Bicycle Trips with Panniers – Inspirations for Families with a 6-Year-Old


We invite you to discover magical family moments that will stay in your memory forever. If you dream of spending unforgettable time with your loved ones, then bike trips with the youngest ones are the perfect choice. Get ready for a unique and inspiring adventure and feel the freedom in the great outdoors.

Bike bags Bicycle Journeys of 6-Year-Old Frank

My name is Sławek, I'm 53 years old, and Iwona is 46. Our son, Franek, is 6 years old. Physical activity plays a significant role in our lives, and Franek lives with us, learning by our example. The shared satisfaction of family activities and motivation is an essential part of Frank's upbringing. Through bicycle journeys, but not only, we teach our son that this form of spending leisure time is a life school from the earliest years, fulfilling dreams, and striving for set goals. I want to share our experiences from Frank's 6-year-old bicycle journeys and his first bicycle panniers on the rack.

This Is Where It All Started

When Franek turned 5 years old, we were returning from a trip to the Land of Extinct Volcanoes. On our way back, we stopped to pick up a used 20-inch wheel bicycle that I had spotted online earlier. At that time, our son couldn't yet reach the pedals properly. However, when spring arrived, the bicycle turned out to be just what he needed!

Frank's first significant cycling adventure was a multi-day Kinderwyprawka Bożocielna in 2023. This social event organized by Tomek Gurdziołek (Journeys towards Nature) brought together 33 families, totaling about 130 people! With a base near the Załęczanski Landscape Park by the Liswarta River, we rode bicycles around the area for three days. Tomek had planned several cycling excursion options for each day, catering to adults and children of different ages and abilities. Although I'm not very sociable, I felt good among this group of enthusiasts. For 5-year-old Frank, who was riding independently, these trips were quite a physical challenge. However, in the evenings, it turned out that Franek had plenty of energy, enthusiasm for swimming, and crazy fun with new friends. During this cycling trip, Franek had the chance to observe how many children and adults were riding with bike panniers on their racks.

Sweden - Let's Hit the Road!

Even in winter, Iwona planned to take Frank and Łucja on a cycling adventure to Sweden in July. Her plan was to travel with them on a ferry without a car, with bicycles and basic gear, and then cycle for about 10 days in Sweden.

I attached an old wire rack with a flap to Frank's bike, taken from some bicycle made around 30 years ago. Then, Frank received brand new bicycle panniers from dad - a real treasure! Extrawheel Rider 30L panniers in his favorite color, red. After a simple adjustment of the durable plastic hooks, the panniers fit perfectly on the 20-inch bicycle and the recycled wire rack. In these Rider panniers, Frank packed everything he needed: his favorite sleeping bag, several sets of clothes, a toothbrush, and other essentials. Nothing got caught, fell off, or wobbled! It was time to head to Sweden!

Franek's bicycle panniers Extrawheel

Accommodation in Sweden: Couchsurfing and the Forest - That's the Way!

When they were the only cyclists boarding the ferry, I had the impression that they looked a bit lost. But I can tell you right away that when they returned, they already looked like seasoned travelers from afar. And it's not surprising! One of the reasons is that Iwona is a member of the couchsurfing community and decided to utilize her couchsurfing experiences in Sweden as well.

What is couchsurfing? It's a way of traveling that involves finding accommodation among local couchsurfers where you're going. It also involves being open to hosting passing couchsurfers for a night. So, you can be a guest one time and a host another time. No fees, no obligation for reciprocity with a specific person. However, from experience, I know that couchsurfing is not just about free accommodation. If you have that mindset, you probably don't fit into the couchsurfing community. Most couchsurfers expect not to be treated as a free hotel or anonymous travelers. That's why being open to different people and clear boundaries in your interaction, both for guests and hosts, are crucial. If you're willing to embrace such an experience, you might get hooked on it.

Before the trip to Sweden, Iwona contacted several couchsurfers there, and some of them confirmed their willingness to host a mother with children, bicycles, and gear. Thanks to this, our cycling team could use Couchsurfing twice. Nils and Karin hosted them near Kalmar. They also have children, and Franek and Łucja quickly found common ground with them. At these hosts' place, they got accommodation, meals, ice cream, a walk, and the opportunity for a swim in the lake. A lot of fun and the feeling that they were not alone.

