Cycling holidays needn’t involve weighty rucksacks and endless cries of “are we there yet?” Cycling with children can be so much fun. It takes the stress out of holiday traffic, will save you money and will guarantee that the children will sleep well at the end of the day.
There are holiday companies who will arrange a cycling holiday for you. They will provide bikes, maps and accommodation and will pick you up at the end of a day’s cycling to take you back to your hotel. There’s no need to break the bank though. If you are on a budget you can organise your own break using some of these tips.
Find a good base. Whether that is a tent, a cottage or a holiday park, ensure that you are in the right location for all the best bike routes. A good way to research this is to look up cycle routes and then find a base that is centrally placed. This Sustrans Book lists all the best routes along with an idea of the level of expertise required. It will also point out good places to stop along the way, or detours that you can make to extend your day.
Plan your days out. Agree as a family on where you would like to visit, how many hours you will spend cycling etc. Do some research on your chosen cycle route. Are there cafes or playgrounds that you can visit along the way? Will you go via a beach where you can eat a picnic? Are there some lovely gift shops in the area where the children can spend some pocket money?
Know your limits. Stick within your capabilities as a family. You may yearn to go racing off on a 20 mile coast to coast but if your 3 year old is still plodding along on a balance bike then you just know that is going to end in tears.
Have the best gear that you can afford. Pannier bags are a great investment. It takes the strain off your back and means that you can load up with lunch, snacks, drinks, spare clothes, nappies, maps, more snacks.. you get the idea.
Use suitable bikes. Children and adults need bikes that are the right size for them. If you are not sure ask at your local bike shop. Your leg should be almost fully extended when your pedal is at the lowest point, otherwise you will start to feel the strain.
Balance bikes are a great first bike and we cannot recommend them highly enough. They teach your child from the off that cycling is all about balance. Stabilisers will just give a false sense of security and when you take them off they will have no idea how to balance.
For babies, the Weeride or a similar front-facing seat gives your child the best views and enables you to feel more connected to them during your ride. We also felt much safer with this frame-mounted seat as it does not affect your center of gravity and cause you to topple over.
Be prepared. Make sure that you carry with you a puncture repair kit, mobile phone and first aid kit plus enough food and drinks to fend off any child/adult meltdowns.
There are some areas which we have tried and would recommend. The Peak District is a fantastic base and my blog post from a couple of years ago has lots of information on this. I would also recommend basing yourself near The Camel Trail in Cornwall. This is a very flat, family friendly route and is great for days out to Padstow. Exeter is also a good base. This cathedral city offers everything you need for a fun day out with a huge choice of amazing restaurants. The City Museum is definitely worth a visit! From Exeter you can take the Exe Estuary Trail to Dawlish or Exmouth. A really lovely route, some of it is on quieter roads.
We’re heading to France this year and basing ourselves in Burgundy with access to many cylce routes via the Canal du Nivernais. We will let you know how we get on! Which family cycle routes would you recommend?