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You Are Viewing Bicycle Touring With Kids

Planning For A Bike Tour Of Cuba

Posted October 1st, 2012

With a first family bike tour under our belts, we feel ready for a bigger adventure so this winter we’re heading to Cuba for a month of cycle-powered adventures.

Cuba!!!!!!

The Island of Cuba (1920)Image courtesy of Eric Fischer, on Flickr.

 

To say that we’re excited about this trip is an understatement. Cuba has been high on our ‘bucket list’ for a long time but it’s been hard to justify the relatively expensive plane ticket from Europe. This year, however, we have some savings burning a hole in our pocket and Cuba just happens to be a good destination for a baby as well as for cycling.

Cuba is a cyclist’s dream with its fairly good paved roads and minimal traffic. -Chris & Margo

There’s no concern about traffic (there’s very little of it, and bikes are respected). The medical care is good and there’s no risk of malaria. We don’t need to camp because there’s a large network of family-run B&Bs – and that’s just as well. After all, we won’t have room for a tent and sleeping bags with 150 diapers to pack.

No, we’re not kidding about the diapers.

The notes below represent the information we’ve gathered so far as part of our planning, outside of the usual ‘Lonely Planet’ recommendations.

If you have any tips to add, please chime in with a comment. We can use all the help we can get at this stage!

Books & Maps

The only bike-touring specific book we’ve found is Bicycling Cuba. It’s a decade old but still a comprehensive guide bike touring routes across the island. Updates are available on the authors’ website.


For maps, we bought a 1:600 000 scale map of Cuba from International Travel Maps. It had the best detail. We still don’t know if it’s accurate but we hope to pick up something better when we get there. Apparently GPS systems are not allowed in Cuba, so our Garmin GPS will be staying home.

With A Baby

Finding baby-specific information for Cuba is tough. Most recommendations for families focus on older kids.

What we have gathered is that most ‘essentials’ for babies are not easily found. The UK’s FCO says:

Baby food, disposable nappies, and other baby supplies are only sometimes available in Havana and normally unavailable in the rest of Cuba; if you are bringing a baby it is best to come self-sufficient.

We expect to use about 5 disposable diapers a day and will probably also take 2-3 cloth nappies as an insurance policy. This will be challenging to pack at the start of the trip but at least the diapers will slowly disappear as the trip goes on – leaving lots of room for souvenirs!

We’ll also probably take:

  • Snack food such as fruit leather for Luke
  • A water filter, in case we can’t find bottled water for him to drink
  • A good first-aid kit and a big bottle of high-quality sunscreen

The Bikes

We’re almost 100% sure that we’ll take our Brompton and Dahon folding bikes to Cuba. We have a few reasons for this:

  1. We want to fly direct from the Netherlands to Cuba. That means going with KLM but they charge an outrageous €400 per bike* for a return trip! Clearly this offers an economic incentive to stick within the normal baggage allowance and that means folding bikes…
  2. We’ll be in Cuba during high season (Christmas and New Year). Our plans may also include taking a Viazul bus and we want it to be as easy as possible to fit our bikes on the bus as normal luggage.
Apparently, we could also rent bikes in Cuba but we’re not sure about the quality and at $15 U.S. a day the cost would add up for a one-month trip.
*Since we booked our trip, the KLM website indicates their bike fee has dropped by half but this news comes too late for us, we’ll still take folding bikes.

Helpful Blogs

Book Review: Twenty Miles Per Cookie

Posted September 13th, 2012

Twenty Miles Per Cookie Anyone who’s interested in bike touring with kids has likely heard of the Vogel family.

Nancy and John – the parents of twin sons Davy and Daryl – have taken their family on all kinds of two-wheeled adventures.

In 2011 they finished a 3-year ride from Alaska to Argentina and before that epic trip they biked 9,000 miles around the U.S. and Mexico.

It is that initial big bike adventure – through 19 U.S. states and five Mexican states – that Nancy describes in the book Twenty Miles per Cookie: 9000 Miles of Kid-Powered Adventures.

We dove into Twenty Miles per Cookie during a recent bike tour across Europe (our first family bike tour with our son Luke) and found it to be an inspiring and refreshingly honest account of bike touring as a family.

Nancy doesn’t just describe the rosy parts of the journey, like meeting ‘road angels’ along the way, but also the many challenges from bad weather to physical exhaustion.

