If I had a penny for every time someone told they hoped to head out to bike across the country once their kids have left the home, I would be a rich woman. I’ve been stunned at how many people feel they need to stay home for eighteen years until their kids are in college before taking off. I say, go now. Take advantage of every moment you have with your children before it is too late.
One day in 2006, just before we headed out for our first major family bicycle tour, I visited a friend of mine whose son had just committed suicide. She clung to me as tears streamed down her face and said, “Take advantage of every second you have with your boys. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow may never come.”
I was struck by those words. “Tomorrow may never come.” Through her grief and torment, she uttered some of the wisest words I’ve ever heard, and I’ve thought about those words a lot in the hours we’ve spent pedaling the highways and byways together as a family.
There are many, many reasons to head out on a bicycle tour with your children – whether for an overnight trip to Grandma’s house or a multi-year world tour. Here's six:
Work together as a family toward a common goal: In today’s society, families aren’t generally united in their efforts. Kids head off in the morning to their respective schools, parents are off to their jobs in different parts of the city. By the time everyone gets home at night, they are exhausted and still need to get homework done, dinner cooked, laundry washed, and the house clean. Work toward a common goal? You gotta be kidding me!
When on a bike tour, each member of the family becomes part of the team. Whether you are riding together on a tandem or each person rides his/her own single, you’ll be working together to arrive at your destination. You’ll find yourselves encouraging one another to get up the tough hills during the day, working together to get camp set up in the evening, and hanging out around the campfire at night. It’s one of those rare opportunities to come together as a family without all the distractions of “normal” life.
Be a team: On a bike tour, you will find you won’t be parents and children, adults and kids, teachers and students – you’ll be equal members of a team. Each member of the team comes in with certain strengths and weaknesses and you’ll quickly figure out how to utilize each other’s strengths to overcome their weaknesses.
Educational opportunities: On any bike tour, you will find many, many educational opportunities to take advantage of. Whether you are simply out for a weekend before the kids go back to school or are roadschooling your children on an extended tour, the journey will help your children learn more about the word they live in.
When you take a break in the desert, point out how the plants are specially designed for the dry, arid conditions. When you pass roadside historical signs, stop and read them together. Talk about how movement of tectonic plates has created the mountains you are cycling through. When it’s raining discuss the water cycle. In short, take advantage of your surroundings to help your children learn.
Go beyond “school”: In addition to the many “school” subjects your child will learn on the road, he/she will learn about life itself from the bike. When she crests her first pass and gazes down upon the vast valley spread out below her, she’ll learn the value of persistence. Determination, stick-to-it-ive-ness, and understanding the thrill of victory are all very real benefits of a bike tour.
Set an example: Parents are children’s primary teacher. What kind of teacher do you want to be? By heading out on a bike tour with your children, you are showing them that an active lifestyle is a rich, fulfilling way to live. You are teaching your kids there is more to life than work, work, and more work.
Unplugged: With our dependence on electronic forms of entertainment, “unplugging” ourselves for a few days is a good thing. Children learn to depend on Mother Nature for toys and know that electricity and batteries are not essential.