Bike Touring With A Baby: In Detail
This page goes along with our main Bike Touring With Babies feature. See what families touring with babies had to say about…
- How babies adapt to the bike touring lifestyle?
- How a baby affects distances and routines?
- Are there special things to pack?
- Is bike travel fair to a baby?
- Should you bring special clothing?
- If you’re not breastfeeding, how do you deal with sterilizing bottles and safe water?
- What’s a suitable age to start?
- Bike trailers or a baby seat?
- Did your child wear a helmet?
- What about sleeping arrangements?
- What makes a good starter trip?
“Riding in the bike trailer was a daily routine for Eden well before we did any touring with her. She was already quite comfortable sitting amongst her toys and books in her little trailer-cocoon. That being said, it took her a day or two to get used to spending extended periods riding with us. Our daily routine included stopping at just about every grade-school or park we saw with a children’s playground. Making time for her to run around during the break and play on the slides and jungle gyms was extremely important. As time went on, she learned the rhythm of the days and would climb back into the trailer on her own when she was ready to get going again. Sometimes, she wouldn’t even want to get out when we arrived at camp for the night! We often thought she might be having more fun than we were since she was safe and dry inside her trailer and we were often cold and wet on our bikes,” say Reuben & Heidi.
“Lennon is an amazingly adaptable baby. He’s mellow and goes with whatever is placed before him. This experience was more for us to see if we could do it and it ended up being even better than we had imagined. I think if he weren’t so adaptable, we wouldn’t have attempted this trip or we would have had to change quite a few things. He would spend up to 10 hours a day in the trailer with breaks every few hours. He stayed pretty happy most of the time and was pretty content to either sleep, play quietly, or just look around. It’s definitely a balancing act. You have to keep going but you have to make sure to take plenty of breaks. We took rest days every 3-4 days to recharge which really helped,” says Elle.
“Ronan was so happy just to be with mom and dad 24/7 he wouldn’t have cared where he was. He got to sleep in the same beds as us and spent lots of time playing. That being said we normalized the routine well before we travelled. The adjustment period was more for mom and dad then the baby,” says Robin.
“We actually rode about twice as far as we had originally planning, going about 600 miles. It was really difficult for me to get used to leaving so late. No matter how early we got up, we never seemed to leave camp until about 10am. It was a real juggling act to get everything packed away and keep Lennon entertained. The more hands you have, the easier it is. We all had to take turns passing him around so someone else could get something done. My dad had a terrible time at the motels because we’d share a room and Lennon would melt down around 7:30pm if he couldn’t sleep. It was really hard for my dad to get used to going to bed at that time,” says Elle.
“To make up for the 6 hour time difference we started getting up earlier and earlier for the week before, 45 minutes at a time. We shaved off 4 or 5 of the hours before we left. We got a few strange looks when we’d go to places and eat lunch at breakfast time. It helped Ronan adjust and hit the road running. Any amount of preadjustment is probably worth it depending on schedules or plan to scrap a day or two on the otherside. That way the routine worked. Other than that plan your days around the kids routine as best you can. In the end they will typically nap more than normal (fall asleep in the trailer) so be prepared to play an extra hour or two later than usual when you get to camp. Plus unless you co-sleep already you will all get a little less sleep than planned,” says Robin.
“Diapers, of course! We usually use cloth but went with disposable for the trip. Teething tablets really helped. The general baby gear didn’t really take up too much space. A few toys. A picnic blanket was great to take rest stops on, especially when all we had was a dirt hill next to the road. We also took a few toys, lots of extra clothes (baby clothes are small so you can take more), a blanket and pillows for the trailer to keep him snug and warm and wipes (wipes are great for everything!). We didn’t use baby food but we did have some snacks for him and he ate mostly what we ate. A nursing cover came in handy. It wasn’t really a lot of extras for him,” says Elle.
“We brought 2 books to read to him, a DVD player for the trailer and a solar panel to charge it. There was also a special stuffed duck, a few toys, snacks and sippee cups,” says Robin.
