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Family cycling: how a year of cycling together changed our lives

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How it started.

A mum with her head in her hands standing above a cargo bike with a baby seat in it.

How are you.

Is it just a bicycle? Or is it life changing? Because when I bought this bike in the photos above, it changed my life.

It therefore seems appropriate to celebrate the month when this bike entered our lives: this month of April marks our first anniversary of cycling!

Yes, in April 2021, I bought my one-of-a-kind cargo bike, homemade in Portland by Tom Labonty, on Craigslist for $550, the cheapest I could find, and about the most I could find. could convince my husband to spend on my new interest. He didn’t think it would go anywhere. He bet he would pick up dust in the overcrowded garage. He – we’re both happy to say – was wrong.

I felt more comfortable in my mommy body…and it helped me avoid another bout of prenatal depression.

My bike has taken us so many places over the past year and helped us do so much more than just transportation.

By cycling, we engaged more deeply in our local community. We confronted homelessness and the needs of our homeless neighbours, while weighing our own desire for clean and safe parks and trails. I developed a growing appreciation for the activists and good citizens who came before us, provided us with bike lanes and traffic lights, and I pay more attention to what these people are working on today. Hopefully we can join them and leave something better for the family riders of the future. This commitment has prompted us to think more seriously as a family about what we bring to our community. In that vein, we learned about the good work of our local non-profit bike shop, WashCo Bikes, in providing refurbished bikes to children and those in need.

We’re also contributing more, buying more, and doing more locally: on our bikes, we’ve visited more places in town and found new favorite destinations, including a lovely downtown park and a board game shop. We spend more time outdoors and less time driving. I’ve also become more comfortable with my mommy body and less worried about weight gain, thanks to the women at All Bodies on Bikes. And like Motherload moms, I found a lot of joy and healing on the bike. I even think that it saved me a new episode of prenatal depression, a source of serious suffering during my previous pregnancy.

This time I was pregnant and ride a bike. Maybe that made the difference.

For parents of young children in particular, and those with mental health issues, finding a way to be happy – and to do something healthy and happy – with your children are life changing. Much of parenthood is a sacrifice; it takes so long to change diapers, clean up messes, pack lunches, do laundry. It’s damn hard to have “me time” with a crying baby in one arm and a toddler clinging to your leg. Put everyone on a bike? Everyone is happy, at the same time, together.

That’s why I was so excited to get back on the bike, baby and kids in tow. I didn’t ride a bike for four months – the last weeks of my pregnancy and the first months of my new baby’s life. I had thought that April, the first anniversary of my life-changing bike purchase, would be the perfect time to come back and start riding again. What better way to celebrate than to mark the occasion with baby’s first ride? Maybe we could even follow up with a glass of champagne and a new set of saddlebags.

It was hope. That was the plan.

This does not happen.

Instead of champagne, we had frustration and tears!

The little explanation: we didn’t manage to put together the bike-with-baby arrangement I wanted, and all the different options required parts that were out of stock locally, as well as new family debates about the safest way to ride with a baby (which can bring many parents to tears). So, after months of waiting, it became clear that I should keep waiting thanks to the challenges posed by our newest addition. (See future articles for an explanation of our baby-biking challenges and remedies.) So one sunny Saturday, when I wanted to ride a bike, I was home crying.

It wasn’t the “birthday” party I had in mind, but don’t despair! It’s too important to give up.

Fortunately, my husband is fully on board. Not because he cares about the bike, but because he cares about me. And he saw what a positive difference the bike made in my life and in the lives of our whole family. Like other determined cycling parents, we will find a way. It’s just going to take a little longer, and that’s OK. My husband even wiped away my tears by promising to buy me a brand new “fancy” bike, if that’s what it takes! (Oh, wow: now I’m torn between my first love LaBonty and those expensive and previously out-of-reach Dutch gems! A girl can watch either way!)

We’ll keep this bottle of champagne. It will always taste fabulous, and that first ride with baby will be even more worth celebrating.