First Bikepacking Overnight with my two Boys - with the District Bicycle crew from Stillwater.

When you are a cyclist, with kids, I find I’m always walking that balance of finding ways to share the experience with them, without it being boring or too hard. My boys, 12 and 10, have ridden and raced some over the past couple of years, but most recently have enjoyed riding up to a local skate park and playing there for hours on end - which is awesome. That got us out on some mountain bike trails the past couple of weekends, which got the stoke even higher on riding out in the woods. 

So, when District Bikes announced they were having a Moots Demo - Overnight this past Saturday, the boys got pumped on the idea of riding to a campsite, Luther (10) mostly excited about having his “knife in the forest”, and then riding back. We committed to showing up which began a common parent journey of preparing a trip which means not only thinking through what you need, but getting your kids stuff ready.

A bike packing trip is a matter of minimalism, just enough gear for sleep, warmth and nutrition (and utility for the just in case). It took a couple days to get the sleeping bags, the 2 person Tent we shared, the bike bags, and riding clothes for the weather (35 to 40 degrees). But, with some help from the OKC community (thanks @andychasteen), and my wife Mandy #highfive, Saturday at the close of our shop we were on our way up to Stillwater to ride with the District crew. 

Both of my boys had just enough bags on their bikes to “count” as bikepacking - but not be too heavy. As we started the ride from District they were stoked immediately.

District rides aren’t a roadie, two by two, with signaled rotations kind of ride. It was more like hitting the streets in Goonies or Stranger Things, full of bunny hops, wheelies, super fat tires, and “whoops” as we rode through town. 

It didn’t take long and we got out onto gravel, the route to the campsite only about 10 miles. Nehemiah (12) was fine riding with the group, but as we hit the final 3 miles Luther (10) started to struggle. I helped with pushes and encouragement. Just like any of us on a group ride the worst feeling is that of being left out or behind. So, we dug deep and worked together to keep with the crew. *Note: They weren’t riding aggressive or fast, but gravel roads for a 10 yr old on their mountain bike is hard at any speed.* 

We neared the campsite and had just a small section of single track before the campsite. Luther (10) and I were at the back, as we just started to roll on the trail he hit a root, which stalled him out. As he unclipped his left side it pushed him right… down into a 10foot ditch of dead trees! 

Luther was fine, just some bumps and bruises. But jumping into a ditch in the dark to find your kid all tangled in a bike, you never know what to expect. But Luther was a champ! We got him and the bike out, and decided to walk the last little bit of trail before the campsite. That kid was so resilient. 

Then the best part of overnight, hanging around the campfire with food & beer, swapping stories, is so much better then any tv show or sporting event. The whole crew of guys and girl (#highfive Alison) were patient and encouraging with my boys being new to camping. Luther even got a small hit of congratulatory whiskey for fighting through the ride and crash, ha! It couldn’t have been a friendlier environment for both of them. 

Sleeping through the night went off without a hitch. As anyone whose done camping can attest, investing in the right gear is always worth it when it has to do with sleep and energy while bike packing. Hyke and Bike Tent, Big Agnes Sleeping Bags, Therm-a-rest Sleeping pads - it got down into the mid-30s and we all slept great!

The ride back we decided to have Luther ride with Bobby in the Sag Vehicle. 10 miles, at night, with a crash the previous day had earned him more than enough kudos and experience for the weekend. Nehemiah and I rode back into town with the group that finished at District.

What I always want to avoid is my kids feeling defeated, or that doing something hard isn’t worth it. As we grabbed breakfast and drove back to OKC it was all the re-telling of stories from the ride, the crash, the rope swing by a lake they found, and more. It’d been way harder than they thought, but that was part of what had made it great for them. 

Big thanks to Bobby, and the whole crew at District for having us join. Thanks to Moots for having incredible bikes to demo out and back. 

And for any of you cyclists out there with kids, it’s worth the work to help them have some adventures along the way. Yes, they will grumble about it at first, but then the magic of riding a bike kicks in and you can't get them to stop - even if the ride has real difficulty with it. Share it together, find any adventure, join the ride!

Tony Steward
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