A fun-filled mountain bike experience for kids

“Just do the gorilla and everything will be fine!”

Anna Schütz, translated by Jessica Schewel
  • Kids testen MTB im Harz 6 (Foto: Anna Schütz)
  • Kids testen MTB im Harz 3 (Foto: Anna Schütz)
  • Kids testen MTB im Harz 5 (Foto: Anna Schütz)
  • Kids testen MTB im Harz 1 (Foto: Anna Schütz)
  • Kids testen MTB im Harz 2 (Foto: Anna Schütz)
  • Kids testen MTB im Harz 4 (Foto: Anna Schütz)

“Do the gorilla!” Thorsten Juraschka shouts to the kids as they cycle round and round the huge gravel car park in Sankt Andreasberg. The four young cyclists all rise from their saddles at the same time and stand on the pedals of their bikes with their knees bent. Like a gorilla ready to attack, they push their elbows out to the side. Their trainer Juraschka then asks each individual child to slowly roll past him. Before he embarks on the trails with the kids, there's a lot that still needs to be done.

They can't just hop on their bikes and off they go? No chance: a cool bike and a helmet are most definitely not enough. Although children are able to quickly and intuitively learn new series of movements, it makes sense to professionally train their cycling technique. The perfect place to do so: Trailtech in Sankt Andreasberg. The mountain biking school not only offers guided tours and cycling technique training for adults, but also courses for children, in which they learn the basics for safe and smooth cycling while having plenty of fun. “The first thing on the agenda is always the bike check”, explains 39-year-old Juraschka at the start of the course, after using tape to attach the protectors to the children's legs. Are the handlebars and saddle secure, are the brakes stable and do the tyres have the right air pressure? Does the chain run smoothly when back-pedalling and does the suspension absorb shock? Thorsten Juraschka, who has two kids of his own, calmly shows the children how to examine their bikes. The fact that he can already name each individual child creates a sense of closeness and trust and is all down to one simple yet effective trick: when they introduce themselves, each child has to name a favourite food that starts with the same letter as their name. The trainer therefore examines Fanta Fabia's tyre pressure and checks Toblerone Theo's brakes. Once the checks are complete, the kids are allowed to get on their bikes and cycle around like gorillas. They stand up with the saddle clasped between their thighs: “This lets you have much more control of your bike – it's not like sitting at home on the sofa!” laughs the mountain biker. They need to keep their pedals parallel to the ground, occasionally stand up and stretch their legs, keep one or two fingers on the brakes, put no weight on the handlebars, keep their heels deep and place the balls of their feet in the middle of the pedals – as you can see, there's plenty to bear in mind when mountain biking. And that's only part of it; they also need to learn how to brake: “Otherwise you'll go flying over the handlebars or skid out of the curve!” That is certainly not what we want to happen – not here in the gravel car park and, of course, definitely not on the trails leading down the mountain. The children therefore have to take care when using their front and back brakes: “A little bit more at the front than at the back”, shouts Juraschka. And given that when working with kids, the focus shouldn't just be placed on the exercise and sports-related aspects, but also, and in particular, the opportunity to experience nature, the beginners also learn that they shouldn't brake when riding over roots but should be sure to brake before or after them so that they don't destroy them.

After their introductory lesson, it's time for the kids to head to the chair lift. Thankfully there's someone there to help them suspend the bikes in the lift and, more importantly, to take the bikes off the lift and put them on the ground once they've reached the top. “Let's go!” calls Juraschka, “The first dirt mound is waiting for you over there! You need to swallow it up!” In concrete terms, this means that the children need to curl up tight on the mound, relax their arms and absorb the terrain. And then do it all over again. All of the kids are highly concentrated and fully focused on the task at hand, so much so that's it almost unbelievable that these are the same children that may very well disturb lessons at school! It's then time for the group to approach the next obstacle; “Stop!” cries Thorsten Juraschka before explaining what they need to do, “You cycle towards a step in the basic position. Just before you reach the edge, bend your arms and as soon as your front wheel hits the step, push it into the step.” This is no sooner said than done and all of the kids remain safely on their bikes with a huge smile on their face.

After successfully tackling this obstacle, the little racers are finally allowed on the downhill trails. The 'gorillas' cruise over the meadows and the trails covered in roots, master all the curves and arrive at the bottom before heading straight for the chair lift to start the fun all over again. Towards the end of the session, one of the kids does indeed fall off their bike. In a rather spectacular incident, Edam Emil goes flying over a root on his bike, remains on the ground for a short time and then bravely gets back up. His trainer quickly checks him over and then says; “You'll fall a lot harder than that in other places. It doesn't get softer than the soil of the Harz forest.” If you're going to fall off your bike, the Harz is the place to do it...

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