When their route took them away from the homes of couchsurfers, they camped in the forest. They made use of the principle of 'powszechny dostęp' (in Swedish: Allemansrätten), which means the right of public access. This right allows people to enjoy nature, whether it's public or private land, and it includes the freedom to camp in most places. However, exercising this right comes with the responsibility of respecting nature and other people. You can easily find more information about it on the internet.

My cycling travelers took advantage of this opportunity several times. In a forest by the roadside, they leaned their bikes against trees, took off their bike panniers, set up a tent, prepared meals, and spent the night. In many places, thanks to the principle of 'powszechny dostęp,' they gathered berries like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Several times, I received photos from them with contented, dirt-smeared faces.

Burden or Satisfaction?

Upon Frank's return home, I stumbled upon a book about Sweden by Natalia Kolaczek. She quotes a saying that goes, 'Swedish summer is the best day of the year.' However, the Swedish weather favored my travelers throughout their entire trip. Even before the journey, they embraced another Swedish saying, 'There's no bad weather, only bad clothing.' That's why not even rain clouds could spoil this bike trip for them. Thanks to the good bike panniers, Frank didn't end up with wet clothes or a wet sleeping bag! Packed bike panniers didn't slow Frank down; quite the opposite, they made the adventure more exciting for him, and he was as proud as a peacock! His Extrawheel Rider panniers turned out to be practical, lightweight, and easy to attach and detach for a person who's only 115 cm tall.

Dolina Baryczy - Welcoming Autumn

To welcome autumn in October, we decided to visit the Barycz Valley, and we were not disappointed! It was a very interesting and intense weekend. We organized the event ourselves through Facebook and had a group of seven participants ranging in age from 4 to 53.

No matter which direction we turned, we found well-marked cycling routes.

We had the same base and starting point each day, which was the town of Pracze. The route of the Former Narrow-Gauge Railway Trail, a cycling highway built on the remains of the old Prussian narrow-gauge railways, passed through there. In addition to this route, we also explored several other trails in the Barycz Valley, and there's no shortage of them! It felt like no matter which direction we chose, we would encounter another well-marked cycling route.

What was also interesting is that in just two days, we encountered almost every possible type of cycling surface - asphalt roads, gravel paths, less bike-friendly sandy trails, temporary forest hills, and potholed asphalt. Frank found this diversity quite intriguing.

Camp in the forest during a family bike trip

I don't know if you're aware, but in Poland, there's a program called "Zanocuj w lesie" (Camp in the Forest). Within this program, designated forest areas throughout Poland allow camping in tents and the use of gas stoves outside of commercial camping sites. We've used this option a few times before. In the vicinity of Pracza, I found forest areas covered by this program, and on these grounds, there are two tourist shelters where you can spend the night and have a campfire. You can easily locate them on the map, and the most convenient access is via a forest road starting from the cross in Postolin (take a right at the first nearby fork in the road).

Ryszard Szurkowski Bicycle Path

Ryszard Jan Szurkowski, a legend. As Wikipedia states: a Polish road racing cyclist, two-time Olympic silver medalist, four-time World Championships medalist, and twelve-time Polish champion, best known for dominating the Peace Race for several consecutive years. I may not remember the details of these stories, but I vividly recall the excitement during radio broadcasts of the Peace Race!

On the first day of our bike route, we follow the Ryszard Szurkowski Bicycle Path from Pracza towards Milicz, tracing the former Żmigródek-Milicz County Railway. The railway was established at the end of the 19th century and discontinued in 1991. The bike route is comfortable and designed in a railway style, incorporating numerous railway-related elements. Stops are located at former railway stations, and you often come across various railway vehicles. Various characteristic railway indicators are also used, such as W4, W6, W8, railway barriers, St. Andrew's crosses, and bicycle racks with railway wheel motifs. This bike path is equipped with well-maintained toilets.

