A family biking film for when it’s too hot to ride

Staying cool.
(Photo: Shannon Johnson)

This past week was a rough week to be the pregnant family biking columnist at BikePortland. Heck, it was a rough week to be a human being in Portland.

Like many Pacific Northwesterners, our home doesn’t have AC, so we just roast and try to figure out survival strategies. Cooling off with young kids is more difficult since the pandemic has shut down the majority of kid-friendly indoor spaces or forced them to close their air-conditioned play areas. We tried riding the bike a bit in the mornings at the beginning of the week, but by the end of it, I was actually making up excuses to drive our van around, just for the needed respite of cooler temperatures via car AC. I even went shopping, with four children, in actual stores, just to avoid sweating it out at home. We visited the library to cool off and volunteered to cook dinner at a friend’s house who had air conditioning.

Even with our best efforts to make the best of things, by the week’s end I was beat, hot, tired and even bored. I was too hot to do chores, to accomplish any projects, to exercise, to ride a bike, or lift a finger. At last I took a cold shower and began to fantasize about winter biking in drizzle, rain, and blustery cold.


At my wits end for something to do that wouldn’t make me feel hotter, I decided to pass the rest of a scorching afternoon watching a family biking documentary, one you Portlanders have probably already heard of: Motherload. It’s about motherhood, cargo bikes, finding joy in the journey, and living intentionally, even when it goes against the prevailing car culture.

And then I realized: I am a product of this movement, of the reason this film was created. And I too want to share this joy, which I am only beginning to discover, with those who have yet to taste it.

I’m standing on the shoulders of giants like (my Family Biking Columnist predecessor) Madi Carlson, seen here in a press clipping standing on her saddle flexing her shoulders.

So many moments of the film had me cheering. I even thought: Why write a Family Biking Column? It’s all right here, in this movie! Inspiration, purpose, encouragement, joy, reason, community, living life to the fullest — even while simply getting from here-to-there in the day-to-day. I’m still very new at this, but I immediately connected with the empowerment, joy, freedom, and sense of adventure that was shared by mothers across the film, as they discovered cargo biking with their children. We all share the same glow! I feel radiant, as they clearly do, when I go on a bike adventure with my kids.

And then I realized: I am a product of this movement, of the reason this film was created. And I too want to share this joy, which I am only beginning to discover, with those who have yet to taste it.

Like other moms in the film, I got online looking for a way to bike with multiple young children. And then I found Emily Finch, right here, and my used cargo bike, right here, bought from another Portland mom, made in Portland, and best of all: my bike makes a cameo in the film! Documentary film evidence shows that I am riding a bike that has been a part of this family biking journey long before I knew such possibilities existed. I started yelling, “My bike is in the movie! My bike is in the movie!” And my kids came running into my room to celebrate this goofy, fun, serendipitous connection.

It’s true that it was too hot for this pregnant Mama to be out riding, but I found a great way to pass through the heat with a good mama biking film, full of pleasant surprises and connections. And it has me thinking about ways to keep passing on the joy to others. (Postpartum biking groups to fend off the baby blues? Sounds good to me!) If you haven’t seen it yet, and you need a little pick-me-up inspiration after a long hot week, be sure to check it out. You’ll feel almost as good as if you went for a ride, and you’ll be sure to get back in the saddle, kids in tow, as soon as you safely can.

You can rent or buy Motherload to watch online. Check out the official website for more information.

Note: There is some brief and very foul language as an enraged driver screams at a biking mother and her kids. Naturally, my six year old daughter walked over to watch with me right as the curse-laden rant began. I’m pretty sure she heard a variety of words she’s never heard before…oops. The expletive filled scene takes place from minute 55:25 to 55:55, if you need to fast forward. UPDATE: We just heard from the film’s creator Liz Canning that you can get a curse-free PG version here!

— Shannon Johnson
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Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)

Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)

Shannon is a 36-year-old mom of  five who lives in downtown Hillsboro. Her column appears weekly. Contact her via shannon4bikeportland@gmail.com

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Mark smith
Mark smith
2 years ago

So I am curious. The author is pregnant, with children and doesn’t have even a room to cool off in despite portable air conditioning being available everywhere most of the year off the shelf? Everyone can cool off anytime they want in the shower with tap water. It works, really. Having just a basin with tap water in it and cooling ones face hands and neck.

We really need to adapt better. A/c was a thing 10 years ago in Portland. In is confusing why people like to be hot every year.

2 years ago

First world problem.