Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Family on Bikes: Heather, Ryan, and Sylvan

I'm so very pleased to share the first in what I hope will be a lengthy series of interviews with families who ride bikes!  My dear friend Heather agreed to answer some questions and pose for a photo with her son and their bike.  She even sent me some pictures from her son's early experiences on a bike. Many thanks, Heather!

If you would be willing to be interviewed for this series, please email me at mamafiets at gmail dot com. 

Who are you?  Introduce yourselves, please.  Is there anyone in your family not pictured here who likes to ride bikes with you?

Hola, I’m Heather and my sweet 4-year-old is Sylvan. My husband, Papa Ryan, rides with us sometimes as well, though usually Sylvan and I are on bike outings while Ryan is at work.

What is your family bike setup?  How is it working for you?

Although Sylvan was never a huge fan of the bike trailer (I think I should have started earlier), he loved riding on the WeeRide as a toddler and has been on a balance bike (Adam’s Runner) since his 2nd birthday (thanks, Grandma and Grandpa!).

Sylvan, at two years old, on his balance bike

Our current family bike setup is with Sylvan on an Adams Trail-a-Bike that was given to us by a friend who used it with his daughter who is now 17. Sylvan and I have been riding with the tagalong for several months now. At first I had to carry all our gear in a backpack, which limited our excursions except when Emily offered to add our gear to her already full milk crate! In order to fit the tagalong over a rear rack I recently replaced my suspension seat post with a non-suspension post so I could mount the tagalong higher. I excavated from deep storage the set of panniers I used when I lived in Seattle 10+ years ago. After a thorough wash they’re good to go and have increased our cargo capacity as well as my comfort. The next step is to attach the cargo trailer my husband fixed up onto the tagalong and see how I feel about such a long setup. I’d also like to look into a cargo bike like an xtracycle.

Why do you choose to ride bikes together?

Oh, there are so many reasons, where do I start? I can say that a bike ride brings infinitely more presence of mind, connection with our surroundings, physical wellbeing, and simple joy than any motorized trip. As you’ve said, Emily, we can be crabby up until the moment we hop on the bike but it all melts away when we start to ride, and that is just not the case in the car.

What kinds of trips do you commonly make by bike?  Are there other modes of transport your family frequently uses?

With our increased cargo capacity and confidence we've moved beyond a bike ride for the sake of a bike ride and now take trips to the grocery, dentist, pool, parties and many other destinations.  We recently dropped by the blood bank during a day of errands, and though I had to take it easy on the ride home I'm sure the fresh air was beneficial.

When Sylvan was an infant and toddler and I carried him in an Ergo front/backpack, we used to walk places then ride the city bus home (to help Mama with the child/grocery/library book/etc. load).  We'd like to learn about loading our bike on the bus, and we look forward to planning a train trip soon.

More cute toddler Sylvan!

Would you share a great moment in your family biking experience with us?

In my job as an Early Childhood Special Educator I have to drive all over the county (ex. Springfield, Bethel, Creswell, occasionally all in one day) to visit children and families at their homes or preschools, so any moment biking with my son is a fabulous biking moment! Some highlights would be Kidical Mass, the recent Parade of Champions (after being unsure at first, Sylvan was quite pleased at the end that everyone was waving at him), and singing “Singing in the Rain” at top volume during a particularly wet ride (and staying utterly dry). 

Do you have any tips or tricks to pass on to other bike-riding families?

I’m new at this and learning from others with more experience but I suppose my word of wisdom is that the time and money you invest in getting set up (i.e. gear, cargo capacity, safety, maps), is totally worth it. Whereas in the past we had to really plan for a bike ride (i.e. What will he wear to stay dry? Are the batteries charged for my light if we’re out after dark? How will I carry my stuff?), now we’re out the door in no time and we’re set up so we always enjoy the ride. 

Are there any changes (to path or wayfinding systems, auto speed limits, bike boulevards, lighting, etc.) that you would you like to see to make bicycling more convenient, accessible, and safe for families in your area?

It’s been inspiring to have recently started meeting folks who are advocating on behalf of bicyclists and bicycling families. I don’t yet know what potential improvements exist but I look forward to learning more and getting involved.

What else do you think we should know?

You’re an inspiration, Emily! I hope we have a weekly bike train trip to the pool and back for years to come!

Thank you, Heather!  It is such a joy to be your friend!  I'm loving riding around town with you and your sweet boy.


  1. Thanks, Emily! This was fun. Loved our ride tonight as usual. Cheers, heather

  2. Thank you, Heather! It was so much fun looking through these old photos and reading your responses.

    One thing that you didn't mention that I wanted to be certain to share here is what I think of as your "Hang up and call right back" tip. You've mentioned your mother's strategy for dealing with a disappointing telephone inquiry to an airline: when you get an answer you don't like, say thank you politely, then hang up and call right back. The next person who answers the phone may well have the answer you're looking for.

    I know that you were initially given some advice that discouraged you from trying to make an adjustment to your bike set-up in order to carry more cargo. I can't remember if this person told you that it would be difficult or flat out impossible to attach your panniers with the Trail-A-Bike installed, but I love how you didn't settle for his opinion. You wisely came to Kidical Mass and got advice from another biking family about how to make it work. When you're getting started with anything (but especially something like family biking or breastfeeding, which many of our parents didn't do), ask for help, and then ask and ask again until you get it!

    Thanks again!