Our first stop on the bike route was at Milicz Zamek station. We adults had coffee (prepared by ourselves: stoves, gas canister, and all the equipment were carried in our panniers), while the children played with small train wagons and watched fish in a large aquarium. The next stop on our bike adventure was in Ruda Milicka, where we saw an unusual library located in an old Wroclaw tram dedicated to culture. Additionally, the area had chess tables and two shelters, making it a perfect place for a short or longer break. We had lunch near the ponds around Grabownica, and since it was getting late, we headed towards our accommodation, reaching it after 6 PM. We had covered 40 km on the odometer.


The next morning, after carefully extinguishing the campfire and collecting all our trash, we moved back to the railway station in Pracze. This time, we set off on the bike path to the left, deciding to cover more kilometers in the morning. Along the way, we encountered the Swedish Stone and crossed the trail to Santiago de Compostela. We made a short stop at the local council in Książęca Wieś. A longer break was taken in Żmigród.

Żmigród is the second-largest town in the Barycz Valley. It is accessible by train, which makes it easier for cyclists to reach. One interesting place in Żmigród is the Hatzweld Palace. The facade of the palace, which has been restored from ruins, is quite impressive and allows you to imagine the grandeur of the entire complex. There is a small cafe inside now. The palace is surrounded by a large, well-maintained park.

After Żmigród, we stopped at one of the many observation towers. We stopped mainly because we were hungry, so we took out our camping stoves, gas canisters, and mess kits from our panniers. In no time, we were enjoying the timeless meal of pasta with tomato sauce.

Carp and Birds

In Rudza Żmigrodzka, we stumbled upon an event as part of the annual Carp Days in the Barycz Valley. The Milicz Carp is a traditional regional product here. During the several-week cycle of Carp Days events, you can taste local delicacies, listen to music, participate in ornithological walks, workshops, outdoor games, and fishing competitions in various parts of the Barycz Valley.

From Rudza Żmigrodzka, we headed to Ruda Sułowska, one of the oldest pond complexes in the Barycz Valley. Here, you can move not only along the ponds but also cut through the middle of them using special embankments. It's an excellent place for bird watching, as birds are the second treasure of the Barycz Valley after fish. I was thrilled! It's worth planning some time for birdwatching and bringing binoculars with you.

Congratulations to Franek on his 400 km bike journey!

A month earlier, Franek had turned 6 years old. In the Barycz Valley, he rode two routes of 40 km and 58 km. He completed the entire journey with his Extrawheel Rider bike bag, carrying his own belongings. We saw that his personal achievements gave him strength and motivation. At the same time, we didn't hide from him that he would reach 400 km on his odometer during the next trip. And you know what? In Pracze, at the end of the route, Franek willingly rode the missing 2 km with enthusiasm, riding a short section of the route back and forth. Despite being tired!

Dad and Son. Two Bikes and Our Bicycle Panniers.

The Barycz Valley and our sample route are a unique place to ride bikes with panniers. However, during our trip, we also traverse another exceptional realm. The realm of building a strong father-son relationship. Several hours on bikes provide a good time for conversations about dinosaurs, space, and the movies we've watched. Hugs, close talks, and the absence of rushed hurry also work wonders for lifting the mood. We carry this realm of our relationship with us on every bicycle adventure.

Baltic - Adriatic: There's Such a Route Near Our Home!

During the summer, Iwona is already making plans for her trips next year. She started thinking about a long-distance bicycle route abroad. However, she realized that it might be too challenging for Frank, especially for a child, to cover the planned 2000 km. And then, one day, while I was sitting on a bench near our home, I had an epiphany. After all, such a route runs right next to our house! EuroVelo 9 from the Baltic to the Adriatic! That's how the idea was born to ride from Poznań to Pula in Croatia. In the autumn, we plan to test parts of the route with Frank, like riding sections of the route, going back, traveling to the route, and coming back, and so on. In the spring, when the days are longer, we plan to reach the Adriatic. Our destination: Pula

Stage I Towards Croatia

On October 15th, we embark on the bicycle route of Stage I of EuroVelo 9, Luboń – Lubiń, covering 56 km. The weather is crisp, with a chilling wind blowing most of the way. We pass through sunflower fields, glimpse dahlias and georginas in gardens, encounter a few towns and small cities, and traverse some open fields. Beautiful Poland!

