5 Uncommon Tips and Tricks for a Most Excellent Weekend Bike Tour

Planning a mini-bike tour is a little like planning dinner – you want it to be great, but you also don’t want to stress out and worry too much about it. Often times, like a good meal, you can pull something together in a fairly short amount of time, with little effort. And like anything, with practice comes perfection, or darn near close. We’re sharing a few things that we’ve learned from our own experiences as well as from others getting after it.

Go Light: But Not Too Light

In our opinion, going light is good. Going so light that you are cold and starving is not so good. Seriously, do you want to eat energy bars for three days—breakfast, lunch and dinner—because you don’t want to bring a camp stove? If that’s your bag, then go for it, but consider bringing real food, real camp gear and real clothes. My weakness – UGG Boots. They’re lightweight and ultra-warm and perfect for dry, cold high desert nights in the backcountry when I’m sitting around camp.

Speaking of Food

Appetizers! Buy some and take them with you so when you get to camp or wherever you are laying your head to rest for the night, you’ve got a quick snack as soon as you stop. It also gives you a little sense of closure on the day. Our favorite appies include Sabritas Sal y Limon peanuts for the salt-lover (found at Mexican markets), peanut butter filled pretzels for the sweet AND salt lover (a.k.a. crack-in-a-bag) or beef jerky for the protein junky.

Be Flexible

So you have the most kick-ass route planned, but maybe you get out there an realize that: a) this is harder than I thought b) the weather forecast said “chance of showers”, not “deluge” or c) I’m just feeling a little more lazy than I hoped to feel. Create your route so you have Plan A and Plan B. If you don’t make Plan A to that sweet camp spot next to the free hot springs and taco stand, then maybe settle for Plan B, that sweet camp spot next to the little creek that you’ve always wanted to check out.

Take Your Kid(s)

No, really. What better thing to do with your kids than take them on an easy, close to home, mini-adventure on bikes? It can be done, you’ll just need to plan a little more and probably pack a little (or a lot) more. Maybe you don’t camp, but you stay in a cabin, B&B or even stay at your brother’s house in the next town over. The point is, bike touring with your kids can create lasting memories and inspire more adventures.

Take Your Dog

Don’t have the human variety of kids, but instead have the fur baby? We’re dog lovers, so we think life is pretty awesome with a dog. And our dog wants NOTHING more than to run around in the woods looking for sticks or swimming in a lake. There are several good blogs about bike touring with your pup, but our favorite is Long Haul Trekkers. Check them out!

Do you have any amazing or quirky tips for bike touring? We’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below to share!

Take Your Toddler on a Bike Tour

You’re a cyclist. You love your Wednesday evening rides with the buddies and you geek out on gear and maybe you’ve gone on a few bike tours in your lifetime. You’re also a Mom or a Dad, so you want to infect your kids with the joy of cycling that has made your life that much more wonderful.

The great thing is that it IS possible to take your toddler on a bike tour. It just takes a little planning and flexibility. Using a child specific trailer such as a Thule Chariot, Burley Bee or a Croozer allows you to bring your kiddo with you on the microadventure of your choice. We’ve pulled together 8 tips to successfully take your toddler with you on a bike touring adventure.

  1. Start Small. If you are a seasoned bike tourist, but new to bike touring with a kid, cut yourself some slack and start off with an easy trip. You just aren’t going to get in a 50 mile day—think more like 15 miles. You can even start by taking your child in the trailer and having a friend or spouse drive to the camp spot with the gear. This allows you to have a fun ride while not having to worry as much about the gear. Check out Adventure Cycling’s Bike Overnights or Alastair Humphrey’s Microadventures website for inspiration.
  2. Go light. This is a tricky one, especially when you think you might “need” everything. Just bring the basics—camping and cooking gear, safety items and only the clothing that you’ll need. For multi-day tours, plan your route to hit civilization as much as possible so you can do laundry and resupply whenever possible.
  3. Choose quiet routes. Your lunchtime road biking hammerfest might not be the optimal route. Look for a route that includes bike paths or quiet country roads. And don’t forget that gravel and dirt roads provide some of the best scenery and solitude. Just watch for rough tread or heavily washboarded roads—remember you have a passenger behind you!
  4. It’s the journey, not the destination. What we mean is—take breaks! Time off the bike is just as important as time on the bike. Kids can’t sit for hours on end, so try to take a break every 15 minutes, half hour or every hour, depending on how long your day will be. Go so far as to set your phone or watch on a timer so you make sure you stick to the plan.
  5. Transform the trailer into a home. If you rode in a little cocoon, wouldn’t you want to personalize it and make it into a cozy spot? For little ones, be sure to include their favorite stuffed animal or an extra pillow they can cozy up to. For older kids, add some coloring books and crayons. One cyclist I talked to used a mini-speaker and iPod to provide fun music for the ride.
  6. Stop and smell the roses—and the cows. Does your kid get excited to see a roadside cow or a red tailed hawk soaring high in the sky? Then pull those brakes, pull over and stop to check it out. Take this opportunity to bond with your kid, give an impromptu science lesson or just enjoy the wonders of the natural world.
  7. Snacks, snacks and snacks. Grab the gummies, juices and other favorite foods for your kiddo and be sure to stop often to snack. You’ll teach your mini-me about how to keep fueled while on a bike ride. And it’s a good excuse to stop and take a break and avoid any low blood sugar meltdowns. They happen to the best of us.
  8. Remember why YOU ride a bike. There’s a good chance it’s because it is FUN. So make sure that your mini-adventure is fun for you and your traveling companion. The more fun it is for your kids, the more they will want to go and continue cycling as they get older.

