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 Cyclecamping with kids

 


Article by Geoff Husband - Geoff@bretonbikes.com

 2 Page

For more info on Cycle Tours in Brittany contact www.bretonbikes.com

It's four-thirty in the morning. It's pitch dark in the middle of a French campsite and there is frost covering the grass. I am naked except for a fleece pullover and beside me my two-year-old son, Sam - is having a pee on the grass. When he's finished I carry him over to his tent and as quietly as I can, so as not to wake Rosie (age 6 months) I lower him gently into his sleeping bag and quietly, very quietly, pull his zip up - "Is it time to get up yet daddy?" pipes an enthusiastic four-year-old (Arthur), HOW DID I GET INTO THIS SITUATION!!!

 I suppose it started six years before, when, euphoric after freewheeling out of the Pyrenees, and feeling that we'd had a real adventure, Kate and I decided to start our family. Like many keen cycling couples we realised that babies would severely curtail our cycletouring, but you've got to do it sometime. So in the manner of these things, 18 months later found us the parents of a bouncing baby boy, Arthur. Having a small baby, and a addiction to cyclecamping were going to be a problem but undeterred we set off on our first tour, around the coast of Brittany, when Arthur was eight months old. We had done day rides previous to this, in fact Arthur was "Baptised" at the age of 3 months by strapping his car seat to my rear rack (don't tell the social services...) which proved very successful as he slept through the entire trip.


Now though, it was serious cyclecamping, and this posed much more serious problems/buying opportunities, as my credit card will testify.

 The kit list read something like this :

 1/ Baby seat, a nice wrap around one which gives a bit more protection if you fall.
 2/ Helmet, we don't wear them, but Arthur doesn't trust us so we invested in a "Baby Bell Shell" which seemed fine until the chin strap buckle came apart in my hands the second time we used it, but a replacement was found. The problem with babies and helmets is that their heads are already heavy, and the added weight of the helmet makes their head fall forward when they go to sleep - usually 30 seconds after the off. I tried tying the helmet to the back of the seat with an elastic band, but then his head hung rather uncomfortably from the chinstrap so I just got used to the thump in the back as he fell asleep and his head bonked up against me - it didn't seem to bother him though it looked as if his neck was broken...
 3/ A bigger tent - big bucks again, we bought a Jack Wolfskin Dragon, plenty of room for us three and a doddle to put up, only problem is that they've stopped making it.
 4/ Panniers - Those of you with babies know that they need a staggering amount of gear. We had to buy a bigger car just to fit it all in when we went visiting. So cyclecamping, where you carry everything including your home, means a lot more panniers. My poor bike, a whippy 653 touring lightweight was loaded like a packhorse with full sized front and rear panniers while Kate carried the monster. As the frame was as stiff as wet string I expected problems, but Bob Jackson - who made the frame, know what they're doing and despite feeling a bit unhappy it coped without complaint.
 5/ Baby's sleeping bag - Most kids sleeping bags are meant for caravan use, we needed something that would keep our baby warm if it froze - the alternative of sharing our sleeping bags was too ghastly to contemplate. It took a bit of tracking down but Jack Wolfskin again came to the rescue with their "Papoose" bag which was perfect though pricy. As it was big enough for an eight year old we thought it'd get some use... They also came up trumps with a Polartec 200 Fleece suit which kept Arthur warmer than his mum and dad.
 6/ Baby things - Now the reason for the groaning panniers. A two week supply of nappies (my sincere and heartfelt thanks to Mr Pamper...), sundry wipes, a million changes of clothes (I make do with one) washing stuff but NO BOTTLES. If you're going to do this properly, breast feeding is highly recommended, apart from the weight and space advantage it means I can't share the night feeding duties (ducks expertly thrown damp breast pad...).


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