Today I’m honored to share this guest post by my friend Samantha, who blogs at Ding Ding Let’s Ride! (This originally appeared there.) She was profiled here as a Roll Model earlier this year, where the focus was on her personal bicycling history and encouragement of other women to start biking. This post is an in-depth look at the bicycling history of her adorable stepson.
Besides writing about Dutch bikes and other city bikes, I also write about adaptive bikes for kids. We’ve gone through a number of bike variations over the last three to four years for my 8 year-old stepson, as he has grown and his abilities have changed. All the while we’ve tried to keep him on a bike that he can get on and off by himself and ride without our assistance. His Cerebral Palsy has made that a bit of a challenge.
These days, I don’t think twice about our family riding our bikes to meet up with the Kidical Mass families for a ride instead of driving there and unloading our bikes. Actually though, it’s a big deal that he’s got the endurance and ability to ride those extra miles. Thinking about that made me take a moment and look back over how far our young cyclist has come in the last few years.
Burley Bike Trailer
We started with a Burley bike-trailer as he grew too big for a regular stroller. His mom went with a special-needs stroller – they are a little bigger and heavier-duty than typical strollers. We thought we’d try using the Burley bike trailer with a stroller attachment instead, though we certainly had to borrow the stroller once in a while. When LD was 4 and 5, trips to places like the zoo or a museum could not happen without something for him to ride in like a stroller or the Burley. He began walking much later than most kids do, and his legs and energy didn’t last that long either- a typical challenge with CP. With the Burley, we could ride our bikes to the zoo, neighborhood festival, or park, lock up the bikes, un-hitch the Burley, flip down the front stroller wheel, slide on the stroller handlebar, and be ready to go. He could walk around and play, and then climb back in when he got tired.
Red Kid’s Trike
The first bike we tried out with him was a regular kids tricycle – a used red Radio Flyer even! But it didn’t work. He felt awkward, couldn’t really pedal, and almost fell off. We tried to entice him with a walk-bike, but he was almost too tall for one at that point, and it just wasn’t comfortable for him either. Then, in 2010, his therapists presented him with a specially-adapted tricycle (as part of a program sponsored by The TelecomPioneers) That was a banner day. He zoomed around the therapy room with it like nothing any of us had ever seen. He was ecstatic and so were all his parents.
He and his Dad met me when I got home that night and the first thing he had to do was show me how he could ride his new trike.
The trike really made us believe that he’d be able to ride a bike one day. We weren’t sure what kind of bike, but we knew there had to be one and that he’d be game for it.
Adapted Kids Bike with ‘Fat Wheels’
It didn’t take too many months for him to overpower that first trike. As he grew more confident in his ability, like any kid he only wanted to ride harder and faster. We started our research, and you can find more pictures and details about the first bike we got for him in this post. We thought we would get a trail-a-bike for him to ride behind Andrew – but realized he would most likely be constantly leaning to one side or the other. Instead, we bought a standard kids bike, and had it adapted with a larger seat, weighted flat pedals with foot straps, a hand brake, and an extra set of tires, larger than traditional ‘training wheel’s attached via a sturdy bracket.
This bike has been powerfully successful. He became just another kid on a bike. He was able to ride it around the block, ride it on vacation with other kids and family members, and so on. Tentative at times, but still a kid riding a bike.
(Riding with my brother)
Trike Conversion Kit
He took some spills, went through phases where he was too scared to ride much like many kids, then got back on it again and took off. Last spring though, he became really uncomfortable riding it as he had grown so tall that he was very top-heavy against the wobble of those extra wheels. Which meant it was time to change up his bike again. This time, we went with a full trike-conversion kit, which you can read more about in this post. He still rides the same bike frame, but now it’s been converted to the coolest, orangest-looking trike you’ve ever seen.
Riding along in the February Kidical Mass ride. (photo courtesy Ashley Lottes)
Both Andrew and I love the feeling we get when we’re out riding – for both of us, a bad day riding a bike is better than any other day not riding one. We commute by bike and do as many of our errands and everyday trips by bike as possible. We wanted to include the little guy in our rides and teach him how to ride so that he can share that great feeling and always have an independent means of transportation. Based on how much he loves to ride his bike these days, I think we’ve succeeded. And most of the time I forget how far along he’s come from that first red trike.
LD gets on his bike by stepping up on the rear axle. Check out those wheel lights!
If you want to catch a view of his trike in action, here’s a video from a recent Chicago Kidical Mass ride (Jan 2013). He pops up here and there the video, and again at the end of the ride. I kept the video going for a bit as we rode on home with LD in front of me, hamming it up, and riding along like a pro.
