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Family Bike Ride: The Gear

Bike_with_tagalongNow that we're well into summer, we're hopping on the bikes pretty often.  The sunny and not-to-warm days are perfect for riding into the sunset.  Thought I'd just share a few things that have worked for our pedaling family of four.

I've shared before about our riding around with our bike trailer (and which one we bought, at that).  Last year, our great addition was our tag-along, the Adams Trail-a-Bike.  We decided to get one when Philly was about 4 years old, and when she was getting awfully heavy to ride in the trailer with her sister.  Plus, she had already been on her two-wheeler with training wheels for several months, and she was getting good at the pedaling.  After testing out a couple of tag-alongs, we decided on the tag-along that: (a) folds and (b) has 5 gears.  (we felt lucky to have found what we needed on craigslist.)  The fold-up aspect comes in handy when we go on a trip, we can fold it up so easily and put it in the trunk.  We first tried the non-folding tag-along, and it was a bear to fit into the car!  Bikecaravan2 The gear-shifting is wonderful when we hit higher speeds.  WIth the fixed-gear tag-along, when we were cruising along, Philly would stop pedaling at some point because the gear was much too low.  She couldn't keep up.  Now, with the gears, she can even share in some of the work.

When we're both riding around with the girls, one of us pulls the tag-along and one of us pulls the trailer.  Sometimes, when we are riding solo, we have attempted the caravan: daddy pulling the tag-along pulling the trailer...

I guess a couple of my biggest tips for pedaling around town are:

Map it out.  It's good to know where you're going.  We have great bike maps of the CIty and even touring around Oregon.  There are routes with bike lanes, no-car paths, low-traffic streets, then high-traffic, super scary streets.  When you have the kidlets in tow, it's good to make sure you avoid those high-traffic, no-bike-lane streets.  We've once mapped poorly and we ended up with the kids on a major, major two lane, higher-speed thoroughfare .  Man, was it scary!  Here is a complete list of maps.

Underestimate.  I have a tendency to think we can go that extra mile with the kids, thinking we can do the full 10-bridge/36-mile Bridge Pedal without incident.  Easy does it, slow going, safety first.  I like to put a small radio/CD player in the trailer with Tati so she can play her favorite music for us and everyone we pass by.  If there are prolonged complaints or discomforts, we have learned to stop and take breaks!  It's all supposed to be a fun and healthful time.

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Great advice. A tip for parents with new kidlets (helmet-ready but not walking): our first (second-hand) trailer had a seat that was too tall for our little one's head to be straight upright (we started riding with him when he was about 9 months old). MUCH squalling as his chin was smushed to his chest.

We had a 4-inch-thick piece of foam that we cut to match the width of the trailer and the height of the seat, wrapped it in a beach towel and wedged it behind him to prop him upright a little better - it gave him clearance for the back of the helmet (which may not be an issue with our new Burley, which has an adjustable 'pocket' for helmet space above the back of the seat), and he was much better able to enjoy the ride!

Another tip re: helmet acceptance.

It's the law for kids under 16 to wear a helmet whether in trailer or on a bike, so don't take them riding without one.

We called it an "adventure hat" and that seemed to help him get used to it!

Don't forget the sunblock!

Great advice! My husband and I have been biking a lot this summer with our 17 month old in the Burley. It's been a great experience for all of us. We are doing the Bridge Pedal, but I'd like to know of other ways we can meet & bike with other families in the area. We live in John's Landing. --Karli

Don't forget the flag and making the entourage as visible as possible! We don't like to ride on busy streets, and if it doesn't feel safe, I will walk the bike / trailer on the sidewalk. Karli: On Monday evenings, there are concerts at Sellwood Park right off of the Springwater Corridor. Sadly, the crossing on the Sellwood Bridge is sketchy at best. The long way around makes for a nice ride, and I've seen many family bikers at the last two events. Perhaps we need an urbanMama's Bike event before summer's end...

There are several family rides planned by the Portland Wheelmen. My husband found out about them when he went on one of the city-sponsored evening rides.

All the PWTC rides are morning rides on weekends. The flyer we have lists www.pwtc.com as a source for more info.

I've been hoping to get together with other families for rides for a long time! It will have to be next summer for me, though my husband could go.

We're looking at bike trailers right now. I checked the previous comments but didn't see much except about the Chariot and the Burley. Any more input on brands? Is it better to buy a new, cheap one or a used, more expensive one? We don't want to spend more than $125 if possible. It is only for one 3.5 yo so I expect we would use it for a year or two before she moves on to a tagalong bike. I'm looking for lightweight because I'll be pulling it with a gearless cruiser. Is that an issue?

