I remember my first bicycle camping trip well, and not just because of the driving rain and cold temperatures. It opened the door to an amazing and exciting new world for me, even after years of self-propelled outdoor adventure in many forms--a new world of self-reliance, flexibility, and satisfaction.
There is something empowering about traveling fully self-contained, whether in a canoe, beneath a backpack, or on the seat of a bicycle. The freedom to move about and adjust to changing conditions and desires makes all these forms of travel appealing, but the ease and pleasure of traveling by bike is an added attraction. And, no matter where you end up, getting there under your own power is very satisfying.
The challenge of biking for miles while facing the elements can, especially in extreme circumstances, expose personal capabilities many have not previously recognized in themselves.. Enjoying the benefits of that resourcefulness brings a feeling of mastery, one of the cornerstones of self-esteem.
Facing difficult situations without someone instantly saving them helps kids find personal capabilities they didn’t know they had. They can be quite resourceful when their personal comfort or safety is compromised, and the challenges encountered on a bike trip help them learn first-hand how to use to their advantage what they have on hand ..
That first bike trip started out mild, but turned cold and rainy the second day. Kids had cold fingers and wet clothes, but learned the value of synthetics versus cotton, the power of physical exertion creating heat, that positive attitude fuels an entire group, and that pulling their sleeves down over their hands while biking can actually help keep their fingers warm.
Learning that planning, preparing, and executing a sound strategy is a valuable lesson kids can apply to everything they do. It is the basis for all successful undertakings, including bicycle camping adventures. Bringing proper gear, and learning a packing system that keeps needed items handy is a great lesson. Refueling with a nutritious meal at the end of a long, physical day is satisfying, bonding, and educational. Planning routes and estimating travel time are important experiences. It’s not only about the intimate nature of bike travel, and the joys of good group dynamics. It’s about challenge, practice, and mastery.
Kids are faced with an avalanche of influences, peer and otherwise. Movies, music, products, TV and other media all compete to define them and hijack their self-image. They are so much more than those artificial ideals, and finding ways to help them realize their potential and capabilities is a worthy and noble goal--and the natural outcome of a trip based on self-reliance, physical effort, and consequential decision making.