•   
  •   
  •   
 

Baby On Board: Lessons From Our First Family Bike Tour

May 22nd, 2012 22 comments


Camping and bike touring with a 3 month old baby: a crazy plan? Perhaps. At least that’s what some of our friends thought. 

Crazy or not, the fact is that we were itching to go touring. We’d had a sedentary autumn and winter waiting for Luke to arrive and our last night in the tent was nearly 6 months ago.

It was the middle of May before the right factors came together: a baby that was (mostly) sleeping through the night, warmer evening temperatures and a good weather forecast. We packed up the bikes and set off. It had been ages, but the wait was worth it.

The roads were quiet, smooth and lined with spring flowers. This was bike touring in the Netherlands at its best.

Heading out on the quiet roads with Luke's trailerSpring touring in the Netherlands: glorious!

We cycled about 100km over two days (see the GPS track). It was fantastic, and we learned a few things about family bike touring along the way. Here are our main learning points for the next tour. Maybe they’ll help other families also planning to take a young child on tour.

1. Research The Route Carefully. The route we planned wasn’t as well laid out as it could have been. In a few places the bike paths were unpaved or very narrow. We didn’t want to jostle Luke around too much so we went slowly and occasionally walked the bike.

A very narrow path!We could have made some changes to our route to avoid ending up on small, bumpy paths.

We also ended up on a few roads which were a touch too busy for our liking. As single tourers, these roads wouldn’t have bothered us at all but as new parents we (unsurprisingly) felt very protective of our new little boy and more sensitive to traffic. For future tours, we’ll be researching the roads better to avoid these kinds of situations.

2. Divide and Conquer. A baby needs a lot of attention and it quickly became clear that the only way to get anything done around the campsite was to have one person take care of the baby while the others set up camp, did the cooking and took over any other tasks that needed doing. Happily, we had our good friend Alicia along for the ride and she was happy to take turns entertaining. That was a huge help!

Entertaining Luke
Entertaining Luke: someone was always on duty.

3. Go Slowly. With a baby in tow, it’s the baby that sets the pace and that’s unlikely to be anywhere near as quick as your pre-kid touring days. We only cycled 40km on Saturday because Luke was a little fussy. We didn’t want to stress him out so we stopped for plenty of play breaks and breastfeeding on demand.

On Sunday, we rode 60km and that was plenty. Andrew really noticed how much the extra drag of the trailer was wearing him out. For our 3 week bike tour later this summer, we’re planning on an average of 40km a day. That’s half the distance we were used to doing without a baby.

Chilling Out
Luke, just chilling out on his sleeping mat.

4. Expect The Unexpected. We didn’t have too many unexpected occurrences during our trip but one thing caught us off-guard: Luke’s bedtime. He normally drops right off to sleep at 8pm at home. When we put him in a tent at 8pm, however, it was still very bright out and all that sunshine meant he didn’t want to go to sleep at all. It took twice as long to get him to sleep as normal and that was initially a bit stressful.

Thankfully, once he dropped off he slept like a log. The next morning, we woke up to find that Luke had already been awake for some time but had been kept quietly amused by the patterns of light and shadows on the tent walls.

Luke going to bedPutting Luke to bed took longer than expected.

Overall, we had a wonderful time and we can’t wait to do more bike touring trips with Luke. Here are some more of our favourite pictures from the weekend…

Alicia making supper
Alicia making supper.

Asparagus!
Asparagus! We bought it from a roadside farm stand.

Friedel & her cheese
Cheese that we bought from a small cheesefarm along the route.

Andrew with the Chariot
Andrew towing Luke’s Chariot trailer. Luxury travel for a baby!

Dreaming of a Bike Tour? see our Survival Guide
What Next?
Related Pages
 

19 Responses to “Baby On Board: Lessons From Our First Family Bike Tour”

  1. yea!! well done Luke, keep them in their toes. :)

  2. Ricardo says:

    Way to go. My wife, our 4 year old and I are cycling from Amsterdam to Frankfurt mid-July. It will be our first as a family and it encourages us to read your adventures. – followed your diary while you were still on the road.

    Cheers from Calgary.

  3. Ryan says:

    I’m all for bike touring, but please mention the importance of talking to a doctor first. I own a Chariot trailer and my doctor strongly encouraged me to wait until my child was six months old, which is when their necks are strong enough to handle the jostling of bumps they encounter in a bike trailer. And there’s no mention if the Chariot infant sling was used, but even then six months is the recommendation from a doctor. Be safe out there!

