Recently Sam my 10 year old boy asked if we could go and cycle the Otago Rail Trail again. I instantly said yes with a big smile and great enthusiasm. However my yes did come with a but – only when you and Hollie (Sam’s 7 year old sister) can ride it independently.
Last time we adventured on the Otago Rail Trail (Christmas 2009) the kids were attached to our bikes. Sam 4 years old was attached on the back of Dad’s bike with a Trailer Bike and Hollie 2 years old on the rear of Mum’s bike in a bike seat – on carrier (Yepp Maxi).
We thought it would be a great school holiday activity to reflect on and remember our loved cycle trip on the Otage Rail Trail and then Sam and Hollie could get some understanding of what is expected of them, what they need to be capable of, to ride the trail independently.
PLAN the destination. We chose 151km of the Otago Rail Trail (there are 2 different websites to check out the Otago rail trail and the Otago central rail trail ) a gentle incline up, then a gentle incline down. The trains chugged their way up and then down and so can you on your bike. For us this was about an adventure with our kids and enjoying a beautiful part of New Zealand the best way, slow and gentle and immersed in the environment. The guide books say 2-3 days, very easy trail, but with kids attached or riding by themselves it may be a little different for you. What did our trip look like?
Day One: 27.5km Middlemarch to Hyde. We traveled in the morning from Dunedin to Middlemarch on the Taieri Gorge Railway. We cycled to Dunedin Railway station then hopped on the train that travels through to Middlemarch. We started biking from Middlemarch and stayed in the Hyde Hotel.
Day Two: Hyde to Ranfurly. 32 km. We rented a house/batch for the night
Day Three: Ranfurly to Oturehua. 25.5km We stayed in a B and B style accomodation
Day Four: Oturehua to Omakau. 29km. We rented a house/batch for the night.
Day Five: Omakau to Clyde. 37km. A longer distance but it was predominantly downhill and flat journey.
PREP your gear. For our family we had 2 adult bikes a trailer bike, a bike seat – on carrier, and helmets for all. We were lucky enough that Grandma was keen for a trip in the area and not so keen to bike (she had done the Rail Trail a few years prior) and was happy to be a support vehicle. This made it a lot easier with transporting gear and it was comforting to know that the kids could go in the vehicle if needed. The support vehicle carried evening food, extra clothing, a full tool kit, first aid refill kit, sleeping gear etc etc. This means that the panniers were filled daily with items that are outlined in our essential pre-ride personnel safety check – Am I Safe to Bike Tour? This check deals with safety, visibility, security, tool kits, first aid kits, food & water and weather. Dad was carrying his own and Sams gear, and Mum her own and Hollies and the rest was divided up. If you have kids that are riding independently make sure they are riding in padded bike underwear – goUnders for Kids – long distances and multi days on the bike can lead to a sore bottom so give them comfort & protection just like you have (Women’s Padded Bike Pant Buying Guide).
PREP their fitness/skills. Building endurance was important for this ride, not probably the endurance you are thinking of. Sam needed endurance in staying focused and holding on as well as encouragement to help out with the pedaling. Hollie needed to get used to wearing her helmet for a long time and used to staying in the bike seat. The things that helped – we prepared them by doing some day cycle trips at home, the changing environment, keeping them interested and stimulated from what we could see, smell, hear in our environment, regular chatting, regular stops, letting them see the adventure in it, making it fun. The kids were amazing, they often exceed our expectations if given the chance.
PREP the kids. Sam has always been a details boy right from the get go. Even at 4 it was important that he understood where we were going and how far, even if he didn’t have a full understanding of distance. Before we left Sam had been through our itinerary and we went through what we were doing each day as they came around.
There are lots of different ways to mix and match the Otago Rail Trail. The direction you ride, Clyde to Middlemarch or Middlemarch to Clyde and which of the many small towns you decide to stay. Do you do the whole trail or part of the trail, the distance you travel each day, the number of days, the type of accommodation, the time of the year will all affect how you and/or your family might plan their adventure. We will plan and prepare for our next cycle trip on the Otago Rail Trail using our get Ready to goRide – the kids guide. We will aim for similar distances each day but we will mix it up from our previous trip to offer some different experiences and the kids will be riding on their own and they can’t wait.
There are a lot of support services for the Otago Rail Trail that might help make your trip possible. We were lucky enough to have a support vehicle, you may not have that option but don’t let that be a barrier, there are other options. There is options for daily transport of your gear- pick up and drop off (they become your support vehicle) Bike hire and hire of attachments for kids. Planned itineraries and journeys. If you want to do it – there is a way. You just need to find the way that works best for you.
Thanks for reading. Used together our stories and resources support you to achieve and develop as a rider. Do it, at your own pace, in your own time, in a fun, supported way – the goRide way.
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