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Introducing our new Family Biking column by Madi Carlson

Posted by on February 6th, 2018 at 2:30 pm

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

[Publisher’s note: Welcome to our Family Biking column! I’m thrilled to share Madi’s insights and experiences here on BP. Please give her a warm welcome and let’s thank Clever Cycles for helping bring this content to the community. — Jonathan]

Hi. I’m Madi.

I bike for all the typical reasons — it’s cheaper than driving, it’s safer than driving, it’s simpler than taking the bus, it’s healthy, it doesn’t pollute, it’s usually faster than all other modes of transportation — but mostly because it’s tremendously fun. Even with kids. Especially with kids. I love to share that sense of fun and ease with others in the hopes of encouraging more families and individuals to bike even just a little bit more often. I’ve found focusing on the fun stuff to be an effective way of promoting bicycling as transportation (but I also reserve the right to discuss statistics and badmouth car traffic).

I ride with my two sons, aged 10 and 8, and our conveniently-basket-sized dog. I’ve been family biking since my first son was one year old and have gone through several bike iterations along the way. I like to think there are a lot of different right answers and very few wrong answers when it comes to choosing a family bike.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

I’ve led countless Kidical Mass family bike rides and many family bike camping trips. I’m a League of American Bicyclists League Cycling Instructor, though I feel nothing has honed my bike handling skills better than chasing after two swerving kids on balance bikes and nothing has made me quicker and stronger than racing with a trailer full of impatient toddler bladders to the closest park with a bathroom.

I became carfree three-and-a-half years ago and before that I was car-lite for several years. I contemplated not even getting a driver license upon moving to Portland, though mostly that was to save a few bucks and skip waiting in an extra line. That’s because being frugal and impatient are two of my strongest traits — both of which conveniently tie into why I believe so strongly in bicycling for transportation. I ended up getting the license after all, though I’m happy that I haven’t had a reason to drive since.

With my boys at the Fiets of Parenthood event in 2012.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Family portrait with our tree, taken in December.
Photo from my @FamilyRide Instagram account.

We’re fairly new to Portland, having moved here from Seattle six months ago, so some of my observations will be through the lens of a newcomer. I’ve been enamored with Portland since my first visit to Clever Cycles with the kids seven years ago. We visited often to do events like Fiets of Parenthood and Kidical Mass and finally decided to make the move.

Bicycling is in my blood: my mother was born in the Netherlands and was the only one to leave so I grew up visiting every few years in the summer, borrowing or renting bikes and seeing my cousins put their babies in little bike seats. So while I believe Portland is “The Best Bike City in America,” I’m well aware of what could be. My method for coping with unpleasant American streets is to ignore the grisly reality and pretend I’m pedaling along a Dutch bike path, and I find I have to pretend much less in Portland than in other cities.

I’m excited to talk with you each week about biking with kids of all ages, family bike options, kid bike options, other gear and accessories, bike camping with kids, and more!

Anything specific you’d like to hear about? Comment below or email me: madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

That “frugal and impatient” diagnosis is me in a nutshell!! I think that is one of the biggest draws to me, the fact that you spend a higher percentage of time making forward progress (aka – you never hit traffic) while biking than driving. Add in the ability to usually lock up within feet of your destination, and I’m sold.

Anyways, welcome aboard.

joan
Subscriber

Cheers, Madi! I look forward to your writing. I’m interested to hear your take on Portland as an avid, regular cyclist who is also new to town. What’s working and what isn’t? I have my own thoughts, but after bike commuting for a few years, I’m no longer new to it. Welcome!

matt picio
Guest

The Seattle family bike scene will miss you Madi! Hope Portland treats you well, there’s such an amazing activist community there and a lot of dedicated family cyclists.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Have you ever taken the train or BoltBus with your cargo bike? We like to make trips up to Seattle, and my kids are finally old enough to ride on our Big Dummy. I really like taking the train, but I think cargo bikes are not allowed?