“While we didn’t end up packing the stereotypical van-load of extra gear for our little one, we did bring along a lot of seemingly redundant things. Mainly small toys, books and changes of clothes. A variety of toys and books to keep her entertained on her own in the trailer, and multiple clothing back-ups in case we couldn’t clean or dry out the soiled ones. Clothing layers were also imperative as temperature was a huge factor in our trip (would be less so if we were out in the summer). Finally, since Eden was eating mainly solid food at the time of our trip, we packed a greater variety of food options than we would take if it were just the two of us to make sure she was happy and well-fed for meals and snacks. She was breast-feeding as well, so we didn’t need to deal with bottles or anything like that. We did bring a thermal sippy cup which we filled with milk everyday allowing her to drink on demand in the trailer which became indispensable. Basically, we packed what we could to ensure her comfort in a variety of situations, while staying within a reasonable range weight-wise,” say Reuben & Heidi.
“We definitely worried about this. This is why we kept segements to 2 hours maximum. A DVD in the morning, then lunch and play, an afternoon nap and then playtime, followed by a tough last couple of hours. Prior to going we travelled around home and found that after a while he loved his trailer. He’d point to it and our bikes in the garage and say ‘ride’. Mostly they get lulled to sleep or just look out the windows and ponder. Sometimes we’d hear him ‘talking’ to his duck and we’d try and talk to him as we went so he knew we were still there. I think they’re cooped up a little but enjoy all the added time spent with both parents to offset it,” says Robin.
“This seems to be a popular question for parents who adventure with their babies/toddlers, and we often wonder if it originates from other parents, or from folks who don’t have kids themselves. Either way, we think the best way to answer this is to fully understand that a young child will not enjoy the trip for the same reason as an adult would. While part of the fun of an adventure for an adult is hardship itself, children do not find joy in these difficulties, and should not be forced to endure them for the parents sake. Therefore it is up to the parents to ensure that the child is enjoying the trip in their own way. Make it exciting for them on their level, and it becomes an adventure for them; not just time in the trailer while the parents have fun. And always, always make sure they are comfortable, well-rested, and well-fed. Ultimately, the answer to this question is completely dependent on how the parents treat the trip, and the child, while underway. It is important to remember that while on your trip, you are still a parent as well as an adventurer. Feel free to push your own limits, but be sensitive when it comes to pushing the limits of your little one. Listen to their needs and cater to them as much as possible,” say Reuben & Heidi.
“I think it’s a great way to change people’s perspective on both touring and parenting. No one would think twice about going on vacation in a car with a baby. There were times when Lennon would be having a melt down after a long day (we’d all be feeling that way) but we’d only have a few more miles to go or we couldn’t stop safely; I’d have to keep reminding myself: ‘Babies in carseats cry too. This isn’t child abuse.’ It was added pain to the tiredness of the ride but in the end, the second Lennon was out of the trailer, he’d be happy as can be. Babies are incredibly resilient and forgiving. We just had to keep that balance, patience and flexibility and listen to his needs. We accommodated him as best as possible and I think he had a great time. He got tons of attention everywhere we went and he loved it! Lennon’s not going to remember the bike trip but as we keep doing this, it’s just going to be a natural part of his existence.” says Elle.
“For Lennon, we had a cozy fleece suit for cold mornings and sleeping. Layers, of course. His trailer had a completely different climate from our riding. For me: I would have LOVED to find nursing tops that weren’t cotton. That was the most awkward part for me,” says Elle.
“I was nursing so I don’t have much experience but I would guess that the drop in liners for bottles would help. They also have sterilising wipes for breast pumps and that might work for babies. Also, you probably wouldn’t be taking a very, very tiny baby on a long bike trip so a good scrubbing with soap and clean water should do the trick, maybe keeping it all in clean baggies. It would be a lot more gear to carry and a lot more waste,” says Elle.
