Home > Cultural Movement, Guest Writer > Hosting a Family & Bike Touring With Kids

Hosting a Family & Bike Touring With Kids

Editor’s Intro: Introducing MyWHaT’s newest guest contributor, Bob Otwell. Bob is well-known as the former Executive Director of TART Trails. He is also a licensed civil engineer and is scheming to sprinkle those skills on engineering projects in the region. We’re scheming to keep him busy applying his multimodal perspective as a guest contributor. Bob is a dedicated walker, biker and  front porch sitter.


The House Guests

Guest Contributor: Bob Otwell


Warm ShowersRecent house guests reminded us of the versatility that is the humble bicycle. Heidi, Reuben and their two toddlers arrived in Traverse City last Friday as part of their 2-week bike tour of Michigan. They live in Hamilton, Ontario, and were practicing for a year-long cycle touring adventure starting in the spring. We got connected with Heidi and Reuben as members of Warm Showers at Warmshowers.org. Warm Showers is a site that connects people for reciprocal hospitality while on cycle tours.

When our children were young, we were pretty good at dragging them around town on bike seats and a bike trailer to fulfill our family obligations. But when we left town, we drove. Our guests have created a way to travel with two toddlers (1 and 3 years old), and keep everyone happy and comfortable. At the same time, they are traveling long distances.

Heidi, Reuben, children and their gear pause for a photo in Traverse City.

It’s Simple, Really

Reuben has an Xtracycle with two handmade seats for the kids, along with touring bags. Heidi has panniers and pulls a trailer. With this set-up they are able to accommodate all of their needs, including cooking, camping equipment, and kid “stuff”. Finding new friends to grab a warm shower is a bonus, not a problem.

They are strictly about the journey; seeking adventures and embracing challenges along the way. However, these parents aren’t afraid to change plans and be flexible when someone needs a nap, or high winds and rain dictate a different option. Heidi and Reuben are not trying to log huge miles per day or post breakneck speeds. They simply want to hit the road and enjoy being together as a family. They have thoughtfully put together the needed bicycles, child seats and gear, and made it work.

Follow them at www.pedalpoweredfamily.com.

It was inspiring to talk with them and to hear about their plans and dreams. Any possible reason we could think of for not undertaking an adventure like theirs (or even biking across town), now seems trivial in comparison and totally doable.


EDITOR’S ADDITION: This gives me an opportunity to share related link I’ve wanted to share for a few weeks, “Post-Car Adventure Guide Books.” It’s a fledgling publishing company looking for some peer assistance.

  1. October 6, 2010 at 10:23 am

    I’m intrigued by this bicycling family and their adventure. It sounds very dreamy and ambitious, but my first thought as a parent to a (busy) 16-month old was, “you’re going to keep a two-year old cooped up in a bike trailer for hours on end while you travel around the continent? That’s just not fair to him.” Toddlers are BUSY and it seems unfair to keep them strapped in to something for more than about an hour or two. Give or take a nap here and there. Aside from that, I’m inspired by the idea of traveling this way with children. Maybe we’ll start with a day trip to see the fall colors?

  2. October 6, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Apparently, they seemed to sleep pretty well while on the road, however, Bob, who is off in the woods for a month so can’t reply, did tell me that they had to re-do some of their scheduling. They originally didn’t allow for the number of stops needed to let the kids shake-it-off.

  3. October 7, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Our two little ones were quite busy during the whole trip! We listened closely though, and stopped when they needed time away from the bikes — mainly at playgrounds and libraries along the way. Bicycle touring with kids is all about paying attention to their needs, and not trying to meet daily distance goals or trying to get anywhere quickly.

    Our original intentions with this tour of Michigan was to travel around the lake via the Upper Peninsula, returning on the ferry to Ludington. With the kids setting our pace, we quickly realized we had not allotted enough time for that distance, so we decided after Traverse City to reroute considerably. Pushing on with our original goal would have been possible, but unfair to the kids.

  4. October 8, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Thanks, Reuben. I can’t wait to read more about your travels with kids and toddler negotiations… I’m inspired!

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