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Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

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Old 06-28-10, 04:16 PM   #1
ummbnb
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Tell Me About Touring with Kids

I've done some supported bike touring over the years and now that my kids have caught the bike bug I want to do more. Eventually, I'd love to do self supported touring with them but that's many years away and who knows if my danged arthritic knees will hold out that long

I'm thinking of making the Katy Trail our first family mini-tour in three or four years. I know it's a long time out but my kids are only nine and five. At present, my nine year old can easily do 30-40 miles and my five year old does up to 20. My husband has back injuries which only allow for a couple of hours on a bike at a time (which is a bummer because he toured a lot in his younger years), so he'll drive support.

We'll bike for three or four days and then head south for a few days of canoeing on the Current River. Some of my absolute best childhood memories are canoe trips down that river.

The guage of readiness for this trip will be the kids swimming skills for the river. I'm building bike endurance as they become more compentent swimmers.

I've got one of my kids jazzed, now I just have to convince the other one! I'd love to hear about any of your experiences touring with your kids!
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Old 06-28-10, 05:07 PM   #2
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I've done some supported bike touring over the years and now that my kids have caught the bike bug I want to do more. Eventually, I'd love to do self supported touring with them but that's many years away and who knows if my danged arthritic knees will hold out that long

I'm thinking of making the Katy Trail our first family mini-tour in three or four years. I know it's a long time out but my kids are only nine and five. At present, my nine year old can easily do 30-40 miles and my five year old does up to 20. My husband has back injuries which only allow for a couple of hours on a bike at a time (which is a bummer because he toured a lot in his younger years), so he'll drive support.

We'll bike for three or four days and then head south for a few days of canoeing on the Current River. Some of my absolute best childhood memories are canoe trips down that river.

The guage of readiness for this trip will be the kids swimming skills for the river. I'm building bike endurance as they become more compentent swimmers.

I've got one of my kids jazzed, now I just have to convince the other one! I'd love to hear about any of your experiences touring with your kids!
Just about any rail trail is good for kids. You don't have to worry too much about traffic and they do go to some cool places. The Katy is great in the spring or fall but you should know that. There are enough turtles, frogs, snakes and other creepies out there to keep your kids entertained.

A 5 year old can be a tandem stoker with an kid adapter (I have a Burley Duet that I don't use...hint) so that you can travel faster together without the effort. A tandem is also more stable than an alley cat so the ride is more pleasant for you and them.

I'd suggest doing the Katy from Sedalia to St. Charles rather than all the way from Clinton. The Clinton to Sedalia is nice but it is a bit more boring and harder than further east. If you want to continue further, I'd suggest going all the way to Pontoon Beach and riding over the Chain of Rocks Bridge for two reasons. First there's the Golden Eagle Ferry across the Mississippi...very cool...and there's the Chain of Rocks Bridge. There's also a trail from Chain of Rocks to the Arch which is equally cool. Take a look at Solo Without Pie (below) for details on that part of the ride.
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Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
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Old 06-28-10, 10:25 PM   #3
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(I have a Burley Duet that I don't use...hint) so that you can travel faster together without the effort. A tandem is also more stable than an alley cat so the ride is more pleasant for you and them.

.
Gulp! ;-) Actually, we've been talking about a tandem for biking with the kids. Not in the budget at the moment but I'll definitely keep it in mind and check in with you if and when to see if you still have it. I was actually thinking I'd ride the XO-2 which I bought from you. I ride her nearly every day and she's wonderful!

Thanks for the advice on doing the eastern portion. That would probably work well with the hook up with the river.
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Old 06-28-10, 10:39 PM   #4
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Checkout Family on Bikes - http://familyonbikes.org , a family of four making their way from Alaska to the bottom of South America (70%+) of the way there.
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Old 06-29-10, 07:55 AM   #5
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Gulp! ;-) Actually, we've been talking about a tandem for biking with the kids. Not in the budget at the moment but I'll definitely keep it in mind and check in with you if and when to see if you still have it. I was actually thinking I'd ride the XO-2 which I bought from you. I ride her nearly every day and she's wonderful!

