Category: Biking with Kids

Since I published the article for the Vigurvant, we were then approached by the folks from Companion Bike Seats to see about testing their rear rack/bike seat.

Here’s a short description:

A Companion Bike Seat gives your bike many of the same features of expensive cargo bikes and utility bikes, but is easy to install and works on most existing bikes, and some ebikes and motorized bicycles as well!

Not only is there a locking stash-box for your belongings, but Companion Bike Seats support passengers up to 200 pounds. Start a daily bike commuter “bike-pool.” Pick your kids up from school on your bike. Ride your bike to the bar instead of taking a cab, and you can still bring someone home with you!

companion bike seat

After checking out their site, I was really intrigued by the whole idea of being able to carry full grown adult and a sandwich in the storage compartment. So after a few email exchanges, Paul O’Leary agreed to send a test unit over. I’ll most likely use it with the Vigurvant pedals. It would actually make sense for both of of these companies to work together and see if they can do a combo deal.Anyhow, I’m looking forward to the Companion and we’ll report back to you on our findings.

We published a link to the following article on our Facebook page, and it’s worth sharing here, too.

Biking with kids is all the rage in Portland these days, but biking with six kids between the ages of 2 and 11? That’s something I never would have thought possible before I met southeast Portland resident Emily Finch.

Finch, 34, is a powerhouse. Watching her pedal her bakfiets cargo bike with four kids in the front, another one in a child seat behind her, and another one on a bike attached to hers via the rear rack, is a sight that not only inspires — it forces you to re-think what’s possible.

Read the rest of the article and see more pics over at Bikeportland.org.

supermom
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

As the article mentions, and as we’ve talked about repeatedly here — if you have the will and the desire to incorporate two wheels into your life, it CAN be done! I’ve met too many people “on the fence” about bike commuting…many of whom get hung up in logistical concerns or questions about what to do with their kids/clothes/appearance/safety/etc. While not everyone can forgo a car and switch to a bike (we understand that and accept that, believe it or not), there are still a LOT of people out there who could do it if they only put their minds to it.

Editor’s note: The following article is by Suzanne Sheridan, a woman I met 20 years ago in Sarasota, Florida under the strangest of circumstances. Suzanne is a dedicated transportational cyclist, and has some unique insights into traveling with a young one. If any of our other readers would like to submit guest articles, please drop us a line at info[at]bikecommuters[dot]com

The Birth of a Bike Mama

It didn’t take much. We were on vacation, visiting friends and family in Florida, and I had brought our jogging stroller/bike trailer with the intent of getting back into bike action. With the help of a Floridian bike mechanic friend showing me how to hook it up, I started using our SUV baby stroller as a bike trailer. One of our first rides was on the Gainesville-Hawthorne Rail-to-Trail. This was always one of my favorite rides before the birth of my daughter, so it was natural to start anew with this trail. What wasn’t natural was taking a 30-mile ride after a two-year hiatus from bicycling! When I started out riding again, I couldn’t resist the temptation to bike this whole trail. We made it to Hawthorne OK and had the requisite small-town BBQ. On the return I started to feel my lack of leg muscles. Unable to pedal any further I walked the last few miles of the return trip. This was one of the first challenges I would face as I grew into being a new bike mama.

Before my daughter, Wayra, was born I used to bike everywhere- for transportation, for fun, for exercise- for all of the above and more. Now, I still bike for all of these reasons. Overall the transition has been easy yet there have been a few challenges along the way.

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(photo by Suzanne Sheridan)

One of the hardest aspects of biking with a babe has been getting used to riding like a civilized and law-abiding citizen. I used to be one of those cyclists that raced the public transit system. “I bet I can beat you there!” I’d say as you were walking down the stairs, to take the nearest el train, and I was unlocking my bike. And I would do it. I’d run stop signs, red lights, and have near-collisions with cars all in the name of going fast and making good time. Now, wanting to set a good example for my trailer-riding daughter, I don’t run stop signs or red lights- even if there are no other vehicles or pedestrians around us.

Another related challenge is I still have a bit of an immortal complex. I have made obvious changes out of regard for the safety of my daughter. I don’t ride with her in the trailer at night, in icy weather, on roads with fast cars or where there’s a risk of getting doored. While my daughter always wears her helmet, I still do not wear a helmet. This is where I’ve refused to budge in my immortality yet I know that my helmet-free time is probably limited. My daughter has always loved her helmet – sometimes refusing to take it off when we arrive at our destination. And she sometimes says to me “Where’s your helmet? You need a helmet Mama!” I respond always with something along the lines of “Yeah, I should get that.” which satisfies her for now. The moment is in sight though when she’ll be refusing to wear a helmet unless I do too and, at that time, I will give in to being the good bicycle-safety role model and don a helmet.

A recent close call brought home that, with Wayra, I must always be the defensive cyclist. At a 4-way stop, crossing a busy road, I had made eye contact with all the stopped drivers and started crossing the intersection. A car, that I wrongly assumed would yield, almost plowed into us as I yelled “Stop!” and another driver yelled “Bicycle!” This driver braked within about 2 feet of Wayra’s bike trailer. This chilling incident lead to Wayra yelling “Stop!” at cars at intersections for weeks after!

