Adventure is not just for grown-ups. Best Life Adventures founder Ben Southall recently embarked on a two-and-a-half day Back Pocket Adventure with his son Atlas on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) – the longest rail trail in Australia.

So, this Father’s Day If you’re fed up with family lunches, bored with backyard cricket and need a little more excitement to keep your adventure-spirit flowing, here’s an easy-to-do, infinitely rewarding way of spending quality time with your favourite little person.

The BVRT winds its way down the Brisbane Valley, traversing farmland, forests, picturesque rural settings, and country towns. Being on the old railway line, the BVRT provides an off-road gradual descent down the valley (or a tougher climb if you’re up for some punishment) for day trippers, overnight campers, or multi-day adventurers.

What a way to explore the middle of f@ckery not far from Brisbane!

In a nutshell, Atlas and I pedalled 100 km (90% by Ben) along easy gravel paths, with free camping, magpie swoops, snakes and lizards, butterfly bushes, ice cream, and cool swims to break up the days. Let me tell you, it was an unforgettable experience.

In this post, I’ll share some tips on how to undertake a cycling trip like this with your child, the essential gear you’ll need, and where to stay each night.

1. Plan and Prepare:

Before hitting the trail, planning and preparation are key to a successful and enjoyable trip. Here are some important steps to take:

  • Fitness Level: Assess your child’s fitness level and ensure they can handle cycling long distances. Prior to the trip, practice with shorter rides to build endurance and confidence.
  • Check the Trail: Research the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail to understand the terrain, elevation changes, and any potential challenges along the route. It’s a scenic trail, but being informed will help you and your child prepare. This trail is definitely best ridden from north to south to use the drop in elevation to your advantage – beware there are still some ‘UP’ sections though.
  • Weather and Season: Consider the weather conditions during your trip. Choose a time of the year with mild temperatures, and be prepared for varying weather conditions. We went in September, which is a convenient shoulder season after the cold nights of winter, and before the summer heat kicks in.
  • Accommodation: We took a two-person tent and used the free camping that’s available at the Linville Hotel, and then at the showgrounds in Toogoolwah for a small fee. There’s easy access to toilets, a shower and great local pub food.

2. Essential Gear:

Having the right gear can make all the difference in ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable journey. Here’s what I took to make my, and his life easier!:

  • Bike: My Merida Silex was perfect for the surface and conditions with a mix of tarmac and gravel paths to navigate. Atlas rode on a tow-along bike behind where he could use the pedals and feel like he was doing something to help – but in reality, didn’t! I found it on Facebook Marketplace for around $50 and it’s been great for all the trips we’ve done so far. Ensure your child’s bike is in good condition and fits them properly. Safety comes first, so make sure they wear a well-fitted helmet at all times.
  • Cycling Apparel: I used a decent set of cycling knicks to save my ass. I don’t ride that regularly and it definitely helped to protect my undercarriage! Atlas was dressed in comfortable, long-sleeved moisture-wicking clothing suitable for cycling to protect him from the sun and dry out easily when I washed it. The nights did get cool so having a change of clothes and a lightweight jacket was essential.
  • Hydration and Snacks:  2 x frame bottles and a 2-litre hydration bladder in my Osprey backpack was enough to get us between drink stops, although there are always enough small cafes and petrol stations on the way too. I had a frame bag stuffed full of snacks to get through the ‘grumbly’ parts of the day. We played a load of games as we went which helped passed the time and gave him something to distract him too!
  • First Aid Kit: I had a really small first aid kit, just in case.
  • Tools and Spare Parts: Carry enough to repair and replace parts but not so much to take up space! Simple spanners, a Leatherman multi-tool and that’s about it! I did also have a small tyre pump, patch kit, and extra inner tubes for both wheel sizes.

3. Enjoy the Journey:

During the trip, remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. We took lots of breaks, swam in the creeks, stopped to chat to the cows and locals, and Atlas captured photos throughout the trip as part of his school show and share. Cycling with him was a wonderful bonding experience for the two of us, and a real opportunity to sow the seed for adventure and the great outdoors.

Considering the distance and the needs of a young child, I’d recommend planning the itinerary with family-friendly and suitable campsite options. Here’s a suggested plan for your trip:

Day 1: Yarraman to Linville 

  • Distance: Approximately 41km
  • Campsite: Linville Hotel

On the first day, you can start your journey from Yarraman and cycle approximately 41km to reach Linville where there’s a campsite that runs alongside the trail and the pub is superb at the weekend for some music and decent pub grub with family-friendly options. There are full amenities like toilets, showers, and grassy areas to let the kids run riot before passing out for the night.

Day 2: Linville to Toogoolwah

  • Distance: Approximately 35km
  • Campsite: Toogoolwah Showground

The second day’s journey will take you from Blackbutt to Moore, covering approximately 35km. The campground is a 2km ride from the centre and the pub (best food option) but a good way to stretch your legs after setting up camp without the extra weight on the bike.

Day 3: Toogoolwah to Esk

  • Distance: Approximately 30km
  • Campsite: Esk Caravan Park or nearby campgrounds

On the final day, you’ll cycle around 30km from Moore to reach Esk, to finish up your adventure along the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. For the last night, you can either drive home or opt to stay at the Esk Caravan Park or explore nearby campgrounds with suitable amenities for families.

Remember, the distances mentioned are approximate, and it’s essential to consider your child’s stamina and comfort throughout the journey. Take plenty of breaks, enjoy the scenery, and make wonderful memories with your little one.

Before setting off, if would be worth checking availability if you’re considering doing this over a weekend during the high season, and if you want to use the pub or hotel accommodation, booking in advance.

Definitely carry sufficient water, snacks, and any necessary supplies to ensure they are happy enough throughout – they’ll have their meltdown moments of course, but the odd sweet snack as a teaser will mean it’s a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your child.

If youi’re keen to hear more about their cycling adventure? Listen to this radio interview Ben did with ABC Radio Brisbane’s Rebecca Levingston here.

Thanks to our gear partners Merida Bikes and Wild Earth Australia and a massive shout out to our mates at Out there Cycling for connecting us back to the start.

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