Packing and planning for your family biking adventure

Get Ready and Go

Plan your route together

Route planning is a great opportunity to involve partners and older children as you get out the maps and plan the details of your ride. You can teach them how to read the map, talk about places to stop and what you will see along the way. Together, decide how you will get there, and what time you will need to leave. When children are involved in the planning they may be more committed to being ready to go on time!

How far?

Use your riding to date as a starting point and gradually increase it. Aim to cover no more than half of the distance you would ride if cycling alone.

Allow plenty of time.

If you can cycle it on your own in ten minutes then plan on it taking 30 with kids (at least). This allows time to stop and explore on the way, as well as frequent snack breaks.

Check the weather

A quick check of the weather forecast will help you decide when to ride and what to pack. Be mindful that weather can change and deteriorate quickly and be prepared.

Check your bikes

A pre-ride check is important, especially if you’ve not ridden your bikes lately. For children’s bikes, check saddle height and adjust for a child who has had a growth spurt. If you will be using a rack, check the nuts and bolts to make sure they have not worked loose. Make sure your ‘running repair’ gear  is packed on your bike so you can deal with punctures etc.

Pack your bags

As kids get older and more capable, they can carry more. Here are some suggestions of what to carry by age group.

Littlies Younger Kids Older Kids Teens and Adults
Own water bottle

Own sticking plasters (or something else light that makes them feel important and prepared for anything!)

Own water bottle

Own snacks*

Own water bottle

Own snacks

Own lunch

Own Rainjacket

Headtorch if needed for tunnels.

Own water

Spare water

Lunch for littlies and younger kids plus self

Own snacks

First Aid Kit

Rain Jackets and extra layers for littlies, youngsters and self

Headtorch if needed for tunnels.

Mobile phone

Maps and information

Spare tubes, pump and tools (if not already attached to bike)

If children are old enough to cycle ahead on their own, or may end up cycling with another family group, it is essential they are carrying their own food and water.

Food and Water

Eat often and well. Kids will need very frequent snack breaks, probably two or three times as many as you would think. Make sure the food available to them is nutritious and a good source of lasting energy. Think like you a feeding an olympic athlete. Sandwiches, bananas, muesli bars, apples, and crackers are great. And later in the day, throw in some lovely treats like biscuits, lollies and ice cream as some extra motivation when energy levels drop.

Tip for the grown ups: don’t snack whenever the kids do, or you’ll end up heavier despite the riding!

Have enough food and water so that you can cope if the plan comes unstuck. Boiled eggs, cans of tuna and extra sandwiches are all good back-ups to have on hand.

Water is the best source of hydration, so carry plenty. And since this is not a race or training session you won’t need sports drinks. Availability of water refill spots can be unpredictable so carry extra. Consider installing extra water bottle holders on adults bikes to carry spare water.

Experience: For all but the littlest, always carry your own water (and snacks), that way if you are separated from the rest of your party you won’t go without. We’ve ended up feeding other people’s kids when they’ve raced ahead of their parents who are carrying all the food! (another reason to carry plenty!).

Snack time – Central Otago

Aeroplane lollies help us fly!


In New Zealand, a country of extremes, weather can change quickly and dramatically. I’ve seen exposure/hypothermia in February, snow in January and torrential rain that had our tents floating in less than an hour! You can go from dusting the ice off your saddle in the morning to being sunburnt by lunchtime. So despite your best planning, chances are that the weather will throw something at you. Carry great quality rain jackets at all times, and consider carrying some warm layers as well.


Tip: Once kids bottoms hit the seat they want to go, go, GO! Make sure you get everything ready before you load and buckle them in, and don’t forget helmets on heads at all times.

Take your time

Many of New Zealand’s cycle trails pass through historical sites, stunning landscapes and interesting attractions. This is where you can remind yourself it is about the journey not the destination. Stop and explore, take time to see the world through a child’s eyes. Read the signs, play ‘Pooh sticks’ off the bridge, ride through the tunnel a few extra times, and explore side tracks. Ride quietly for a time and listen to/spot the wildlife. Plan to have all day to do your distance. Talk about what you are seeing: nature, history, geography. Tell family stories. Connect to the place you are in.

