Currently Wandering » Outdoor Family, Adventure Travel, Simple Living - Family of 5 Traveling the United States in an Airstream.

Gear Review: Which Bikes Are We Using on Our Adventures?

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During our first 6 months of travel we had grand plans for road riding. We both had really great (and expensive) road bikes as we had been riding centuries (Sam more than me) and were accustomed to training for and riding longer distances.  We dreamed that even on long driving days, one of us could get dropped off on a bike, ride 40 miles to where the other waited with the Airstream, and then even take a shower immediately! How amazing!

Has that really ever happened?

Not even close.

We realized pretty quickly that we just didn’t have time for long road rides. 20 miles? Probably. 40? Not a chance. We also learned that a high proportion of state parks and even National Parks have great off road trail systems. Turns out it was much easier to get in a mountain bike ride than a road ride.

I need to interject here with the fact that we are bike people. Nice bike people. We know many full time travelers that get a cheap beach bike for bopping around the campground & easy riding along the boardwalk. We are more serious than that. Despite the bikes living outside on top of our truck, we knew we’d want high performance replacements for our road bikes. I mountain biked quite a bit in college and was actually pretty excited to get back into it!

So what did we do? We switched up our bikes. We now have a pretty sweet mountain bike and a cyclocross. Sam and I are similar in height, so even though the fit isn’t perfect for both of us, we can share bikes and switch back and forth who is riding which one. Its definitely an advantage as we can carry less bikes with us!

Here’s what we currently have:

Canondale 29er Mountain Bike

We love the Canondale brand, so we went to Infinite Cycles (a local Utah shop) to talk to the super helpful employees and figure out which bikes we wanted to get. The employee there suggested a 29er bike (meaning the tires are 29″ instead of the normal 26″) because it could keep up with the cyclocross better on pavement. Instead of buying new, we hunted around on Craigslist and the local KSL classifieds and found a barely used one that would work perfect for us! This was also has hydrolic disc brakes which we weren’t originally looking for, but have turned out to be a definite bonus!

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Canondale Cyclocross

We weren’t really aware of the awesomeness of the cyclocross until we started looking into it. There are some definitely frame differences between these and road bikes (something about lower bottom bracket, balance, etc.), but I couldn’t tell them all to you. The employee at Infinite assured us this would be a great fit for what we needed. We love that it still has the drop handles for when we want to do more serious road riding, but the the tires are thicker with more tread so it can handle gravel and even some dirt/sand without completely falling out from under us.

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Diamondback Outlook 24″ for Rachel

Rachel originally started out with the Canondale Street 20 and we switched up her bike when we got back to Utah (it involved a serious re-arrange of the back of the truck). I made the mistake of buying her a cheap, crappy, department store bike from the local classifieds (I blame it on the stress of selling everything we owned at the time) and then spent $100 trying to tune it up. We made it to Portland before we realized she now hated to bike. It wouldn’t shift easily, it was incredibly heavy, and coming off the amazing Canondale she was having a rough time. We hunted around some bike stores in Portland and found her this used Diamondback Outlook for about $100. We gave them the department store bike to turn into scrap metal.

It has gears in both front & back which gives her extra power on the downhill and an easier climbing experience and she’s been doing great!

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Canondale Street 20 for Andrew

Originally bought for Rachel back when we were road riding (she did a 25 mile ride with Sam at age 7), this bike has slicker tires and creates a more bent over body position when riding. It still does great off road, is light weight and Andrew totally rocks it. It has one chain ring in front, and then 5 gears in back to give him more power without overwhelming him. Rachel can still toast him with her 21 speed, but he does a good job keeping up.

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Bootscoot or Strider Bike for Cara

This little strider bike has made it through all 3 of our kids. When we bought it for Rachel at least 7 years ago, strider bikes were a new thing and have come a long way since then. Since this was still working , we never felt the need to upgrade but some of them now come with a foot rest (for encouraging kids to pick up their feet) and even a hand brake. Oh how Cara could use a hand brake! She’s taken so many spills on this just because she gets crazy fast and the tires start to wobble and then she goes head over heels! Good thing she’s a tough, little girl.

She started learning how to use this back in Virginia (Sept 2013) and although she started out slow and cautious, it didn’t take her long to be cruising along at high speed. The idea behind striders is to teach kids balance without having to worry about pedaling. Once they get the balancing down (the hardest part about riding a bike!) they can easily switch over to a regular bike without needing training wheels.

She’s definitely ready for an upgrade, and I have an exciting announcement to make in a couple of weeks for what she gets to ride next. I’m extremely excited, because I know she’s totally going to rock it!

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Ride-aLong Bike for Cara

I already wrote an entire post about our Ride-aLong and how its great for riding longer distances as a family. While the strider is great for campground riding (or even mountain biking! Have you seen our YouTube video? Cara was amazing!), there’s no way she’d keep up riding 10 miles on pavement. With the Ride-aLong we definitely have more options as a family. When we upgrade Cara to a larger bike, we’ll probably still keep this around until she’s in at least a 20″ bike and can keep up easier.

Having more expensive bikes does have its risks (getting stolen for one thing) but we also mostly keep them mounted to the truck with the Yakima system and so far haven’t had much trouble. The benefits and opportunities are definitely worth the risk, and we carry insurance. 🙂

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  • The Scenic Route - Great post on your bikes. We’re not so serious about our biking but made an investment in decent bikes. We found out the hard way recently that we were not insured in all situations. Turns out our bikes were only covered by the insurance provider when they were inside our trailer (!?!) or outside in a reserved campground only. Forget boondocking, mounted on the back of the truck or parked anywhere else for that matter. We found out the hard way. I’m sure you guys have researched it well. Others be warned to really examine the small print of your policy to be sure.ReplyCancel

  • Amberly Houser - What do you recommend as the best way to keep them locked and safe at campgrounds. We recently purchased a bike for me and my husband (I haven’t had one since high school!) and a ride a long for my 4 year old (my other 2 ride without training wheels and can pretty much keep up) – we also recently bought a camper to spend our summers at the campground but I have been wondering the best way to keep them locked up when we are hiking or not right there? What suggestions do you have?ReplyCancel

    • Jess - We keep our bikes either locked on our truck or locked to a tree or post at the campground. We have a long cable lock that we thread through both the frames and the tires and keep them secure. We also try not to stay in dodgy places. 🙂 In 21/2 years we haven’t had a bike stolen yet (knock on wood!).ReplyCancel

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