Kids Love Cycling Trips Too!
When kids and adults spend time together outdoors, whether it is hiking, skiing, or cycling, it can be exhilerating, and, in our opinion, leads to the most fabulous family vacations. Everyone involved has the chance to experience the adventure together including the joys and challenges, the camaraderie, and shared pride of accomplishment.
If your family loves to be on their bikes, here are some tips to help you plan a fun and memorable cycling trip.
Make cycling a regular family activity
Cycling as a regular family activity allows children to gain skills, confidence, and satisfaction while allowing parents to assess their potential, as well as making sure the equipment fits, especially their bike.
For young children, going for 10-15 minute rides is fine. It’s all about empowering them and ensuring they associate cycling with fun times, so they happily jump on their bikes when the opportunity comes up. Let them make some decisions about where to go or where to turn around so they have some control over the excursion.
Going to a friend’s house, to the park or to the ice cream store is motivating for many kids – it allows them to see cycling as a mode of transportation that can bring them independence. If you are planning a bigger day trip or a multi-day tour, get the kids involved with planning, such as looking at maps, making decisions about the specific route, learning about what is on the way, checking on the equipment, and planning the snacks. Individual kids will have different strengths and interests related to the planning process.
Cycle route planning
Ontario has lots of great cycling for kids. Look for areas with quiet roads, not too hilly, and where there are interesting things to see along the way. If there are bike trails or rail trails, that provides an extra layer of safety, as interactions with cars are significantly reduced. We at Humdinger can recommend routes, provide support, or fully organize several family friendly options.
We have developed a tour built especially for families. You and the gang can cycle the Georgian Trail, part of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, along Georgian Bay between The Blue Mountains and Collingwood, with sights and supports designed specifically for kids.
Our Simcoe Loop Trail trips (5 day or 3 day options) run through Barrie, Midland, and Orillia. They lend themselves very well to families, with large sections of car-free rail trail and lots of sights and villages to visit in-between the three anchoring cities.
Along Lake Huron, the Saugeen Shores waterfront trail between Port Elgin and Southampton is one of our favorite places to ride with little ones. Check out our Instagram for a video snippet of this trail.
With adequate support and rest breaks, most kids should be able to ride 10 to 20 kilometers in a day, and older, fitter kids may be able to do 20 to 50 kilometers. It is important to know the route ahead of time, including the exact distance and where you can get food and water refills. Have a bailout plan, in case someone in the group gets to a point where they cannot keep riding.
Using a bicycle tour company such as Humdinger will give your family some extra support, such as a luggage transfer between destinations, a vehicle to set up lunch and break stops and pick-up tired riders, or even a guide to cycle with you and lead the way. Our custom tour page provides additional information, or you can contact us and let us know exactly what you are looking for.
Pacing, hydrating, and nutrition
With children on a bicycle tour, issues that come up commonly and sometimes catch parents off-guard are fatigue, dehydration, and inadequate food intake. These challenges happen with adults too, of course, but kids have fewer reserves, and their energy level can change quite suddenly.
Make sure the pace is gentle enough that everyone in the group can still chat easily. If someone is starting to be short of breath to the point they cannot easily have a conversation, the pace is too quick. Family members may have different fitness levels with some tending to ride faster than others. If slowing down to wait for a sibling is not an option, a sub-group may want to ride ahead a bit and wait at a predetermined meeting point.
For hydration, each cyclist should have at least one water bottle cage and carry their own water or sports drink. Larger bikes usually have room for two water bottle cages. If you are going to be out for more than 60-90 minutes it is important to have a plan for refilling water bottles. On a hot day, consider using a sports drink in at least some of the bottles, as these specially-formulated drinks replenish electrolytes lost through sweating.
Nutrition is super important while riding. Encourage kids to eat a little bit of something easily digestible about every 30-45 minutes. Energy bars and granola bars are easy to carry, but you may not want to eat too many of them on a long cycling day or if you are cycling for a few days in a row. Everyone’s tummy will appreciate “real food” if you can manage to carry it or find interesting places to stop. Certain fruit, vegetables, and sandwiches travel well, and nuts, cookies and bars are always a good bet. And treats! We have found that chocolate and gummy bears are popular along the trail.
Snacks can be carried in pockets, fanny packs, or in bags that are designed be attached to bikes. A rack with a bike bag or two is an easy way to carry some food and extra gear. Handle bar bags and frame bags are also extremely handy, for easy access access. We have some for rent if you need 🙂 Some essentials to pack: a first-aid kit with cool band-aids, a basic repair kit, sunscreen and extra clothes.
What ages work for family cycling trips?
Keep in mind that every kid and family is different, and these are general guidelines only. That said, with lots of food, water, and breaks, and with very clear and concrete safety instructions, kids in the 6 to 10 age range should be able to cycle for a couple of hours each day. Kids 11 or older will generally have better stamina, and should have a better understanding safety issues and rules of the road.
Very young children, 6 and under, may need to use a bike trailer to go on a day or multi-day cycling trip and should be familiar with these before. A very helpful tool for kids 4 to 8 years old is the TowWhee bungee, remarkably easy to use, it will give a good boost when needed and can truly save the day.
For any age, following the kid’s pace is ideal. If you are on a bike trail, riding side-by-side and chatting is often a great strategy – this allows kids to focus on the fun and social aspects of riding rather than on the physical challenge. As individual energy ebbs and flows, kids may alternate being slower or faster than their siblings or friends. Asking one to slow down or the other to catch up may be demotivating – we suggest letting each kid go at their own pace as much as possible.
A couple of excellent safe cycling resources are available through the Ontario government: a general guide to safe cycling and a young cyclist’s guide. Both are well worth reviewing. Some of the key takeaways are to ensure equipment is sized properly and is in good working order, and ensure all cyclists in the group know the rules of the road, including hand signals for stopping and turning. In Ontario, bicycles are considered vehicles, and must obey traffic laws of the Highway Traffic Act.
In some situations having one adult at the front of the group and one riding last as a “sweeper” is recommended. Proper-fitting helmets are, of course, a must. Cycling gloves give the kids a good grip, and protect their hands in case of a fall. They also make the kids feel like legit cyclists!
For your family vacation, give cycling a try!
A cycling vacation will allow your family to get outdoors for some fresh air and exercise. More importantly, you will have an adventure together in getting from A to B on your own steam. Contact us at Humdinger Bicycle Tours to give you some support and ensure it is a vacation for the parents as well 🙂Contact Us