More Tips for a Successful Family Cycling Adventure

More Tips for a Successful Family Cycling Adventure


“All progress takes place outside the comfort zone.” Michael John Bobak

Prepare to be amazed. Your kids can do more than you think, and you can cope with the unexpected (and tell funny stories about it later!) Your kids will be looking to you, so show them how it is done. When the going gets tough, fake it till you make it. Remember you are ‘coach’ not ‘sergeant major’ (although hamming up the latter can be rather fun!). Gentle encouragement, celebration of achievements and the magic of distraction are some of the powerful tools at your disposal. If you have a sporting or race background, remind yourself that this is about the journey, not the destination, and certainly not about how fast you do it.

Sibling rivalry

Occasionally this can work for you but, like a force of nature, it is difficult to harness and control, so my advice is: don’t go there! Instead, focus on your shared goal: to have a fun time and get to your destination safely and happily. How you support each child to achieve this outcome will differ according to their individual needs.

Tip: “It’s not fair”. If one complains that something is not fair, remind them of your shared goal, and that you are helping each of them achieve it in the way that is right for them. e.g. “We all want to cycle to the end and have an ice cream. Right now your sister needs my help to get there, just like you needed my help with your backpack yesterday”

Go with the flow

Even the best laid plans go awry sometimes. Weather problems, injuries, mechanical breakdowns. Be prepared to be flexible. That might mean catching a lift to your next destination, or taking an unplanned rest day. We want our kids to be resilient, flexible problem solvers and each problem along the way is an opportunity to model those qualities.

Experience: On the Otago Central Rail Trail we encountered freakishly high winds (the type that make news headlines). At the highest point of the trail we were blown off our bikes. Taking shelter at a nearby pub we tended to a few bumps and bruises. We ate an early lunch, hoping to wait out the worst of the wind and continue on our way. However the wind showed no signs of dropping.

When the chef at the pub kindly offered us a lift, it was a tough decision to make. On one hand we really wanted to ride the whole trail, but on the other hand we wanted our kids to be safe and have really great memories. In the end we split the group, with the stronger riders going on and the rest of us catching a lift. It was a pity to miss some of the ride (especially when we found out the others had caught a tailwind and flown along hardly peddling) but we were glad we put safety first. And we had a lovely tale to tell: how a complete stranger had gone out of his way to help us out of a tricky situation.


Eat, Sleep & Rest

Think of your kids as little athletes. Despite the novelty of being on holiday, your little athletes need their sleep and lots of it. If you adopt a holiday ‘anything-goes’ approach to bedtime, they will get very tired and the wheels may fall off (and I’m not talking about the bike!). You will probably want to go to bed early too!

A recumbent half-bike or trailer allows the littlies to have a sleep along the way. Lucky them! Consider packing eye-shades and ear plugs

Morning Routine

On the trail ensure everyone has a job to do in the morning:

  • Pack snacks, lunch and water.
  • Check the weather and pack appropriate clothing and sun protection
  • Check your bikes
  • Have your bags packed and ready for collection or loading
  • Check your accommodation to make sure nothing is left behind

Making Memories

It is fun to look back on your adventure and to share it with others. Some of the ways we have done this include:

  • Travel diaries. We’ve made travel diaries for the kids to record details of their trip. For littlies these were pretty structured with drawing/writing prompts – what did they see? how far did we cycle? What happened? Etc, plus spaces for stickers earned. Now they’re older, they bring an exercise book and make their own record. Bring some glue or tape if your kids like to stick in tickets, postcards, etc.
  • Photographs. We always take lots of photos on our travel and like to turn them into a photobook. We include funny stories, what we saw, where we visited, how far we went each day and route maps.
  • Social media. Posting photos of our most recent trip on social media has inspired friends and family to ‘follow in our tyre tracks’. We enjoyed reading their comments and reactions to our stories from the trail.

Max’s travel journal picture. Injuries and weather being his focus.

RailTrail Passport, in which you collect stamps as you go along the trail.

Stamping the passport.


Completing your adventure is a major accomplishment: take time to celebrate. After our Otago Central Rail Trail adventure, we had a medal ceremony. Each rider was presented with a homemade medal that celebrated a particular aspect of their effort, such as how they encouraged others or sang along the way. And a special meal with plenty of pudding is essential!

A meal and a medal

Big Adventures – Taking to the road for an extended period of time

As a couple, we have had amazing adventures by bike in many countries. But we’ve not done it with kids, yet! So I will point you to the words of the experts in the field – families who have toured far and wide, even for years, with their children. Inspiring reading indeed!

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