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I recently took my first bike trip with my 13 yr old and 17 yr old sons. I learned a lot of things to do and a lot of things not to do.
I did not want anyone to suffer like I did from knowledge that no one told me. I decided to pour out all that I learned so that you can enjoy a successful overnight bike trip with our without your children. You can thank me later.
The Complete Guide To Bike Trips With or Without Children
Remember every little thing adds weight and added weight means more effort is needed with every pedal stroke.
Pack what you think is the bare minimum and then think through each item. Do you really need your make up? Do you really need the iPad? Do you really need hairspray? I am pretty sure you can live without these items for the sake of an easier ride.
Think about what you are going to pack it all in
Backpacks are okay if you don’t want to invest in biking travel gear. The draw backs are that they can lead to back and shoulder pain if you don’t listen to my tip on packing light. Another drawback of backpacks is back sweat that everyone around you will see when you take your pack off. However chances are other parts of you will be showing sweat circles as well.
The boys and I each carried a small backpack on our backs with most of our clothing items.
I invested in small handle bar bags for my boy to carry extra water, snacks and the oldest had his cell phone, should we somehow get separated. (the link goes to the exact bag the boys have and I love them they are a good quality inexpensive choice by Bell)
I bought an
inexpensive cheap larger handle bar bag for myself (different brand than the boys handle bags) since my backpack was smaller than theirs I needed a handlebar bag with more room. However the zipper on it busted on the trip causing me to have to repack all our belongings over our lunch break. NOT FUN.
Lesson learned sometimes it pays to invest in a higher quality product (link goes to one that I have my eyes on has great reviews but is 3x’s as much as the one that broke so it would be an investment). I suggest making do with what you have or can borrow for your first bike trip and then should you enjoy yourself and want to go on more consider researching and investing in better quality bike travel pieces.
Once you have your needed trip items pared down and have chosen your bags it is time to pack them. I love ziplock bags for packing.
First because you can fold up or roll up your items and then place them inside and scrunch out all the air making a shirt fit in a space that is ½ the size that it normally would fit in without a ziplock bag.
Second I love them because they make everything waterproof. You never know when a rain storm might come out of no where.
Due to the rain storm out of no where probability I ziplock more than just clothes. I also ziplock up cell phones. Nothing worse than digging through your bag in a rain storm for your cell phone only to discover it is in a pool of water in the bottom of the bag and now won’t work so you are not going to be able to call for a rescue ride.
Bring Adequate Water & A Small Snack
That Gas station you thought you could stop at along the way to purchase another bottle of water just might have closed down since you passed it last. You can live without food with little ill effects for days but on a hot day of biking you can suffer the effects of dehydration fast without adequate water.
I had my boys pack an extra bottle of water in their handlebar bags. My bike has two water bottle holders so I filled both. We were only going 30 miles or so and the temperatures were going to be mild that day.
If we were going further or the temperatures were going to be hotter I would have purchased the largest water bottles that would have fit in their water bottle cages and handlebar bags.
I also packed gummy worms and pretzels as a source of quick sugar carb energy . I don’t know if I really needed to do this but the marathon runner in me thought it would be a good idea and my boys loved it. However, don’t gorge on the candy as that will lead to tummy upset. I limited the boys to two gummy worms and a small handful of pretzels per hour of biking.
Other great snacks would include energy bars or trail mix. Just make sure that whatever you pack is not something new to you. You want to make sure that your stomach can easily digest it while being active.
Bring A Great Map
I learned this tip the hard way. I had a very hard to read, tiny map printed off the trail site. I did not know the area well and we ended up taking a wrong turn that cost us a full hour of extra biking.
My word of advice. Obtain a good back roads map and copy the area you want to ride. Highlight your route, but also pack a highlighter of a different color should you have to scribble in a new last minute route in case of road construction. Road construction and lack of a pen to mark out a new route is the reason I ended up taking us on a longer than needed detour.