Thanks for the advice on doing the eastern portion. That would probably work well with the hook up with the river.
You'd be amazed at how little your budget would have to be
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New! Pokin' around the Poconos A cold ride around Lake Erie
New! Dinosaurs in Colorado A mountain bike guide to the Purgatory Canyon dinosaur trackway
Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
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Old 06-29-10, 08:15 AM   #6
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I think the biggest variable is the kid(s). If you have a kid who wants to do it, and can stand several days on the bike, then no problem.

I took my daughter on her first overnight bike tour when she was 9; we rode old three-speed bikes about 40 miles each day, camping out one night on a sod farm near a friend's house. She was 9.

After that I very luckily picked up a used Counterpoint Opus II, and we've put about 1800 miles on it --more than half of that being three or four short tours with my daughter. The longest was 6 days of riding, camping out two nights.

Here's a few pictures from a three day tour we did at the beginning of June, around southern NJ:




This tandem weighs more than two solo bikes put together, but it's very comfortable (especially for the stoker). So far I haven't been able to fit her on a solo bike I consider good enough for touring. She's a little kid and I want her on a bike small enough that she can handle it well. Maybe by next summer....

She wants to ride across the country. So do I, but I'm not sure I can get away with a summer vacation that long.
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Old 06-29-10, 09:36 AM   #7
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I think the biggest variable is the kid(s). If you have a kid who wants to do it, and can stand several days on the bike, then no problem.

I took my daughter on her first overnight bike tour when she was 9; we rode old three-speed bikes about 40 miles each day, camping out one night on a sod farm near a friend's house. She was 9.

After that I very luckily picked up a used Counterpoint Opus II, and we've put about 1800 miles on it --more than half of that being three or four short tours with my daughter. The longest was 6 days of riding, camping out two nights.

Here's a few pictures from a three day tour we did at the beginning of June, around southern NJ:




This tandem weighs more than two solo bikes put together, but it's very comfortable (especially for the stoker). So far I haven't been able to fit her on a solo bike I consider good enough for touring. She's a little kid and I want her on a bike small enough that she can handle it well. Maybe by next summer....

She wants to ride across the country. So do I, but I'm not sure I can get away with a summer vacation that long.
Close up of the bike:

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Old 06-29-10, 10:43 AM   #8
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I think it's important to gauge the interest of your children. One of my touring friends as a son who would follow him to the edge of the earth on a bicycle, and a daughter who has absolutely zero interest in bicycling!

I began taking my son out on short jaunts around town when he was eight, but I did not take him on a tour until he was 13. Our first tour was only 20 miles long in each direction, with an overnight stay in a hotel between. It was just enough. He did not have a chance to get to the point of being overtired and cranky. So his first tour was, overall, an extremely positive experience. The next summer, when he was 14, we get a more ambitious trip in hilly terrain. But I was careful, once again, not to push him past his limits. When we stopped for lunch on the second day, he told me he had had enough, and so our trip ended there.

He is 15 this summer, and I am hoping he will accompany me again. At this age, however, teenagers have lives of their own, so we will see!

My guiding principle in planning trips with him has been this: It's not about the distance you travel, but the fun that you have together.
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Old 06-29-10, 11:12 AM   #9
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Long time lurker here.

Our first bike tour with children was on the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver B.C.; our first child was 5 months old then. Never known for packing light, I had the trailer stuffed with kids gear and everything else imaginable. Let's just say it was painful taking the first steep hill off the ferry; I was pretty fit then and still the grind was one of the worst I can ever recall. By the time our youngest had his first tour at about 9 months we weren't new parents any more and the tonnage carried dropped accordingly. He joined his 2 1/2 year old brother for that first trip to hilly Galiano Island. The two of them occupied the trailer for another year or so until our next piece of gear - the Burley Piccolo - gave us more freedom.

