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The Tour de Family

June 19, 2023 7 min read 1 Comment

The Tour de Family
Since I started dating my now husband, we've gone on a week-long family bike tour every year. And without fail, they make up some of my most favorite memories of the year. When Sam and I got pregnant with our first, we were super excited to wrap our kids into the fabric of that annual family bikepacking trip. 
  • In 2019, I was 5 months pregnant* with H for our tour along the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, Canada. 
  • 2020 was COVID lockdown, so shorter, local rides were the name of the game.
  • In 2021, I was 7 months pregnant with E and H was 21 months old for our tour through Northern Idaho.
  • And in 2022, we totally nailed bike touring with a 2.5-year old AND 1-year-old through the San Juan Islands of Washington State. And by totally nailed it, I mean it was a vaguely organized rolling ball of chaos that I LOVED. 
So, here are some insights and highlights I can offer about bike touring with babies/toddlers, now that I've done it a whopping TWO times and am a complete expert!) Hope you enjoy!

*I may later make a blog post about bike touring while pregnant - do it do it do it if your body and baby say yes! - but for this post I'll focus on bike tours with small kids. 


I'm eternally grateful for a husband who does the all-important route planning

Sam is a master route planner and pieced together the path we used through Northern Idaho with his sister (and despite crafting an amazing route through Kelowna for 2022, we had to change location last minute due to heavy smoke and went full spontaneity through the San Juans). Someday, he'll chime in on highlights from his experience putting together kickass bike tour routes fit for large groups of humans large and small.  

Our people are the real #lifehacks
I've been incredibly lucky to only ever bike tour with folks who don't prioritize mileage and pace over everything else. That particular luck became even more pronounced when we brought littles into the equation. On our trips with us were the kids' aunties, uncles, grandmas, some of our dearest friends, and a smattering of other folks who were game to go at our unpredictable pace, or go at whatever speed they wanted to and meet back up at the end of each day and swap stories. We went with the kind of people who choose a roadside ice cream stand over crushing miles, and who aren't afraid to change a diaper or hold a screaming kid while us parents take a long-awaited dip in the river.

We love our trusty steed to infinity and beyond

Much like with route planning, I can’t take credit for this one. Sam is definitely the gearhead in the house and did all of the research before putting this big ticket item on our baby registry: the Argo Cargo. We love this thing for so many reasons: it’s a kit that attaches to the bikes we already love touring with by popping the front wheel off and reattaching the fork to the Argo. This meant that we both had the comfort of our own bikes, even while pushing the kids. It takes 2 hex wrenches and less than 10 minutes to switch the Argo from bike to bike, which we usually did at the start of each day. Let me tell you, I’ve never felt lighter pedal strokes than the ones I had right after Sam took over the kiddo-mobile. Needless to say, taking turns pushing the kids was SO CLUTCH for us.

Our kids also LOVE the Argo and are comfy in it - especially after Sam tricked it out with a seat cushion made from an old sleeping pad and even added a shelf over their little legs. We also found great neck pillows for the kids, so they could snooze and not be total bobbleheads. Because the bucket of the Argo puts them up in front of us, even the pedaler can have conversations with the littles on the go and reach them if needed. It’s reliable, suited for the terrain(s) we chose, and comfortable for both the pedaler and the freeloaders - all calculations Sam took into account when choosing our rig.
Select items helped bring a bit of home with us
We found that there were a few great, smallish items that brought a little home comfort to the trip - the all-important sleep toys, H’s favorite cup for morning and evening milk, an array of favorite small toys that could fit in a modest zippered bag that stayed within reach of the kids in the bucket, a few favorite board books, and a rechargeable sound machine. 
We made mistakes and miscalculations!
We didn’t bring enough warm layers for bike touring with kids in the San Juan Islands, so unless we’re in Florida in August or some oven like that, we’ll be bringing a down layer for everyone, every time. We could have used a few more plastic bags - even dog poop bags would have been nice! - for the various explosions that always come along with little humans. The Argo + both kids ended up being about 150lbs, which absolutely WORKED me on the giant #hillllllllllzzzzzz of the San Juan Islands. I loved owning the fact that it was entirely by our own muscle that we traversed those islands and I wouldn’t trade that for anything, AND while we still have 2 kids in the bucket, I will be advocating for flatter routes and/or electric assistance of some kind.
This one. Can’t say enough about this one. The best thing I did was to lean into the suncreeeny, dirty, ravenous, indulgent, relaxed chaos of it all. And let my littles lean in too. 
  • Sleep/naps: we have a pretty regular sleep schedule at home that works really well for us, but we go REAL flexy on that when we’re on bike trips. Since the bike can be fairly sleep inducing, nap schedules go out the window. Dozing, cat naps and long snoozes on the bike are all welcomed and encouraged! We've even pedaled past planned stops if it feels like they’ve got a particularly good nap going and the stop isn’t crucial (we’ve also asked others in the group grab/do things for us at said planned stop while we keep pedaling slowly). There were days where not much napping happened and some interesting behaviors arose, but we rolled with it. 
  • Food: we’re pretty intentional about what we eat in our house - think lots of fresh fruit/veggies, home-cooked meals, and limited sugar and salt. Prior to our bike trips, we made a concerted effort to prep snacks and meals that mirrored our home habits. AND. We also did what we needed to do to keep the pedals pedaling and the bellies full. Quick, easy snacks were the name of the game while on the bike - and that was OK. Salt, sugar and crinkly packages were far more abundant than normal - also OK. We’re of the mind that special circumstances call for special fooding.
  • Dirt: I've never seen H dirtier than during those days bikepacking through Northern Idaho (see picture below - that onesie was once pure white). The onesies she wore during that time have never returned to their original colors, despite countless washes. From day 1, it was clear how dirty our kid would get, and instead of changing course to find showers or trying to keep her from using handfuls of dirt as confetti, we let it happen. We bathed when we got home. We washed the onesies (and a got a few new ones) when we got home. And H was in heaven. All of us were - a grimy, glorious heaven. 
  • Diapers: we almost exclusively use cloth diapers and wipes at home. Did we use them on the bike trip? Nope, not at all.
  • JOY: our standards and our expectations changed. We played pre-downloaded favorite songs from our phones as we pedaled and yelled our way down the big hills. Who could spot the most flowers? Or the biggest truck? If the littles got too restless in the bucket and no other mitigation techniques worked, we stopped. And played or snacked or just got their feet on the ground. Whenever possible, we tried to follow their lead. Fun = number 1. We had plenty of areas where we were trying hard (remember #hillzzzzzzzzzzzz), so we tried to give ourselves space and grace in the areas that we could.
Everything in moderation - even moderation. 
Were there elements of home that we insisted on bringing with us? Absolutely. But we limited those to very few and did our best to immerse ourselves in a completely different world while we were in it. It took some time, but we didn’t find it too difficult to return to our usual habits when we got home, and I learned that sleeping, eating, bathing, diapering, etc. in a way that matched our activity made things way smoother than trying impost our home’s routines on the bike life. We likely couldn’t do much of a bike trip at all if we tried to stick to life as usual, so we didn’t try. And it was 437% worth it. 
What to pack for bikepacking (or bike touring) with kids: 


1 Response

Christine Nienstedt
Christine Nienstedt

June 26, 2024

Love. This. So. Much!!

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