One fine summer morning on our family vacation, we planned to go out on our first official biking trip as a family. We decided to ride along the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Massachusetts. The plan was to ride and then have a picnic by the water and spend the day just chilling. But as a parent, I can say things go south of what you think, always.
For example, as soon as we started the ride, my youngest declared she had to go to the loo. Things did not end there, we had to make multiple stops along the way, and by the time we reached our destination, we were simply too tired to enjoy anything. We were simply not prepared!
The mistake we made on our end was to expect that our kids can take bike rides just as adults. We did not plan and as a result, we had to face the consequences all day long. It would be an understatement to say that my family bike tour turned out to be an absolute nightmare because of the fact that I was totally unaware of how to handle kids on such an excursion.
The result? Well, the road trip turned out to be a complete and utter failure. It was a frustrating and tiring experience for all of us because I had no idea how to make it entertaining and enjoyable for the kids while keeping them safe. We had to pull over several times for bathroom breaks, and the whole while I was on edge from worrying about the kids.
The only time I breathed in relief was when we reached back home and I swore to myself that I would never step out on my bike again with the kids. But all this changed when I applied a few simple tips and tricks. Trust me, When you put them into practice, you will have a completely new experience.
Tips To Make Your Trip Memorable
Bike touring with kids is not an easy job, but you can make it smooth to make sure that everyone enjoys the day. When traveling with kids, it’s important to make sure that the whole family has a good time. Dig in to know all the details that will make your trip is memorable!
1. Plan It Out
Instead of trying to get your kids excited about the trip by talking about how far you’ll ride, focus on what you’ll do on the way or when you get there. What you need to understand is that the brain of children is wired differently.
They have a fresh perspective on everything. Their motivators are absolutely different than those of adults. Adults are often driven by how many miles they can bike in a day, but kids are more interested in playgrounds, swimming holes, wildlife, and ice cream shops. Find out what makes your child happy and plan the trip around that. Riding a bike is just the way to get to the fun.
Plan The Route
It is also helpful to take routes that have less traffic or are not busy roads. You can cycle freely without worrying too much. Another option is to choose a route with bike paths. Having bike trailers is also necessary, which should add to your child’s comfort during these trips.
2. Set Goals
Set a clear goal for each trip. This will help you figure out how well you did. It’s important to trust your children. Think that they will be able to meet the challenge and get through any problems that come up on the trail. They will surprise you, and they will also surprise themselves.
If your kid is having trouble staying on the bike, try encouraging them with tiny goals and enjoyable rewards. Try telling them you’ll stop for a snack when you get to the next stop or something along those lines.
3. Respect Their Limits
While setting your goals, you have to understand that your kids will have limits different than yours. They will definitely need more stops than you and they might not be comfortable taking the long routes.
Try to accommodate them as much as you can without pushing their limits. Gradually add miles. This will allow your child to get used to longer routes while not taking a toll on their bodies.
If you want to spend the night away from home, don’t choose a place that is too far away or has a lot of hills to ride up. Plan to ride just a few easy miles instead. Using what you learned on the first trip, you can probably add a few more miles to the next one and your child won’t even notice. With each ride, you’ll learn what your child can do and how many miles are best for you both.
4. Carry Snacks
Food can do a lot to make people feel better and give them more energy, especially if you have a cranky, tired child who doesn’t want to go any further. Bring foods that you and your child know you both like.
The most important rule I have for bike touring is to eat. Don’t wait until you’re hungry or thirsty to eat or drink. Kids need to be reminded, but they also need good snacks and places to put them.
Carry The Favorite Snacks
You can carry your family favorites. We like to eat a lot of fresh fruit, food bars, and crackers. Handlebar bags are a great way to keep snacks close at hand and easy to get to. Try to avoid trying out new foods on a long bike tour as it can upset your stomach and you never know how the kids will react.
It might not be the best time to test things. You can even carry some comfort food as a treat.
5. Carry Backup!
Well, with kids, especially toddlers, you can never carry enough! If you have a toddler you can definitely relate to what I am talking about. Don’t forget to pack all of your kid’s bike gear along with a pair of extra clothing just in case.