As the kids grew bigger we knew the trailer would need to service luggage not children. That and a desire to get rid of a second car drove us to consider a tandem. A Seattle builder, Dennis Bushnell, crafted us a custom tandem built with a short seat tube, sized such that a 5 or 6 year old could reach the standard stoker crank but also such that my 5' 2" wife could stoke comfortably with a switch in seat and seat post. This along with the Burley Piccolo trailer bike became the family station wagon of sorts and we did sell the second car we'd owned then and are still a one car family and work at keeping it parked.

Typically we'd tour with one or the other of us pulling the children or trailer. This combo got us quite a few years down the road to where our eldest started riding his own bike on a number of trips. Depending on the road or trails we are on, we found 60K (40 miles) for a 9 year old perfectly doable, particularly if there are ample ice cream stops along the way. Now at 10 and 13 there is sometimes a discussion as to whether we take the tandem or not - usually because one or the other enjoys going *really* fast (compared to what they can do on their own). Most every year myself and one of our kids ride the tandem from our front doorstep to one of the ferries (30 - 40km away) and off to a camping adventure on one or more of the Gulf Islands, sometimes meeting up with the rest of the family or a group camp adventure. Trips that start at the doorstep are my personal favourite. We are soon heading out for a 5 day trip although this one we are leaving tents behind to enjoy something of a pleasure cruise to Victoria and a comfy hotel from which we'll head on our singles to explore the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Sooke and such.

We could have done without the tandem and simply adjusted our routes and expectations, using the Piccolo for the youngest and having the eldest start to ride a little earlier. But I don't regret getting our tandem built as it has opened up possibilities and remains a great date machine for my wife and I.

Having suffered from some back issues myself, all of which I can solve with appropriate core strengthening (which I sometimes forget during the good times), I hope your husband is able to recover and re-join in the fun. In the meantime you've got support so take advantage of it and just get out there!
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Old 06-29-10, 11:21 AM   #10
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... A Seattle builder, Dennis Bushnell, crafted us a custom tandem built with a short seat tube, sized such that a 5 or 6 year old could reach the standard stoker crank but also such that my 5' 2" wife could stoke comfortably with a switch in seat and seat post. ...
I believe Bushnell also built my Counterpoint Opus II. The stoker position on that, too, allows for a wide range of riders; my daughter was, at first, almost too small for it. She had to have a pillow on the seat to push her farther forward. I can fit a tall rider on it if I put on a longer chain.
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Old 06-29-10, 02:37 PM   #11
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I meant to add that encouraging children to ride / getting them ready to tour seems to be mostly a matter of getting out there early and often. Having cycling parents as role models helps. We try to mix up regular errand riding with trips to local fun places like mountain biking trails the kids like, and do the same when touring. By this point in their lives cycling for a holiday or to cross town for a dentist appointment is pretty normal activity so we don't get sideways glances ever when it is time to climb on a bike.

Of course, they like holiday trips and trails much more than the dentist runs, and we found a better dentist closer too!
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Old 06-30-10, 05:44 AM   #12
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^I go along with that. I've also found it productive to do tours without the kids now and then. If they know I'm off having a good time without them, it makes them wish they'd been invited. Now, when I announce, "I'm going on a bike tour this week!" my often pipes up "can I come?"
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Old 07-02-10, 12:53 AM   #13
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After 3-4 bike camping overnights over the last year and a half, I just finished a 6 day trip of 225 miles with my 10 year old and 5 year old, all of us on a Bike Friday tandem. We ride around town a lot by bike, but this was our first multi-day trip.

Read about our trip and my thoughts on safety and riding with kids at my Crazy Guy journal: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?...c_id=7203&v=Cg
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Old 07-05-10, 01:51 PM   #14
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Touring with Kids

In 2007 I bicycled 4500 miles with a 12-yr-old girl, 2-yr-old twins (in cloth diapers & breast feeding) and their mother. It was quite the adventure. Those children are strong and secure today. It was good for all of us.

My advise is to take your time and follow your heart. People everywhere love children and they will become your ambassadors. Pack light but prepare for potential emergencies. You'll never regret the opportunity to get to know those kids.
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