    • friedel says:

      Hi Ryan, we did talk to a doctor first. In fact, we talked to many people! You can read all the details here: http://travellingtwo.com/resources/baby-bike-tour-age

      Obviously this is a decision that’s going to be different for every parent, depending on your own opinions and the cycling situation where you live. The Netherlands is pretty special as far as cycling infrastructure goes.

      We are still pretty careful with Luke: trying to pick only smooth paths, going slowly, walking where the paths aren’t smooth, etc…

      Also, we don’t bike a lot with Luke yet. This is the first longer trip and there have been 3 shorter day tours (10km, 20km and 40km), plus a few trips around town to run errands. We currently use the Chariot mostly as a walking stroller.

      • Misha says:

        I guess you have used a hammock, right?

        2Ryan: with hammock it’s quite safe if the road is not too bumpy. That way babys head is supported by the hammock itself quite well, not by the neck muscles alone. We did our first longer trip when babies were under 6 months old, and it was fine.

        If the road is fine and the pace slow it is not much more shaky more than in a jogging stroller

  4. Liz says:

    Hi there,

    Congrats on getting out there with such a young baby.

    What I wanted to know was what setup were you using
    for Luke in the chariot? Ie. baby bivy or infant sling or
    something else? As far as I knew, Chariot states that
    you cannot cycle with a baby until they had full head
    control & can wear a helmet (so they recommend not
    before 1 yrs old).

    Would love to see a close up, front on pic of Luke in
    the Chariot :-)

    Cheers Liz

    • friedel says:

      Hi Liz, you can read about our set up in this earlier article about cycling with a baby. Luke is a fair bit bigger now than in the picture in that article (the picture was taken while out for a walk – not biking).

      Here’s a pic of what Luke looks like now (taken during a break to fix a flat tire, that’s why the belt is unbuckled):

      Luke in the Chariot.

      We’ve taken a bit out of the baby car seat to provide even more padding around his head. We’re happy that he’s comfortable and content in the trailer, and the doctors here also said it was fine but ultimately this is a decision that every parent has to take for themselves, based on their own beliefs, comfort level and local cycling situation.

  5. Love your blog. 3 kids later, we are loving all our adventures with our minions. Don’t ever let them slow you down!

  6. Dave Beachley says:

    Congrats, you guys. Wow, he’s cute!

  7. Sandra says:

    Thanks for sharing! Very interesting indeed. At least I know what to expect next time when touring with a baby on board! Luke’s so cute, by the way :)

    Happy touring!

    Cheers

  8. Eric & Elaine Hendrickson says:

    Thanks for sharing, great job on the adventure and many more to come.

  9. Dominic says:

    That’s awesome to hear. I look forward to hearing about the continuing adventures of TravellingThree

  10. Luke lookes every bit the happy baby he should be, having a Chariot of his own and an entourage of three to keep him amused… I’ve written before that I am convinced you are doing everything right, and am glad you are enjoying it.

  11. Brenda says:

    Hi Freidel
    Luke looks so happy.Im so pleased that you had a good weekend and the weather has been good. Here in the UK it’s been awful. I started a blog so you can have a look see if you want to. It’s the first time we’ve ever bailed out due to weather. Send some sun this way please.
    Brenda

  12. Ashley says:

    Hi Friedel,
    Wow, how adorable is Luke! Congratulations!! I can only image how much he enjoys travelling around in his Chariot! What fun.
    Hugs
    Ashley

  13. jenn says:

    It looks like you guys had a great time camping with Luke, we also had a chariot when Lydia was born, at that time Jay was actually working at the chariot warehouse here in calgary and he got one as a baby gift, we absolutly loved it and used it for both kids, we still have it even though the kids have outgrown it, Im hanging onto it for when my sisters have kids
    love the pics
    jenn, jay, lydia and tyson

  14. Sylvie says:

    Hi Friedel and Andrew, Luke looks so happy in his trailer. I wish I could travel like him! He is so cute and has changed a lot since the first pictures you posted. The weather is finally improving here in the UK so Ben has started looking at getting a Chariot, finally!
    Take care
    Sylvie, Ben and Gaspard

  15. Victoria says:

    Very cool! You guys are definitely inspiring… it looks like everyone had a great time! And you certainly lucked out with the weather. What a happy looking baby!

  16. Amber says:

    Great to read about your trip! We took our then 2.5 year old daughter Luca on a trip through the south of france and across the top of spain a couple of years ago and are now planning future adventures with her and her baby brother in tow. I have to say that Chariot as a company was so super supportive when we had an accident and damaged our trailer. They sent out parts to repair the trailer and even put us in touch with a local family who had also done heaps of touring with children. Keep up the adventures!

Leave a Reply