near our home, which he managed without any fuss. He always rides in front, so he can set the pace and I follow. I never tell him to ride faster, I mostly end up telling him to pace himself.

My son is now keen to get a road bike and start joining my club rides, in fact after watching the TdF this year, he has decided he wants to be professional rider. I have tried to put it off for a few years, but both him and his mother think that I am holding him back for no good reason.

I know that he could finish a 100k road race already, but for me that's not the point. When he eventually rides 100ks I would like him to do very well. Even if that means doing shorter races till he turns 16.

My questions are, at 11 how far is too far? How much training should an 11 year old do anyway?( he plays rugby or cricket 3 times a week at school already)

Any other valid advice for a very enthusiastic young rider?

What country are you in? Most do not have 100km races for 11 year olds. The race distances will be age appropriate. I would Let him race in his age group races as this will teach him about the sport....but once he hits 13 give him room as he will find his own way.
 
Jun 19, 2009
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I know that he could finish a 100k road race already, but for me that's not the point. When he eventually rides 100ks I would like him to do very well. Even if that means doing shorter races till he turns 16.

My questions are, at 11 how far is too far? How much training should an 11 year old do anyway?( he plays rugby or cricket 3 times a week at school already)

Any other valid advice for a very enthusiastic young rider?[/QUOTE]

I'd encourage him to participate in as many sports as possible while he is still growing. The more friends he makes the more he will understand sport for what it should be and will remain active into his later years. You are right to be concerned about early exposure to long distances as he is too young to train for a competitive effort at 100km.
 
Jun 16, 2009
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Oldman said:
I know that he could finish a 100k road race already, but for me that's not the point. When he eventually rides 100ks I would like him to do very well. Even if that means doing shorter races till he turns 16.

My questions are, at 11 how far is too far? How much training should an 11 year old do anyway?( he plays rugby or cricket 3 times a week at school already)

Any other valid advice for a very enthusiastic young rider?

I'd encourage him to participate in as many sports as possible while he is still growing. The more friends he makes the more he will understand sport for what it should be and will remain active into his later years. You are right to be concerned about early exposure to long distances as he is too young to train for a competitive effort at 100km.[/QUOTE]

Agree with the comments about holding him to shorter races.

Back in NZ, Bike NZ (the official/UCI member national cycling body) uses two categories for kids - "novice" and "junior". Novices are up to 16 and juniors are 16 to 19. Races are limited according to what is thought to be good for the age - and in the case of novices there are even limits on the gears that can be used, in recognition that the riders are still growing. In Bike NZ races, you can't break this system and push a youngster into an adult race - which I think gives an indication of their "official view" on your question ...

I'm assuming that there'll be a similar type of system where you are. If not, at the very least there will be age group races - which will also shorten the distance based on age.

Don't try to push him on too far too fast. Cycling is a damn hard sport, and pushing him too hard is likely to result in injuries and is liable to put him off it completely. Add to that the fact that if he's riding the "local club big leagues", there's a chance that he's going to get exposed to some of the less pleasant tactics that happen in bike racing (eg., riding people into ditches and so forth) and it's not the best place to be ...

As for training - I'd be guessing, but I'd say no more than about 10 hours a week, spread across the whole week and including a maximum of a 2.5 - 3 hour ride as the absolute longest once he's built up to it. But check out with your local club and see who's able to give some coaching advice. If you do though, make sure that you monitor how your son's going - bike clubs the world over are littered with good juniors who have been burned out by "over-enthusiastic" coaches who push them too hard with outdated training ideas. (You'll know if you get one - you'll see it in your son's manner and energy levels.)

So, overall, let him enjoy riding as he is now - and if he's able to win some races and find that he does really well, then all the better for him. Big thing is (and I think I'm preaching to the choir on this one), he's a kid ... let him be a kid ... :)
 
Sep 11, 2009
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He is right 11 is very young. I don't think he needs a training schedule just yet. Just make sure he stays active.

In Canada, most of the top juniors that I used to ride with quit after 18 or 19 because they get burnt out. Lots of the riders I know that are still riding past that age were the ones who didn't go to worlds or Tour de l'Abitibi.
 
Jun 9, 2009
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I was a middle/high school track and cross country coach for about a decade. I had the opportunity to work with many kids about the same age as your son.

The best advice I could offer is to hire a coach to help you with all of your other decisions. It may (and should) take some shopping around to find a coach who would be a good fit for the needs of your son.

When your son gets his first road bike, a proper fit will be ultimately important. As he grows, the fit will change, so re-evaluations of the fit will also be important at least two times per year.
 
Jul 27, 2009
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A more general question - does fitness training as a young junior make any difference to athletic performance as an adult?
 
Jul 16, 2009
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Good man. better to get all the info possible and make your own decision- and u will get varied opinions here!

kids are amazing , can do eye opening things, but courage and determination and apparent ability need to be closely observed.

kids dont develop an efficient ability to metabolize sugars until after puberty so caution at all endurance events. for 11 -30 mins 'high' activity is loads.

anything that is 'heavy' including pressing large gears or climbing steep hills is also to be regulated. bones are fusing and for joints to develop smoothly this is also not recommended.

above all it must be fun. so many kids have come-overloaded and gone.
possible champs lost to playstation.

if is is always kept 'wanting more' he will come back.
 
Mar 10, 2009
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Coaches that work with youngsters are a good source of information regarding workload and ride time. Maybe if there is an exercise physiologist at a local university or college for advice too.
It is true that little league parents can kill the flame of enthusiasm and it doesn't look like you are that guy.
If he gets a road bike I'd change the big ring to a 48 or 46 and put on a junior gear cassette like a 14 - 26. That 1 thing will do more to protect his growing body than restriction on ride duration. Until he is about 18 the chain ring should never grow beyond a 52 and the cassette is good until then too.
Like everyone says, make sure he is trying everything and being active. Beyond getting a baseline for distance and time on the bike from a professional who is very familiar with the needs of growing bodies I'd pretty much allow him to feed his cycling passion. Obviously you want to nurture and not murder his desire to ride but within a healthy balance.
This is not like a skill sport like golf where young is great. At his age BMX and MTB are perfectly suited to young bodies. Road riding as we all know is the real thing but it is way more important to have fun at 11.
 
Mar 12, 2009
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My advice would be to sign hm up to a local cycling club. Where I live at least the local clubs are very supportive of junior riders and often have a variety of "paths" available. There is also a lot of exeperience in training (and dealing) with juniors. It also means they can ride, race and training with their peers.

Also, if possible, keep the range of cycling options as open as possible. Sample the lot, MTB, road, TTs, track, cyclo etc.
 
Jun 19, 2009
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the truth. said:
Good man. better to get all the info possible and make your own decision- and u will get varied opinions here!

kids are amazing , can do eye opening things, but courage and determination and apparent ability need to be closely observed.

kids dont develop an efficient ability to metabolize sugars until after puberty so caution at all endurance events. for 11 -30 mins 'high' activity is loads.

anything that is 'heavy' including pressing large gears or climbing steep hills is also to be regulated. bones are fusing and for joints to develop smoothly this is also not recommended.

above all it must be fun. so many kids have come-overloaded and gone.
possible champs lost to playstation.

if is is always kept 'wanting more' he will come back.

Best advice yet. These are the developing years for natural fast twitch, as well.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Get a Coach and have fun with him. The most important thing in his early development is to enjoy being active.

I would think fitness training as a jr would lead to a much better adult. Cyclist or otherwise.
 
Jul 9, 2009
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Skill acquisition should prob be #1 on the agenda. Riding several disciplines is a natural way to achieve this.