In Part 1 (click here for that post), I shared the basics for what you need to begin family bike riding with little ones. Now I’ll focus on how I plan a family bike riding trip. This includes figuring out where we will go, what we are going to need, and other things to consider.
I have only been doing this a year, I have never been an avid biker, I do not wear spandex (well, I do wear padded biker shorts underneath normal shorts), and if there isn’t a designated bike path or trail, you will see me biking on the sidewalk rather than riding in the street. I am pretty sure biking on the sidewalk is breaking the law (I haven’t had anyone appear angry at me, yet), so I do not condone this. Further my biking resume is very average, in fact, maybe less than average. I started riding bike at age 6, no training wheels. I rode my bike everywhere when I was young, around neighborhoods, to my friends’ homes, to the park. Then I became an adolescent, and I was really too cool to ride a bike anymore. I picked up biking again when I was dating a guy post-college who was into biking, but that ended quickly. To make use of the bike I had bought, I would occasionally ride bike to work from my Uptown apartment in Minneapolis. My roommate/bff would also go on bike rides with me. Then I moved to Portland, Oregon where bike riding is huge, so I rode my bike once or twice over 11 years. If I’m allowed to count spinning class though, there’s at least a 6 month period where I spun my butt off at 5:30 am two days/week. So, in summary, I am no expert, and I am simply sharing my experience and how an average family of non-avid bikers begin to embark on family bike riding adventures.
First of all, if you have gotten all your gear and accessories, it’s a good idea to stay close to home for the first ride. You will want to know that you can put everything together correctly and that it works in a way you like. It’s not easy attaching trailers to bikes, although it’s not hard either. It takes getting used to how to do it, and you don’t want to plan a bike ride miles away from home, get there, and then realize you need help attaching that trailer to your bike. You also don’t want to get to your starting destination and find out something doesn’t work correctly. Your first adventure might be staying in your neighborhood and going out for ice cream. One of our short, local rides is approximately 4 miles round-trip to a taco truck for dinner and back.
Once you know how to set everything up, and you have tried out all your bikes, trailers, and gear, you are ready to plan your family adventures. There are many different websites you can visit to see what is within driving distance of your home. The website I use most often is TrailLink where you have to set up an account. I use a free account, although there are different paid memberships you can get with some kind of benefits. They also have an app, but I have not used this. I like this site because you can search for trails using zip codes, cities, states, or by clicking on the map. They also appear to always be updating the site with new trails, and often you can read reviews, get directions to different endpoints, and see pictures of the trails.
Another way to find biking trails is to search on state park websites. Some parks have lots of information about biking options. In addition to state parks, checking county and city websites will also give you information about bike trails, bike laws, and you are also likely to find maps. I don’t actually use a bike map while we are riding, but I like to look at a map when I’m deciding on a trail to get an idea of possibilities (e.g. sightseeing, bathrooms, where to park).
When I am planning an adventure, I first of all think about what kind of trip I want it to be. Will it be a day-trip, a weekend trip, or something more lengthy? I never plan for trips where we cannot devote at least a half-day. I want the family to be able to get off our bikes and explore, and it’s important to me to not feel like we have to rush. So if we have a day off where we are planning to just go for a bike ride, I will search for something within a hour drive from our home. If we have the ability to spend the night somewhere, I can go out a bit further. And if we are planning a weekend of it, I can plan anywhere we can drive to in a day.
Once our bike ride destination has been picked out, we can pack what we need. This is going to be different for everyone depending on your bikes, the ages of your kids, whether you get to stop for lunch or if you are packing a picnic, etc. But I will share how we pack for a typical biking day-trip.
My husband does the packing of the bikes and equipment, and I get everything else ready. He will get our bikes on the roof of our minivan, pack the trailer bike and bike trailer in the back, and he has a couple of bike flags he brings to attach to the bike trailer and trailer bike. He also makes sure to pack in helmets, bike gloves, a small bike pack for tools, a bike pump, and a step ladder (to get the bikes on and off of the roof). This does take up a little space, but is really not that bad.
I begin by getting the kids dressed. I dress them in layers because they will get both hot and cold, and I make sure they are wearing tennis shoes. I also pack extra clothes for them and bring flip flops. I do the same for me. Other things we make sure to bring are a small first aid kit (this is always in our vehicle anyway, but we make sure it’s re-plenished before leaving). I like to bring extra plastic bags with me anytime we go anywhere because these work well for holding garbage, wet things, or carrying random treasures. I make sure my cell phone is charged to take pictures, and I let the kids bring some toys in their backpacks. And, like any outdoor outing, we bring sunscreen, hand sanitizer, tissues and sunglasses.
Additionally, I have to pack snacks. We have a soft, mid-size cooler perfect for biking adventures. I pack things which are better cold, like water and string cheese (my kids love string cheese), and I leave this in the vehicle. We eat before our trip, and we bring snacks like bars, crackers, nuts, and fruit for the ride. We like to eat afterwards and will either stop somewhere or have our picnic when we are finished. We also bring cash in case there is a place to get a snack along the way. It’s also helpful to freeze additional water bottles the night prior to keep the cooler cool and to be used as additional drinking water when it melts. We have water bottles that fit on our bikes, and we fill these with ice and water before leaving. We easily drink all of this during our bike ride so those extra water bottles are really nice when we are back at the minivan.
And that’s it. You are ready to get your family biking adventures started! Please share any sentiments in the comment section.