Need inspiration and additional tips?

Check out While Out Riding’s family outings. Cass Gilbert appears to be the master of bike touring with his son, both in the US and out of the country.

Traveling Two’s Friedel and Andrew are a Canadian couple who kept bike touring, even after the arrival of their two sons. Watch their video, 15 Ways to Entertain a Toddler on a Bike Tour.

Adventure Cycling ran a superb article in the May 2015 issue, Touring with A Toddler.

Have you bike toured with your little one? We’d love to hear your story and see photos! Share with us by sending photos to katy@robertaxleproject.com

 

Bring Your Kids Biking with a Robert Axle Thru Axle

The Kid Trailer Axles are easy to install and use, so you can bring your kids biking with you. Child carriers, such as Burley, Thule, Chariot, provide a great way to share your adventures with those you love. With our 12mm Thru Axles for Kid Trailers, you can attach “hitch style” trailer to any bike with a rear 12mm thru axle—mountain, road, fat, cross, e-bike and everything in between.

Our Kid Trailer Axles are designed for maximum strength and ease of use in attaching your trailer. The Robert Axle has a stainless steel 10x1mm threaded stud to attach the hitch supplied by your trailer manufacturer.


Breaking Axles Is Fun! (Also known as: Why “made in USA” matters to us)

Sure, there’s lots of talk (babble?) about “Made in USA”. It’s a complicated thing, we know. Affordability, quality, customer service, and practicality all come into play. Making our thru axles here, instead of China or Taiwan, is important to us because we can employ local skilled people and support our local economy.

We also like to be hands on—we prefer to oversee production on an almost daily basis, which we think is the real value in creating quality bike parts. From raw material, to finished and packaged goods, we handle all processes.

It’s a job we take seriously. Stuff needs to not break, and stuff on your bike needs to REALLY not break, especially when you are using it. Breaking parts on a bike ride, whether you’re out shredding singletrack, or taking your kids to the park, is not what we would call a good time.

We machine and assemble all our thru axles in Bend, Oregon. And with access to testing facilities, we are able to test our axles for different types of strength and loads. We test all of our thru axles in two ways:

Torque strength. Over the years, we have been keeping tabs on how our customers are installing their Robert Axles. Installation requires the user to torque the axle to a specific spec, so we test all axles for torque strength to make sure they are strong enough during installation.

Shear strength. This is the stuff that goes BOOM, the fun part. By testing shear strength, we test for catastrophic failure, and we ask: How much force would it take to suddenly shear this axle? Our goal, which we consistently reach, is to far exceed the shear strength of stock axles that come with bikes.

Watch the video below of how we break axles!


2017 CABDA Expo Recap

Thru axles, hot dogs and a friendly trade show atmosphere.

Last week, we spent a few days in St. Charles, Illinois (about 30 miles west of Chicago) at the 2017 CABDA Expo. We’ll be honest here. Trade shows are a mixed bag. They can be fun and interesting, but also tiring and frustrating. But the CABDA Expo was surprisingly different.

Let the record show – the 2017 CABDA Expo was a breath of fresh air and we can’t wait to go back next year.

Now, we don’t say this about every trade show, trust me. But the CABDA Expo really was one of the better shows that we have attended. And by the way, CABDA stands for the Chicagoland Area Bicycle Dealers Association. We like that – “Chicagoland” – like its an amusement park.

Unlike most of the other prominent bicycle industry trade shows, such as Sea Otter, Interbike and Eurobike, CABDA occurs at a time of year when suppliers and dealers can actually get away from their business or shop to attend the show. It’s pretty tough to get away in April, August and September. But in the case of CABDA, dealers from all over the Midwest can actually close their shop doors for two days to attend the show. And as a small supplier, it is definitely easier for us to step away from business for a handful of days in February rather than in the middle of summer.

The dealers that we talked to at our booth were very engaged and very interested in learning about this year’s products. That might have had to do with our display, which involved hot dogs. You see, we needed a clever way to display thru-axles and it turns out that a mini-mart style hot dog roller was just the ticket. We could display our axles and give away free, Chicago Style Hot Dogs to attendees. While we take our products very seriously, we try to not take ourselves too seriously.

In all seriousness, it was wonderful to talk one-on-one with Midwest dealers about all of our products, from our standard Kid Trailer Thru-Axles that allow attachment of trailers to our new Lightning Bolt-On replacement axles. We also garnered a ton of interest in our Trainer Axles. It’s a long cold winter in the Midwest and indoor trainers are one way to keep cyclists from going totally insane!

We’re back at it here at the shop, making axles and fulfilling orders, and some of us are craving a slice of Chicago style deep-dish pizza, but we’ll need to wait until next year when we return. A huge shout out to the CABDA folks, the attendees and the exhibitors for making it a wonderful two-day event!

CABDA Expo Robert Axle Project

Katy, Chris and Hunter show off some axles and hot dogs.

CABDA Expo hot dogs

Chris talks to a crowd of enthusiastic bike shop owners.

2017 CABDA

Thank you CABDA and we’ll see you next year!