Family Biking: Our favorite way to warm-up on winter rides

(Spoiler: It’s hot food! – Photos: Shannon Johnson/BikePortland)

It’s gotten pretty cold out there lately and I hope you’re still getting out on your bikes.

As the days get frostier, wetter, and darker, the simple joy of warmth becomes all the more treasured. Nostalgically we may think of a crackling hearth fire, though more often today we enjoy a little flickering candle or simply the welcome comfort of central heating. Those warm comforts of home can make it all the more difficult for family bikers to venture out and about, but what if you could take a little warmth with you?

Our favorite winter warm-up treat is to pack hot food. Yes! It’s easy. We invested in various heat-retaining food containers, and we’ve been delighted to find out we can enjoy hot winter picnics. (I have also picked up some additional hot food and drink Thermoses at thrift stores, which generally have an assorted selection, alongside the reusable water bottles: a good boiling water scrub and we’ve been happy to find some new-to-us favorites!)


We’ve packed our containers full of all sorts of goodies: pastas, chili, mac-and-cheese, soups, rice & beans. I’m eager to try a hot breakfast hash someday soon. Just put the food into the thermos steaming-hot. (You can warm up leftovers, or make fresh–whatever works for your day.) But be careful: you might burn your tongue, even a few hours later. We’ve done that too many times, as no one is expecting that a lunch, packed two, three, even four hours earlier, would still be tongue-singeing hot.

A steaming hot meal, combined with a mug of your favorite steaming hot drink, is a great way to enjoy more time outside this winter, and can be the perfect mid-bike treat or winter park picnic. If you’re just taking along a snack, try a thermos of hot chocolate or hot cider and cookies for the kiddos. Make a plan for where/how to enjoy the food. I typically look for a covered picnic shelter, and I recently purchased a waterproof picnic blanket so we don’t have to sit in puddles (it also doubles as a rain cover, see photo). You might find that winter picnics are every bit as fun as summertime ones. You’ll warm right up, and enjoy the treat.

Hope you and yours are enjoying this holiday week. Stay tuned next week for part two of my safe cycling series where I’ll share how to help your little ones navigate tricky traffic situations.

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

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2 years ago

Where’s the thumbs-up button. I do enjoy your posts.

2 years ago

We have a tradition of steaming mint tea enjoyed while watching the Christmas ships–sometimes in the pouring rain!