Packing for a family cycle adventure

Guest post from my husband, David. Please do comment with any tips on gear you’ve used that has been successful or if you’ve got any questions we’re very happy to try to help!

I love a good list! Writing it all down is very cathartic and it avoids the kind of shambles like our trial cycle ride when I forgot to take any means of paying for anything on the trip. So I hope this is useful and will help you to put together the stuff you need to take the kids cycling.

The key to the game is minimalism, which is so so hard! With kids a hundred different situations where they might need something run through your head. It can be very easy to find yourself with the kitchen sink.

After realising the expense of booking a B&B for each night we quickly looked at what we would need to take to camp. Clearly this added massively to the weight and bulk of what we had to take in terms of the tent and the bedding. However, we did adopt the principle that we weren’t going to cook and this avoided carrying food and a stove.

The Big Things

Bikes – The two bikes we took were Laura’s Trek Hybrid and my Specialized Tricross. Both have pannier racks with the one on my bike adapted to take the child seat. Laura’s pannier rack can take a trunk which sits on top and is useful for storing items you want to hand quickly.

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The bikes came back with a few war wounds. Laura’s pannier rack was bent when the bike fell over, but it still soldiered on. Ultimately the weak point of our system was the brakes on my bike. These are cantilever brakes, which I’ve never liked. As you’ll find out when we describe our last day the brakes could not cope in the wet with both kids in the trailer. The lesson learned is I need a bike with disc brakes to be able to cope with that weight. New bike for me!

Emmy was riding her Islabike Cnoc 14 which is absolutely brilliant and she loves. Clearly she is comfortable on it as there is no way a toddler would have done four hours a day in the saddle if she wasn’t! The addition of a bottleholder and streamers on the handlebars have made it the perfect bike for her. The followme attachment really made the trip possible for us as I don’t think Emmy would have been a passive passenger in the adventure. We’ve written about the Followme in an earlier blog post.

Tent – We used our Vango three man tent which is just about big enough to squeeze all of us in with the kids lying top to tail. Whilst the kids are so small it was a good option The good part about having the bike trailer is that it was able to store most of the gear overnight and stay dry. This meant it was just us and the sleeping bags in the tent with a few essentials in the porch.

Trailer – Our Croozer Kid for 2 plus did magnificently and managed to absorb the tons of kit we jammed into it. It has great suspension and is rock steady, even when you drop your bike! It was comfy enough for Matty to take his naps in and kept him dry when it rained. It also stored all our stuff overnight as mentioned above. It scraped its way through the gates and barriers of the Sustrans route and we didn’t have to resort to removing the wheels. This only occurred once when crossing a narrow bridge into a campsite. An added bonus of this model is that it can easily convert to a buggy which made life easier when we were sightseeing.

Sleeping bags – I feel like sleeping bags account for half the bulk of what we took and a significant part of the weight. We have three season sleeping bags which naturally take up a lot of room. If we were prepared to invest in expensive down sleeping bags we could possibly make a decent weight saving. I suppose the only other option would be to have much lighter sleeping bags and wear your clothes to bed to keep warm, which wouldn’t be very comfortable. As it was the weather was pretty mild and we were nice and cosy. Having camped in Pembrokeshire the month before where is was very cold we weren’t prepared to take that risk.

Emmy’s sleeping bag is a Starlight Deuter EXP which has been great. She sleeps so well in it and the way it is designed leaves plenty of expansion as she grows. Matty’s sleeping bag is 3.5 tog from JoJo Maman Bebe and has sleeves. This worked really well as a 16 month old would never have stayed in a traditional sleeping bag and it would have swamped him. We kept his sleeping bag in it’s own dry bag

Clothes

Always the hardest bit, many hours of deliberation went into the clothes we took with us. Even then this was culled by about a third at the last minute as we realized the scale of the amount of stuff we needed to take.

Clearly minimalism is going to be easier in the warmer months and we were lucky that temperatures were generally warm. Laura and I had one change of clothes each and the kids had three outfits each. My biggest recommendation would be to take lots of thin layers which can all be added together if you need them.

Gloves – Everyone except Matty had a pair of cycling gloves. Laura and I wore them a lot but Emmy wasn’t so keen.

Swimming gear – This was a bit of a luxury but we put in the kids swimming sun suits and Emmy’s wetsuit so she could enjoy going in the water at the beach and the pool at the campsite. They both also had beach shoes which protected their feet

Sunglasses – We fitted a strap to Emily’s glasses to reduce the risk of them going flying whilst she was on the bike.

Hats – The kids had sun hats which covered their necks to keep the sun off them.