Try to bike as much as possible on a bike path
We started our trip on a bike path and ended our trip on a bike path. However, the middle of our trip was on country roads and that is where we ran into trouble. Dogs chased us, cars got a little too close to us and wrong turns were taken.
The path portions however provided us with shade, a smooth ride, and the ability to bike side by side and talk along the way.
Know how to get to the hotels in the area you are heading to
Once again learn from my mistake. I knew the area that the hotels were in our destination town, but I didn’t bother to figure out a back roads way of getting to them before we left. Once we arrived I saw that the main road was just too busy for my boys cycling skills.
We traveled a few miles out of our way trying to figure out the safest back road route to the hotels wasting time and energy.
Bring bike locks for your stops
It only takes a few seconds to steal a parked bike. A simple cable lock, (link goes to the exact ones our family has used for years) that yes I know can be snipped easily with wire cutters, at the very least slows a bike thief down, but also lets face it, most bikes are taken because they were unlocked and easily accessible for a joy ride. If you lock yours up, chances are it will be there when you get out of the restaurant you stopped for lunch at instead of in whatever ditch the joy rider decided to dump it in after they were done riding.
Small coil bike locks are inexpensive and fit well in a small bike bags made to attach under your seat.
Go over the rules of group riding before you leave
Within one block of leaving I yelled to my son behind me stop at the next block only to have my other son who was third in line almost crash into the son behind me. I realized then that I had forgotten to explain the rules of group rides on open roads.
I quickly explained the rule of relaying the message given from the person in front of you to the person behind you.
I also reminded them that each person must always remain within easy shouting distance of the person in front of them but not so close that they don’t have time to break before crashing into them.
We also went over hand signals and what you do if a dog starts chasing you.
Don’t forget the sunscreen and sunglasses.
Arms back of neck, back of ears and face especially need to be protected for the hours that you will be out in the sun. Road glare is also very hard on the eyes so I recommend a good pair of no slip sunglasses for everyone (tifosi sunglasses are my favorites for biking and running, they stay in place amazingly well and don’t fog up)
Wear comfortable clothing
A bike trip is the perfect excuse to break out those elastic waist shorts that your hubby hates but are oh so comfortable (or is that just my husband). I would also recommend a dri-wick top which will absorb sweat without getting heavy.
I had my boys wear their basketball shorts and a t-shirt which is regular attire for them anyways but if you have a fashionista child make sure that what they wear will move with them and not get heavy or uncomfortable when wet with sweat.
Think about foot wear
Closed toed shoes are safest but at the absolute least make sure that your foot wear and that of your child’s has a back strap that holds the shoe tightly to the foot and good sole grips so that they don’t slip off the pedals easily. Flip flops are a no no for bike trips.
Consider a gel seat cover or padded shorts or both
Go a short distance your first time
The always loves a challenge part of me wanted to go for the gusto and take the local trail all the way to the end over 70 miles away.
Thankfully the practical side of me won and we went just over 30 miles away, which with the detours ended up being 40 miles on the way there and 30 on the way back.
Going a short way the first time will allow you to learn from your mistakes and set out on a longer distance with more expertise.
Leave The Cycle Computer At Home
Bike trips especially with children in tow are not races. They are meant to be slow leisure tips where you take in the surroundings and enjoy the conversations of your fellow bikers. If you have a cycle computer, leave it at home or at the very least track just the distance and avoid looking at the speed.
Plan to do nothing once you arrive at your destination
Make the hotel the destination, not a trip to the local fair after biking all day. The children will be tired, and more than likely perfectly happy to veg out in the room watching their favorite shows or taking a dip in the hotel pool.
And the rule that shouldn’t need to be said
Every rider young and old should wear a bicycle helmet (read the reviews on this model several riders report it saved their lives). The feeling of wind in your hair is over rated. Modern bicycle helmets come with wind vents anyways, and provide added safety that just might save your life or the life of your child should the unthinkable happen on a bike trip.
How about it bike enthusiasts did I cover it all? What did I miss?
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