The tale is similar for many people, regardless of the cast of characters. The busy pace of life can make it hard to find the time to enjoy with friends and family; whether it be obligations of work, family, or something in between most people have found their style cramped at some point in life. I will admit this appears to be even more common for those in pursuit of riding time. Maybe it’s the company I keep.
I have been able to share outdoor pursuits with my wife and son, and as he’s grown up it has been awesome to introduce him to bikes and eventually bikepacking. We have been out for a handful of nights together and it’s been a delightful experience every time. There is more time searching for weird bugs or skipping rocks than a typical bikepack, but it’s just as much fun. Exposing him to nature and being outside is something that I see as bringing him great benefit in his life, the earlier the better. Sharing this experience is a blast for both of us, even better when we can make it a party.
This spring a group of dads and kids rode out to camp at a reservoir near town for the second year in a row. We had done the same trip the year before a little bit prior to Mother’s Day, as a gift to our wives because everyone needs a break now and then. The trip was a ride from town to a set of cabins on a reservoir within a few miles of our start. The ride was all pavement and wasn’t more than 10 miles but did involve a bit of climbing to get to camp.
It may also be wise to employ the help of non-cycling friends as they tend to bring things like steak and coolers of beer. By beer, I mean both root and craft varieties. Always wise to play to your audience. This year we had a bit more people riding up than driving but it’s nice to have some wood for fire as well as some of the other amenities that make caring for kiddos a bit easier.
Doing the same trip at the same location as the year before was great. The kids ran off quickly and resumed the adventures they had left from the prior year. There were 14 kids in the bunch and it was great to see them all interact in various ways. They took full advantage of the copious amounts of s’mores we brought as a group. The kids made a valiant effort at finishing the s’mores and then ran off with headlamps looking for more fun.
Though it can seem a daunting task to take the kids and family out to dinner at times, this is something that can be taken in steps if needed. Having support vehicles allow for backup which can be nice with younger children. This offers the ability to just ride to camp without anything more than water and snacks on the bike or tagalong. For this recent ride, we all rode with the kids directly attached. Either a tagalong or Big Dummy/Xtra Cycle were the approaches for those of us riding. This year my son and I added a trailer to the end of the tagalong for a nice 5 wheel train. I was laughing about the stark contrast of the use of space when using a big trailer versus the puzzle that can ensue when loading up frame packs.
We spent time at camp honing skills with the crossbow and hatchet. The kids even let the dads use them. Sharing the knowledge of camp craft is always a good time and it’s a great way to get the kiddo’s involved and excited. Many of these skills are life-long skills that the kids can show to each other and pass on as they grow.
As the sun was nearly setting on our evening we were greeted by a friendly kayak visitor. Turns out that one of the fellas in our group had a buddy who paddled down from where he lived to join us for some camp time. Those kind of surprises are welcomed and add a bit more excitement to any trip.
The following morning, I woke to see a few of the kids playing by the water while others slept in. The ritual of camp mornings began and coffee was quickly made, then promptly enjoyed lakeside. Breakfast for me was the same as most bikepacking mornings; coffee and something small to eat. I’m glad my son was pretty easy going as he merely requested dry Fruit Loops for his breakfast. We had a few exciting run-in’s with a pair of geese that were quite bold in their investigation of our campground. Other than that it was a smooth morning and we slowly packed up our gear and loaded the bikes for the return ride back to town.
My hopes with this article was show others that it doesn’t take a miracle to bring the kids with for an outdoor adventure. Focusing on fun is the first big step; make sure the kids are involved in some of the planning and food selection. Secondly, start small so that it doesn’t get to be a huge undertaking. It’s much easier to add a bit more mileage as you have practice. My last bit of advice would be to have a bail out or backup plan. This can include friends who drive their kids up or just someone who can drive to the location. Given the short distance of initial trips most people can use a phone, but if you have a SPOT you can use that to text to a phone as well. We always want to plan for the best and prepare for the worst. Until you know how everyone will do on the trip, it’s nice to have peace of mind that assistance isn’t far off. As you gain confidence, the trips can just get bigger and longer.
Summer is nearly here. Start planning your first tykepack and see where it leads you. I am guessing the adventure will inspire and surprise you.