A family biking holiday – have you ever thought that this could be you and your family? The NZ cycle trails, as well as others, offer a fantastic network of trails that your family could enjoy. Trails that are off road, offer flexibility on the number of biking days, the distance biked, are not too difficult and have good support services like return transport, or transferring of bags and bikes. There are also many companies that provide a fully supported trip if this is what your family may prefer.
There is a family biking holiday to suit your family…so give it a go. There will be challenging times but by working through our guide we are confident that you and your family can have a family biking holiday that will make you all smile – just as much on the inside as the outside.
Is it doable?
How far can you ride each day? How far do you think the youngest or least experienced rider in your family or group is capable of riding each day? Will they be able to ride that distance over consecutive days or do you need to have a rest day, or a shorter day in the middle, or after the hardest day? How many days do you think you can get your kids happily onto there bikes for? Is it 2 , 3, 4 or 5 days or maybe more.
How far they can travel will be affected by the terrain. If it is gradual uphill or you will be biking up one or more hills it will take longer to ride and require more strength and stamina. So these day/s will need to be shorter – is it doable?
How far is the biking journey? How many kms is the biking journey? Based on your calculation of distance to ride each day, how many days you think you can get them on their bikes and how many days you have available can you complete the whole journey or do you need to consider just doing a section of the journey – is it doable?
Do you have the accommodation that you require at those distances? There are different options for accommodation but it will need to be at the right distance from where you start each day and will need to match the accommodation type with amount of gear you can comfortably carry. If you want to limit your gear you will need fully serviced accommodation compared to being completely independent which may mean carrying tents, sleeping bags and cooking and eating equipment or maybe you needs will lie somewhere in between – is it doable?
What skills will you need to do this ride? Consider the surface of the ride (tarseal and compacted gravel is generally easier than loose gravel, grass, or sand), the hills, the descents, the types and likelihood of obstacles that could slow you down. Talk to people, or read stories from people who have done it before, understand the skill level required – is it doable?
What level of fitness will you need to do this ride? Consider the endurance required to complete the ride, the strength needed to get up that hill or that long gradual hill, or numerous repetitive uphill climbs. Will they be capable of making it up the hill or will you need to assist them? Will they be able to repeat the strength and endurance on consecutive days? What day rides or trips will you need to do before the holiday to help get everyone ready – is it doable?
How could the weather effect the success of your journey? Weather can play a large part in the success of a multi-day family biking trip. Unfortunately you can’t control this one so it is about making sure that you have the right clothing and equipment to make you comfortable in all weather conditions, the hot, the cold, the wet, the windy. Or do you have the option of sitting out a day or changing the look of the biking trip if the weather doesn’t play its part and give you the ideal weather for biking – is it doable?
Flat riding day one Nelson – Mapua The Great Taste Trail.
Well groomed and compacted trail on the Westcoast Wilderness trail.
You will have a much better experience if you and your family are comfortable on your biking trip. Comfortable in the weather conditions, when riding your bikes, carrying gear and having access to the food and water that you will need.
Comfortable in the weather conditions
Make sure your clothing matches the riding conditions. Clothing needs to stretch and not restrict movement (What to Wear on a Bike). It also needs to protect you and regulate your temperature (Women’s Riding Clothing – Fabric Choice).
Think about your choices in the;
Hot – If it’s warm think breathable, sun protection and air circulation – like zippers.
Cold – You will need layers that are breathable. An outer that will protect you from the wind. You will need to keep fingers and toes warm.
Wet – If it’s raining you will need a waterproof jacket.
Last point about clothing…if the worst happens and you do fall off…always more scary to think about than actually do…your clothing provides a barrier between you and the ground so take this into consideration especially if you are riding off road (mountain biking) or at a reasonable speed. So short shorts, a singlet top and jandals do not make clever clothing choices.
Comfortable on the bike
The right type of bike. Are you riding the right type of bike for the ride you are planning? If not, can you make adjustments to the bike you have to help with the experience…or hire or borrow a friend’s bike for the holiday. There are many bikes that can be used in multiple riding environments so not having the exact match of bike to the type of riding you are doing is not essential and should not be a barrier, however, it may improve your experience and be important to you. (How to Buy the Right Bike)
Comfortable at the contact points on the bike
When you are riding consecutive days being comfortable on the bike is a MUST. The soreness or areas of discomfort will only build up over days and begin to make time on the bike miserable.
When you ride a bike you make contact with the bike in 3 different places.
- Your bottom on the seat. You will need the right saddle, Bike seat “Sweet Spot” and padded cycling pants, Fancy pants – why wear padded bike shorts? Shop Padded Bike Pants and Women’s Bike Saddles
- Hands on the handlebars. You will need bike brake levers set up in the correct position and cushioning for your hands, shop womens bike gloves
- Feet on the pedals. Think about your correct seat height and have socks and appropriate footwear
You need to be comfortable at each point of contact.
Also consider how your body works on the bike, your body position between these points of contact (Chi Riding – Tip 1 – Riding Position, Tip 2 – Core control, Tip 4- Breathing). You can work on and improve your riding in this relaxed and efficient riding position.
