A Bicycle Built for Me

One of my dreams is to have a cool retro bicycle of my very own. Something with a big, low seat, wide handlebars, and lovely bright colours. It would also have an inspired retro-cool wicker basket, which I would fill with produce from the farmer’s market and library books and craft supplies. I would ride it around town, getting exercise and saving the planet, and my bike and I would look simply fabulous. People who saw me would say to themselves, “Who is that gorgeous person, and where did she get that fabulous bicycle?” Together we would be like good-will ambassadors for cycling and sustainable living.

bicycle cart
Photo credit – Ard Hesselink on Flickr

But there are obstacles to my bicycle dreams. We are now entering the rainy season here in Metro Vancouver, and there is just no way I am going to ride my bicycle everywhere in the bone-chilling downpour. The wicker basket would be soggy, my books would become waterlogged, and I would be miserable. I know that some people do it, but I haven’t ridden a bike since 1995, so starting small seems to be in order. But that’s the least of it. The bigger obstacles in my path are named Hannah and Jacob, and they are adorable but unable to keep up with me on bicycles of their own.

Bicycle Built for 5?
A possible solution, courtesy of Scott Jolliff on Flickr

If I wanted to ride my bike around town, I would need to cart one or both of my children with me. Collectively, these kids weigh about 60 pounds. So, let’s say that I wanted to go to the library. There is a hill between my house and the library, which means that I would have uphill portions going both ways. The idea of tackling that trip with two children in tow, plus whatever books we are returning and/or borrowing, is highly unappealing. Highly. Unappealing. Yes, I could do it, but it would raise the difficulty level significantly. So much so that in honesty, I probably never would cycle to the library with both children.

So I wondered, how do other people do it? If you have a couple of small kids, do you just give up on the bicycle until they’re old enough to ride along? Do you reserve it for child-free outings? Or do you get yourself a trailer and a toddler seat and cycle away, because you have commitment to the cycling cause? I would love to hear any and all solutions, because I still cling to the bicycle dream, even if I can’t seem to make it practical for me.

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  1. we take the kids for bike rides with our little trailer and it works well…but I dont use it for shopping and library trips so much although I would.I do live in a smaller size town though and it doesn't rain much here! Also not very much hills in town…we love to go out to the cross country ski trails in the summer and ride there…I think you need to live in a smaller community in a less rainy climate…

  2. I say start small, with or without the kids. Get use to level ground and increase the distance you travel everyday until they are either old enough to do it on their own (or at least one of them) or until your legs are strong enough to do hills. I have used a child seat on the bike and i liked them. I have also used a cart behind the bike. Both of these were used on levels ground and I can't say which one was harder. Balancing a child on your bike is an issue too… so while a cart may weigh more, it has wheels and it not a balancing issue 🙂 I live in the mountains and there is now way I could bike with or without the kids, so we save that for vacation time, except for when the kids ride in the driveway or at the park. Oh and when my son was 1 yrs old I used a wrap and tied him on my back, with a helmet on him and rode. I felt 100% safe with that, even more than him flopping around in a seat or trailer and hitting his head on either of those. you may be able to tie your son on you, and have hannah ride on a child carrier attached to your bike (not a trailer).

  3. Considering where my house is located I do not see anyone in my house riding a bike for at least another 5 years. At that time we will invest in a bike rack for the car and bike riding will become an “outing” we have to drive to.

    No way I’d attempt to bike up my hill! Man, I can barely manage walking up it. At least you are lucky to live in a relatively flat and quiet neighborhood that will allow your kids to rides their bikes near home.
    .-= Carrie´s last post ..Open (and Closed) Door Policy =-.

  4. I’m considering the options at the moment too, just with one child though. I used to commute by bike and loved it. Problem is I have 7.5 miles (12km) to cycle (one way) with one big long hill, and childminder is on the way. Cycling is not as safe here than in Vancouver, so I don’t do it because of the danger to my child. As in bus and car drivers see bikes as a nuisance on the road and while I’m happy to stand up, I’m not happy to do so with my precious.

    I’m dreaming of one of those attachments to the back, where they can cycle if they want but don’t have to. And because it’s wheeled, the weight doesn’t matter so much. A friend has a trailer for 2 and they are very popular in Europe. Apparently they are lightweight and very stable so it’s not so bad. Another option is this back cycling attachment for an older child and a bike seat at the front for the younger. It might be best to get you bike fitness up first before attempting that!
    .-= cartside´s last post ..of triggers and spirals =-.

  5. Hey – I may a (pricy) solution for you, at least for the summer. Check out the Bakfiets Boxbikes here: . Then Hannah could read a book to Jacob as you rode home from the library 🙂

    I deeply coveted one of these, until Jeremy pointed out that the bikes are not only very bulky to store in out little house, they also probably have nowhere near the number of gears I need to be able to navigate the hills near my house. Your house, however, is in a much flatter area..!

  6. Well, I posted about this. We go on “family bike rides”, ie my husband gets to carry the kids (two at a time – some years back), while I happily struggle behind. In our Italian cities and towns, wherever it’s flat, one can routinely see mothers riding bikes with one or two kids on bike seats (or on scooters – no helmets, no seats!). Bike seats are in fact safer than trailers (at least with our kind of tight traffic) and children cycling on their own bikes are even safer (ditto). I think it would be a good topic to investigate further, Amber.
    .-= Francesca´s last post ..Autumn palette: shop update =-.

  7. I haven’t ridden a bike since before I was pregnant with my first daughter too! I have one friend who rides everywhere with her kids in tow (she has a chariot bike trailer that doubles as a stroller). She keeps her goods inside, covered up with the kids when it is raining. She’s quite the superstar but I know any woman really, could probably do it. I’m so in the same boat as you on this one though…
    .-= Melodie´s last post ..Foodie Fridays: Hearty Tomato Lentil Veggie Soup =-.

  8. We bought bikes before we moved to the rural side of life. I ride when I have free time, not with my kids….yet. Emma got her first real bike for hr 4th birthday…she is just getting the full swing or peddle of things now. Her and I could ride around town no problem. Hannah, not so much. Next year though…maybe for Easter or something – better than chocolate!

    Here, where we have winter, I was amazed to see people hop on their bikes in ALL weather. In my previous life, my previous job had a winter challenge to be green…getting to work by your own steam, and not your car. I am too thin skinned for that, but I was amazed to see so many coworkers peddle themselves to work in -20 and colder weather! Yikes. Most days I walked, but when it was too cold I took the bus…still better than my car I am sure.
    .-= Heather´s last post ..Comfortable in my town skin =-.

  9. My husband has taken the boys (only one at a time) on training rides and been pleased with it, but even with a good trailer, the weight of child plus trailer is significant. Maybe a motor assist? 😉
    .-= Lady M´s last post ..Being Crazy is More Fun with Two =-.

  10. Ah, I dream of a custom-made bicycle too! I have absolutely zero experience of cycling with kids on board, but I have witnessed some pretty impressive parent-child balancing acts in the Netherlands. Kids on the front, in the back, in trailers etc. I’m sure you could find some solutions for carrying both kiddos on your bike if you search for European brands. There’s also a Portland, Oregon company that designs bikes that can carry two children, but now I will be very useless and tell you I can’t recall their name. Best of luck!

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