Top 5 Tips for Bicycle Touring with Children

a family bicycle touring during autumn

Here are my top 5 tips for bicycle touring with children. Remember, keeping your kids happy & safe is key to a memorable family bike tour. Here’s how you do it.

I don’t have any kids. While you might think this must leave me clueless on the topic of touring with children, my combination of biking knowledge and child psychology studies actually give me a bit of insight.

If you have kids, you obviously know them better than me, so take my tips at face value and always apply the preferences of your own kids to the general idea.

When I toured Georgia on BRAG, the family I was with consisted of a 12-year-old and a 9-year-old. We were definitely moving slower than some of the more experienced groups, but in my opinion we had a lot more fun.

Touring with kids can be a challenge, but it can also be endlessly rewarding with the right attitude.

If your whole family is about to tour for the first time or your little one is about to graduate from the baby bike trailer to the saddle, take the following into consideration.

My Top 5 Tips for Touring with Kids

The following insights are easy to forget, but remembering them with make the family bike tour more enjoyable for every member.

1. The Kids Set the Pace

A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link. Relax, I’m not calling your kid a weakling, but this philosophy totally applies to your family tour. Your child will have to set the pace.

Your family can only move as fast as your child. If you set the pace based on your own abilities, you’ll definitely loose your kid somewhere along the way.

Even if you keep tabs on him, he will be exhausted very quickly and you’ll have to take more breaks.

Try getting to know your child’s comfortable speed before the tour begins. Take casual rides with him in the park and measure how fast he goes. Then, when the tour begins you can set that pace without putting all attention on him, which could make him speed up.

Better yet, by learning your child’s pace early, you can set realistic goals for the journey and have a better idea of when you’ll reach certain landmarks.

Even if you have to figure out your kid’s pace as the tour begins, make sure you let him dictate the speed of the journey. This is the first step to an enjoyable tour.

2. Kids Aren’t Wired to “Go the Distance”

As an adult, you’re used to pushing yourself. You put in that extra hour at work to get the job done, you strain yourself those extra five minutes on the treadmill to burn more calories, and you keep yourself up just a little longer before bed to watch the end of the Daily Show.

Kids don’t think like that. When they get tired of something, they stop doing it. You need to keep this in mind when you’re planning your tour because they will need to take more breaks that you’d take yourself.

Unlike you, they won’t willingly “hold it” when nature calls, they won’t keep riding despite their exhaustion, and they won’t keep their complaints to themselves when they get hungry.

Put your pride aside for the family ride. It’s respectable that you can push yourself beyond your perceived limits, but your kid simply can’t.

3. They’ll Want to Look Around (And They Should)

Especially if you’ve traveled to a new or unique destination for your bike your, your kids will be thrilled to look around at the new environment.

This is a perfect learning opportunity, and you shouldn’t pass it up.

If a field of bleating sheep or a cavernous cliff catches your child’s attention, stop and explore. If you don’t account for some exploration on the tour with your children, you will miss out on a lot of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Children can get excited over the smallest events, so make sure you let that excitement reach its full potential. Their excitement might even rub off on you.

4. Make Bonding Your Goal

If you were touring by yourself, you’d probably set physical goals for yourself. You want to reach this location by this day in under these many hours. Much of touring is about beating your personal bests.

However, when you’re taking your children on the tour with you, don’t set these same goals. Instead, make the goal about the bonding experience.

Though the goal is abstract, something like, “I hope to become closer with my child by the end of this tour” is a better objective.

Your child won’t be a child for much longer. Take this opportunity to learn more about his or her personality while on the road.

If you’re a seasoned biker, you’ve probably realized that you start to bond with all the adults on your tour as the day goes by. The same will happen with your child, so ignore your “personal bests” for a few days and let the bonding happen naturally.

5. Kids Actually Enjoy Biking

Don’t you remember the feeling of being a kid on a bike? The wind rushing through your hair as you proudly picked up speed on your first two-wheeler, the novel freedom of going where you wanted without the help of your parents.

Kids love biking. Though you might like biking too, you probably have different reasons for liking it.

Part of my love for biking stems from the fact that it’s exercise. I love the feeling of having a great ride around the city while burning some calories and building muscle. It’s half actual enjoyment, half vanity.

Kids don’t care about the exercise, which can present both an advantage and a disadvantage to touring with them.

On the one hand, they won’t need any coaxing about getting up and going in the morning or after a break.

On the other hand, they won’t keep going because of a commitment to fitness. They’ll stop when they get bored, which if you have kids you know will be soon enough.

Kids aren’t committed to biking—they just like it. For that reason, they need constant stimulation. Make the tour fun by thinking of games for the road, or spark your child’s imagination by telling stories.

The best part about biking with your kids is that you’re forced to communicate. Neither of you can be distracted by technology, so use the opportunity to entertain your child with your own imagination.

By keeping these tips in mind, your kids will love the bike tour and you’ll have an opportunity to bond with them in a unique way.

To recap, you should make sure you

  • Let the kids set the pace
  • Give them the chance to take breaks
  • Let them look around and learn
  • Take the chance to bond with your kids on the road
  • Keep the experience enjoyable

Like I said, I toured with a nine year old in Georgia. Now, he has been touring on his own and actually trains in a league for kids his age. By bringing your kids on the tour with you, you will instill that same love for cycling that you have.

Additional Advice Around the Web

Here are some great articles from other bicycle tourers about touring with kids:

Do you have any more tips for keeping the kids happy on a bike tour? I’d love to hear about them!

About Leanne

Leanne is a writer and musician living in Boston. Her interest in cycling was born when she realized how convenient biking in the city was, and it has evolved from there. Whether biking down the street for dinner or across the city for band practice with a bass on her back, Leanne has become an avid urban biker.

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