Cycle touring is an incredibly popular way to travel. Instead of driving or using public transport, you cycle to your destinations, making the journey a fun adventure instead of just a way to get from A to B. Cycle touring is great fun and excellent exercise, as well as a cheaper and more environmentally friendly way to travel. But, what about if you have kids? You might be tempted to avoid cycling long distances when your children are very young. But once they can ride comfortably, cycling touring with children can be a wonderful way to enjoy family vacations. Here are some tips for cycle touring with kids.
When you are travelling with kids, the last thing that you want is to be carrying large heavy bags, even if you are using pannier bags instead of a backpack. Try to pack as light as possible even for long distance cycle touring. This might mean that you avoid camping, and instead use hotels and B&Bs, especially while your children are young.
Bike rides rarely go entirely to plan, so to stay safe and moving you’ll need to be prepared for anything. Make sure you’ve got a light tool kit, a puncture repair kit, waterproof clothes, water bottles, and some cash, as well as your debit card and phone.
Ride as a Team
Making your children part of your team is a great way to keep them motivated and interested. If you just pull them along in a trailer, they’ll quickly lose interest. Instead, involve them in everything, including pitching the tent, taking photos along the way, and repairing punctures.
When your children are young, tandems can seem ideal. But a tandem forces them to pedal at the same pace as you, which can be difficult. For small children (up to around seven depending on height) a trailer can be a better option. They can pedal when they want to, but also rest with books, colouring, and a camera when they are tired. As they get older, they’ll find it easier on their own bike, as long as you let them set the pace for the trip.
Build Distance Slowly
Even when your children are in a trailer and not doing any physical work, being out for long periods can be tough. Build up distance slowly, perhaps with long cycles at the weekends in between adventures to help them get used to it.
Build Up Strength and Stamina
If your child is riding their own bike, they’ll need to build strength and stamina. They won’t do this if they only ride a couple of times a year when you have a trip planned. In between, keep cycling, enjoy family hikes, go swimming, and explore other exercises to keep them fit and strong.
Plan Your Routes Carefully
You might enjoy adventurous off-road routes with lots of challenges. But this will be too much for a child, and often impossible with a trailer. Instead, plan easier routes, sticking to roads and clear paths, while making sure there’s plenty of scenery and interesting places for rest breaks.
Cycle touring with children can be great fun, and an excellent way to see the world. But don’t feel like you have to do every tour together. Even as your children get older and become competent cyclists, there might be some longer or more dangerous trips that you should take alone, and that’s fine.