General Clobber

Food – As I mentioned we bought our food as we went. However, we did carry a few basics including some small bottles of Aptimal incase we couldn’t access milk or it was too hot to store overnight. We also had a packet of cheerios with us as it meant we had something to give to Matty should things go wrong. Snacks are always key and we had a mixture of healthy flapjacks, raisins and fruit sweets which were dispensed from Laura’s handlebar bag. A bag of Haribo was also reserved for particularly challenging hills! 

Clothes pegs – Always useful to have a handful of these for many different reasons. Hanging things up when drying is the most obvious but it was also useful to attach a muslin as a sunshade to the trailer

Extra large muslin – Used as a sun shade and generally useful bit of material

Gaffer tape – Never leave home without it. By the end of the week it was the only thing holding our tent poles together!

Bin bags – Useful to have. Mainly for storing clothes once they got dirty.

Reins rucksack – Matty’s little rucksack was great. It was important that when he wasn’t on the bike that he could stretch his legs and get some exercise. This meant he could do it whilst being not so steady on his feet. Was well worth taking for the age he is.

Hand sanitizer – There’s not always somewhere to wash your hands, especially for those roadside wee stops and nappy changes. Well worth taking and small.

Battery charger – A portable battery which you can plug any USB device into. This was brilliant and kept our phones in working order for the trip when opportunities to charge were few and far between.

Headtorch – If I really wanted to slim down we could have probably lived without these. The nights were light and we had torches on our phones as well as bike lights. Also we tended to be asleep by 9pm so there wasn’t much call for them. Still worth considering though depending on the type of trip you’re doing.

Dry bags – We bought several new dry bags from millets ahead of the journey and it was one of our best decisions. They kept out the worst of the weather, organised our stuff and the different bright colours allowed us to identify what was where. The clip mechanism enabled us to secure luggage in whichever child seat wasn’t being used.

Towels – We took two travel towels that pack down small and are quick drying.

Water bottles – Everyone had their own waterbottle and I fitted two waterbottle holders to each adult bike. Emmy has her own waterbottle mounted to her bike which we got off Amazon and have been delighted with, it’s made by Crazy Safety.

Travel wash – The second campsite had a washing machine and we used this to get our clothes back to full compliment.

Thermarest – Three thermarests take up a lot of room and together with the sleeping bags pretty much filled the cargo capacity of the trailer. Still they do the job and were able to fill our three man tent and even out the rough ground.

Helmets – One helmet each although we didn’t make Matty wear his when he was in the trailer on the quiet old railway tracks. He’s well protected in there and it would only make him uncomfortable whilst sleeping.

Repair kit – We only had to use it once thank goodness, when we got a flat on one of the trailer tyres. I took a chain tool, a multi-tool, tyre leavers, patches, a spanner that fitted the bolts on Emmy’s wheels and a spare inner tube for each of the four different types of wheels we have.

Lock – We took a lightweight D lock and two cables, which allowed us to easily lock all three bikes together including wheels. Again, this could be avoided if you were never going to let the bikes out of your site. However, for going into cafés it was nice to be able to lock them up and not worry about them.

Pump – We have a nice one that has a pressure gauge and does both Presta and Schrader valves.

Kite – This was a lightweight luxury to have that the kids really enjoyed playing with on the beach. It’s a parafoil one that folds up into a small pouch and will fly even when there’s hardly a breath of wind (this was not a problem!)

Nappies/Wipes/Nappy Bags etc – We have a nappy pod which is our grab bag for dealing with smelly nappies. Now Emmy is out of nappies apart from nighttime that meant we could take less. It’s a difficult one to judge how many to take and it all comes down to the planning and knowing how likely it is that you will be able to resupply at your nearest Co-Op. We did one resupply purchase on the trip.

Toiletries – One bag between us with the bear necessities. Folding travel toothbrushes for Laura and I and small ones for the kids as well a toothpaste. Small travel shampoo for the kids and one for us. A hairbrush that Laura and Emmy shared. Sun cream for the kids that the adults used as well.

Medical Kit – We put together a medical kit with some general cuts and scrapes plasters and dressings. There was also some general ailment stuff like Calpol and teething gel in there. Didn’t end up using it but it was reassuring to know it was there. The tweezers from the kit came in useful when removing a thorn from a punctured inner tube.

Toys – As well as the kite they were allowed one toy each (brutal!). Emmy chose a huge teddy and was negotiated down to a very small one and Matty had a little football which he enjoys kicking around.

Sippy cup – Matty had one sippy cup for his nighttime milk.

Bib – One bib for Matty to try and preserve the clothes situation.

Tupperware cup and Spoon – Used for morning cheerio and Weetabix feasts which were our breakfast (apart from when we stopped for massive fry-ups). The spoon and bowl were communal and shared by all!

Phone charger – A cable to charge the battery and one for the phones kept us connected.

