Our First Bike Tour With A Baby & Toddler

Hello world, meet Max.

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He’s cute, eh? He’s also the reason behind our silence lately.

Between working, taking care of two young kids and generally enjoying life, the number of chances we have to put fingers to a keyboard is, well, zero. Today — six months after Max was born — we finally feel like things are starting to settle down a bit and, amazingly, we have a few moments to sit, think and write. Thank you nap time, glorious nap time, and television.

Let’s start with Max’s first bike tour.

Max is an easy baby who sleeps a lot, so when he was about six weeks old we felt fit enough for an S240 adventure. Our packing style wasn’t what you’d call ideal but it got us there and, for the moment, that’s all that matters!

To make everything fit, we used our bakfiets (Dutch cargo bike) and our new Circe Morpheus, a semi-recumbent tandem.

Luke & Friedel on the Circe Morpheus, towing a Radical Designs trailer.

A good chunk of our gear went into the Radical Designs trailer, which Friedel and Luke towed behind the Morpheus. The rest was loaded on our cargo bike. Max also rode in the cargo bike, in a car seat which we have fixed to the base of the wooden basket with a Baby Mee frame. You can barely see his car seat in the photo below but yes, he is there!

Andrew with Max and the rest of the gear, loaded into our Dutch cargo bike.

Andrew with Max and the rest of the gear, loaded into our Dutch cargo bike.

From What Age?

Many people ask us when you can safely take a baby on a bike. From the research we did when Luke was born (and re-confirmed during Max’s health checkups), cycling is best avoided in the first six weeks. After that, some careful cycling with a very young babe is fine. The caveats are as follows:

  • Short trips (30 minutes per day)
  • Smooth roads (avoid cobblestones and dirt roads, go slowly over bumps and curbs)
  • Well strapped in (we currently use a car seat mounted in a cargo bike)
  • Not before 6 weeks old (you may want to start later, depending on the strength of your child; Max and Luke were both fairly robust, strong babies)

Our first ride looked like this, and was just a short spin around the block. The campsite we visited for our S240 is less than 10km from home.

Max Luke Bakfiets

Max and Luke in the bakfiets, ready for a short ride around the block.

Overall it went fairly smoothly. Marshmallows were roasted. The tent was erected and both kids slept happily through the night.

Roasting marshmallows around the campfire.

Roasting marshmallows around the campfire.

Lessons Learned

As always, we learned a few lessons.

  1. Divide and Conquer: When Luke came along, we quickly learned that one of us would have to exclusively care for him, while the other did the work around the campsite. Otherwise baby gets bored, or into trouble, and nothing gets done. The same principle is doubly true when you have more than one kid.
  2. Bring a Sling: A sling, wrap or anything else that lets you ‘wear’ your baby so you have two hands free to cook, set up the tent or play with older children is invaluable.
  3. Older Kids Get Their Own Chair: We have two Helinox camping chairs and assumed 3-year-old Luke would be fine sitting on the ground on a mat by the tent. His legs and back are young, right? Wrong. He constantly wanted to steal our chair. Next time, Luke gets his own chair.

    Chair stealer!

    Chair stealer!

  4. Simple Meals: As kid-free bike travellers, our bike touring suppers could be fairly elaborate. With kids, we have little time and when the kids are hungry, they’re hungry NOW. To prevent tantrums, we decided not to cook at all. Instead, we filled a pannier with picnic food (pre-chopped veggies, bread, cheese, salami, etc) so that we could snack without needing to prepare anything.
  5. Comfort Items for Older Kids: When Luke was a baby, he only needed us to feel safe. Now he has a much more established sense of home, and he misses it when we go away. He finds it hard to settle in the tent if he doesn’t have a few familiar comfort items, so we packed his pillow, hot water bottle and a few toys.

There are many more tips we could share, but break time is over. Hopefully we can expand on this topic in our next post, and we’ll do our best to make sure it happens before the next six months fly by!

Comments

  1. Emily
    6th January 2016 at 7:12 am #

    Hi Friedel and Andrew,

    In May my husband and I are embarking on a 4 week cycling tour across the Netherlands with our 2 boys – Charlie (will turn 4 while away) and Henry 20 months.

    We are traveling from Australia and will have 5 bases (almost all at Nivon houses) across the Netherlands arriving 24th April to 24th May.

    This will be our first big international cycling trip and wondered if you have any tips you can share? Any advise on what we should we pack for the weather or insights on what to take to entertain the boys would be really welcomed. We planned on taking 2 Bike Friday touring bikes, 2 Yepp seats (one for each child) and a double burley bike trailer (so we have options for transport). What would you recommend?

    Many thanks and I look forward to hearing from you

    If you are interested – here is our route

    https://www.google.com.au/maps/dir/Schiphol+Amsterdam+Airport,+Evert+van+de+Beekstraat,+Amsterdam+Airport+Schiphol,+Netherlands/Bennekom,+Netherlands/Morgenrood,+Scheibaan,+Oisterwijk,+Netherlands/Dordrecht,+Netherlands/Noordwijk,+Netherlands/Keukenhofbos,+Lisse,+Netherlands/Alkmaar,+Netherlands/@51.3630643,5.0087766,9z/data=!4m44!4m43!1m5!1m1!1s0x47c5e134e0fd162d:0xc7d51583f1cef188!2m2!1d4.7682744!2d52.3105386!1m5!1m1!1s0x47c7acdc431ad133:0x211b330ae40796ea!2m2!1d5.6747544!2d51.9991039!1m5!1m1!1s0x47c6c1fd6cc33f05:0x7c4ae081cdeb7dcd!2m2!1d5.2344663!2d51.5682786!1m5!1m1!1s0x47c4281a9257b48f:0x400de5a8d1e6bc0!2m2!1d4.6900929!2d51.8132979!1m5!1m1!1s0x47c5ea63aa902a2f:0x702f6686f8afb9ce!2m2!1d4.4500094!2d52.2399885!1m5!1m1!1s0x47c5c204675b3807:0x27714518ede0ba1c!2m2!1d4.5417632!2d52.2648411!1m5!1m1!1s0x47cf57b2d7368c5b:0x400de5a8d1e7470!2m2!1d4.7533754!2d52.6323813!3e1?hl=en

