Top 5 ways to pack for family bike rides

July 9, 2020

Getting the family out on bikes is great fun. You can explore so many more places, plus they’re perfect for going on a picnic.

However, cycling with a heavy bag on your back isn’t that fun. So here are some tips to help with your next family cycle adventure.


Let your bike take the weight with Panniers

I know many people don’t like the look of bike panniers, but I prefer to fill panniers with things for a picnic than carry heavy items on my back. The bike can take the weight much better than me 🙂 

Panniers on my bike
Here are the panniers I use on my bike.

Plus, with the weight lower down, your bike will be more stable. 


Saddle and Frame Bags

These are very popular these days and means you don’t have to fit pannier racks to your bike, which don’t look the best on a mountain bike.

There are lots of options with these types of bags, but they can’t carry quite as much weight as panniers.

Frame bags are typically useful for puncture repair items.

Saddle and Frame Bags fitted to my bike
Saddle Bags and Frame Bags are an alternative to panniers but don’t carry as much weight. What’s great is that you don’t need to fit a pannier rack to your bike.


Handlebar Cool Bags

An item we’ve used for years is a handlebar-mounted cool bag, which clips onto the handlebars and carries enough for sandwiches and snacks.

They often come with a useful pocket on top where you can place a map or your phone, and usually have side pockets for a few more drinks or snacks while you are on the go.

Coolbag on bike handlebars
For family bike rides, I’ve been using a cool bag that fits onto handlebars like this one on Amazon


Bottle Cages for Water

Don’t load up your kids’ bikes with bags, though. Young kids will find a heavy bike harder to pedal. 

But do make sure they have a water bottle cage fitted if possible. Everyone should have something available to drink, and water bottles can be heavy when in backpacks. So, attach them to your bikes.

The bottle cage on my bike
I fitted bottle cages to all our bikes. Water can be heavy. This is the easiest way to carry water when cycling.


Small Backpack or Daysack

Us wearing our backpacks on our bikes
A simple daysack backpack is ideal for cycling. Don’t forget the kids too.

You will probably still need a backpack, even if only for things like a raincoat.

There’s an art to correctly packing a backpack (link to post here). But for a day out cycling, we don’t need to take anything too heavy.

For young kids, it’s a good idea to get a small backpack, which makes them feel all grown-up, as well as teaching them some responsibility.

We’ve always found the LittleLife backpacks great for small kids, and recommend them.

Just pack a lightweight raincoat/mac, some snacks, and maybe a small bear or crayons and paper. 

Heavier items should be placed towards their back and nearer the bottom of the bag.

For older kids, it’s much the same, though they can help carry some of the picnic and anything else they want to bring.

For parents, if you don’t have panniers, you’ll probably be bringing items for yourself, extra items for your kids, and most of the picnic. 

Remember these rules for packing your bag:

Loading your backpack for cycling
Place heavy items against your back and balance them in the middle. Put lighter items at the top of your bag, especially items you might need to grab in a hurry.

So, there are the 5 ways we’ve used to bring all the things we need for a day out in the saddle, complete with picnic, snacks, and clothes for a change in weather. I hope that helps you too.

Happy cycling!

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Gav Grayston
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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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