While you can certainly hop on your bike, head to the nearest park, and plop down on the grass for a picnic, you might want to liven up the proceedings a bit by turning your standard Saturday afternoon with the family into something of an adventure. You may not even realize that there are prime biking areas in and around your locale, but once you start scouting biking trails in your area you’re bound to find a veritable bounty of adventurous options. For the sake of safety, however, there are a few steps you should take to plan out your trip before you hit the road.
- Service bikes. The first thing to do after your bikes have been in the garage all winter is make sure they’re in ship shape and ready to take you out on the trails. You can either do this on your own with a few clean rags, a bucket of soapy water, and some WD-40. But you might also haul them in to your local bike shop for a once-over that includes a good cleaning, air in the tires, and any repairs that might be in order.
- Consider age and ability. When planning a family biking trip the ages and ability levels of kids must be a consideration. If you’ve got tiny tots, you don’t necessarily want them bumping along uneven trails in their bike seats. And you clearly can’t go too far with kids that are just learning to ride a bike. In these instances you’re probably better off sticking to city streets and hitting your local park or a nearby waterfront for your picnic. However, teens that are familiar with taking their mountain bikes on local trails may be up for more of an off-road type adventure.
- Print a map. Depending on where you decide to take your local adventure you might end up with little or no cell service. If you’re relying on your GPS to lead you back to civilization this can definitely be a problem. So make sure that you mark your route on a paper map. It may sound old-school, but you’ll be glad you have it when your battery dies or you’re out of range of a cell tower.
- Bring an emergency kit. With all the stories in the news lately about lost hikers (they probably forgot their paper map) you should take the hint and prepare for the possibility that a backwoods biking expedition could leave you stranded overnight or even for a couple of days. While most families probably won’t take their adventure too far off the beaten path, you never know what might happen, and having an emergency kit on hand could significantly increase your chances of survival. Your kit should include basic medical supplies (bandages, antiseptic, aspirin, etc.) as well as matches, water purification tablets, Mylar foil blankets (they fold up to about the size of a slim wallet), and a couple of flares (to signal Search and Rescue). You might even include a couple of MREs or a guide to edible plant species for your region.
- Pack a portable lunch. You don’t necessarily have to bring a ton of gear when you head out on your bikes for the day, but you might want to pack a couple of picnic blankets and some foods that will keep until you decide to stop for lunch. Non-perishable items like trail mix, granola bars, and jerky work great as snacks, but when it comes to your picnic, consider making some sandwiches and packing self-contained items like fruits and veggies rather than messy concoctions like pasta or potato salad. You should opt for items that are less likely to spoil and that require you to haul only minimal trash out the way you came in. And don’t forget to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated during your trip. You might even throw in a few sports drinks; the sugar and electrolytes will keep your energy high and help you to make it back home.