With all the biking we’ve been doing this past month as part of 30 Days of Cycling, I’ve really dialed in the gear we need to take with us on each bike ride. Anytime you go cycling, you need to take along a kit in case there is an emergency or you have a mechanical, but when you add a kid (or three) into the mix, the list grows. Here’s what I try to take with us each time we ride, and how we haul it.
Packing List for Family Bike Rides
All parents know that snacks are vital to any successful trip out of the house. This is particularly true of bike trips. If kids are biking on their own, they are going to be burning up a bunch of calories. If they are riding with you in a trailer or bike seat, snacks can help provide entertainment. Our favorites are whole fruit (an apple, banana, or orange), Cliff Bar Z-bars, Honey Stinger waffles, or trail mix. Take more than you think you are going to need—our normally picky toddler eats a TON when we are biking.
This sounds obvious, but it is amazing how many people head out for a ride without any. You should take one bottle of water for each person, or take along a hydration pack. Bigger kids can carry their own water in a hydration pack.
A lightweight jacket is always a good idea unless it is REALLY hot. Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, if you start heading downhill, the weather turns, or you end up getting home later than you thought you would, that jacket might save you from a cold-induced tantrum. We’ve been doing a lot of cold weather riding this winter and spring, and lightweight gloves have also become a staple for us.
I always bring along a little cash or a credit card. Even if you don’t think you’re going to need it, you never know when you might need to stop at a gas station for a drink, or an ice cream shop for a rest, or to call a taxi for an emergency ride home.
A fix kit and pump.
At a MINIMUM you should always carry a pump, spare tube, tire levers, and a small multi-tool. If you ride often enough you will end up with a flat tire or minor mechanical and these items will keep you from being stranded (never fun with kids in tow). Any local bike shop will carry these items, and you can also purchase a seat bag to carry them. Don’t just carry them—learn how to use them too.
What We Don’t Bring
What about toys? In general, we don’t take any along on our rides. If Little P has something small he’s already playing with, he might take it along. When he was younger and rode a lot in the trailer, we would put a few small things in there to help keep him entertained. Most of the time though, we will stop at a playground or if we’re out mountain biking, we will stop and he’ll play with rocks and sticks and other treasures he finds. Toys are unnecessary and would just be something else to haul along. That said, take along whatever you know will help keep your unique child be comfortable and happy.
How We Carry Gear
In terms of carrying all this stuff, it depends on the kind of ride we are doing. If we are riding around town, I generally carry an old North Face backpack. Often on those sorts of rides we are running errands, or stopping for a meal, and I’m able to transport stuff home in the backpack as well. Sometimes P will be in the trailer, and we can use that to fit quite a bit—light groceries included.
When we mountain bike, both Blair and I wear a camelback and we’re able to stuff quite a bit in there. If Little P is riding in the Weehoo, there are panniers on both sides that fit rain jackets and other supplies, and small snack pockets on the seat.
If you do lots of bike commuting, you might consider adding a rack and panniers to your bicycle or even invest in a cargo bike. Cargo bikes do a great job of hauling not only kids but all the stuff you need as well.
When it comes to packing for family bike rides, the general rule of thumb is to take more than you think you need, but keep it minimal enough that you’re not weighed down. Now pack on up and get out there!