Comfortable carrying gear
You will need to carry gear with you on your biking trip. The amount of gear will depend on whether you are doing your trip unsupported (you carry all the gear) or you have support and therefore maybe only require what you need for the day.
Whatever your situation for your family biking holiday consider what you will need to take and how you can comfortably carry your gear. You will be carrying this gear on a number of days so having a system that works efficiently, is safely secured and allows you to ride the trail safely and comfortably is essential. The carrying options include
- You the rider carrying gear – backpacks (What sized backpack can I comfortably carry? and What can I fit in it?)
- Have gear attached to the bike – handlebar bags, frame bags, saddle bags.
- Having a carrier – panniers and bags attached to a carrier.
- Having a bike trailer that is towed by the bike designed for carrying gear.
- Or maybe you have a specific bike that is designed for carrying gear – Cargo bike.
Access to water & food…if you are riding for more than an hour (with kids make that 30 minutes) you need to have access to water and food. Even if you are planning a stop at a cafe or food place…what happens if you don’t make it for some reason or miss the scheduled time-frame? When my family bike tour we have breakfast, then first lunch at 10:30am, second lunch around 12:30pm with snacks in between. We always plan to be at our destination early to mid afternoon.
Bike Trailer being used for independent riding.
Panniers being used for independent riding.
Chi Riding video- Correct and efficient riding position on the bike.
There is a lot of crossover between feeling comfortable and being safe – being comfortable will also support being safe. The main thing is we need you to consider both comfort and safety.
Your bike and safety
If something goes wrong with your bike, would you know how to fix it? When you are riding consecutive days it can take you away from supported environments, further away from roads, further away from the nearest bike shop. Are you carrying what you need to fix your bikes and do you know how to use your tools? Do you have a back up plan/someone to call if you can’t fix it? This might be the support services that are available on the trail.
What tools will you need to take and carry? If you have support it maybe just a basic tool kit that you carry, if unsupported and remote you may need an adventure or touring tool kit.
Before you head out on the trail each day you will need to do a pre-ride bike safety check – is it safe? A checklist to complete pre-ride so that you know your bike is in working order, and you can solve any issues before you start the day.
You and safety
You have checked your bike now we need to know that YOU are safe. Do you have a helmet that fits and is adjusted correctly so it will stay on and over your head in an impact?
Safety in the environment
Carry a Map – Do you know where you are going? Do you need a map, can you read a map? Do you understand the grades or colour codes on the map? Having access to a good map and being aware of signs is a basic way to eliminate any confusion over which way to go. Gather together as much information as you can about the route you will be taking.
Should you be riding this trail for the first time with someone else? Or will there be other riders around to help if you need any assistance? Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.
Carry a First Aid Kit – Accidents can and will happen. You need to be prepared. You will need a first aid kit that is compact and will help you deal with any minor injuries. The most common injuries that you may need to deal with include grazed knees and grit in the eyes. See First Aid Kit for Bike Touring.
Items for touring including tools and a first aid kit
If you have worked through the points above then you will be more likely to enjoy and have fun on your ride.
Remember you are on a holiday and a holiday should be fun. Don’t make the days so long that you can’t stop and enjoy what you see and don’t feel like you need to rush to the destination – make the biking the holiday. There is so much fun to be had on a bike – the pace you go, being close to and connected with nature, your ease to detour from the trail…. I wonder what is around this corner, and your ability to stop and get off your bike means you get to discover all sorts of things along the way. Sometimes you will know about and plan to enjoy things and then there are those wonderful surprise discoveries.
Some things to consider discovering on your ‘great’ family biking holiday.
- Creeks, rivers, lakes, the sea, the beach – to throw or skim stones into, to paddle or swim in.
- Cafe/Winery to rest, relax and enjoy the company and atmosphere
- Open spaces, wildlife, a park to throw a ball, wander through and within
- Playgrounds (don’t forget school playgrounds they are always well equipped for a range of ages)
- An ice cream shop or place to have a rest or a nap. OK probably not with kids on board
- Tourist attractions
- A tree to enjoy a chapter or two of your book, or a favourite magazine, to sit or lie in the shade.
Don’t just ‘do’ the ride, ‘be’ in the ride and I wonder what you will discover? (see Chi Riding – Tip 3 – Engaging the Senses )
Fun along the trail.
Lunch stop along the trail.
Swimming fun at the end of the day.
Does it fit?
Last but not least – Does the ride ‘fit’ with what you and your family want to achieve? Is it simply spending some time together, to get the kids out of the house, closer to nature and off that computer! Discovering somewhere you have never been before at a holiday pace. Just getting some fresh air, sunshine, feeling healthier… Or maybe it is to have wonderful feelings of accomplishment/acheivement – YOU DID IT! Maybe it is just getting to somewhere you need to go? Or helping you get prepared, or training for a bigger, longer ride. Whatever it is – find a ride that fits you and your families needs and goRide it.
Do you think your family would enjoy a family riding holiday?
Did you give it a go? Did you have a ‘great’ family biking holiday?
What went well, what could you work on for next time? It’s all about taking steps and small gains… oh the places you’ll go, the things you will see.
We would love to here about your ‘great’ family holiday.
get Ready and goRide – How to have a ‘great’ family biking holiday
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