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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org