Traveling with a baby for a mountain biking vacation

22 September 2023 by Pearl

Craig and I hesitated about having a baby for a long time because we weren’t sure it would be possible to continue having adventures once we were responsible for a little one. But we haven’t stopped! We bike toured in Taiwan from age 4 to 6 months and spent almost a month at my family’s home in Maine at age 11 months. And last week we took a road trip to Bentonville, Arkansas, primarily to mountain bike with a group of riding friends while also hanging out with our 13-month old baby. I wanted to share a little bit about what we found in Bentonville and our experience traveling to mountain bike with a little one in case the info is helpful to anyone else.

What we found in Bentonville

The goal of this trip was to explore the many trails in the Bentonville area. For the unaware, the Walmart supercenter chain headquarters are located in Bentonville. Walmart’s success has brought a TON of money into this mid-size city of about 50,000 people in the south-central region of the US. As a result, Bentonville looks like a typical small US city but has a world-class art museum and hundreds of miles of mountain biking trails, many of them accessible a few minutes from the downtown square (for those not familiar with the US: this is NOT typical).

It was a treat to stay somewhere with so many miles of singletrack mountain biking trail available a short ride outside our door. We rode from our rental home on three out of five riding days and there are still a ton of trails in Bentonville that I didn’t ride. The region has even more trails available a short drive from Bentonville that offered some variety and views to our riding.

Tons of singletrack available a short ride from downtown. Red is untraveled, blue is what I rode during our week-long trip. Captured using the Wandrer Browser Extension in RideWithGPS.

One thing that surprised and delighted me was the multitude of fun beginner trails in Bentonville. I want more people to experience the joy of riding a bike through the woods and to realize it doesn’t have to involve riding down a scary, intense rock wall with a big mandatory jump (although if you want that, Bentonville has it too). I had fun getting some baby air on the jump lines and riding progressively skinnier built features. Bentonville would be a wonderful place to learn to ride.

My favorite local Bentonville park, Coler Mountain Bike Preserve, included a coffee shop, a campground, and courses specifically designed for kids/teens to learn to race.

There were a lot of fun kids-specific skills parks.

A beautiful park in Rogers, AR with greenway and choose-your-own-adventure green, blue, and black mtb trails surrounding the lake.

The trails featured a lot of fun built features.

As an extra bonus, while we were there we got to meet Marley Blonsky of All Bodies On Bikes, whose work fostering a size inclusive bike community I’ve admired for a few years now. There are definitely some cool cycling community leaders living in the area.

I want this All Bodies on Bikes sweatshirt. Available in their shop!

Another thing we found in Bentonville was construction! We did a little bit of Wandrer’ing the streets and it seemed like every corner had a “Road Closed” and a “Detour” sign. The area is growing very quickly, with an average of ~ 10 people PER DAY moving into the region. (The Finding NWA promotional organization recently offered incentives of $10,000 and a bicycle to encourage remote workers to relocate to the area). I’m not ready to move there myself, but I get the Bentonville appeal.

We saw a lot of construction in the area.

Grandma makes it possible

One thing that has become more difficult since having our little baby is finding time to mountain bike together. We can easily bike commute around the city using our bike trailer, but our little babykins makes it very clear that she doesn’t like to be jostled around on bumpy trails. Fortunately for us, my mom is retired and agreed to join us on the trip to take care of the baby while we rode. It was sweet to see them spending so much quality time together, walking to playgrounds and the art museum every day. We also lucked into a vacation rental with lots of fun toys that the bb explored (and scattered) every day. I’m so happy and grateful that we could share our vacation with my mom. If she hadn’t been available, we would have switched off riding and had a good time - but it was more fun to ride together.

Walking with Grandma. (Note the trail entrance sign - a common sight!)

Road tripping with a one-year old

Bentonville is just over 10 hours from Atlanta by car, which made this trip our longest road trip with the bb. We split the trip into two days on the way to Bentonville and made it in one day on the way back. Our car had to be charged every 2-3 hours, so we got frequent breaks to stretch, change the baby’s diaper, and let her crawl around. The baby seemed the most comfortable of all of us, even on our loooong return day, taking naps when she needed to and conking out pretty close to her usual bedtime. Other than a few times where she insisted that I awkwardly nurse her in her car seat (sigh the things I will do to avoid her crying), the trip was easier than I expected.

My fitness at one-year postpartum

One of the most unexpected aspects of this trip was the opportunity to assess my fitness at just over one-year postpartum. Prior to pregnancy, I read a lot of accounts of professional cyclists who rode throughout their pregnancies and then returned to riding at a high level. In hindsight, I’ve realized that comparing yourself to professionals can lead to unrealistic expectations! My return to riding fitness has taken longer than I expected. My body has pretty much retained its post-pregnancy shape, meaning that I’m both heavier and put out less power than pre-pregnancy. During this trip, I got to push my limits and focus on the fun of riding rather than comparing myself to my memory of what it was like to ride at my personal peak cycling fitness (prior to the pandemic). I left feeling motivated to ride more and keep exploring the world under my own power.

At the end of a 4hr+ ride - definitely the hardest effort I've put out since pregnancy.

It was all worth it for the new miles.

Thanks Bentonville

All in all, we had a wonderful week exploring Bentonville, with 88.6 new miles / 142.6 new kms. There are so many trails we didn’t ride – it would be fun to visit again!

Baby's first pump track.

So many unridden trails! It would take time and dedication to get to 100% of the trails in the area.

Related Stories:

articles, community

Bike touring with a 4-6 month old baby in Taiwan

We had a wonderful time on our bike touring adventure in Taiwan with our little 4-6 month old baby. Our confidence to try touring was very much inspired by two mini-guidebooks (Cycle Touring with a Baby/Toddler, Cycle Touring with Two Young Kids) written by Maya and Gili on the Life in MAGIc Land blog. Since we learned so much from them, I wanted to share our thoughts here, in case they can be of interest/use to others.

Read article
articles, community

Wandrering the winter cycling capital of the world

Craig and I have very much enjoyed learning more about winter cycling from Wandrer Pekka Tahkola, an urban planner and well-being engineer who lives in Oulu, Finland. We recommend following him on social media (Instagram / Twitter / YouTube). Oulu is the the winter cycling capital of the world and this BBC News short video and Pekka’s head-to-head Winter Safe Cycling Showdown make it clear why.

Read article