Dear Adventurous Reader,
Contemplating our bike setup for our family bike ride has been time consuming and has taken us down many roads. It's not as easy as just buying bikes and putting panniers on them, we are a large family - two adults and six children with three children below 7 years of age. Riding around with all of us, aiming to cycle anywhere from 20km to 40kms in a day, would be expecting too much of our little ones.
We are hoping this to be a fun trip, so keeping the weight down and enjoying our days riding is important. We are not planning on loading up the older boys with too much (they will carry what is needed of them, but not be pack-mules just because they are there), so that excludes attaching trailers to distribute our weight.
So What are we Looking For?
What are our goals for creating a happy caravan of riders?
One: A baby seat is required
In our short rides that we have done our Baby Girl tolerates being a trailer for a short amount of time. It starts exciting and falls into a terrible idea about 40 minutes into the ride; Toys, books and shoes are thrown from the trailer with abandon, dropping onto the road or path as we all ride onwards.
To create happy travels for our youngest she needs to be more involved into the ride and that means a bike seat.
Two: The Boys Need to Ride
Boy Four and Five are capable riders at their young age of 6 and 5. They are both determined, and headstrong, and for the life of them they will not be seen lazing about in a bike trailer when they could be riding with everybody else.
A few weeks ago we rode a bike 16kms down to Queenscliff. Boy Four rode down on his own bike, while Boy Five followed on a Trail-Gator. On the way back, our 5 year old rode all the way back with his older brothers and I didn’t see him until we got home about 20 minutes after them - Boy Four rode on the trail-gator. It was an impressive performance from both of them.
Getting them to go for a ride when they are sitting in a bike trailer is beneath them. It is a discussing thought that they will not entertain, choosing to stay home in protest.
While they have to ride, they cannot do 20kms a day, so to create happy travels for our younger boys they need to ride and not be stuck in a trailer.
Three: The Older Boys Shouldn’t be Overloaded
Nothing would be worse than to expect our older boys to carry a large portion of our weight. Carrying their own weight is fine, helping with food is fine, but carrying one of the boys because we cannot fit it onto our bikes is not acceptable.
To create happy travels our older boys should feel like they are involved in the hard work but not be used like pack-mules.
Four: We Need to Carry Our Stuff
We are not close to fine-grain details on everything we need to take just yet. We do know there will be a lot to carry. But we need to be able to carry it all, ideally without backpacks.
Talking at Bike Shops
Our setup discussions raise many eyebrows in bike shops. Thin, wiry bike clerks who ride fast in group rides and challenge Strava KOM’s have not, in my experience, tried to setup a caravan of bikes for a family with children ages 2 - 11. Two children, maybe, but not three under 7.
I had been in and out of many cycling stores to find a way to get us all around, and most of them ended with the clerks smiling, or chuckling, suggesting some thoughts that seemed like the wrong fit for us, and then wishing me good luck on my quest.
Tandems. Bike trailers. But not tethering a trailer to a trailer bike, that cannot be done (according to the clerks I spoke to). Side cars. Panniers and a baby seat? “Sure” Panniers, a baby seat and a trailer bike? “No way.”
They have helped me to think out of the box a little, but nothing “sung”. There were no ideas that grabbed me and screamed “That!”, they all seemed like boring solutions that didn’t think outside “the box”.
Looking for Help
We have done a lot of trawling the internet for ideas and solutions to our traveling setup. It is not a simple problem to solve, and finding the right search terms often leads to internet battles between bike trails and baby seats being more safe.
Here are some of the sites that we came across to give us more information and helped us dream a little bigger.
- 10 Tips for Bike Touring With Kids
- Bicycling with children
- Getting Hitched
- One Week Bike Tour in Tasmania
- Essential Gear For Adventure Cycle Touring
Bicycle touring with young ones is not new. We are not too much into uncharted territory here, I wouldn’t expect. This all feels remote because there are not many places that can help me answer questions. But that is why the internet is an amazing place.
A few accidental searches lead us to The Family Ride who toured with children around the age of our younger kids. Reading blogs gave us ideas and made us feel more comfortable with doing something different. They made us feel comfortable with making choices to build something for our family, rather than buying pieces suggested by bike clerks.
What are we building, you may be asking… Well, there are many pieces to the puzzle, some a sorted out and others are being sorted out. Stay with us and find out more, in our next adventure.