I would like to ask also about brands...any difference between Burley and Chariot? We are thinking of taking the plunge at some time in the near future....Just wanted to hear what owners of each have to say.

We did a bunch of research (well, my husband did) and ended up with the dual Burley with the stroller attachment. Mostly it was because there is more cargo room behind the seat, and we use that a lot for the diaper bag, market bags, etc. When the new baby comes, it will be our double stroller for most applications. I don't think we'll get another.

Our neighbors have a single chariot and have used it mostly as a stroller so far (their baby is pretty young still) and they really like it.

If you want one second hand, I'd suggest haunting Craigslist - but we found that the cost of used ones was not far off the cost of new. They hold value pretty well.

For a 3.5 year old, could she ride in a mounted seat? I don't think you'll find a trailer for the price you're hoping for; so for one year, I'm not sure you'd get your money's worth in only one year.

Hey Hau, We went last weekend to hear Lloyd Jones, and I had so much fun! We rode all the way down to Hawthorne, crossed there, then took the Esplanade & Springwater to the park. On the way home, we came back by way of the Sellwood Bridge, and there is barely enough room to get the Burley by the lamp-posts, so I'm looking forward to when the city rebuilds that bridge. We took our time & walked, but it is tricky when people need to pass you or you need to pass others. Most people are aware of the situation with the bridge & wait on one end for you. We only took it on the way home because it was dusk & we wanted to try to get home before dark. I wouldn't take the bridge otherwise for safety reasons. When they rebuild it, it will be such a great pedestrian/bike crossing between John's Landing & the e side. But, great idea about riding to parks--it is such fun! You can bring a bottle of wine (everyone does, although I don't know if it is technically legal), and a picnic dinner. It is a great way to spend a summer evening!

Would be interested in planning a family-friendly bike event! Sounds fun!
--Karli

Karli: Despite the sign that says "no alcohol", the Portland Park regulations allow you to bring your own bottles of wine and beer. No hard liquor. The mamas and I have been at the past two concerts while our spouses are out golfing. We were sipping our vino and sharing our picnic treats with all of the kiddies. We were the group with all of the balloons! We might have to go again for another "work night" diversion. You've gotta enjoy the beautiful summer nights while they last...

We chose the double Burley for the cargo room (we once fit a huge 18-gallon big rubbermaid bin in the back), folding flat in "seconds", quick-release wheels, light-weight, tinted UV protecting windows, and sturdiness. The Burley d'Lite, which costs as much as the Chariot Cougar, can run lots of money.

For more affordable options, I would also try to set up some RSS search on craigslist for used repuatable brands like Burleys or Chariots. I have seen a Bell trailer at Costco once, and I think it cost about $125.

A family-friendly bike event sounds great. Betsy, thanks for the link to the Portland Wheelman. They have an upcoming family ride (on Sunday 7/23) and have great resources/maps.

The Bridge Pedal is coming up and we're surely going to do it. It promises to be easier-flowing and more safe than last year. Maybe we ought to make an urbanMamas 'team'? urbanPapas and urbanKidlets are, of course, completely welcome.

We bought a Trek trailer at Target this spring and have liked it so far. We did some research, and didnt want to fork over another $300-$400 for another piece of baby gear that would be taking up more space in our garage. I searched Craigslist for what felt like months and never found a Chariot or Burley for a great deal--they were always either really ratty and worn out, or still pretty pricey.

The one we bought is the nicest of the 2 or 3 models that Target carries. I want to say that it is regularly priced at about $160, and we got it on sale for either $100 or $120ish. We've had Anders out for a ride in it almost every sunny weekend, and we've been to the store with it a few times and have had no problems filling it with bags in the cargo area. It's lightweight and easy to hook up to your bike, so we have no complaints so far. For the small investment, we're pleased and so far have no regrets about skipping the Burley or Chariot.

a great resource for finding bike routes is bycycle.org (that is if you're riding your bike to your destination, not driving your car to go biking.)

also, during Pedalpalooza each year, there is a Trailer Park ride for those towing kids on trailers or tag-a-longs. We went this year and it was great fun.

Becky, we were on that ride too! Funny - I didn't know there was another Urban Mama there!

Becky, we were on that ride too! Funny - I didn't know there was another Urban Mama there!

I stumbled upon this site as I was in the process of doing some online research. That biking and family time should be a fun and heathful outing and not the distance covered is a good point.

My 3 1/2 year old has decided he will no longer ride in our singleton Burley Bee because the seat back pushing on the back of his helmet is painful. Does anyone have any ideas for how to deal with this? Many thanks!

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