Family Biking: How to Pedalpalooza with the little ones

My kids on the Pedalpalooza Kickoff Ride.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

Happy Pedalpalooza! My kids and I joined over a thousand others on the Pedalpalooza Kickoff Ride on Saturday and we’re excited for more bike fun! Hundreds of rides with all sorts of themes for all sorts of people will take place this month and a lot of them are kid friendly.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

As I suspected would be the case, the Kickoff Ride was too much for one of my kids. But we went because I wanted to get this year’s Pedalpalooza poster (wolves riding a tandem bike!) for his wolf-loving brother, and I thought it’d be fun for them to experience such a massive ride. I figured we’d only stay for a bit of the ride before peeling off, but once it got headed in our homeward direction it seemed like our best bet was go with the flow. Fortunately the flow was pretty slow so when my overwhelmed kid decided he was done riding it was easy for me to scoot us to the edge of the street and load him onto my bike, barely losing our place in the mass. And despite one overwhelmed kid I had a brilliant time and got to chat with a lot of friends as we wound our way through downtown Portland, and my 12-year old happily pedaled near me and gleefully counted many dogs on bikes.

Our formation/mood for the majority of the Pedalpalooza Kickoff Ride.

I’ve learned a couple things about Pedalpalooza rides since my Pedalpalooza column last year. The “Family Friendly” designation on the Pedalpalooza calendar means:
➤ Under six miles
➤ 10 mph or slower
➤ Few or no hills
➤ No 21+ activities

These are all the makings of a family-friendly ride. For the sake of comparison, a typical Kidical Mass PDX ride is usually:
➤ About two miles
➤ 5 mph
➤ Ideally absolutely flat


Family-friendly rides are designated with a heart icon in the Portland Mercury’s print calendar and with a green “Family Friendly” box on the left in the online calendar. From the Shift home page click to expand the Calendar menu and choose Events for a calendar starting with the current day or choose Pedalpalooza Calendar to see rides going back to June 1st. The online calendar has longer descriptions making it easier to tell if a ride might be kid friendly. Both sources often have contact information for the ride leader if you want to get in touch to ask about details like distance, speed, and hilliness. Always check the online calendar for any changes or cancellations, as well as to find Facebook event links when they exist.

One of many dogs on the Pedalpalooza Kickoff Ride.

Here are some events I think would be great for kids (note that rides usually roll out about 30 minutes after posted time):

Fanno Creek Family Bike Ride
Sat, Jun 8, 2019, Meet at 9:30 am
Garden Home Recreation Center, 7475 SW Oleson Rd, Portland, OR 97223
Meet in the back of the Garden Home Recreation Center on the basketball court by the pavilion.
Host: Garden Home Recreation Center
Join us for a family bike ride along the Fanno Creek Trail! Grab your bike and your family and friends! Meet at Garden Home at 9:30 am, where the ride begins. As you prepare for the start, enjoy our community partners, music, prizes, fun, and so much more! The guided ride will start at 10 am and will follow the flat, paved trail for one mile to Vista Brook Park. There will be a quick stop at the park before the ride returns back to Garden Home. The guided ride will be two miles total. If riders want to continue independently, they’re welcome to follow the trail further.
Madi’s note: We’ve MAXed to the Beaverton Transit Center and biked to the Fanno Creek Trail. We stuck to sidewalks some of the time, but it worked fine!

7th Ave Slow Roll
Sun, Jun 9, 2019 at 4:00 pm from NE 7th and Going
Host: Captain Kiel
Join us for a casual community ride through NE Portland. Bring music if you have some. Will start and end at same location where we will have grills for grilling your food.

Light Brigade – The Slow Glow!
Sat, Jun 15 at 8:00 pm from Salmon Street Springs
Host: Bike Fun Library & Scott Batchelar
Join the Bike Fun Library and Scott Batchelar for the Family Friendly version of the Light Brigade Rides. The Slow Glow is an easygoing circuit of Portland’s Waterfront and Esplanade. Grab your kid’s, light up your bikes and join us as we light up Portland’s Waterfront

Storytime Ride
Sun, Jun 16, at 11:00 am from Woodlawn Elementary School
Meet on the blacktop.
Host: Cat Odell
Gather the kiddos for a picture book reading and a little fun on wheels – bikes! trikes! scooters! skateboards! Local author/Illustrator Catherine Odell will share her debut picture book Pepper & Frannie, and will host a parking lot session for everyone to get comfortable on their wheels, play some games, or maybe try something new! Then the ride will leave the school lot and ride down the block to circle the paved paths through Woodlawn Park (Wheels in the Woods!). We plan to end by 1pm, but you’re welcome to peel off at any time as attention, hunger, and patience allow. 🙂 Some boards will be available if you don’t have one of your own, and find yourself feeling curious. Please bring a helmet (and pads if needed).
Madi’s note: The leader of this ride is also the designer of this year’s beautiful wolves-on-a-tandem-bike Pedalpalooza poster!

