Here are some tips to help you prepare for a family bike tour. Cycling is a great activity, and moves almost every part of your body. It is also an adventure that can take you to places that you can’t visit when you are in a car, granting you breath-taking views that you can photograph to remember them forever. And a family bike vacation offers a great opportunity for bonding, finding new places, and meeting new people. So why not take your family on a bike tour?
Tip #1: How to Pack Up Your Panniers for Your Family Bike Tour
Use the best bike panniers you possibly can. For example, the Two Wheel Gear Garment panniers offer ample opportunities for organizing your goods into various pockets. On a bike tour, this is going to make life a lot easier. You don’t want to be spending ages each day searching through sack-like panniers for things! You can read a review of these panniers here.
When you are ready to pack, here’s a useful technique. Fold each of your clothing items in half, and then roll each of them up loosely like a burrito. Put them into your panniers in a rolled-up form. This packing technique reduces wrinkling and saves space in your panniers. Also, pack only the clothes you need. Pack light!
Tip #2: Put Together a Bike Tour Basics Kit
Your bike tour basics kit must contain the essentials you need to have a good cycling vacation. Pack these essentials into a single container ahead of the date of your departure on your cycling vacation. Here are some of the things that should be in your kit.
- 2 pairs cycling shorts
- 2 cycling jerseys (read about 7 of the best cycling jerseys here)
- Plenty of socks!
- Water bottles
- Cycling shoes
- Sun cream, after-sun lotion, and lip balm
It is better to pack light and plan to stop at laundromats often!
Tip #3: What to Pack for Your Bikes
It won’t be a family cycling vacation without the bikes. They are the most important part of this vacation … er, of course, your family is more important! But, you need to take care of your bikes. These are the things you need to pack for each of your bikes.
- Spare tubes and a basic puncture kit
- A good-quality CO2 inflator to instantly and easily inflate a bike tire on the side of the road
- A really good bike multi-tool
- Any bike tools that you routinely use on your bike
- A great mini bike pump, of course! You will be checking tire pressures daily, and it is important to keep all of the bike tires correctly inflated.
Tip #4: Miscellaneous Items to Take on Your Bike Tour
Beyond clothes and bike accessories, there will be other things to take along as well. Think about the needs of each and every member of your family. Make sure that every family member adds his or her own needs to the packing list. Different family members will have different needs. Perhaps one of your kids always sleeps with a favorite stuffy – make sure you don’t leave that stuffy at home!
Tip #5: Choose Between a Guided Bike Tour and a Self-Guided Bike Tour
Guided bike tours offer major advantages, such as the fact that someone else does all the planning. Also, if any member of your family gets tired, there is the option of getting a ride in the support van! There is also someone on hand to help out if you have mechanical problems with any of the bikes.
Some families might find that doing their very first bike tour as a guided tour gives them the opportunity to learn the ropes without stress – setting them up to do the next bike tour without support. It may also also a good option if you area in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language or know the local customs too well.
Self-guided bike tours also have advantages. For example, if you have very young kids, you might appreciate being able to set your own pace. This means you have the freedom to take your time dealing with tantrums, tired or hungry kids, etc. You also get to stay in tune with your kids, and stop the bikes when they see something that interests them. Many parents find that their kids remind them that life is not a race, and it’s sometimes good for your soul to stop and smell the roses – or pick a dandelion!
Tip #6: Do a Test Run before Going on Your Family Bike Tour!
Give all of the bikes a good test ride before you embark on your cycling vacation. This will give you the chance to check that the bikes are in good running order. You don’t want to find out they are not in good running order only once you are out on the road on your bike tour.
Before going on a major bike tour, practice with something very easy. For example, ride to a friends’ house and stay over night. That will give you the opportunity to test what you have packed, test your bikes, see how the kids do, and so on. Next, if you are lucky enough to live near safe cycling routes, you can try a trip to a campsite that is only 10 to 15 miles away, and set up camp there.
These practice runs will give you a chance to test everything without being more than a cab ride from home if things go wrong. This will be a great way to test whether there is anything you are forgetting. And it will give all of you confidence and experience, before you venture into unknown surroundings far from home.
Tip #7: Hiring Bikes for Your Family Bike Tour
If you are going to hire bikes, check what comes with each bike. Check if the bikes have the right pedals for your cycling shoes. For more comfortable cycling, you might want to bring your own saddle along, and change the saddle before using the bike. Check how long you are allowed to keep the bikes and plan your trip so that you can return your bikes on time.
Make sure the bikes you will be using are sturdy touring bikes that are strong enough to carry panniers. Make sure the bikes have low gears so that all of you can pedal up steep climbs!
Don’t use tandems if your kids are under 12. They cannot pedal at the same speed as you can for long periods of time. This will be setting both of you up for frustration and failure.
Tip #8: Plan Your Family Bike Tour Carefully
Don’t plan a route that is too difficult for the youngest (or oldest) member of the family! Plan carefully and conservatively, so that you are not setting anyone up to fail. Make sure to plan on plenty of breaks, especially if you have very young family members.
Of course you will want to keep your kids safe, so try to plan a route that keeps you on dedicated, separated bike trails, well away from cars. You will be pleasantly surprised to find how many of these are available in Europe.
Try to make sure that most of the route is as flat as possible. The odds are that the youngest family member (and possibly the oldest!) will find hill climbing very challenging.
For the same reason, make sure that each day’s planned bike route is not too long.
Also, check out organizations such as Friends on the Bike (Vrienden op de Fiets), which operates in the Netherlands. Fiends on the Bike basically consist of thousands of families who offer bed and breakfast, plus safe parking for your bikes, in their own homes, at a very reasonable cost. You can order the directory of all homes available for a small fee. However, note that it is in Dutch, so unless you happen to be able to read Dutch, you may need a dictionary or Google Translate to read it! I found that I could find my way through the directory once I had looked up a few key phrases.
Think about ways to keep your kids engaged. For example, equip them with cameras so that they can take photos from their own unique perspectives. And try to plan a route that includes activities that will be of interest to your kids.
Tip #9: Check Local Conditions Before You Leave on Your Family Bike Tour
Also, make sure to read the news on the area of your destination, and check the short and medium-term weather forecast. This will help you know what to expect during your vacation. It’s good to know what’s going on with the locals, and be prepared for any unpleasant weather conditions. Be prepared to make changes in your plans, based on the weather forecast.
Finally – have a great, healthy vacation with your family on your bikes. Happy Family Bike Tour!
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