Tips for a great family cycling holiday
- Credit: Archant
A cycling holiday with young children might sound stressful but with some careful planning you could enjoy great family adventures on two wheels
At Fellow Velo, we love the idea of families being able to share in the great adventures that can be found while in the comfort of a soft saddle gliding through the wonderful variety of French landscapes. Careful planning is a must but, don't let any little challenges push you off course from your cycling dreams.
Cycling holidays for families, especially ones with very young children, might seem like a more difficult option but, with some careful planning, a slightly adventurous spirit and possibly, a cycling company that is more than happy to design a tour around your needs, there's no reason why great adventures on two (and even three) wheels can't be experienced by the whole family.
Three of the key things to consider on a family cycle tour:
1. Where do you want to spend the night?
This isn't just a question of whether you want hotels, B&Bs or camping but, also about how far through a particular landscape you may want to travel. Do you want a fixed base with day rides that means you don't have to pack and unpack each day, are you more nomadic and happy to move on every day or, is it better to plan a programme somewhere in between?
2. What is your comfortable riding distance (think about your minimum distance as well as your maximum)?
You might want to ease yourself into the journey on the first couple of days but, if you already love cycling as a family, think about stretching yourselves on at least one day of your tour. This is obviously easier with a support package on-hand, something a flexible cycle touring company can offer.
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3. What, where and how you are going to carry with you on the journey?
This will obviously be different depending on your touring plan and particularly your accommodation choices, but your first instinct will usually be to carry more than you will ever need. It's rarely worth travelling with more than two of anything; clothes can be washed and small essentials can normally be bought along the way if you run low on them. And remember, everyone on the 'team' has some carrying capacity on their 'bike', including even the youngest cycle tourist.
In summer 2017, we saw more families than ever before and a few pictures of just two of those families are featured in this piece; that's Charly and George above riding through the lavender fields of Haute Provence on the Weehoo. George is our youngest Fellow Velo rider so far, at two years old and, providing he had a ready supply of sultanas in his Weehoo side pocket, he loved being out on the trail.
To make the logistics a little easier for some families, we plan their tour from a single accommodation base and then design a series of day rides for which we can provide some extra support. So you could be cycling on a loop from your base, cycling away from breakfast to a planned pick-up later in the day or, being transported to a highpoint in the landscape for a spectacular ride back to your base for a quick shower and a dip in an inviting pool. You could even opt for a chalet on a great family friendly campsite and, have a self-catering tour to help your budget stretch a little further; that was the plan for George, Charly, Tilly and their parents in beautiful Provence Verte.
For families with children who are ready for a slightly longer adventure then, the more traditional longer distance cycling holiday tour is still an option, whether it's the easier terrain of the great canal based tours or a carefully charted course through the rolling countryside of Provence. We have seen some pretty impressive cycling customers in recent years. There have been the long distance solo tourers, the Mont Ventoux climbers and the Anglo-Dutch-Australian team that flew through Provence at an incredible pace, leaving us in awe as they devoured the Gorges du Verdon but, of all those cyclists and more that we have seen on Fellow Velo tours, our stand-out performance in 2017 came from 8-year-old Phoebe who, on a small 20" bike, completed a tour along the Canal de Garonne with cycling days of up to 38km (that's greater than the average daily distance of most of our cyclists).
France has approximately four times the land area of the UK but roughly the same size population so, on average, that means quieter roads (and especially so if you put some additional planning into your preparation). If you aren't going to book your holiday through a specialist company then there are lots of route planning tools that can be found online but, it's best not to make any single one of them your only tool. Some mapping websites will show trails that don't really exist on the ground and others, may not even know about some of the great hidden trails that do exist, especially if a little gentle off-road riding is something you'd like to include. Though the country has a smaller network of dedicated cycle routes than the UK, truly wonderful, family-friendly cycling holidays can be found and discovered across France.
We are always happy to hear from families about their cycling adventures, especially when they're in France and, if a family even just looking to gain the confidence to see a family cycle touring holiday as being within their reach, we'd be very happy to offer whatever guidance and support we can (even if it's just with a simple call or email).