    • Em
      6th March 2016 at 9:47 am #

      Hi Emily! We’re Australians too. We have done three tours with our two kids (starting from around 20 months up to age 7), in Australia, the US, and South Korea, ranging from 5 to 14 days. We have found that the kids rarely need lots of toys, although the occasional hit of the iPad or iPhone is really useful when it’s raining or when adults are required for a particular activity (putting up a tent, or loading a loaded bike onto a train). You can store lots of colourful eBooks and audiobooks on the iPad, so that kills two birds with one stone. Other than that, we give our kids a small Tupperware box to fill with whatever toys they want, although more often than not, they amuse themselves with whatever is outdoors. At our last camping spot, our 7 year old jumped off the tandem after a 50km and announced to his sister: “Hey, let’s move these rocks!”

      We are off to Europe this summer for a five month tour with two kids (now 5 and 8) and two tandems. We no longer worry too much about how to keep them entertained. It seems more important to have occasional distractions for those moments when both adults really need to focus (cooking or whatever). We also load up our iPhones with whatever bad pop music the kids are into, and that REALLY keeps them going whenever they get lukewarm about peddling.

      Enjoy your trip!

    • Carla
      22nd May 2016 at 6:35 pm #

      Hello Friedel, Andrew and Emily,
      Last year we biked in Germany, France and Switzerland with our six year old daughter. Also with bike Friday’s! Our daughter had a downtube mini, also a folding bike.
      Emily, how did your trip go? Do you have a blog?
      I love to read about biking families, it gives us great ideas.
      Now we are researching our next trip, to Sweden maybe, summer 2017. We are mostly looking for traffic free, or very low traffic roads, since our daughter will have her own bike. Any recommendations? Any country really, we are in the research process right now, just started thinking about it…
      Andrew and Friedel, you have a great blog!
      Thank you
      Carla, jefferson and Rowan

    • Marcel
      8th July 2016 at 12:20 pm #

      Hi Emily,

      I was reading about your planned trip in Holland and was wondering how things went!? We , our a couple of bike enthusiasts and our little man is almost one year old. How did you manage?

      Hope to hear from you!

  2. Kathryn Nurse
    19th January 2016 at 12:47 am #

    Hi,
    I have a 3 month old and really (really really really) miss cycling. However, I haven’t taken my baby out yet for various reasons. One annoying one is that I live in BC, and there is a law requiring helmets. Just wondering if you have such a law in your province, and if you do, has it ever been an issue for the baby in the carseat?

    I think it’s awesome what you’re doing! Thanks for sharing.

    • andrew.grant
      9th July 2016 at 10:49 am #

      No such law here in the Netherlands, I’m afraid!

  3. Bicycle Junkies
    29th January 2016 at 11:30 am #

    Hi Friedel & Andrew,

    Nice to see you are back on the bikes! And he is cute indeed! 😉
    Happy pedaling!

    Greetz, Elmar & Ellen

  4. Kelly
    25th April 2016 at 6:59 am #

    The kids look like they had a lot of fun 😀

    Good on you guys for not giving up cycle touring! I always admire the cyclists I meet on tour that have their kids with them.

  5. Faisal Nisar
    12th May 2016 at 7:36 pm #

    This is really inspiring. Its amazing to see how you guys didn’t give up on your cycling passion just because you’ve had a baby.

    Congrats! Really happy to see this family cycling around.

    Regards,
    Faisal Nisar
    Co-founder, Velo Simplissime
    http://www.velosimplissime.com

  6. esther
    3rd July 2016 at 10:22 am #

    Yesterday I listened to your podcast for the first time, where you anounced a baby would be on its way. And this morning I wanted to read some more about the podcast and the first thing I see is a big baby-picture on my laptop. Really nice! Great podcast!! and great you keep on bicycling as a lifestyle. Inspiring, thanks for that.

  7. Amiram
    26th August 2016 at 1:50 pm #

    Hi Friedel and Andrew, and all Cycle Families,

    great to read your cycling info and encouragement for families to keep on touring.

    We have been cycle touring with our small kids since 2011 (couple of weeks) and are now on a 1 year journey since 4 months on tour in Asia Pac. Kids 2 and 5 years old and in Chariot plus alternative old school seating on saddle on top of centre bar of the bike. Mostly camping, which right now in Japan is easy, beautiful and very cheap of mostly free.
    How we entertain the kids in a 3min video.

    http://www.cycle-generation.com/10-ways-to-entertain-young-kids-during-cycle-tours/

    Cheers Amiram

    • andrew.grant
      19th November 2016 at 10:19 am #

      Hi Amiram! Thanks for sharing this (and sorry it took me so long to get around to moderating comments). I just shared it on our Facebook and Twitter channels. You are an inspiration to us – we are thinking of Japan in the coming 1-2 years!

  8. Mykola KyivUA
    30th August 2016 at 1:20 pm #

    Hi Friedel & Andrew
    Thank you for the interesting publications and experience. It’s really inspiring! Good luck and new beautiful trips with your wonderful sons.

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