Friday, January 22, 2010


Mostly, we ride bikes to get from here to there. And mostly, I thought I wanted this baby-on-a-bike setup to get us where we needed to go faster, and without the hassles of transit or driving. Even in our first week, the still nameless Yuba has been put to those tasks: getting us to and from mommy group and out and about with friends with ease.

Back from Mommy Group 3

And all that errand-running is more fun on a bike, less stressful, more satisfying. But focusing on that can make me forget what it was that made me fall in love with bikes nearly a decade ago: the unadulterated joy of riding just because you can. I love the way my body feels on a bike. I love the speed and the momentum-- and boy, does this bike have momentum! I love the wind. And I love the lack of hurry: knowing that my pace is just for me, going fast without rushing, and slowing down for hills or fatigue without worrying. With the focus on bikes as tools in my day-to-day life, I spend more time on the bike than your typical weekend rider, but much of that time is spent focusing on something other than the ride.

Yesterday, the skies cleared. The sun came out. The weather, contrary to all prediction, settled in the high fifties with just a few, gorgeous clouds. It was too nice to stay in. So we went out.

I wanted to ride the Springwater Trail so that Jasper and I could cruise without frequent stops and without worrying about traffic. Unfortunately, some massive construction between here and there made it unexpectedly difficult to reach the trailhead. We spent some time on sidewalks in the industrial district trying to make our way while avoiding the bigger roads. And when we reached the trailhead, Jasper had started to fuss, necessitating an open-air diaper change. He didn't seem to mind.

"Changing Table" 1 "Changing Table" 2

After the change he needed a nurse, and after the nurse a burp, so we ended up hanging out on those benches for a good long time. Biking with baby certainly looks different than biking alone. But hanging out there meant we got to chat with quite a few people passing who stopped to check out the parked bike. It was fun being so conspicuous, and delightfully, we didn't get a single negative comment. He was sleeping again by the time we were ready to roll.

A Lovely Afternoon on the Willamette

We were able to pass through the bollards at the entrance to the Springwater Trail, though just barely, and rolled gently through wildlife refuge for several miles before I got tired and headed back. We got passed a lot, of course: anything on that trail with two wheels was faster than we were. But every single person was good-natured and polite about it, and a few even slowed to comment on the rig or to let me know what he was up to. There was some baby fussing: his hat fell into his eyes once, and once he was too warm and needed help throwing off his quilt. But the rest of the ride out he spent wide-eyed and looking around, and at some point on the way back he fell asleep again.

End of the Ride 2

The worst part of the ride was the part from the trail back to the house. It was rush hour at that point, and a lot of people in cars seemed to be cutting through the industrial district to get around the construction, just like I was. The result was a lot of cars on little roads where a lot of cars aren't really supposed to be, and long waits at the intersections with arterials as rush hour traffic rushed by. At the first of these long waits, amidst the exhaust and noise and annoyed by our not-moving, Jaz woke up and started to cry. And he kept crying for the mile left to get home, only calming down when we reached our peaceful neighborhood. Then, the rolling motion and road noise calmed him, and he was pretty chill when we got to the garage.

I know how he feels. Being stuck in traffic, intimately close to cars that could kill us with a bad swerve, staring into the faces of rush-hour drivers anxious to get home faster and seemingly-oblivious to other folks on the road, makes me tense too. But that part in between-- the momentum, the sunshine, the birds, the comradery of the other riders on the trail-- that part was pure joy.


Caitlin K said...

Oh how wonderful, Katie. You need a "Baby On Board" sticker, though. :-P

Janine said...

Beautiful post to match the beautiful afternoon. I totally heart you guys.

Kathleen McDade said...

What a sweet boy!

I like the lights hooked onto the sides of the boxes. What kind are they?

centrallyisolated said...

Ah, you're making me Portland-sick (I guess I can't really call it homesick after living there for only a few months!). That trail is great, and it looks like you had a totally lovely day for it. And I don't blame Jasper one bit for hating rush hour!

RC said...

Such a sweet and joyful post...I always enjoy reading your blog!

My son is 15 months now and we're just getting into biking together now that we're a car-free family, and he usually starts out crying a little (he's not a helmet fan) but calms just as soon as we get into motion. He has a little hum he does most of the way to daycare that makes me so happy we chose this way of getting around.

Steven Vance said...

How does the bike stand on its own?

Katie said...

I love your set up! You guys look great. How cool. I look forward to following your blog!

MamaVee said...

He looks so happy. what's the carseat set up. Love the screen thingy.

inkandpen said...

Kathleen: The lights are three different kinds (two that we had around, and one that we bought new). I think the one you can see in the picture there is from Trek?

Steven: We're using a Rolling Jackass centerstand from Val in Seattle, and it is kind of amazing.

MamaVee: We have holes in the bottom of the box wide enough for NRS straps to pass through. The straps go through the car seat's seatbelt holes and then down through the bottom of the box. We hacked up the car seat a bit to take off the handle and make it narrower, but then put the padding back over it so it looks nice anyway. There is a layer of grey closed-cell foam pipe insulation between the car seat and the box for some extra suspension.

inkandpen said...

Oh, and Caitlin: we now have a baby on board sign. And it does, in fact, make people nicer to us on the road! People are funny.

shetha said...

Hi there! I'm your neighbor, that briefly introduced myself @ tweed ride, today. Your comment about riding:
"time is spent focusing on something other than the ride" reminded me a lot of my friend Sarah's mantra of mama/family biking. Her tagline is "you are not en route . you are already here" and it is so true. The journey is the destination, sometimes. As a zippy 13-mi day-to-day commuter I think I will have to learn to slow down my family ride, and learn to enjoy where I am. I'm sure I'll see you around!

sara said...

Ohhh, just saw snaps of you on Flickr at the Tweed Ride. Looking sharp!

She Rides a Bike said...

Jasper is a cutie and you've got a great set up on your Yuba. I love the wooden boxes.

Anonymous said...

*That's* who the adorable baby in the box in the tweed rides is! You are an amazing family of cyclists.