We are winding down a busy Bike to Work Week and in keeping with the cycling theme we have a guest post this week. Olena Russell is, among other things, a blogger, urban farmer, and cargo bike obsessed family cycling advocate extraordinaire.
This week we posted articles about cycling tips for riding in heels and the Urban Riders Guide to Riding to Work. Olena takes all of the aspects of these articles and shows us how she's living a life by bike, how easy it can be and how you can do it too and let's not forget to mention the great sense of community cycling can bring. Read on for Olena's real life example of living a life with bikes, kids, groceries and more.
I currently ride with three children, often carrying all of them on my bike, although the eldest is pedaling himself around lately. One of the things I love about biking with kids is the conversation: not only with my children, but with people we meet along the way. Their reactions range from delight, to amazement, to complete befuddlement. It’s the latter reaction that really surprises me. I often hear, “How do you make it look so easy?”, “You must be so strong!”, “I could never do that…”. Well, I’m really petite, not very strong, somewhat lazy, and definitely not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. I make it look easy because it is easy, and yes, you could do this, and look good doing it.
We have no car, by choice. I know, I’m clearly out of my mind. Trust me, it’s easier this way! For me to bike as a key part of my lifestyle, it needs to be convenient. I need to be able to run out the door and hop on my bike with very little prep, and I need to be able to put the kids in the bike easily and without hassle. I also have no interest in special “gear”. If I can’t ride in my dress and heels, I don’t want to ride.
In order to make my biking lifestyle work, there are a few key considerations. The first is having the right bike for you. This is going to look different for everyone. Without getting into geometry, fit, use, esthetics, etc., the bike needs to be something you like to ride, or you simply won’t ride it. For me, a bike needs to be comfortable and upright. I like to be sitting straight, and be able to see everything around me. I also like a step through frame (they’re not just for girls!), a chain guard, and a skirt guard. My bikes have lovely integrated lights for those dark rides, so I can see and be seen if it’s dark. All of these characteristics make it easier to ride in whatever I happen to be wearing that day.
Secondly, I need to be able to carry stuff, or kids, or both. If I’m on my lovely Pashley, that means I need a rear rack for panniers, and sometimes a basket for any unexpected bakery stops for fresh bread. If I’m bringing the kids, I need either seats for the children attached to my bike, or a cargo bike. On my Bakfiets, I can bring all three kids, panniers, gear for the day, my bag, and myself, with a smile on my face and my skirt blowing in the breeze. This is my usual mode of transport, and I often have piles of groceries, or library books. If it’s rainy season, I have a cover for the kids, and I pack a rain poncho to throw over whatever I happen to be wearing that day.
All of this, I do with no lycra, no special shoes, no construction vests or reflective gear. It’s just me, my upright city bike, my kids, and our stuff. If you ask me how I make it look so easy, I will tell you. It looks easy, because it is.
Thanks Olena for being such a great role model for women who ride and who want to ride. When not on a daily adventure with her kids you can find Olean on Twitter @ Redefining feminism through life: mama, homemaker, weaver, urban farmer, life learner, parent educator, and cargo bike obsessed family cycling advocate.