Family Cycling Adventures
“As I get older, I get smaller. I see other parts of the world I didn’t see before. Other points of view. I see outside myself” Neil Young
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” Ernest Hemingway
My favourite way to travel is by bike. This applies even more to holidays as it does to errands around town. When I am travelling on my bike there is no metal and glass separating me from the world I am passing through. I get to smell it, feel it, taste it. I travel slower and it is easy for me to read the funny signs in a farmer’s paddock or stop and chat with the locals. I get to admire the view and be part of the landscape.
Cycle touring with kids takes this experience to a whole new level: I get the chance to see the world through their eyes, experience their wonder, ponder their questions and hear their theories of life. Instead of biking 50 – 100 km in a day, we leisurely meander 20 – 30 km in exquisite detail, with many a stop to relax, explore, play and refuel. We are not distracted by devices, audio or visual. We are just there, together, experiencing something wonderful. Even the tough days make for good stories to recount later, that get better and better with each retelling.
Your cycling adventure could be a day and a night, or multiple days and nights. There are many options to take but all have the same basic keys to success. Apply what you’ve learned from our earlier blog posts plus these adventure essentials:
Enthusiasm: Your super power
“The starting point of all achievement is desire.” Napoleon Hill
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
A cycling holiday is not the easy option and understandably you may be a little nervous about how this will work for your family and your children. Enthusiasm is contagious. You can catch your dose from reading or hearing about cycling holidays, and by addressing those niggling doubts and questions that may be holding you back.
What does your child get out of it?
- Time: together as a family.
- Brain boost: Developing brains thrive on being out in the world: new experiences, sights, smells, challenges, nature.
- Personal skills: The challenges and variety of cycle touring provide ample opportunities to foster independence, problem solving, confidence, outgoing and adaptability – highly valued traits. Frequently children are more adaptable than adults, so you may find yourselves learning from them!
- Imagination: Kids will play no matter what. Being away from home, toys, devices and more structured play will help them develop their imagination and ingenuity, as well as the social skills to meet and connect with other children.
- Language and learning: As you ride along, you can have wonderful conversations and learn a lot. Nature, history, geography, storytelling and maths learning opportunities will pop up.
- Wonderful life lessons: Learning to find pleasure in experiences rather than things, experiencing just how little we need to be content, discovering that deep joy that comes from connecting with others and experiencing the kindness of strangers.
Readiness: Getting the timing right
How old is old enough?
I’ve been on organised tours where toddlers were towed in trailers, over 10 days riding, sleeping in tents each night. That was our inspiration when, at seven months pregnant, we bought our cycle trailer. But it wasn’t until our children were older that we felt ready for touring with them. When to start touring with your kids will depend on you, your chosen destination and most importantly, your children. Considering their temperaments and personalities, and yours, you might choose to wait till they are older. Or you might be keen to go on that adventure whilst they can be harnessed-in and cannot verbalise their opinions!
True Story: We know of a family with a keen cycling Dad and three kids. Once they were in high school, each year he would take the kids cycle touring from Auckland to Wellington (or further!). Fast forward to their adult years: two of them will not get on a bicycle ever again, and one is a two times Iron Woman. Lesson: Know your kids and the difference between stretching them and putting them off for life!
- Do you have a sense of adventure?
- Can your children ride independently with confidence and skill? Or do you have child carrying devices you are comfortable with using?
- Are you reasonably fit?
- Have you completed some day rides and feel ready for the next challenge?
Options for the less keen (or able)
Do you have a partner or child who are less keen on this idea than the rest of the family, or who have some physical constraints? Some suggestions:
- They can be your support team. Using your own vehicle or a hired car / campervan, they can drop you at the start and meet up with you along the way, perhaps even cycling part of the way with you. They can help with: luggage and bike transfers, rests for tired riders, meals, etc; and they get to read a good book or two.
- Resistant older children could stay with another family, close friend or relative. Having this alternative, and the option to make their own independent choice, they may well choose to join the family adventure rather than be left behind.
- E-bikes. Electric bikes are a great option for the less able bodied, such as those recovering from or experiencing illness and injury. You may be able to hire one, although usually for adults only.
- Tandems. As well as being great fun, tandems are an excellent option for a rider who needs extra support and encouragement. Popular with visually impaired riders, they enable teamwork and mutual support.
- Adult trikes. A good option when balance is a problem and extra stability is needed.