The Family That Bikes Together . . .
Merinda (BA ’00) and Rich Cutler (BS ’00) have been biking together ever since they met at BYU in 1999. Now, with four sons, ages 15, 13, 10, and 5, that hobby has become a family affair. The Cutlers’ passion for “bikepacking” trips has taken them around the world, to places like the Erie Canal in New York, Lake Constance in Germany, and the Okhla Bird Sanctuary in India, just to name a few of their favorite destinations. The kids ride along in bike trailers or on tandems until they’re old enough to pedal their own bikes, and the oldest even help carry gear: tents, sleeping bags, lanterns, and everything the family needs for the trip.
“We love bikepacking because it forces us to slow down and enjoy the simple moments along the trail,” Merinda says. “At the pace we go (which is pretty slow), we notice the wildlife, talk to the locals, and stop at a lot of places for food, and sometimes parts for our broken bikes.”
Each of the Cutlers’ trips generally cover about 200 miles in distance and take about a week to complete. Taking small children on a 200-mile cycling trip might seem intimidating as a parent, but the Cutlers have found ways to make it work for their whole family.
“We try to find a place that's safe for cycling and that largely is dedicated bike trail, where you're not on the road too much with cars, because with little ones it's just so stressful to worry about their safety,” Merinda says. “We always try to contact local organizations for maps and places to stay. If you're going to camp or even stay in hotels, you need to find things that are close to the trail so that you don't find yourself having to travel several miles off the trail.”
When the Cutlers aren’t on one of their trips, they try to take time to train as a family and stay in shape. “Motivating ourselves to train is really the hardest part of this hobby,” Rich says. “I think once you're out there and you're doing it and you're going somewhere beautiful, [the kids] are really into it. They're out there and they're having fun and going. The training up for it is hard.”
But despite the challenges it brings, the Cutlers have seen the undeniable benefits of biking together as a family. “These cycling trips give us a concrete goal to work towards that motivates our whole family to keep our bodies in shape and spend more time together before and during the trips,” Merinda says.
“It's easier than you think,” Rich adds. “I would love to see more people doing it and would love to help more people do it. It is so fun.”