Read our tips for embarking on bike travel with your kids and hear from 2 families who took on the adventure
Do you love road trips on your bike, but haven't yet tried one since starting a family? Do you dream of bike touring, but worry that it'll be too complicated with your young kids? Here you can read all you need to know for bike travel with your little one, through the stories of 2 families who weren't afraid to try it: Aurélia, globe-trotting mama who crossed the Andes with her husband and one-year-old daughter, and Romain, dad on wheels who took his first family trip when his daughter was a few months old and hasn't stopped since!
No age is too young! But bike travellers do recommend to wait until your baby can support their own head. Some prefer to wait until their child can sit independently. But everyone agrees that you don't need to wait for them to be able to walk. Romain concedes that he and his wife waited for their oldest to be able to walk before leaving on a bike trip. But for their second, they didn't worry about that limitation and had no problems! And according to Aurélia, travel is possible "as soon as the family has suitable equipment, starting with a trailer." To sum up, it's really a matter of feeling and desire.
With a baby, you'll want to look for safe bike routes that are fairly flat, if possible without sharing a lane with cars. From a few hundred kilometres to a few thousand, marked routes such as veloroutes and greenways are a perfect playground for your first bike adventure. In France and in Europe, there are dozens of trails that follow rivers, wind through forests, and cross cities. From the EuroVélo 6 (from Nantes to Budapest), to the Loire à Vélo, to the Vélodyssée (that follows the Atlantic Coast from Brittany to the Basque Coast) or the Scandibérique (that crosses France from North to Southwest), you'll find a route that's made for you and your family!
In theory, there's no limit! But before setting out on a world tour, we recommend starting with a weekend near home. This will allow you to try out your equipment and make sure that bike adventures are a choice that suits the whole family!
Athletic performance is really not the priority. As Aurélia explains: "the important thing is to travel as a family without putting pressure on yourselves. Your trip should be fun for young and old, so that everyone wants to do it again! "
In a tent, a B&B, an inn, a hotel... you have a wide choice of lodging that depends on your budget and your taste!
For Romain and his family, sleeping in a tent is the obvious choice. "Since we use bike travel as a chance to disconnect, we always go for nights in a tent, with the goal of getting away from our daily habits and extending the change of scene! In France, we've never had trouble finding a spot at a campground."
When travelling through the Andes, Aurélia, her husband, and her daughter often slept in their tent. "We also occasionally took advantage of the chance to stay in solid buildings, in people's homes or small inns - for example, in Bolivia during the rainy season."
Hybrid bikes prove to be a great companion for family-friendly routes. With a 60° inclined position for perfect comfort, versatile tyres, large range of equipment (telescoping fork, mudguard, trailer, pannier...), hybrid bikes are the perfect type of bicycle for travelling with a baby. It keeps you comfortable as you ride over roads, trails, and marked bike routes.
But it is also important to choose a bike where you can easily attach a trailer!
Trailer, chariot, cart... no matter what you call it, your baby's carriage is the most essential part of your gear, since it'll be their room, playpen, kitchen, and even sometimes their stroller!
Aurélia notes: "we chose a 2-wheel trailer to ensure good stability, and it can detach from the bike and transform into a stroller. A practical feature that we appreciated throughout our trip!".
Your child's comfort will be the first criterion to consider when choosing a trailer. You'll need to ensure that the seat suits your child's age. For the littlest babies, you can add an infant seat. Also think about openings, ventilation, and the placement of windows. If you have a newborn, choose a compartment that's easy to access. And the larger your child, the more they'll want to discover the world around them and the more they'll appreciate the ability to see the countryside you pass through. Don't forget water resistance! You can't control the weather, and your trailer should withstand rain and wind.
Also consider equipment for ensuring the trailer's safety! There are a few recommended fittings: 5-point harness, reflective elements, lighting... A safety reflector to place at the back is essential if you'll be venturing away from greenways.
In addition to a trailer, here are a few ideas of specialised equipments that we recommend for making your trip even more pleasant without necessarily increasing your budget. A baby carrier allows you to take a walk during your breaks. A tarp can be useful for food, play, or nap breaks! A fold-down basin will make bath time easier. But it can also serve as a little pool if it's hot out, a wash basin if you need to wash clothing or diapers, and even a shopping basket for your groceries.