Museum - Literary Workshop of Arkady Fiedler

In Puszczykowo, near Poznań, a true gem awaits! It's worth a visit and even going out of your way for. The Arkady Fiedler Museum, dedicated to a naturalist, traveler, and author of books like 'Dywizjon 303,' 'Ryby śpiewają w Ukajali,' 'Kanada pachnącą żywicą,' and many other beautiful works.

Both of us were deeply moved by our visit to this place! Franek, in particular, will remember the enormous tarantula, alligators, a live Grandma Piranha, the dream motorbike, and a 1:1 replica of Christopher Columbus's ship, the Santa Maria (you can step on board and explore below deck). I'd like to add that there's also a replica of the famous Hawker Hurricane MK I fighter plane with the RF code, representing Dywizjon 303.

The museum also houses a memento of Kazimierz Nowak, who, in just 5 years (1931-36), solo-traveled across Africa from north to south and back. He covered 40,000 kilometers on foot, by bike, horse, boat, and camel. All this was done without modern gadgets or GPS. He beautifully documented his journey in reportages, such as 'Rowerem i pieszo przez Czarny Ląd.' We highly recommend this book to both kids and parents, as Franek and I read about him in 'Afryka Kazika,' and we sincerely recommend it.

II stage Lubiń - Dłoń. 50 kilometers of pedaling among yellow leaves.

Lubiń. Here we finished the first stage of our journey. Here we begin the second stage.

Before setting off on the route, it is essential to visit the nearly 1000-year-old Benedictine Abbey here. And along the way, another top-class attraction awaits us.

Gostyń city

The first attraction in Gostyń is the Gostyń Sugar Factory. We pass by this really large factory on our bicycles. The road goes uphill. So when the younger cyclist can't conquer the hill on the bike, they do it on foot! And on other hills, sometimes mom pushes him with one hand behind his back.

We arrive at the Basilica of the Holy Mountain in Gostyń. It is the only example in Poland of pure Italian Baroque imported. A beautiful Filipinian church!

After cycling down from the Holy Mountain, we reach the Gothic Church of St. Margaret and a mural commemorating the Black Legion. The Black Legion was a Polish underground organization during World War II, founded in Gostyń to defend against German terror. Initially, members of the Black Legion were recruited from the workers of the local glassworks. That's why you can see glass products and clandestine equipment in the mural.

Logistics of our route

It was already cold, sometimes windy. After the time change, darkness fell quickly. We weren't sure if we would find a warm meal on the way. But we were prepared for all of this!

Although I forgot to bring a gas bottle for the first stage of the bike trip, we found a cembrowina plant in the field, which served as a windbreak for us. We lit a small fire in it. On it, we heated up the pasta with cutlets and sauce that we had brought from home. Franek carried, among other things, a mess kit and cutlery in his bike panniers, which rattled beautifully on the bumps. I learned then that it's hard to heat up dry pasta. It's worth having plenty of sauce, or even adding water to the whole dish. It heats up more easily that way. For the next stage, I brought a stove for solid fuel. This time, I only brought cooked pasta and cutlets from home, and I bought a large jar of sauce on the way. We both rated the deliciousness of our meals at 5 stars!

In our bike panniers, we also carried warmer clothes to wear during breaks and very useful spare batteries. We arrived in Lubin at dusk, and we finished the second stage in total darkness. However, we had enough power for road lighting, and we were confident about our visibility thanks to strong reflectors on our bike panniers.

Part of the R9 route that we've covered so far partly follows bike paths, but significant sections also go through regular side roads. Nevertheless, we pay attention to cars, use common sense, and feel safe on the road.

This route, at least in Wielkopolska, has new orange R9 markings. But when I didn't see the new signs, I looked for the old markings, which were green bicycle symbols painted on trees, electric poles, and fences. Thanks to this, we don't use GPS.

In the Footsteps of Dreams

At the end of October, Frank and I went to the 11th Travel Festival "In the Footsteps of Dreams." We enjoyed it! Because life is a journey. So, we will live during our next trips, and bike trips are becoming our passion.

We invite you to join us on bike adventures; Sławek, Iwona, and Franek together at All4travels.

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