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Amtrak also doesn’t take tandems (not counting that trip from Seattle to Davis in 1989 when I encountered a conductor who was enamored of my tandem and let me put it in the baggage car for the trip). However, they do allow two halves of a coupled tandem to be hung on the bike hooks in the baggage car. Maybe it’s time to put some couplers into the Big Dummy. I use pipe insulation over the couplers, both to prevent damage and to make sure no baggage handler gets banged by a hard edge.

Mark Wheeler
Guest
Mark Wheeler

Nice work Madi! Looking forward to reading more.

Marshall James Habermann-Guthrie
Guest
Marshall James Habermann-Guthrie

My wife and I, after a few arduous years, are hoping to enter the family phase of our lives very soon. I’d love to hear more about moving your kids by cycle. I don’t want to give up that part of my life, but don’t know what to do with them while they are too small/too big for the trailer.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“I don’t want to give up that part of my life, but don’t know what to do with them while they are too small/too big for the trailer.”

No need to give up any part of your (transportation) life. Trailers work pretty early. Burley (and others) will sell you an insert*. I taught our daughter to ride when she was about three, but for many years she rode in a WeeRide up front (like what Madi shows in one photo). Then there’s the follower tandem attachments where the kid gets to pedal but is connected to the seatpost on your bike. Lots of options these days.

* oh look, Clever Cycles even sells it:
https://clevercycles.com/burley-baby-snuggler?gclid=EAIaIQobChMImI6w7piU2QIVE2t-Ch1sOAmIEAQYAyABEgLLc_D_BwE

Brian
Guest
Brian

The problem I am having is that I have to pick my son up and he is now too big for the trail behind. I don’t want to buy yet another bike, so I need to figure out a way to transport his bike with me so we can both pedal home.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

When I pick up my spouse at the train station and need to bring her a bike I either ghost ride it (might be kind of hard with a child’s bike) or put it on a trailer. Then there’s attachments like this:
https://www.jejamescycles.com/trailgator-bicycle-tow-bar-red-gfj5999.html?___store=us&gclid=CjwKCAiA5OrTBRBlEiwAXXhT6DTo4VfAKAIAXkb4Fpj8f26Dht5-1SP03gfZD4nmCy9FRoC6faGYURoCBIwQAvD_BwE

Clicky Freewheel
Guest
Clicky Freewheel

Looking forward to a fresh perspective on cycling that’s not the usual “bike adventure” columns that the owner of this site puts out.

Marshall James Habermann-Guthrie
Guest
Marshall James Habermann-Guthrie

Agreed and there’s room for both. We should celebrate all forms of cycling.

Lisa Corriveau
Guest

Cool gig, Madi! Looking forward to reading more.

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

Welcome Madi.
As an OAMIL ( Over Aged Male In Lycra), I welcome a new to the area rider who is not terrified to ride streets with impunity but alert. Of course I have only been riding in the greater Portland area since 1953 (Kenton to the Zoo and back).

Caitlin D
Subscriber

Yay! Welcome, Madi! I look forward to hearing your perspective.

RH
Guest
RH

Yay! Can’t wait to read some of these articles!

Evan
Guest
Evan

Really excited for this column! My wife and I are having our first kid in May and eager to learn from other parents and minimize car-time.

Kristin Faurest
Guest
Kristin Faurest

Welcome! We’ve been cycle commuters and weekend recreational riders and carfree here for two years with two kids and were carfree in Budapest for 20+ years before that. It’s the way to go!

Justin
Guest
Justin

great column. looking forward to reading more!

mikeybikey
Guest
mikeybikey

Glad to see family biking making a comeback. Years ago before we started a family, it was a few family biking posts on BP that provided the inspiration for my spouse to say, “yea lets sell the car”. A decade, two kids and lots of exhausted muscles later, we’re haven’t replaced it 🙂 Looking forward to your posts Madi.