One quote that really stood out for us was this one:

In my many years of traveling I’ve found adventure is, many times, only one step away from disaster. It springs from the unknown – from having no idea how we will meet our basic needs. It is stressful, but the kind of stress I can look upon and say, “What an unexpected turn of events!” It’s those days that make for the most memorable experiences, and are, therefore, the most rewarding days of a journey.

That – in a nutshell – is what we took away from this book: the message that adventures might not always be easy but they are worth having. Adventures are something that we personally will continue to prioritise as a family, even though sometimes they push us to our limits.

The only thing that disappointed us a bit was the book’s length. Some of the stories left us hanging. We really wanted to know more about the details of the trip but before we knew it we were turning the last page.

Overall, however, it’s a good little read and definitely worth a look if you are thinking about bike touring with kids. If you want to know more, check out the Vogel’s website Family On Bikes or watch the video below.

 

New Gear For This Summer’s Bike Tour

Posted July 13th, 2012

This month we’re cycling for over 2 weeks through the Netherlands, Belgium and France. It’s our first extended bike tour with our son Luke and we’ve tweaked our gear to suit bike touring with a baby.

We’ve also acquired some new things, as you do. We can’t blame all of this new stuff on Luke! Here’s the list of recent additions:

1. A Baby!
You probably figured out already that 5-month-old Luke is our most significant addition. We’re excited to take him on his first big bike tour. We’ve already done a few test runs and we’re confident that as long as we go slowly it won’t be any problem to combine cycle touring with parenthood.

Luke hanging out...

2. Chariot Cougar 1 Trailer
“If the baby is happy, then everyone is happy.” That’s our motto on this trip and in order to keep the baby happy, he’ll be riding in the very plush Chariot Cougar 1. We’ve done many shorter day and weekend tours with this trailer and Luke loves it. We’re confident it’s up to the job.

Chariot Cougar 1

3. Vaude Sioux 500 XL Sleeping Bag
We’ve used our PHD Minim sleeping bags for many years now but for this trip Friedel is swapping to Vaude’s Sioux 500  synthetic sleeping bag. There are a few reasons for the change.

First, the PHD bag doesn’t have a zipper. That’s great in winter (when you don’t want a draft to come in from the side of the bag) and also cuts some weight from the bag, but it makes it much harder to attend to a crying baby in the middle of the night.

Vaude Sioux 500 Sleeping Bag

Also, the square shape of the Sioux bag means it will be easy to open up the bag and spread it like a blanket over mum and Luke, if baby just wants to cuddle at night.

Finally, this is a good-value bag that will be fine for summer trips but doesn’t cost too much. By the time next summer comes, Luke will likely get his own sleeping bag.

4. Aeropress Coffee Maker
Aeropress Coffee Maker
For us, a good day of bike touring starts with a good cup of coffee. This is especially true when your nights are broken up by baby! To that end, we’ve recently fallen in love with the Aeropress coffee maker.

It’s light, robust and makes an excellent, strong cup of coffee (the coffee is so good that we’re also using it at home).

Before we bought the Aeropress, we used the “cowboy coffee” method. That technique also makes a good cup of coffee but the process is a little messier and uses more water than the Aeropress.

5. Thermarest NeoAir Mattress
This is another baby-related purchase. Are you spotting a theme yet?

Initially Luke was sleeping on a foam Zlite mat but it’s bulky to carry around and not the same height as our Exped mattresses. The different heights makes nighttime breastfeeding difficult. That’s why we upgraded Luke’s mattress to the thicker Thermarest NeoAir. The NeoAir also weighs a minuscule 230g and is very compact when packed. We hope it will last at least until Luke is 4-5 years old.

Thermarest Neo Air

6. Helinox Chair One
Finally, we leave the baby-related additions and find something for mum and dad: two comfy chairs. Until now, we’ve never carried a camping chair but we’re at that point in life when we want some extra luxury.

The Helinox Chair One is brand new on the market. It’s lightweight (850g), packs down to a compact size and is very comfortable – if a little on the expensive side at €80 a chair (about $100 U.S. dollars).

Helinox Chair

Here’s a review of the Helinox Chair One from two bike tourists.

