Cycle Touring With A Toddler: Equipment

So, we did it – Paris to Amsterdam by bike with a toddler!

This is the first ‘review’ post which will give some of the more intricate details about ‘how we did it’ – just in case anyone is interested in doing a similar trip.

As a slight aside to the practical topic of this post, it’s worth saying this – we can thoroughly recommend cycle touring with a two-year old.

You will need to prepare. You will need to deal with people saying, ‘What’s the point? He won’t even remember it?’

Well, they might be too young to remember, but they’re not too young to learn. And it was clear our son got a huge amount from being constantly outside for 10 days with his parents, enjoying a changing cast of characters and scenery around him.

So, with that said, onto the details…

The list below outlines everything that we took with us, and a few comments on what worked / what we could have done differently next time. I’ll repeat what is often said at the beginning of similar posts on this topic – you don’t need as much as you think you do. We had learnt this on previous cycle touring trips, and tried to apply this principle this time around. It’s obviously a little harder when you have an extra little person to think about, but it just means you need to be even more disciplined with your own personal packing!

On to the list:

On the bikes

  • Cycle computers – CatEye Velo 7 Cycle Computers: We bought a couple of these new, as recommend by many other sites. Simple, no-nonsense design, and work brilliantly well.
  • Mirrors – Zefal Bike Mirror: The small design of these take a bit of getting used to, but great value and rock solid.
  • Pannier extension – Steco Pannier Rack Extension: Solves the problem of carrying rear panniers and a child cycle seat at the same time. Worked well.
  • Pannier racks – Zefal Raider Front Pannier RackOur bikes already had rear pannier racks, but I bought this front one for the trip. I was tempted by the Tubus Tara Lowrider, but in trying to keep to a budget I went for this Zefal rack. It’s a bit fiddly to fit (as per other reviews) and I needed to create some spacers for the mounts to fit my bike’s front fork. But once on, it provided solid support throughout the 400 miles.
  • Child seat – Hamax Caress Kids Bicycle Seat: We originally bought a much cheaper model, but then spotted this in Halfords at half price. Very glad we went for this. The ability to recline the seat for nap time was brilliant (after a couple of days of getting used to it….). This design, which attaches to the frame of the bike (as opposed to the pannier rack), gives additional suspension and also space for fitting more gear on the pannier. It took a while to work this combination out, but this seat was a key bit of equipment we’re glad we got right.
  • Gel seats covers 
  • Water bottles
  • Bell: I didn’t have space on my handlebars for one of these which was fine for most of the journey, but sorely missed in central Amsterdam!
  • Pannier Bags:
    • Bike 1
      • Rear – Docooler 3 in 1 Multifunction Road Pannier: Cheap and cheerful, but felt solid throughout. Very useful bag on the top which detaches, ideal of taking out as a small rucksack in the evenings. The downsides are that it’s not waterproof (so wrap up your clothes inside plastic bags), and it’s a bit of a fiddle putting the whole bag on and off each day. But overall, this was a good bit of kit.
      • Front – Contec Transporter Light Pannier Bag Set: Again, trying to save money by avoiding Ortlieb or Vaude and went for this budget set. Probably the piece of equipment I was most worried about on the ride, and would probably go for the more expensive option next time. However, with that said, they did hold up and had no problems with them. Not too large, but big enough to stuff in gear you need easy access to (e.g. lunch!).
      • Handlebar – Ibera Clip-On Quick-Release Bicycle Handlebar Bag: Technically a camera bag, but just the right size for keeping your essentials in. The quick release and shoulder strap makes this a great bit of kit.
    • Bike 2

Bike 1

  • Rear Pannier – Left (Sam sleeping gear)
    • Inflatable mattress – The Shrunks Toddler Travel Bed: We took this inflatable mattress with us, minus the electric pump that comes with it. That did mean having to blow it up by mouth each night, but it’s small enough not to be too difficult. It’s a great design – the little bumpers either side kept our son in who is used to sleeping in a cot when he’s at home.
    • Mattress sheet
    • Gloves: For Sam, which are essential for when sat on the back of the bike for long periods of time. Kept in the outside pocket of the pannier bag for easy access.
  • Rear Pannier – Right (Rob’s clothes)
    • Clothes: T-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, jumper, lightweight casual trainers, underwear
    • Snacks
  • Rear Pannier – Top (Rain gear / stuff for easy access)
    • Poncho – Hamax Poncho: Designed specifically for the child seat we had, we were worried that Sam wasn’t going to be a fan of this. Fortunately it worked very well, and even when it wasn’t raining it gave a nice extra layer to keep the wind off when needed.
    • Rain coats
    • Bicycle lock
    • Books: We took a few select thin children’s books (for us that meant ‘The Detective Dog’, ‘The Guffalo’, and ‘Room On The Broom’!).
  • Front Pannier – Left (Bike tools / Nappies)
    • Spare inner tubes
    • Puncture repair kit
    • Pump
    • Allen keys
    • Screwdriver
    • Adjustable spanner
    • Nappies
    • Nappy bags
    • Wipes
  • Front Pannier – Right
    • Rain coat
    • Lunch
    • Cup
    • Bowl
    • Spoon/fork
    • Water bottle
  • Handlebar bag
    • Wallet
    • Passport
    • Keys
    • Cash
    • Phones
    • Sun cream
    • Sun hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Maps
    • Tablet: We took an Amazon Fire Kindle with us for those moments at the end of the day when a Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig is needed…
    • Thomas the Tank Engine: Sam is obsessed with trains right now, and having this to hold and entertain himself with on the back of the bike was essential.

Bike 2

  • Rear Pannier – Left (Jen’s clothes)
    • Clothes: T-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, jumper, lightweight casual trainers, underwear
    • Washbag
    • European plug adaptors
  • Rear Pannier – Right (Sam’s clothes)
    • Clothes: trousers, t-shirts, jumpers, boots, socks, long-sleeve tops, wooly hat, sun hat
    • Pyjamas
    • Soft toy for sleeping with: Our son won’t get to sleep without his ‘Oo-oo’
    • Crayons
    • Bicycle lock