This week we’re happy to share a profile of reader Skip Spitzer.
I met Skip on my Bike to School Day bike ride to the ‘Red for Ed’ rally, though I’d noticed his trailer in photos of various bike events around town before. As luck would have it, he was at the Woodstock Elementary play structure a couple weeks later while I was running a bike rodeo and he was nice enough to stick around for a conversation and a few photos…
➤ Tell me a little about yourself and your family.
I’m a single dad of a super groovy 3.5-year-old son. I’ve been car-free since 2013 and have been hauling him in a Burley D’Lite two-seat trailer since he was a baby. He rides a glider bike, which I tow from the back of the trailer when he’s done riding. He’s about to get a pedal bike!
➤ Tell me about your bike.
I’ve been riding a Trek 8000 hardtail mountain bike for about 20 years. It became a town bike when it grew up, so it has Schwalbe “Flatless” tires, an extremely loud AirZound bike horn, a Mirrycle mirror, a Thudbuster seat post, Fortified Bicycle antitheft lights, and the virtually always-on Burley (which also has Schwalbe Flatless tires). These mods and accessories have really been great. The bike is ready for a drivetrain overhaul, but it’s still a great ride even with worn sprockets. I added a hitch to the back of the Burley so I can add a second trailer when needed.
My son is getting a Woom 2. Pricey, but with great resale value, so it should come out to about $50/year for him to begin pedaling on a well-designed and light-weight bike.
➤ Is there something you wish you had known before you took your first pedal stroke that would have made things easier?
A really useful thing I learned is that, it seems for at least most people, when you don’t have a car, you get good at going by bike, and used to the physical effort and exposure to the elements. Not only does getting up for going by bike become a non-issue, you miss it when there’s a day without a ride: Being out in the world, listening to audio content (or whatever you do with your bonus free time when riding), the way it slows the day down, moving your body, and the way it makes you feel.
I’d also say it’s a good idea to get serious about having ease-supporting gear and systems, like an excellent flat/repair kit (easy to fix flats) and the Schwalbes (not a single flat since getting them), things like a combination lock so you’re not messing with your keys, having both a down and wool blanket in the trailer (one is super warm and the other insulates even if it gets wet), and having a really functional designated place at home for drying them (and wet jackets and rain pants) when needed. Spend some of the money you’re saving on other kinds of transportation and dial things in.
➤ Tell me about an especially memorable ride in Portland.
One day (before the Schwalbes) we got a flat in the pouring rain. We found a great dry spot and, being prepared (including having some buffer time), it was actually easy and fun.
My son’s most memorable ride seems to be the time when Google routed us down a right-of-way through an apartment complex and the trailer couldn’t make a sharp turn in the pathway. He still talks about that one!
➤ Have you biked in other cities and how did it compare?
Yes. Portland is a very cycling-friendly city.
➤ What about rain/snow/wind/extreme heat? Do you bike in less-than-ideal conditions?
Honestly, rain feels like a non-issue. I bike in whatever heat we have and deal with the impacts (like probably won’t be having a hard cider or other dehydrating beverage in the evening). I bike in snow, but I leave plenty of time, never put my kid at risk, and don’t necessarily count on getting to my destination.
➤ What’s your best piece of advice to pass along to BikePortland readers?
Upping your reliance on cycling for transportation is a key way to disconnect from the institutions and practices that are quickly ushering in extremely dark times for us, our kids, and all future generations, as well as save money, de-stress, and support great health.
➤ Do you have a social media presence you’d like to share?
Cycling is great, but it’s really just one part of what we need to do to respond the climate and environmental crisis now underway and deepening at alarming speed. At respondtoclimatechange.net you can get a brief, clear, comprehensive, sugar-free, up to date, and science-based overview of the crisis—and ways to respond. It includes an open letter to parents about protecting your children from climate change.
If you pull a trailer and want to help spread a positive message, see my post about how to raise consciousness with a bike trailer billboard.
If you have a 3-5 year old and are interested in cycling-related playdates, feel free to reach out to me through my website: www.skipspitzer.com.
Thank you for sharing your story Skip! And thanks to you all 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.
Browse past Family Biking posts here.
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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.