Family cycling holidays fall into two clear categories, either they’re with you or against you! In this blog we look into how to make them work whichever camp you fall into.
Family cycling holidays – with a reluctant brood
We’ve all come across those young, unattached twenty-somethings through our triathlon and cycling clubs. The ones who tear our legs off and seemingly do so without breaking a sweat.
For them, there doesn’t need to be any down time. Every weekend can be bumper training session, and every holiday geared exclusively to cycling. They stay in hostels built specifically for cyclists, and spend every hour of every day getting as many miles in their legs as they possibly can.
For the rest of us, with a partner (of the non-cycling variety) or children too young to cycle (or godforbid not interested) added to the mix, it’s not so easy. Our families are unlikely to opt for a cycling holiday in Girona so we need to compromise on the destination, and our responsibilities to them significantly reduce the time we can spend out on our bikes. Your partner might not be overly keen on you bringing your bike along at all, let alone spending all the time riding it.
It’s the school holidays and many of us are preparing to head off with on a summer holiday with the family. But there is no reason why your bike needs to be neglected just because you are on a beach holiday. To help you out, we’ve collated 7 top tips for cycling on a family holiday without upsetting the them.
1. Sell Your Destination
Mallorca is one of the training capitals of Europe. Many of the top pro teams train there over winter, with Wiggins describing the roads as a “Scalextric set for cyclists”. If you are pitching the cycling holiday in Mallorca as a family holiday however, these arguments aren’t likely to win you any points.
Did you know that Mallorca has one of the largest subterranean lakes in the world, deep in the Cuevas Del Drach caves, and tours will take you across it in a row boat?
A quick Google of your preferred cycling destination can throw up all sorts of things that sound great to a non cyclist. Everyone is going to have plenty of interesting things to do together and on their own. That the roads happen to be a cycling Mecca is neither here nor there, but it would be a shame not to give them a go since you’ll be in the area anyway.
2. Bring your own bike
When cycling isn’t the primary reason for your trip, the temptation is to leave your bike at home and hire one once you get there. This would be a mistake. If you need to hire a bike after arriving, it becomes a task that’s easily put off, or something you can be discouraged from doing.
Many cyclists have travelled to beautiful, sunny locations, only to never unpack their shoes and pedals. It’s easy to borrow a box if you don’t have your own and pack up your bike to take with you. The cost of stowage usually works out equivalent to a weeks rental anyway.
3. Don’t push your luck
The trick is to under promise and over deliver. If you know your ride is going to take you two and a half hours, tell them it’s going to take you three. That way when you are back half an hour early, it looks as though you have rushed back to see them.
4. Let them do their thing
If you are travelling with younger children, building in time for your partner to escape can make all the difference. If they have spent an afternoon fishing, hiking or whatever their weird hobby is, you are perfectly justified to spend the next day working on your razor sharp tan lines.
5. Early bird
Triathletes and cyclists are often early risers and, if you want to make the most of your family cycling holiday, then there’s no time for a lie in. If your partner is likely to stay in bed until 9 or 10 while on holiday, you can easily get a couple hours in without them even noticing.
6. Electric bikes
If you want to make the most of the mountains but also spend some quality time with the family, the obvious solution is to combine the two. The trouble is, you’ve spent every evening over winter smashing KOMs on Zwift whereas they think lycra is for perverts and weirdos.
Electric bikes have come a long way in the last few years. Hire shops are common in most cycling destinations, and they have got to the point that they are genuinely fun to ride. The upshot is you can get some training up those monster hills, while the family enjoy a leisurely (electrically assisted) ride through the country.
7. Family friendly hotel
Finally make sure you book a family friendly all-inclusive hotel with a kids club. Not having to cook, clean and look after the kids all day will make it easier to negotiate time on the bike.
Family cycling holidays – when they come willingly
We spoke to Martin Cox about a recent trip family cycling holiday:
“At first the idea sounds vaguely daunting, heading out to unknown lanes to spend a few days in the saddle with your kids, but the reality is so much better; a trip away is an opportunity for physical and mental growth for all involved – and once everyone is weaned off of their tech addiction the growth is exponential!
I took my eldest (10 at the time) son out for a cycling holiday in Holland and Belgium last summer, it was to be a 250 km road trip from the ferry port of Rotterdam, down through Antwerp, Geraardsbergen (to ride the Muur), and then across into Mons near the French border.
It was to be a relaxed ride, with very few hills for us to worry about, but it would be a long first day in the saddle, the idea being to arrive in Antwerp for dinner and have a good rest before the slightly hillier Belgium. And relaxed it was, the two of us gently meandering through the Dutch countryside, singing at the top of our lungs, and stopping whenever we could find interesting food!
Relaxation does affect speed it must be said, there were to be no KOM’s on this trip, with our average speed in the region of 12km/hr – instead we got to stop at sights, and sites, viewing the incredible engineering of the Dutch, and having our own mini-history tour across Flanders, where we could talk about the history of Europe and our place in time (gosh, that sounds dull in text, but it’s fascinating to discuss with a 10yr old!)
Upon our return to the UK, and school finding out about Christopher’s exploits, he got to have his head-teacher praise his efforts and give him a confidence boost at the start of the new year which was gratefully received. As a parent we look to ways to build up resilience in our children, providing them with positive anchors which can help them through school, and with his SATs starting this year it seemed like an ideal opportunity to build that resilience at this stage on his academic journey.
However, the most incredible sight didn’t come from the countryside, rather it came from witnessing Christopher grow in front of me, with each passing kilometre his confidence grew, and he stretched his own personal boundaries – aided by some pretty poor navigation from me we clocked in at 120km for the first day, and after a good sleep and LOTS of food, Christopher was able to appreciate the magnitude of the ride he had just done.
There were a great many nerves from us as parents as we set out on this summer adventure, not least of which centred around whether we would be able to ride the distance. To witness Christopher ride so far, and for so long each day, with a smile on his face and a song at his lips, was a parental joy!
If you are looking for reasons to take your kids out on a cycling holiday this year, the biggest reason I can give is the opportunity for growth that comes from them achieving such a goal, and the smile on their face as you spend family time talking about the trip and their experiences in the days and weeks that follow.
And his little brothers? Well, they looked-up at Christopher with absolute awe, and now they want their own adventure…..”
Last word on a family cycling holiday
If Martin’s experience is anything to go by, it seems the secret is to keep if fun, make it flat and use it as an opportunity to spend quality time with the family.
Even if you family are not that into it, you have no excuse to try and make it work.
If you need inspiration for the next family cycling holiday, you can filter holiday listings on this site by using the family friendly tag.