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Family Biking: Beat winter blahs with a plan to pedal more

Posted by on October 30th, 2018 at 9:50 am

Setting goals and plans might keep you riding more this winter.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

It’s that time of year.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

We stayed in all day Monday. The kids were out of school due to a Portland Public Schools planning day. My one bike-related chore was digging dozens of pieces of glass out of my tires while fixing a flat (more on that in a future post), but that was the closest I got to riding my bike.

The planning day got me thinking about planning something — anything — for the upcoming months to help keep the winter blahs at bay.

I’m don’t own a car. I use my bike just about every day; but I tend to ride a lot less in winter as weather turns nasty and daylight disappears. I shy away from faraway errands and combine or delay necessary trips. And I scowl out the window at the sky a lot. I’m at an advantage this year as the two-school commute has me biking 18 miles every weekday versus just four last year, but considering how grumpy I felt through the winter last year, I want to make some sort of little plan to keep me pedaling and peppy.

Since I’m indecisive and can’t narrow it down to one little goal, I’m going to do all my ideas. I’ll need some inspiration, so I’d love for you to share your winter riding goals — past, present, or future — in the comments.

Here are mine:

Coffeeneuring Challenge
I love online challenges and while I haven’t felt organized enough to participate in the Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge in years, I’m going to do it again this year, starting this weekend. According to the website, you just bike at least two miles to a different local coffee shop (or no purchase necessary: make your own coffee or other drink outside in a different park/campground) once per weekend day, seven times through November 25th.

Attend a group ride
Online challenges that encourage biking are awesome, but so is connecting with real people in person! The BikePortland post Portland’s network of bike clubs for women is thriving turned me on to a bunch of groups and I recently joined the Ride Like A Girl Meetup group and have gone on a few of their rides. I’ll do at least one more ride with them this winter.


Start using the Ride app
I just installed Ride Report’s Ride app to earn fun trophies as it automatically tracks all my rides. I think it might be just the push I need to run rainy errands I’d otherwise delay. And bonus! It’s a Portland-based company (hi William!).

Write a Ride Report on
Another local company, Ride with GPS, has a feature called Ride Reports for creating pretty webpages with your recorded data (using the Ride with GPS app), photos, and words. I’ve only created two Ride Reports since the tool launched a year and a half ago, but committing to doing another one will inspire me to do something a bit bigger and more exciting than normal for the sake of reporting.

Supply gathering

It’s flat-fixing weather.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

This one errand gets its own heading since it’s bike related: I want to stock up on patch kits, spare tubes for each of our bikes, and even get a second pump so I can keep one on my cargo bike at all times while the other travels in my pannier or computer bag with my regular bike (you get one guess if I had my pump and a spare tube on me when I got the flat tire mentioned at the top of the page).

Route testing
No time like the near present to bike to all those places I didn’t visit when the time was right and the weather was better, like Fazio Farms, which I learned about in the comments of my bike-to-pumpkins post. This is the only item on my route testing list so far, but I will add more places to hit this winter.

Bike to holiday lights (and then to hot chocolate).

Winter family bucket list
The above items on the list aren’t kid-specific so I have a family-oriented collection of ideas, too. So far I have two items: Explore the Powell Butte Nature Park mountain bike trails, and bike to the top of Mount Tabor.

There are some great winter events coming up that I’m not putting on our bucket list because I want to keep things easy and daytime-y, but others should consider attending Winter Wonderland’s “Bike the Lights” Night on Tuesday, November 27th and Peacock Lane on a pedestrian-only night December 15th, 16th, or 17th.

Start a bike train
Personal goals are all well and good, but what about goals that include others? Our elementary school counselor has been working on starting up several walking school buses, one of which I’ll lead once a week. It’ll be even easier to turn what we’re already doing into an official bike train.

Plan a winter bike to school event
We hosted a fabulous Walk and Roll to School Day on October 10th and I’ll use our leftover prizes and snacks to celebrate active transportation at least once in the winter. If you haven’t yet requested Walk+Roll incentives (stickers, temporary tattoos, pencils) for your school, you can still do so through October 31st — hurry! — here’s an order form via The Street Trust (PBOT’s prize order form requires a log-in).

Care to set a goal? We’ll check in after January 18th when the school quarter ends and see how we all did and how we’re coping with winter. Please share any insights in the comments! Thanks for reading.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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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

  • Avatar
    mark smith October 30, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Um…I understand the desire to get out there and “rah rah!” riding into the night. But, this article missed a huge opportunity to point out that riding at night or even in a light rain increases one’s chances dramatically of death and maiming. Furthermore, the picture of the kid doesn’t show even the slightest blinky light on the front of the bike. Basic research shows that people don’t see much in front of them when they are driving and less when it comes to bike.

    So, please take a moment to buy a real light, front and rear (not the cheap bike store ones in a jar)..maybe one from Portland Design works? A light strobe (not a killer strobe) goes a long way for people seeing you during the day. At night, they see a solid light.

    And by goodness, get a light for your kids bike.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 30, 2018 at 10:26 am

      I hear you Mark. But I don’t think every post needs to mention specific safety measures. While we obviously could have included a line about lights, that’s not what this post is about.

      And I won’t speak for the family in that lead image; but to me your comment comes off as sort of patronizing. You don’t know them and you don’t know the situation they’re riding in. Your critique of their choices doesn’t sound very nice at all. If that were my child in the photo I would find your comment a bit rude. I totally appreciate your concern, but these are adults capable of making their own decisions about their child and they are riding in good visibility conditions with bright clothing (not to mention the girl is riding on a sidewalk).