Unless you’re riding with a teenager who is strong enough to carry weight on their bike, you should plan to pack almost all of your child’s clothes and gear in your bags. But you can pack a snack or two in the bag of your little one and see them walk proudly to their bike. After all, it’s these moments that we look forward to the most!
6. Select The Right Equipment
Having the right gear can make all the difference between good memories and bad ones. If you plan on staying outdoors for the night, make sure you have the right camping gear. Everyone should have a good raincoat and rain pants. Avoid things that can break easily.
What I learned from experience ( a pretty drenched in rain experience) is that clothes that dry quickly are great for staying comfortable. Most of our shirts and shorts are made of poly or poly-blend, so they dry quickly. Try to steer clear of cotton because it takes a lot of time to dry. You can pack some sleeping bags for everyone too. Did you know that there are sleeping bags just for babies?
Kid’s Bike Seats
There is a whole world of child bike seats or bike trailers as well as kid’s bikes out there you can choose from for little ones who cannot ride their own bikes yet. Don’t worry, you won’t have to scroll looking for information on the best kid’s bike seat because we have got you covered. You can even go with a bike trailer if you are not comfortable with a bike seat. Choose whatever your kids feel most comfortable with.
7. Get Your Kids Comfortable With Camping First
If your backyard is big enough for a tent, you can set up a campsite and then go for a short bike ride close to your home. When you get home, go to your tent and hang out there like you would if you were at a campground. Kids learn things at their own pace, it’s never a good idea to rush them.
Don’t use the house for anything else besides the bathroom. This can be a good way to try out things and show your child what bike tours are like in a gentle way.
9. Do Not Skip Naps
Do not, I repeat, do not skip naps. The pleasure will only be short-lived and you will regret it the most at the end of the day. Also, do not mess with the sleep routine.
The more you stick to your routine, the more comfortable your child will feel. Read books, sing songs, and do whatever else you usually do to help your child relax.
10. End On A Good Note
Instead of focusing on all that went wrong, try to encourage all the things your child did. This will give them the confidence to try out the adventure with you again. Ask them what they liked most about the day and what they did not enjoy or would have liked to change.
Spend some time together after the trip to talk about what went well and what didn’t. Don’t ignore the fact that you and/or your child had a hard or scary time. Talking about the problems and the good things and how you dealt with them will help make better decisions in the future.
When Can You Start Bike Touring With Kids
This really depends on your comfort. Some parents are ready to go as soon as their toddler is old enough to wear a helmet and ride in a trailer. This is usually around 12 months old (read more in our article about cycling with young kids), but you should talk to your pediatrician before taking your young child on a bike ride. Whether you are taking the kid on your bike or they are riding solo, the guidelines for both remain the same.
When you take toddlers and young kids who can’t ride their own bikes yet, you need to think about their needs, especially when they need to go to the bathroom, sleep in a tent, or eat. Also, you need to be able to pull not only the child but also all of their clothes and gear, which can add up to a lot of weight.
When taking kids who can ride their own bikes or pedal a tandem bike, the trip may be easier in some ways because you don’t have to worry about a toddler or young child. And things will start to feel more like a typical bike tour, with each rider on their own bike (though you will probably still be carrying most of your child’s clothes and gear). For younger kids’ bikes, make sure to double-check everything before leaving the house. You can also try bike rentals to test out if your kiddo is ready to take on their own bike.
But you will need to be honest about how far your child can ride their bike on their own. In some cases, you may end up planning shorter rides than you would if they were in a trailer.
Watch: Cycling With A Family- How To Get The Most From Bike Rides With Your Kids
Cycling with family is an amazing opportunity to have some fun, although it can also be an educational experience for you and your partner/spouse. Watch this amazing video from the Global Cycling Network where they show how to have an amazing cycling trip with your family!
Bike trips with kids can be a fun and educational experience if you follow these guidelines. Be sure to think things through, keep safety in mind, and be prepared for anything. Bring some games and activities, as well as lots of food and drink, to keep them occupied.
But don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Taking your family on a vacation on two wheels can be a wonderful way to spend quality time together and make memories you’ll cherish forever. Take in the beautiful surroundings while spending quality time with loved ones.
Would you also like to know about the most bike-friendly cities in the United States where you can enjoy bicycle touring with your family? Do let us know in the comments.