As far as family holidays go, our cycle touring experience was unforgettable and amazing. This was our first attempt at cycle touring and for Emilie and the girls, really the first time that they had camped. We were able to cover about 1600 km across Europe, towing two small children, on a fairly strict budget over about 5 weeks. We remain married to this day.
In summary, starting in Chur, Switzerland, we followed the Rhine to Lake Constance (along the southern side of the lake) and all the way north to Bonn, Germany, along the eurovelo15. In Bonn we stayed with some great friends for a few days before we took a train to Aachen and then made a kind of circular route around Belgium and the Netherlands. Firstly we cycled from Aachen to Maastricht, across the very bottom of the Netherlands then from Maastricht we cycled south to Liege and then back across Belgium to just south of Aachen, where we took the Vennbahn route south to Luxembourg. From the Vennbahn’s terminus in Troivierges, Luxembourg, we cycled west back across Belgium and then south into France along the Meuse river to Charleville-Meziers.
It took some planning and there were certainly challenges but we were also extremely lucky: with the weather, with mechanical reliability (not a single puncture), and with no serious falls or accidents.
Our kids at the time of the trip were 2 and 4 years old. They are quite petite but still the eldest was probably only just small enough to be relatively comfortable in the trailer. Even after a few months, at the time of writing this, they have probably grown enough to make them too big to fit into the Croozer trailer for such a trip, so when we plan our next cycle touring adventure we will have to come up with a different solution for bringing them with us.
Pulling them and all the gear, for most of the trip, was not that difficult. However, we deliberately chose a route which was relatively flat (eurovelo15) for most of the trip. The hilly areas we did cover were towards the very end of the journey, giving us time to build up our riding fitness. Towing the trailer certainly reduces the average speed but our experience was that the greatest limitation to distance covered comes from the time to get two kids dressed, fed, etc. not from actually cycling with them. Having said that, our kids were remarkably patient with being harnessed into a bike trailer everyday for around 4-5 hours over 5 weeks, apart from a few epic tantrums and general low level complaining.
At the time we planned the trip we were living in Paris and we had neither bikes nor camping gear. So we bought everything we would need apart from a couple of pairs of knicks, one pair of MTB shoes and one set of SPD pedals. We bought most of the cycling gear, including two bikes and panniers, online from Bikester and most of the camping gear from Decathlon. I will write up the costs and review some of the major items in a following post. All in all we were very happy with our kit and the price we paid. Following the trip and before moving to Canada we sold the bikes and the trailer. It just wasn’t cost effective to bring it all with us, let alone practical with all our other bags and the kids. We have kept most of the camping gear in the hope that we will be able to use it once winter passes.