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        Mark smith October 30, 2018 at 1:12 pm

        Johnathan, we obvious disagree. Many people , including myself, see this blog as credible. So, the omission of safety is just as powerful as mentioning safety. If that patronizing, so be it. I want kids to live. And frankly, parents make bad decisions all the time. Decisons that can maim or kill our kids. Thats why we read these blogs and watch videos. It helps us make better decisions.

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          Matt October 30, 2018 at 1:25 pm

          I don’t want this site to be like the instruction manuals with mandatory legalese on every page. To wit:

          > WARNING: Cycling can be dangerous. Bicycle products should be installed and serviced by a professional mechanic. Never modify your bicycle or accessories. Read and follow all product instructions and warnings including information on the manufacturer’s website. Inspect your bicycle before every ride. Always wear a helmet.

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      Johnny Bye Carter October 30, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      Your comment missed a huge opportunity to point out that riding a bicycle is not inherently dangerous and being equipped with a light during the day is both not required not a guarantee of safety from your perceived dangers.

      Please, let people enjoy riding their very safe and easy to see bicycles.

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      Chris I October 31, 2018 at 6:06 am

      The child is clearly riding on the sidewalk adjacent to SW Terwilliger blvd during the daytime (yes, it looks a bit rainy). Everything happening in this photo looks quite safe to me.

      Have fun on Nextdoor.

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    mark smith October 30, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Oh…and also get a loud bell/Buzzer. ORP makes a buzzer thing. It works well.

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      Johnny Bye Carter October 30, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      The only thing a bell on my bicycle has ever been good for is getting toddlers to smile. I use the bell as the law requires, but it’s not really good for that.

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    ED October 30, 2018 at 10:26 am

    My very short-term goal is to bike to preschool then to work this Thursday when the Springwater re-opens. Maybe I can make it a habit?

    I am trying to be more realistic/compassionate towards myself and balance the goals of getting on a bike in the winter, but not making it such a slog that I wind up hating it. And recognizing some of the safety issues, like dark and rain and slippery leaves. Yes, gear and techniques make a difference, but they are still legit issues to contend with.

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    Chris October 30, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Thanks Madi, this is great advice. Especially like the PIR and Peacock Lane ideas.

    Also, I disagree that this is a missed opportunity to discuss lighting. Of course wearing lights at night is the best practice, but those writing about winter riding shouldn’t be compelled to say so at every opportunity. And the suggestion that you should highlight increased risk of “death and maiming” is pretty silly when the goal of the article is to get folks excited about getting out when its wet and dark.

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    David Hampsten October 30, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Jonathan, why are you still getting flat tires? Have you not yet discovered the miracles of modern tire engineering from Schwalbe and thorn-resistant inner tubes? I get flats now only when someone slashes my tires or shoots nails into them (which is thankfully rare.)

    As for getting rid of glass, the old vinegar-on-a-rag method really does work. I use cheap white stuff myself, but I’m sure organic fair-trade balsamic from Modena will work just as well.

    As for the cold short days, I found that moving out of Portland altogether is another great option, especially to a warmer climate. 60s and sunny today, expecting 70s tomorrow and Thursday.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 30, 2018 at 3:33 pm


      Just FYI, this article was written by Madi Carlson.

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        David Hampsten October 30, 2018 at 4:36 pm

        Jonathan, Madi, & Johnny, my bad, I’m sorry.

        I do recommend 4.3mm inner tubes. Built like garden hoses, but worth it. As for costs, I’d suggest you form a buying club and get an account with J&B and KHS, buy wholesale like the chop-shop guys do, save 50-200% on retail for tubes and tires.

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      Johnny Bye Carter October 30, 2018 at 3:53 pm

      “Have you not yet discovered the miracles of modern tire engineering from Schwalbe”

      Since there’s a Schwalbe Marathon Plus on the upside down bike in the flat-changing photo I assume they have. But the tire they’re fixing presumably isn’t from that bike since its tires are still on. So maybe the kids run over a lot more things.

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    Johnny Bye Carter October 30, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    I forgot about the Ride app. I had it installed on my S5 but it killed my battery within hours. I’ll see how it works on my new phone.

    You also mention Ride With GPS. Just curious, do you ride with multiple biking/tracking apps enabled? Maybe we need an article about which apps to use on which kinds of rides around town.

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      David Hampsten October 30, 2018 at 4:39 pm

      Google maps with the bike icon switched on works pretty well. It’s good at identifying current bike lanes and paths in any city, even those local unmarked bike routes, as it tracks other people’s phones. I use it every time I visit a new city.

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    • Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist)
      Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) October 30, 2018 at 5:25 pm

      I used Ride Report a while back for a bike challenge in Seattle and my older phone’s battery couldn’t handle it and it stopped me from wanting to track anything with any device for a long time after. But I have high hopes my newer phone (iPhone 8s) will work better. Day one was pretty fun with two cute trophies and still enough battery left that my kid just snuck off with my phone to play Fortnite on it.

      I’m not sure I’m the typical Ride with GPS user–I generally save routes to new places on my laptop and then follow the map on my phone (I have a Lifeproof handlebar mount). I usually don’t bother to record my rides while I’m following my Ride with GPS route, but for the sake of making my Ride Report for the goal, I’ll record. I used to have a Garmin and it ported ride automatically over to Strava and I recorded most everything just so when people ask how much I ride a month I could have a rough answer. But alas I just broke my Garmin and I’m not sure it’s worth replacing.

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