By Pico Triano
Photos: Dale Coker, Pico Triano
Solo bicycle touring for me at times focused on just getting to my goal. I rode daily and relentlessly toward that goal. I'm not saying I ignored the sights along the way. I enjoyed everything I saw and experienced. Riding with a group was different though and riding with my wife and younger children was even more different.
As a family we settled on taking break days on longer tours. At least two days per week with no riding planned. How do we get anywhere? Not nearly as fast but it is a lot more enjoyable for everyone. It was hard for me to adjust my mindset but now I highly recommend group touring in this manner. Some of our break days are fixed in the planning of the tour. Others are left floating. We can take them when we think we need them. Keeping things flexible makes dealing with the unexpected a little easier. One minor disaster might not screw up your entire planned itinerary. Riding this way in my experience has some definite benefits.
On the physical side, a rest day allows you deal with nagging little issues. I someone in the group feels like they pushed too hard they have a chance to recharge and stay with it. Muscle strains, minor bruises, scrapes and blisters have a chance to be treated and heal a little before continuing on.
Our first family touring break day came as a scheduling quirk. We had a day where we had to rest but didn't want to delay the tour for two days. Second day on the road seemed like stupid timing for a rest day but it worked out really well. Our first day of riding was ambitious for such young children. The weather started out less than great and we had to stay on schedule because there was an important historical museum along the route that we wanted to have time to visit. Getting there just before closing time would not have made anyone happy. We pushed the pace. We enjoyed the tour of the Northwest Museum. Then pushed the pace again so that we could set up camp before dark. We crashed for the night exhausted.
The following day we didn't go anywhere. We slept in. Ate well. Explored the park where we were staying. The kids enjoyed the playground. We got to socialize with other campers who figured out that there was no motorized vehicle associated with our travels. We would have missed all that if we got up at the crack of dawn and cycled away the next day.
We followed that with three straight days of challenging riding for the gang. There was less grumbling in the ranks and it was easier to maintain discipline within the group. After the three days we arrived home and found that the trip went well and we still have the means to ride more. A day of rest at home and then we went for another two day tour before my summer vacation ended. The second run was even more ambitious for mileage and we encountered some ferocious headwinds. The whole week turned out to be one of our most successful and enjoyable family tours. We covered over 200 kilometres in five days of riding with two rest days. The oldest of the four children riding was eight years old and the youngest was five.
Mentally there isn't a much pressure to perform. It is easier to ride hard for a couple or three days if you know that you we have some real rest as a reward once you've done it. It's tough today kids but tomorrow you don't have to ride at all if you don't want to. You'll be able to go to a playground without all the gear attached to your bike.
Floating rest days will allow riders to hunker down for a really bad storm, instead of pushing through it. It might allow for unexpected repairs or even to take advantage of a sightseeing opportunity that the group stumbled across along the way. Flexibility on tour can make it easier and more enjoyable.