Thanks so much, Samantha!
Read more posts from Samantha about adaptive bikes:
Last Monday someone on the sidewalk yelled “Happy birthday” to me while I was riding to Bridgeport through University Village (UIC’s south campus). It was my birthday. I turned around to identify the shouting person. Joe was a classmate and now I most often see him at a local bike shop or playing bike polo. We went inside the store and chatted for awhile.
The bicycle is an extremely social tool. While it helps me get to the places I need to go, it does so in such a way that fosters community and interaction. As I ride, I’m exposed to the whims of the street: the noises, the chatter, the honks, the people, and the people I know. But it also helps me get to know new people.
I participated in another bike light distribution with Active Transportation Alliance on November 17, 2010. I photographed a previous distribution in Wicker Park a week earlier. This time around, at the corner of Halsted and Roosevelt at the UIC campus, I took a more direct role by flagging people riding bikes without lights to pull over and stop. I would then attach a brand new headlight to their bicycle, courtesy of customers of Groupon and the law office of Jim Freeman. During the two minutes I had their undivided attention, I told them about the state law requiring a front light and the role of Active Transportation Alliance in the city and suburbs.
This time I wanted to record more information about all the people I helped and talked to. I kept a little note card in my pocket and recorded the revealed reasons why the person didn’t have a headlight, how many men and women I helped (I only recorded two categories), and some select quotes.
I think six people refused my offer for a free headlight – this is because they couldn’t hear me (several wore headphones), didn’t understand our intentions, or both. Also confused, a man driving a car said, “You little bastard with your bikes,” but I won’t let anyone distract me.
Genaro installs a headlight to someone riding on Halsted Street in University Village.
Of all the people I stopped, I identified 21 men and 11 women (32 total). Four people said they lost their lights or had them stolen and hadn’t yet replaced the lights. One person forgot their lights. 27 of the 32 people riding bikes didn’t know it was state law to ride a bike with a headlight on at night. Here’s what some riders had to say:
“No one told me that!” I suspect this is an extremely common explanation. This is definitely an opportunity for local bike shops to educate their customers, but there are other places people can get this information, like resident advisers at dorms, churches, and workplaces. The Active Transportation Alliance fights tirelessly to instill basic information into the minds of people riding bikes around town.
One person I was talking to hadn’t heard of the Active Transportation Alliance and after I explained to him what the organization does, he said, “My friends and I want to start our own group.”
Someone on foot asked me, “How long are you going to be here? I want my friend to get one.” This guy came back with his friend and they both got free headlights.
Speaking of the bicycling leading me to meetings with people I know, three friends were walking by and said hello. I had met one of them, Andrew, at the same spot, in front of the UIC Skyspace as we both raced in an October 2006 scavenger hunt.
Walk under the Skyspace to get a direct and undistracted view of the sky and space.
Great story! Read more from Steve at his excellent blog about urban planning, cities and transportation, Steven Can Plan.
Our final guest post is from none other than ecovelo, bike-lifestyle blog extraordinaire. (Technical difficulties prevented me from receiving the post until recently.) Chances are you’re already a fan. If not, you soon will be. Below are thoughts from husband and wife team Alan and Michael about tandem riding.
They say there’s nothing quite like a long ride on a tandem to shine a bright light on a relationship. If the relationship is good, the ride will be too, but if the relationship has its problems, well…
Riding together on individual bikes is not too unlike riding a tandem as a couple. In other words, it can be a real joy or a real pain depending upon how it’s approached. We’ve been riding together for a number of years, and though we’ve experienced a few bumps along the way, we’re fortunate to have a harmonious relationship on the road in which we read each other’s subtle cues and ride together with little effort and zero conflict. We only arrived at this on-road relationship through many, many miles of practice, and lots of talking about how to better communicate and take care of each other while riding our bicycles. Following are a few of the things we think are key to riding smoothly and safely as a couple:
Someone needs to lead and someone needs to follow – It’s usually best if a ride leader is determined before departure to reduce the likelihood of confusion or conflict on the road. Typically the more experienced rider leads.
The slower person determines the pace – The slower person should always determine the ride pace, even if they’re in the following position. It’s the leader’s responsibility to be sure they don’t drop the follower or inadvertently push the pace beyond the comfort level of the slower rider.
The slower person should be on an equal or faster bicycle – If at all possible, the slower rider should be on the faster bike to reduce the speed differential between the two riders. It’s common to see the less-experienced, less-fit rider on the heavier, slower bike, which only undermines the pacing rule above.