Waterproofs – Laura and I had a light waterproof each which was good as a windproof layer. Emmy had a waterproof jacket and both kids had waterproof all-in-ones which proved extremely useful considering the weather. Good to have in the morning when you can let the kids play outside the tent when the grass is wet and covered in dew. Each of the grown ups had a set of waterproof trousers as well which were needed for the downpours!

Lights – Each bike had a front and rear light which we never had to use, but I really wouldn’t think it advisable to go out without these. Our trailer also has lights built into the handle that can run off the battery.

Wallet – I had a neckwallet with cash, bank card, ID and trusty National Trust card. This spent it’s life mainly in my top tube bag.

Keys – We had two sets of keys with a car key and a key for the lock.

Emergency shelter – We have a four man emergency shelter, which folds into a small stuff bag. It might sound extreme but I viewed it as a good insurance policy. In a tight spot it would have kept the rain and wind off all of us for an extended period.

 

 

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The trailer finally explodes from too much gear!

 

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Packing for a family cycle adventure

  1. Great blog! Where did you tour?

    I agree that minimalism is everything. I once hiked 1600 miles so learned well from that.

    I use ecover washing up liquid for everything. Ok on skin hair and clothes. I’d avoid hand sanitizer and use a blob of soap and water. Hand sanitizer works less well than claimed.

    I also have emergency shelters but don’t take them if I also have a tent.

    Cable ties are great to go with duck tape for emergency repairs. I used to wrap duck tape around my hiking poles to avoid carry a separate roll. I bet similar could work on the bike.

    I use a sheet of tyvek as a groundsheet. It softens the more it’s used and it wraps up very small.

    Agree with you about the trailer that converts to buggy. Very handy.

    The thing I puzzle over now is when I tour with my boys 7 and 8, what do I do if one doesn’t want to ride. I wish there was an easy way to carry a bike and kid spontaneously. I could with the big dummy but haven’t figured out how to transport that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Carl,

      Thanks so much for the comments. We toured the Devon coast to coast – ilfracombe to Plymouth. Wrote the intro bit last week, published on this blog, need to get on the day by day summaries this week!

      Brilliant tips, really appreciate you taking the time. Not heard of tyvek, will look into it. Cable ties are inspired and would have come in really useful.

      Yeah I can see that once they get older it’s harder to transport bike and child separately. Friends of ours returned from Holland last week and hired (pretty cheaply) Circe tandems to tour with their 8 & 6 yr olds. Guess you could go for one of those plus a separate bike and they could swap around?!

      Best x

      Like

  2. Having struggled with my touring kit list as half of a child-free couple I find this very impressive 😉

    Buying the fancy camping kit is a sting but worth the investment if you can. My husband bought us a Hilleberg Nallo tent before our honeymoon touring. He got it from ebay in perfect condition at about half retail price (NICE). So light & great.

    On the (grown up) clothing front I have found that uniqlo makes great stuff that you can wear both on and off bike, great for layering, affordable, and you don’t look like a cycling nerd in it when you get off the bike. Merino sweaters, base layers, jeans full of lycra etc.

    Finally, definitely definitely disk brakes, for carrying a load and for when it’s a bit wet out. Looking forward to hearing about the bike shopping bit……

    Enjoying the blog – keep it up team!

    Jess

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jess!

      Glad it’s not just me that finds minimalist packing difficult. Love the tip of Uniqlo clothing – when I’m only taking one pair of trousers I could really do with them looking as normal as possible! Gel padding is not an option!

      Will definitely look into your tent. This trip certainly taught us the value of quality camping gear. A 3 man tent with two broken poles does not make for a pleasant sleeping experience!

      I’ll write up day 4 shortly, or as we like to coin it, the day the cantilevers well and truly failed. Clearly if David is getting a new bike I deserve one too right?! What do you ride? I was looking at Dawes Karakum and Specialised but neither have particularly inspired me yet!

      Best x

      Like

      • I ride a bike from The Light Blue – they are a small bike builder out of Cambridge – they’ve been around for ages but only just started making modern steel framed bikes again. Mine is a bright orange Robinson, particularly right for me as I use it for everything, cycling to work, moseying around London, weekend trips out and touring, so wanted something which was a bit more speedy than a full tourer. Their frames are great & beautiful (I have, er, aesthetic concerns with many all-round bikes). They make proper tourers too!

        Before I got this I was considering the Genesis Croix de Fer (pretty good, but didn’t inspire me enough), a Condor Fratello (my husband rides one, wonderful but so expensive & long lead time), a Surly Long Haul Trucker (when I was only thinking about touring primarily, not good enough as a town bike) or a Raleigh Royal (great memories of riding them as a Midlands kid….)

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