We'll share a few tips for spending a good day on your bike while enjoying the treasures you'll find on the way!
- Prepare your day by determining a destination and identifying points of interest on your route. That shouldn't keep you from taking a little unplanned detour if needed.
- Plan for prep time including setting up and taking down camp, storing your gear, and getting your trailer going.
- Taking lots of breaks on the way is the best way to go far! That'll allow you to take your time, but also to make sure that your baby is feeling good and keep them from tiring out too soon.
- Try to get to your destination in time for a snack: that'll leave enough time to get settled at your lodging or set up camp in a relaxed way and explore your surroundings.
- Don't forget play time in addition to time riding. Even if they're little, they'll appreciate the time on the bike even more if they also have play time.
- Put your kid to bed early. The better rested they are, the more they'll enjoy their road trip!
Fabric or disposable diapers? Choose whatever's easiest!
Aurélia chose cloth diapers: "we washed our dirty diapers as we went, but needed to do it every day."
As for Romain, he went for disposables to save time. "It seemed easier and faster to buy a little package of diapers and throw them out whenever we saw a trash can."
For Aurélia, it was easy - she nursed her baby! But formula, baby yoghurts, and jars of purée are also very practical for bike travel! You can also supplement with fresh fruit that can be eaten quickly. The camp stove that you use for yourselves will also be useful for heating up little meals for your kids!
Also remember to bring plenty of extra water, especially if you're travelling in summer.
Photo credit @aurelia.brivet
As a general rule, kids fall asleep fairly easily, sometimes in the trailer, throughout the day. And for the night, make sure to have a thick mattress and a sleeping bag. That'll ensure that your child will be nice and warm for a restorative night to prepare for the next day's journey!
Just like you do for yourself as an adult, prepare a first aid kit with basic medicines like bug spray, sunscreen, disinfectant, bandages, a thermometer, paracetamol, saline solution that you can use with rehydration solutions, a baby nose cleaner, and tweezers (that can prove useful for removing splinters!).
If you're travelling in France, you can easily stop by a pharmacy to fill up your kit!
Romain, who travels in France during his summer holiday with his wife and 2 kids, shares his opinions on the benefits of bike travel with a baby:
"What my wife and I love more than anything during these bike trips is to live differently from our usual habits, at a slower pace with no real constraints, other than looking for a spot to put the tent and finding something to eat. It teaches kids (and reminds parents) that it's important to take the time to live! Before our first trip, we had a few worries about our baby - fears which disappeared as the kilometres sped by. Kids have an ability to adapt that we tend to underestimate!".
Here's what Aurélia said about her experience travelling by bike for 4.5 months in the Andes with her husband Anton and 1-year-old daughter Agathe. A trip that covered 4300 km and 28000m of elevation gained:
"My husband had never taken a bike trip, it was even his first time on a plane! After 6 months of preparation - finding a trailer, bikes, and clothing for Agathe - we set out on our journey! You can't deny the fatigue for parents, or the tough times due to heat or rain. And it isn't always easy to manage being all together 24/7. But all of the good parts of the trip helped us forget about those little challenging moments!
At age one, Agathe wasn't speaking yet, but we saw the joy in her eyes! She won't have visual memories of it, but she absorbed so many things. From my perspective, it's particularly formative in the child's development and learning. We can see it today in her personality: she trusts others and she's sociable.
I'd recommend any parent to not hesitate to take a trip - it's really enriching, despite the occasional difficulty! It's a positive experience to have as a family, and you'll come back even closer. And when you dive back into travel, it's those fun times that make you want to do it again!".
"Ever since I first rode a bike, I've been hooked on cycling. Be it solo, with family or with friends, I simply love exploring the forests of Picardy, the mountain bike trails of the Chaîne des Puys and France's many dedicated cycling routes. It's so much fun cruising along the trails and discovering the local architecture, culture, art and cuisine. It's a passion I share through my blog, Graines De Baroudeurs, and in my travelogue, Notre Tour à 7 Roues, which tells the story of the 8-month cycling tour of France I did with my kids.