My City Bike: A mama’s perspective


Marion Rice and daughter Gleneden on
Marion’s city bike: an Xtracycle conversion
with a rear child seat and front basket.
(Photo © J. Maus)

[This is the first in a series of “My City Bike” interviews with Portlanders who ride bikes intended for urban transportation. The first interview is with our family biking columnist Marion Rice.]

BikePortland: What kind of rider are you?

Marion Rice: A very experienced city bike rider.

BP: Describe the bike you ride every day.

The mama bike in action.

MR: A Cannondale H300 step-through frame that I’ve had for years. I put an Xtracycle attachment on it to carry my kids. For the conversion, I had a new back wheel hand built, a really sturdy one because I blew through my stock back wheel in two months. I have a Bobike Maxi seat for my 3 year old, and my 7 year old sits on the back deck.

I have a bell and, a kickstand. My front basket is probably 20 years old or so. I actually think I got it at Citybikes moons ago. I think I have 24 speeds, 3 gears in front and 8 in the back — I am not bike-technical at all. I routinely do the Interstate hill with kids and groceries. But I ride up the sidewalk on that gnarly hill after crossing at the Greeley bike light. I don’t think it’s safe to have kids and loads going up the bikelane on Interstate — there just isn’t enough room.

I love my bike. But it’s not very pretty. It’s not my persona. I believe that if you have the ability to have a bike exemplify your identity, you should do that. But unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to really do that.

“As for looks, I want a pretty, sexy bike that has nice lines, really nice handlebar shape, that’s round, like a woman… also it needs to be utilitarian — like a mom, it can do everything!”

BP: What do you use your bike for?

MR: I use my bike to get around with my two children, and to do errands like grocery shopping. To do everything. All the little stuff.

I can carry 250 lbs on the Xtracycle and 70 lbs of kid in the Bobike seat. I routinely carry 3-4 bags of groceries and at least one kid.

Recently we went to the Grant Park pool. Griffin wanted to bring a friend home with him. We hopped on the Xtracycle, Griffin was in the BoBike seat, the friend was on the back, and we just went.

BP: What is your ideal city bike? Dream big.

MR: What I’m looking for in a city bike is that it’s versatile, for me to be able to carry groceries, or lawnchairs, swimsuits, towels, goggles.

I’d like to have something more like a Dutch bike, with an upright riding position as opposed to one that’s bent over like a road or mountain bike or down low like a Townie.

As for looks, I want a pretty, sexy bike that has nice lines, really nice handlebar shape, that’s round, like a woman. Something that’s not too angular, that just really feels soft and graceful. But also it needs to be utilitarian — like a mom, it can do everything!

But it has to be pretty, so of course it has to be some fabulous color, like a really rich turquoise-y sea green or a beautiful plum color, something yummy. I think the handlebar sweep is really important. I think it should have a chain guard — a sexy one, not a clunky one — so your dress doesn’t get caught while you’re riding. It should have nice details in the fabrication, around the joints, that really set it apart and make it strong yet beautiful.

And the components of course should be — think about weight. A mama who does all the things I do wants the bike to be sturdy but not so heavy that it’s just a dog. We want a bike that is geared so we have choice in how fast we go and how much load we carry. There need to be enough gears so that you can versatilely get around.

I don’t want to specify the exact style. You know that Gary Fisher with the nice metal rack in the front — I like those a lot. I like the Retrovelos. I am beginning to think that you can make a mama bike that’s a city bike that can do all the things you do — but that doesn’t have to be a longtail.

It would be great if a city bike had folding child seats that could be stowed when not in use but easily bolted into the front and rear rack when I wanted to use them. Because the children aren’t going to be carried by bike forever. There are only 7 or 8 years when you’re carrying kids around. So if you’re going to invest in a really nice city bike you want to be able to swap out the kid seats, and then put them back in when you have grandkids.

This October, framebuilders will compete in the Oregon Manifest Constructor Challenge to design, build, and ride functional city bikes. We hope these interviews can help inspire the builders, as well as all of you out there trying to figure out how to pick up your kids, or groceries, or a case of beer on your bike.

Photo of author

Elly Blue (Columnist)

Elly Blue has been writing about bicycling and carfree issues for since 2006. Find her at

Notify of

newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
14 years ago

I look forward to more in this series of articles. I think interviewing people about the bikes they ride and the functionality is does (and does not) afford them is an extremely valuable resource. Both for us riders looking for ideas of how to better get around, as well as for builders to learn more about what people actually want.

14 years ago

Vive la bicycle! I admire Ms. Rice’s determination. Choosing to bicycle instead of drive is a huge decision, one I’ve also made. While I used to carry my dog in the front basket, I can’t imagine toting two children and groceries…good for her, her kids, and the people who see her making a positive difference in the world. Well done, Marion. And well done, BikePortland; I agree with 3-speeder…I’d like to see more articles about other riders and their wheels. Especially riders like me…and Ms. Rice. Speaking for myself, I don’t do this for the sport and muscles, I do it because it is the right thing for me to do.

14 years ago

I love this article! I am a beginner small-town rider but have been using only my bike to transport me and my 7&3 year old around town since early spring. I just did a big grocery order tonight with both kids and groceries in the trailer. The 7 year old hops out on big hills! I am thinking about adding an Extracycle deck on my craigslist-find Trek, but for now the trailer works ok. There aren’t many people riding around town and even less people riding with kids, so it’s great to hear your perspective!

14 years ago

Katie, I admire you, too. You rock! 🙂

14 years ago

i think it will be a lot harder for me to complain about hills, heat, etc. after reading this, as i only have to haul myself around. way to go!

14 years ago

I ride a Yuba on occasion and I can tell you there is nothing like carrying 40lbs of groceries and a friend on back. I understand that not everyone needs a longtail. But they are fun for carrying everything and anything all at once. I can’t wait to read more articles about fellow Portland riders.

14 years ago

I love the idea for this series. I am a dedicated city rider and I would love a resource for ideas and information relating to city bikes.

Bonus daughter
Bonus daughter
14 years ago

Wooohooo!!! Truck those grandkids around (one day)!