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Friday, 28 March 2014

Touring With Small Children

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano, John Cain (Special to the St. Catharines Standard)

Yes, it is possible to go self-contained bicycle touring with young children, but it is a huge challenge. The picture above was taken on a four day tour, when our family was much younger. The visible children in the picture from left to right are seven year old Sheldon, and five year olds Andrew and Brandon. In the bicycle trailer with equipment piled up around her ears is three year old Mieke. That trip covered a grand total of about 83 kilometres. We travelled from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada to Wellandport and back. In the process we ended up in the local newspaper. We learned a lot about touring along the way.

We learned that training wheels are a curse. I don't know that they have any redeeming qualities. On our trip both Andrew and Brandon were equipped with them. We never toured with training wheels again. They slowed down our progress. With uneven pavement and ruts in the road they caused falls, scrapes and bruises. The stupid things could also get broken, which led to time consuming repairs. Five year olds can learn to ride without them. Two summers later our daughter Mieke did exactly that.

The value of training and planning reinforced itself. We poured over detailed local maps not only for the trip itself but for our training. Selecting routes for training where the children would be safe in a city is no simple task. We tried to combine our training with other activities. Grocery shopping, trips to the library and day visits to almost every local park in riding range kept the training interesting and helped keep our budget in line. By the time we left the kids had more than a month of training under their belts and every important detail of our trip was covered. The were in shape and could be trusted to ride in a disciplined tight formation. Without that preparation the trip would have been impossible. With it we ended up with one of the most memorable and enjoyable family vacations ever.

If you are an impatient parent, don't even think about trying this. The speeds we travelled at were so slow that at times I had trouble balancing. Riding with these youngsters meant that a very experienced rider like myself had to be ready to take all day over distances I could do in an hour or less by myself. We made dozens of breaks and rests. Not only that, when things got tough the kids needed encouragement. Climbing a long hill is not an easy task when you're five years old. The validation of achievement for them though was worth every minute patience.

As the most experienced and strongest rider, I ended up being the mule. Get used to it, but be very insistent on giving the other riders what they can handle. No matter how strong you are you can't do it all by yourself. Our children carried what equipment they could.

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