Top tips for making it enjoyable

Activity If you are used to being physically active, you will enjoy your cycling adventure so much more. In preparation for longer outings, do some shorter rides with your kids. Cycling to school, the library or swimming pool are good options. Having a regular destination is great for kids, and then later you can use those distances as examples, e.g. “our lunch stop is as far away as a trip to school and back”.
Humour Bringing your sense of humour along is essential. Things don’t always go according to plan and it will help if you can relax and laugh about it. What a great life lesson!
Flexibility Remember they are kids. (Notice I did not say ‘just kids’ because there are times they will astound you with their capacity!) But as kids they have a lot going on in their bodies and minds (like growing!) and some days will be tougher than others. Your primary goal is to have fun, so go with the flow and adjust your plans as needed. And never underestimate the power of a hug and some empathy, because yes! you know this is tough for them right now.
Distraction Kids struggle with mind over matter, and sometimes need some help not to get caught up in ‘this is too hard’ thinking. We’ve found singing songs together works for my daughter, and for my son, storytelling works magic. Now he is older he tells the stories, and our ears get more worn out that our legs! Find out what works for your kids to get their heads in the right place.
Treats Many would call me a food Nazi – my kids eat healthy and I’m really proud of that. BUT, lollies and treats have their place and what better place than a day when you are expending heaps of energy and stretching your personal limits. So pack the favourites and ration them out. Motivation, bribery, whatever! Sadly for me (the chocoholic!), chocolate is not a great option – unless you like it liquid.
Make memories Your kids love you! You are their rock. Here is a chance to be together and create some amazing family memories. Take photos. Chill out. Be there.

You are the coach, the mentor, the entertainer, and the cheer-squad.

Toilets Skip this one if you are a sensitive soul. However for the rest of us, needing the toilet is a fact of life. Food and water in…. something must come out. So if you are lucky, your bodily functions will coincide with the provision of lovely public facilities. But be prepared for the reality of the great outdoors and carry toilet paper, a plastic bag to put your used paper in (yes really, as who wants to stumble across someone else’s used loo paper!!!) and some of that waterless hand sanitizing stuff. For older females, try a she-wee, they rock!

A well deserved rest on the trail.

Cycling with other families

Sharing your adventure with another family makes a huge difference to how much your kids enjoy the experience, and how far they can go! Never under-estimate the power of distraction (and peer pressure)! It also means they have someone to play with at the end of the day when bikes need to be loaded or meals prepared. You’ll enjoy some adult conversation too!

Tip: Arrange regrouping points if your group are splitting up, and ensure everyone rides within eyeshot and earshot of at least one other person.

It also takes the pressure off hosting playdates and BBQs and means you can leave the house in a mess a bit longer! If you are new to your area and don’t know other families, you could check out clubs and advocacy groups in your area or try on-line sites such as or Some tramping clubs organise cycling outings for member families (and potential members!).

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The girls chat whilst their dads do the work!

Lunch break with friends

Further Information


Kennett, Jonathan — Classic New Zealand cycle trails : a guide to 46 fantastic holidays / [writing, Jonathan Kennett] — Third edition. — Wellington, New Zealand : Kennett Brothers, 2015. — ©2015

Kennett, Jonathan — Hawke’s Bay’s best bike rides : easy trails, road rides and mountain bike rides / the Kennett Brothers [Jonathan and Paul Kennett]. — Wellington, [N.Z.] : Kennett Brothers, c2012.

Andrews, Peter — Otago Rail Trail guide book : a comprehensive pictorial guide to travelling to Otago Central Rail Trail / photographer, Peter Andrews ; editor, John Gillespie. — 3rd ed. — Ranfurly, N.Z. :, 2009 [i.e. 2011]

Kennett Brothers — Queenstown & Central Otago best bike rides : 18 great rides : easy trails, road rides and mountain bike tracks / Kennett Brothers ; [compiled by Milica Legetich] — Wellington : The Kennett Brothers, 2013.

Brothers, Kennett — Short Easy Bike Rides / Kennett Brothers — Wellington : Kennett Brothers Limited , 2015

Kennett, Jonathan — Wellington’s best bike rides : 60 mountain bike tracks and 10 best road rides / [by Jonathan Kennett and Paul Kennett]. — Wellington [N.Z.] : Kennett Brothers, c2009.


Places to ride

Discover Nga Haerenga, the New Zealand Cycle Trail.

NZ Cycle Trail Guide eBook.

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