“Ronan was already weaned and on solids by the time we went. Oatmeal, yogurt (Skyrr), milk, crackers, cookies and fruit were the staples. Iceland had good standards of water treatment so tap water was fine. Otherwise bottled water was packed for us and him,” says Robin.
“We got Lennon in the bike trailer around 6 months. Our bike tour was when he was 10 months old. Most trailers/seats will tell you not to use them until the baby is a year old. I did a lot of research and made the decision after talking with our pediatrician and making sure Lennon’s neck was strong enough to hold up a helmet and his giant head. Also, I picked the Cougar Chariot because it was the only trailer that had suspension as vibration is a main concern for babies and biking,” says Elle.
“It probably depends on the kid. We did trials at home to start. Try the distances and when you get home camp in the backyard and see how it goes. Ronan took all summer to get ready for the trip in September. So did Mom and Dad though,” says Robin.
“A bike seat wouldn’t let you carry panniers and if your biked tipped over, baby goes, too. The front seats would change your pedaling enough that a long trip probably wouldn’t be comfortable. Our trailer, the Cougar Chariot, has suspension the dampen the vibrations Lennon would feel as well as have extra cargo space. It was waterproof (we tested it!) and Lennon was contained so he could have toys, blankets and pillows without the fear of them falling out. Day to day errands, a bike seat would probably do, but for a multiple day and a young child, go with a trailer,” says Elle.
“A trailer for sure. It’s their own area and it is protected from wind and weather. We used a double wide Chariot Cougar with the bike and jogging stroller attachment. Ronan had all his stuff packed in the pouch on the back. The added bonus is most airlines allow you to take a stroller free of charge or for just a couple of bucks. Remember, you’re not packing a trailer but a stroller with a bike attachment. Then it doesn’t cost as much! It’s all the same but clerks don’t know. The stroller wheel allowed us to travel around camps and towns etc a lot easier,” says Robin.
“I hate seeing children (or anyone for that matter) without helmets. Lennon wears a helmet for every ride. It’s like a seat belt. If he wears it all the time, even if he complains, he will learn that it is not an option to go out without one. His helmet is a Bell, the smallest size they had. I made sure it fit him well, covered his whole head and buckled snugly under his chin. He would complain sometimes when we put it on but he’d quickly get distracted and forget about it. Now, it’s just second nature. Even in a bike trailer, it’s not a bubble that will save your child. I also think it’s important that parents wear helmets, not just to save their lives, but also to teach your children proper biking safety. They won’t want to wear one if you don’t. On a bike, we are very exposed and we will not win between us and a car, truck or wall. There is no excuse to let your child ride without a PROPERLY fitted helmet,” says Elle.
“Yup. Took about three weeks of us wearing ours before he’d even try it on. After a while he liked it. Now he won’t get in his stroller without it. Some countries require it for kids under 18,” says Robin.
“Camping was very uncomfortable! At first, Lennon had his own little sleeping bag but the zipper broke and he ended up in my sleeping bag and usually nursed all night to stay happy and asleep. He usually wore his bear suit for warmth,” says Elle.
“We had a separate sleeping bag cut in half for him and sewed the end. Then we had two sleeping bags zipped together for us and three inflatable pads for all of us. That worked about one night then his bag was between us and then we all just cuddled. Clothing was worn to suit the conditions. A toque helped with cold nights. On a couple of cold nights we fought about who got to cuddle him since he gave off so much heat,” says Robin.
“A safe bike path or bike lane routes, rails to trails or bicycle only trails. Just go out a do little bit more each time, stopping when the baby needs a break. Don’t overdo it. Some babies are more tolerant of long trips. Just be flexible and allow your baby to direct the timing and distance,” says Elle.
“We started at home, riding around town without gear just to get all of us used to the trailer. Then we upped the ante to day trips out to lunch and back. Then we added camping at the end of it. Then we would do at least two days of riding back to back with camping between. Otherwise I think Iceland was a great trip,” says Robin.