Friday, 6 July 2018

Three key things you need to do to survive on a family cycle tour

It’s gone a bit quiet on here lately - though not on Twitter (do you follow us on Twitter yet?) since Rhoda’s surprise rise to fame, which has abated now but continues to keep us busy with spinoff projects and requests to use the film! We’ve got all sorts of things lined up over the next couple of months but it’s robbed us of time to write so much about them. Indeed, the rest of the footage from our Borders training camp has yet to be edited, and has only just been viewed for the first time!

Anyway, in a brief lull at forest school today, I was talking with a couple of the other parents about the read-across between what we do as a cycle-touring family, and other family activities which may not necessarily include bikes! It got me thinking about the three things you need for a succesful bike tour - two of which apply in many respects to any family adventure in the outdoors. 

Round-the-World record holder Mark Beaumont taught us in his films that the three key ingredients are...
  1. You need to eat and drink
  2. You need to sleep
  3. You need to do the miles
Eat, sleep, cycle, repeat. So much more in that than a T-shirt slogan, especially with children. Let's have a look at those three elements, what they mean for us, and how the knowledge and kit we've accrued can be applied to things other than cycle touring! We're going to explore each of the three in a separate post in the coming days, in more detail.


I've lost count of the number of times I've been for a petrol station lunch whilst on my bike (food of champions, often consumed in the cyclist's dining room, the humble bus shelter!) and upon dumping a pile of overpriced packets often amounting to a 'what not to eat' of cycling nutrition on the counter, I've been asked "any fuel?" - "yes," I say, pointing to the crisps, jelly babies, and Thomas Ivor's usual scotch egg - "this is it!".

Eating is a major part of riding your bike for long distances, day after day. It's something that we have to get right for the adults, and the children, sometimes with different strategies - or, more often than not, we sort the children out and supplement that as the grownups find necessary. You wouldn't set out for an expedition in the car without fuelling it first (ok, we've all tried...) but the human body, particularly in child form, needs careful and adequate fuelling in order to perform.

In order to do that we need to choose and source the fuel, but we also need to store it, carry it, prepare and perhaps cook it, we need something to eat it off, and to dispose of the remains afterwards.

So, two things to sort out - what you're eating, and what you're eating it with/off/cooked by. Is this so much different for us on a non-cycling day out? Not really - except sometimes for portion control! We'll have a look at what we fuel with on the road, and in a separate post, how we carry it, cook it, eat it and dispose of it.


A day trip isn't a bike tour any more than a trip that doesn't involve visiting an island isn't a holiday. That latter bit may just apply to our family, in fairness. You get my point, though? A tour is only a tour if you actually go somewhere, and then on to somewhere else another day - unless you're Peter Kay.

Sleeping whilst travelling light as a family has some issues specific to cycle touring, when it comes to packing, but whether in a bivvy bag, a tent, a bothy or a hotel, staying out overnight as a family poses challenges most commonly peculiar to the children, rather than the bikes. You might have a baby who’s still up in the night. Toddlers who refuse to accept it’s night time at all. Perhaps your children are a little older and it’s time for them to sleep in their own room - or move out and leave you to it - after all, Mummy and Daddy are on holiday, too!

Getting the sleep you need, for the whole tribe, is critical to the success of your adventure. It can be a major source of expense and stress in inverse proportion, or at worst, both together! Some people thrive on getting up in the morning and having no idea where they’ll sleep that night; others cannot function without everything being booked weeks in advance. We’ll have a look at different planning and sleeping options - particularly our criteria for family tents you don’t need a car to carry. Sleeping bags and mats. How, where, when and with whom to sleep, with or without a tent. When to bail out and use a Premier Inn, and a bit about the kindness of strangers.

Do the miles

If you’ve eaten and slept well, it’s time to get on with the adventure you wanted to have in the first place! That food, and sleeping kit, is going to want putting somewhere while you do it. We’ve adapted our packing for cycling, hillwalking, canoeing, and even the occasional trip, heaven forfend, with the car! The common theme is finding and using kit you can trust, packing it efficiently and adapting the outfit as your family (and the adventure) changes.

There we go, then. A little series that will be of particular relevance as we get nearer to our big summer challenge for this year - and inspiration for you, our readers, too, we trust! There’s your planning mantra to get started. Apply it to all your ideas to test them…How will we nail down each part?

Eat. Sleep. Ride...  Repeat.