The less experienced rider sets the comfort level of the route (traffic levels, infrastructure, distance) – It’s up to the less-experienced rider to determine what type of roads they’re willing to traverse. The leader should never pressure the less-experienced rider into situations in which they’re uncomfortable.
The leader always defers to the less experienced rider unless it’s a safety issue – A less-experienced rider may not understand what they’re getting into and find themselves feeling overwhelmed once they’re on the road. It’s imperative that the leader defers to the follower and respects their need to turn back, take an alternate route, or whatever is necessary to reduce their unease.
Develop a consistent method of communicating (hand signals, voice, visual) – It’s important to learn each other’s signals and cues. Agree upon a set of simple hand signals to indicate upcoming turns, slowing, debris in road, car-behind, etc.
A sure way to put a quick end to a riding relationship is to simply head out the door without a clear understanding of each other’s expectations. Acknowledging each other’s expectations and agreeing upon a plan for the ride, while always putting the other rider’s needs above your own, is the most effective way to ensure a healthy, long-term riding relationship.
Thanks, ecovelo! This really makes me want to grab a companion and go on a ride. What has everyone else’s experience been riding “in tandem.” And has anyone else out there ridden an actual tandem?
We may be back from France in body, but not in spirit. Therefore, our fabulous guest blogging continues just a bit longer! Today we have the lovely Sigrid from My Hyggelig.
A place to share
A place to be positive
A place to be creative
A place to focus on happiness.
Along the journey
bicycles, bicycling, and bicyclists,
something always close to my heart,
began to become an important and enjoyable focus.
It is interesting how an interest
can open a world
enhance the everyday
bring like-minded people together
and create new journeys…
My interest in Dutch-Style bicycles in particular
has taken me to…
where I have found
that there can be happiness and beauty
in a cold and wintery climate:
thank you Mikael
where I can wander the streets of Amsterdam everyday
and enjoy a vacation trip with Marc via Dutch Bicycle:
thank you Marc
where a chat withMiss S
helped seal the deal on the Pash…Edmonton
thank you Sarah
…San Francisco My Hyggelig
Where Meli-g takes me on all her adventures
And lets me know it is okay for home to be where the heart is.
thank you Meli-g…Soon my friend, soon….
where I was along for Trisha’s Batuvus adventure.
thank you Trisha
where D.O.T. inspires me
when it is -20 below, grey, and windy
or 98 above, sunny, and humid…Chicago
I love this picture, Dottie looks like a Scandinavian Ice Princess
Thank you D.O.T.
On a business trip to San Francisco
I had a lovely morning
test riding and talking bicycles.
On a vacation trip to Sweden
I spent two of the loveliest afternoons of all time
test riding a Skeppshult and a Kronan
And in Minneapolis
I make small local trips
more about the journey
than the destination.
Fitting bicycles into my daily life,
where ever I may be
or want to go
brings me unique experiences
and lasting memories.
Finding happiness in the ordinary
by making it extraordinary
is what my life in Minneapolis has taught me.
Where has your bicycle journey taken you?
Continue the journey with Sigrid at her beautiful blog, My Hyggelig.
Hi, Chelsea from Frolic! here! I am so glad to be guest blogging on Let’s Go Ride a Bike today! It’s one of my daily reads. I recently came across these old photos and I think the girls and their bicycles are super chic!
Hello very lovely Let’s Go Ride a Bike readers! This is Maria, of Lulu Letty, here to guest blog for Dottie and Trisha while they’re off exploring France. I am very honored to be chosen as a guest blogger and have the chance to chat about my lovely bike, Millicent. Dottie is a bit of a superhero to me – saving the planet while informing people about the joys of bicycling. Reading her posts and seeing that she could still wear her everyday (or even work) clothes while cycling, truly inspired me to finally buy a bicycle of my own.
While my dream bicycle has always been a Pashley Princess Sovereign (Regency Green), I knew that unless I would be commuting I didn’t want to make that financial investment just yet. So being a lover of vintage and thrifting, I started rummaging through Craigslist in the hope of finding the perfect bicycle. I was pretty lucky that within the first hour of searching, I found my dear Millicent. She was a vintage Sears bicycle from the 70’s and was in great condition. So I went to check her out and take a test drive. I knew immediately that, even though she was burgundy and not hunter green, she was the bike I was looking for. After a paint job and the purchase of a straw basket, Millie and I were ready to start the first of our many adventures together.