One of the mundane hassles of biking with a babe in a trailer, has been racking myself, and jerking Wayra’s trailer, when I’ve misjudged the space of a turn and got the trailer caught on things. I have caught the trailer on the blind corner of our apartment complex more than once. And there was that one incident where I tried to squeeze us by a man with a walker on the sidewalk. I caught the trailer on a cement planter. While I racked myself good I could not logically be mad at the guy with the walker as I was completely in the wrong biking on the sidewalk, endangering a fragile senior citizen, etc. The moral of the story here is to give yourself plenty of room for turns, take your trailer turns wide, and steer clear of pedestrians.

There are many advantages to pulling a tot in a trailer. At first, it can be daunting going slower. However, even with the babe trailer, I find we often still arrive faster or in the same amount of time as we would in a bus or a car, when it comes to local jaunts. When it comes to destinations within 5-10 miles, it’s also quicker and easier for me to hook-up the bike trailer than it is to lug a child car seat up and down from our apartment & install it so that a friend/taxi can give us a ride. The bike-jock factor makes me happy as well. My legs are certainly getting stronger with the extra resistance of pulling the tot in a trailer and I can feel the gradual return of my super-biker thighs. Another little joy is the silent glee I feel when I occasionally get to pass another bicyclist who is not pulling a trailer. Beyond all of these perks, the biggest joy of all is raising a girl with a budding case of bicycle-love. Wayra can’t wait to ride on her own and I’m excited to be with her every revolution- I mean step- of the way.

flbike3
(photo by Suzanne Sheridan)

About the author: Suzanne Sheridan lives in Chicago-land. Her bike-love involves going fast, day-trippin’ on Rail-to-Trails, and rehabbing old Schwinns. When not riding, she is busy running after her toddler daughter Wayra.

I love my Bike in all the months.

Hello enthusiastic readers – year-round cyclists, beginner cyclists, or future bike commuters!  Like the title above says, next week is Bike to Work Week! May is also the only month where you can cycle to work and get loads of freebies – safety tuneups, swag, blinkie lights, bike maps, and bike buddies.  Check out Jack’s article for handy links. For the bike-commuters-to-be and fledgling velodactyls, the staff writers at Bike Commuters wanted to share some tips, inspiration, and motivation to make May’s Bike to Work Week the best. week. ever. Everyone remembers the first time they rode a bike, and our readers have told us how they got started pedaling to work, and it turns out Bike to Work Week is a great starting point!

Here’s a list of some great articles I call the Rookie Commuter Resources. Hand selected and gleaned by yours truly… and don’t forget to read the comments, sometimes you guys are the ones with the best tips for bike commuting!  Enjoy:

  1. Let’s Bike – This year, Elizabeth presented the basics on bike commuting at her job.  She asked our readers to give their advice to newbie commuters.  As Ghost Rider says, “the comments are GOLD” in this one.
  2. 10 Bike Commuting Myths Dispelled Jack’s buddy Alan Snel shines truth on all myths related to bike commuting.
  3. My Conversation with a Cop about Bikes, Traffic, and Safety TipsRL hashes it out with his friend “Officer Ben” to discuss the legal stuff and how to bike commute safely within the law!
  4. Out of My Way, Boys!This article is by Dottie from Let’s Go Ride a Bike.  A funny read for Cycle Ladies getting pumped to tear up the streets!
  5. Commuting in Style (Pint-Sized Edition) Matt gives some tips on how to bike commute with tiny humans (a.k.a. children).
  6. Friday Musings – Top 3 Must-Have Bike Commuting AccessoriesReaders share their thoughts on their favorite commuter accessories.

We know there are more out there, on our site and others, so please share more links in the comments box for any Rookie Commuter Readers out there getting pumped for Bike to Work Week: May 14th through 18th!  Pedal Forward, Cycle Ladies and Gents!

Lookin' fly, Priscilla! Bike to Work Week with your DOG!

In two of my semi-recent posts, I laid out some of the choices in traveling by bike with kids, and in choosing a helmet for those pint-sized commuters. Since then, we’ve acquired both a front-mounted seat and a helmet for our youngest, R. We’re in the early stages of use still… but so far so good!

First… the seat. It’s a Yepp Mini we got with our REI dividend (yeah, we shop there a bit!), and it is the coolest bike seat I think I’ve ever seen. I’d assumed it would be plasticky, but it’s actually a pretty soft – but shape-holding – rubber texture. R thinks it’s about the coolest thing ever, and couldn’t stop grinning during our first test ride! The only bad thing about it is we don’t have a bike that it fits really well on – right now it’s on my wife’s hybrid, but she has to pedal carefully so she doesn’t bang her knees, the footrests affect her turning radius (although not terribly), and she can’t slide forward too easily when she comes to a stop. So… we’ll see how it works out. We’re huge fans of the seat itself, but not quite as big fans of how it works with us and our bikes. I’ve got my eye out for a bike it’d work better with though – I figure I can find a used city/cruiser-style bike with a friendlier geometry for less than the cost of the Yepp mini! These seats are hugely popular in Europe for use with Dutch-style bikes – but the Dutch-style bikes here come at a prohibitive price point. I’ll be reporting back in the coming months on what we end up doing!

For the helmet, we went with the Lazer BOB infant helmet, and it’s working out pretty nicely. It fits R a lot better than other helmets we’ve tried, though it’s not as easily adjustable as some (you have to remove the helmet completely to adjust the straps, which is less than ideal), and… yeah, it still looks kinda huge! We’re still working on getting the fit 100% dialed (we make a small adjustment every time we put it on her), but overall we’re pretty happy with it.

Post-ride Contemplation