Multnomah County Bike Fair
Sun, Jun 16th from 12:00 to 7:00 pm at Colonel Summers Park
The Multnomah County Bike Fair has taken place almost annually since 2007 in beautiful Portland, Oregon usually as the finale of Pedalpalooza. It’s a family friendly bikey event open to the public, usually featuring events (slow races, bike jousting), entertainment (live music, competitions), and sometimes vendors. It’s open to all, and is family friendly. The main stage is all about participation, competition, and antics. Sprockettes, Dingo & Olive, and more.
Madi’s note: Family friendly all day, but aim to go early for the most kid stuff.

NW PDX Kids Ride
Thu, Jun 20 at 4:30 pm
Meets at Couch Park
Host: Sky
We’ll start at Couch Park, head to the North Park Blocks, and end up at the Fields. Bring a picnic dinner. All ages welcome!

Cargo Bike Roll Call
Sun, Jun 23 at 2:00 pm
Meets at Clinton Park by the tennis courts
Host: Adam H
Bring your cargo bikes, admire other bikes, and ride. Will be a short flat-ish 3 mile ride ending at Double Mountain brewery in Woodstock

Celebrate Your Inner Child
Sun, Jun 23 at 4:30 pm
Meets at Lents Park at the playground
Host: Kim Schenk
Oh Hi! Welcome to the best month of the whole year! We celebrate lots of things… community, our awesome city, and kids of all ages! So we invite you! We are a family friendly, slow ride that will meet at Lents Park in SE Portland at 4:30. Let the kiddies have fun on the playground and listen for the whistle because at 5 pm sharp we are heading to Mt. Scott park. Bring speakers, bubbles, noise makers, dress fancy, fun, or casual. JUST BE YOU! ( but like, maybe a little bit amplified because you know, it’s pedalpalooza! ). We will enjoy Mt.Scott park until you feel like leaving. That’s it! So tow that kid, bring your friend, and pack some apples, lets riiiiiide This is a litter free event, we want to keep our footprint as tiny as possible. Thank you for packing it out! We understand and encourage snacking and food stuff but want to minimize any MOOP that may occur. Thank you!!! Lastly, this is in honor of my amazing daughter’s birthday! Let’s PARTY!!!

Ding Ding Ride!
Fri, Jun 28 at 5:30 PM (ride begins exactly at 5:40)
Ladd’s Circle
Host: dudeluna
Ride begins exactly at 5:40. Ride for 3 minutes, merrily dinging your favorite bell. Ride ends at 5:43.
Madi’s note: This one isn’t marked Family Friendly on the calendar, but three minutes of circling sounds great for kids!

Sunday Parkways North
Sun, Jun 30 from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm
Arbor Lodge Park / Peninsula Park Rose Garden / Kenton Park / McCoy Park / Columbia Annex
Host: Portland Bureau of Transportation
Don’t forget to bring some gold with you to this event to celebrate our anniversary – this will be our 50th ride! This year, the June event will take place at the last Sunday of the month and will take you through a charming 9.5 mile double loop course. Every Body Rides and their adaptive bike demo area will return and will be located at Arbor Lodge Park adjacent to the accessible Harper’s Playground.

Remember, you — yes, YOU — can still add events to the Pedalpalooza calendar. Kidical Mass PDX might get a kid-friendly ride or two onto the calendar still as a matter of fact!

Did you attend the Kickoff Ride, and if so what did you think of it? We peeled off at Tilikum Crossing, not realizing we’d nearly made it to the end at Elizabeth Caruthers Park. Please promote any additional rides you think would be good for families in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. I’d especially like to feature families of color so please get in touch or ask friends of color who bike with their kids if they’re interested in sharing their stories. And as always, feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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Madi Carlson

Madi Carlson

Madi Carlson (@familyride on Twitter) wrote our Family Biking column from February 2018 to November 2019. She's the author of Urban Cycling: How to Get to Work, Save Money, and Use Your Bike for City Living (Mountaineers Books). In her former home of Seattle, Madi was the Board President of Familybike Seattle, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting bicycling as a means for moving towards sustainable lifestyles and communities. She founded Critical Lass Seattle, an easy social group ride for new and experienced bicyclists who identify as women and was the Director of Seattle's Kidical Mass organization, a monthly ride for families. While she primarily bikes for transportation, Madi also likes racing cyclocross, all-women alleycats, and the Disaster Relief Trials. She has been profiled in the Associated Press, Outdoors NW magazine, CoolMom, and ParentMap, and she contributed to Everyday Bicycling by Elly Blue.

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4 years ago

Only time will tell if you and a certain favorite junior felony flats hill killerz member will be attending this evening’s suffer-fest, I mean ride. Only 45 minutes of suffering to decide…WHICH HILL IS WORSE. Come ride and vote! We head to the Foster Night Ride after.