7. Ortlieb Rack Pack
Things like mattresses, sleeping bags and the Helinox chairs are relatively lightweight but take up a lot of space in our panniers, so for this trip we’re going to put all of these items in a 31 liter Ortlieb Rack Pack. The bag will go on the back of Friedel’s bike.

Ortlieb Rack Pack 31 Liter

8. Xtorm Power Bank
From A-Solar, we bought the Xtorm Power Bank 7000. Between that and our dynamo hub, we should now have plenty of extra power for our GPS, mobile phone and other gadgets.

A-Solar Battery

9. The Behold Tool Case

BeholdThis nifty little tool case arrived for us to review a few months ago but we’ve just now managed to get it on Friedel’s bike.

It slips into a cage which is mounted between your water bottle and the frame, and it’s just big enough for the essentials: a spare tube, a few patches, glue and some tire levers.

The idea is that it’s always there (you don’t need to think about packing a separate tool kit if you’re quickly jumping on your bike to run an errand) and easily accessible. See an Adventure Cycling review of the Behold.

10. iPad 3

Last but not least, we’ve finally caved in and joined the iPad crowd. We bought our iPad 3 more for use at home than on tour but we can definitely see that it could have a place on a bike tour so we’re trying it out. Lightweight cyclists will be horrified to learn that we’re also taking a laptop with us because we just can’t bear the thought of not being able to edit photos and do other work with our normal software. Will we use both? Probably. Do we need both? We’ll let you know…

iPad 3

 

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Of course some of the old favourites like our MSR Whisperlite stove and Ortlieb panniers will still be on the bikes. As for the new gear, we’ll be giving you our full thoughts on it after we return.

What new equipment are you carrying on tour this summer?

How To Make Sun Shades For A Children’s Bike Trailer

Posted July 1st, 2012

Sun shades for the ChariotWhen we first made plans to go cycling with Luke, our biggest worry was the summer heat.

Luke’s Chariot Cougar 1 trailer has a fair amount of ventilation but some light does come through the tinted windows on the side.

We wanted the option to have Luke in total shade on very hot and sunny days.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we had a conversation with another mum, Christine. She’s written a very helpful article about bike touring with a baby, and immediately had our solution: a homemade sun shade.

Read about how we made the sun shades.

Making Sun Shades For The Chariot Cougar 1

Posted June 30th, 2012

When we first made plans to go cycling with Luke, our biggest worry was the summer heat.

Luke’s Chariot Cougar 1 trailer has a fair amount of ventilation but some light does come through the tinted windows on the side. We wanted the option to have him in total shade on very hot and sunny days.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we had a conversation with another mum, Christine. She’s written a very helpful article about bike touring with a baby, and immediately had our solution: a homemade sun shade.

Christine sent pictures to show exactly what she was talking about.

Sun shades for the Chariot

Sun Shades For The Chariot

We loved this idea and decided to follow Christine’s lead.

We bought red nylon fabric (210D Ripstop) and webbing from a Dutch company, Radical Design. We also purchased velcro and thread from our local fabric shop.

After tracing out a pattern, followed by an hour of cutting and sewing, Andrew came up with this:

Sun cover for Luke's Chariot

He made one for each side. Here are the shades fitted on the Chariot.

Sun cover for Luke's Chariot

The shades totally block any light from coming in the carriage but all the ventilation slots remain open. They’re also lightweight and water resistant. They can be easily removed and stored under the seat when not in use. Success!

As part of the process of making these shades, we also talked to two other parents about cycling in the heat. Stuart (from the Family Adventure Project) and Thomas gave us these helpful tips.

  • Aim for shady routes (not always possible or practical)
  • Get up early or cycle late (depending on existing routines) and nap during the hottest part of the day
  • Dress the baby in cool loose fitting clothes, or even just a nappy (watching out for sunburn)
  • If you don’t make your own shades as we did, then rig light cotton cloth shades over the buggy to minimise direct sunlight (simple cotton diapers can be used for this purpose and can also cover baby’s feet)
  • Put a drink bottle in trailer so the baby can drink on demand (if old enough)
  • Put damp clothes on to keep the baby cooler
  • Put a little battery operated fan in the trailer
  • Stop for drinks and ice lollies and ice cream
  • Go to a colder country or travel off season!
Now we’re ready to go summer touring with Luke.